Saturday, February 16, 2019

November 25, 1941: HMS Barham Sunk

Tuesday 25 November 1941

German Panzer IV tanks attacking near Moscow, 25 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German Panzer IV tanks and armored personnel carriers attacking a Soviet-held village in the vicinity of Istra on the Moscow-Riga railway on 25 November 1941 (Tannenberg, Hugo, Federal Archive Figure 183-B17220).
Battle of the Mediterranean: The British Operation Crusader, an offensive whose goal is to liberate Tobruk, has been going badly since its start on 21 November. British 7th Armored Division of Eighth Army has been pummeled by General Erwin Rommel's panzers and fierce artillery fire by well-sited Italian gunners. On 24 November Rommel decided to launch a counteroffensive, and today, 25 November 1941, he sets in motion more forces whose aim is to relieve a trapped German garrison at Bardia and threaten British lines of communication back into Egypt. This is known as General Rommel's "dash to the wire" because it sends Afrika Korp panzers behind the British outposts to the area of the Egyptian/ Libyan border where a wire barricade stretches inland from the coast.

HMS Barham sinking, 25 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Battleship HMS Barham ((Capt G.C. Cooke, RN)), covered with sailors, explodes in the Mediterranean north off Sidi Barrani, Egypt after being hit with three torpedoes by U-331 (Kptlt. Hans-Diedrich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen) on 25 November 1941. Total casualties number 56 officers and 806 men.
With part of Afrika Korps and the Italian Ariete Division already heading toward Sidi Omar, 15th Panzer Division today heads northeast toward Sidi Azeiz. To their shock, the German tankers find no enemy to be seen and their only opponents the omnipresent RAF Desert Air Force. The 5th Panzer Division of the 21st Panzer Division hits the 7th Indian Brigade at Sidi Omar, but are fought off with great difficulty by the 1st Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery. The German tanks try again, but the Royal Artillery picks the panzers off over open sights at 500 meters and destroys or damages almost all of them. It is a brilliant defensive victory by the British caused by their valor and the overconfidence of the panzer commanders. The rest of the 21st Panzer Division heads unmolested to the border at Halfaya, the key to the vital coastal road.

HMS Barham sinking, 25 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HMS Barham listing to port shortly after being hit by three torpedoes. Barham becomes the only Royal Navy battleship to be sunk by a submarine during World War 11. This photo was taken from HMS Valiant.
The Germans reach the area west of Sidi Azeiz by sunset, but they have taken heavy tank losses during the day. They have only 53 panzers remaining with no possibility of reinforcement. The 5th New Zealand Brigade is located further up the coast between the panzers and their closest supply dumps, posing a logistical problem. The Germans camp here for the night and prepare to bypass the New Zealanders on the 26th in order to liberate Bardia and resupply.

HMS Barham.
One of the paradoxes of the war in North Africa is that it is actually won at sea. The Royal Navy has done a very efficient job of disrupting supplies sent from Naples to Tripoli. Today, however, the Germans take their revenge when  U-331 (Kptlt. Hans-Diedrich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen) somehow evades the Royal Navy destroyer screen and pumps three torpedoes into battleship HMS Barham. The Barham sinks quickly and takes the better part of 1000 men with her.

Mine Recovery and Disposal Squadron towing a mine, 25 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Members of the Mine Recovery and Disposal Squad towing away a naval mine from the beach at Tayport with the aid of a Bren gun carrier being operated by troops of the 1st Polish Corps, 25 November 1941." © IWM (A 6427).
Eastern Front: General Guderian's men continue to put pressure on the Red Army units defending Tula, but it is an increasingly hopeless battle. Today, the 17th Panzer Division (Brig. Gen. Rudolf Eduard Licht) approaches Kashira, about 50 km north of Venev, which looks impressive on the map as it is a great deal closer to Moscow than Tula. However, Lictht's advance causes as many problems as it solves, because it is extremely difficult to supply his panzers. Meanwhile, the bulk of Guderian's forces are making no progress at all on the direct road to Moscow through Tula. The Germans only control the territory within reach of their guns, with large stretches in between their isolated forces virtually undefended. This gives the Red Army units the ability to cross between the different Wehrmacht positions. The 239th Siberian Rifle Division, for instance, escapes from the 29th Motorized Division near Epifan, southeast of Tula, simply by driving around the German units. Lacking strong infantry support, the German effort south of Moscow is turning into the equivalent of tank raids rather than a full-fledged offensive.

A dog named Mosquito, 25 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"An early Christmas present for a member of the crew, the dog's name is 'Mosquito'." This photo was taken aboard a Royal Navy torpedo boat at Naval Base Granton. © IWM (A 6380).
North of Moscow, German 18th Army continues to hold the strategically important city of Tikhvin despite brutal winter weather and increasing Red Army attacks. The commander of the 18th Army, Colonel General Georg von Küchler, accepts the inevitable after his men have made no progress since taking the city and orders them to cease all offensive operations. This leaves the most advanced German troops isolated at the tip of a dead schwerpunkt (spearhead) with long supply lines that are open to Soviet assault from both the north and south.

HMS Barham sinking, 25 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HMS Barham exploding in a fireball, 25 November 1941.
US/Japanese Relations: For several days, United States Secretary of State Cordell Hull has been preparing a modus vivendi agreement to restart stalled peace talks with the Japanese. This is a counter-proposal to the Japanese Proposal B submitted on 21 November which was completely unacceptable to the Americans. The modus vivendi would prohibit "any advance by force" in the Pacific - an obvious restriction on Japanese ambitions - and require a Japanese withdrawal from southern French Indochina. In exchange, the United States would resume limited trade with the Japanese to the extent of $600,000 worth of cotton, oil "for civilian needs" and medical supplies. The agreement by its terms would only last for three months and would be a stop-gap measure to reach a longer-lasting agreement.

Der Adler, 25 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Der Adler, 25 November 1941 (Heft 24, 25. November 1941.: Deutsches Reichsluftfahrtministerium).
The US War Council debates this very mild counterproposal on the 25th and decides that would make sense to submit this modus vivendi to the Japanese. The obvious alternative is war, and the Army and Navy want more time to prepare for that. However, the decision to submit this counterproposal to the Japanese - who it is expected would take it - does not lie with the US War Council. Only one man can make that decision. Hull, who personally thinks the modus vivendi is pointless, schedules a meeting with President Roosevelt for the 26th.


"MS of HMS Barham listing heavily to port, towards the camera - her secondary 6-inch guns already underwater. MLS off the port bow as she begins to roll over. The capsizing ship suddenly blows up in a huge explosion, only her bows remaining visible, steeply canted at the edge of the smoke pall. Debris from the explosion rains into the sea. Various shots emphasize the extent of the smoke pall remaining after the ship has disappeared. The Film then cuts to a MS off the starboard quarter of Barham steaming in quarter line with HMS Queen Elizabeth - the Queen Elizabeth fires after 4.5-inch AA. Final shot reverts to the sinking - Barham is shown listing, Queen Elizabeth in the background." © IWM.

HMS Barham sinking, 25 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HMS Barham right before it explodes and sinks. This apparently is a capture taken from a film made of the sinking. If one looks closely, men clinging for their lives are seen on the upraised hull and the decks.


Captain C. E. Morgan, commanding nearby HMS Valiant, gave an account of the sinking of HMS Barham:

"Our battleships were proceeding westwards line ahead, with the Valiant immediately astern the Barham and with a destroyer screen thrown out ahead of the battlefleet. At 4.23 p.m., carrying out a normal zigzag, we turned to port together, thus bringing the ships into echelon formation.

Suddenly, at 4.25, I heard a loud explosion, followed by two further explosions a couple of seconds later. Fountains of water and two enormous columns of smoke shot skywards. The smoke formed an enormous mushroom, gradually enveloping the whole of the Barham, except the after part, which was subsequently also blotted out as the ship slid into a vast pall of smoke.

As the explosions occurred the officer on watch gave the command “ Hard to port,” to keep clear of the Barham.

Fifteen seconds later I saw a submarine break the surface, possibly forced there by the explosion. Passing from left to right, the submarine was apparently making to cross the Valiant’s bows between us and the Barham. He was only about seven degrees off my starboard bow and 150 yards away, though he must have fired his torpedoes from about 700 yards.

As the periscope and then the conning tower appeared I ordered “ Full speed ahead, hard starboard.” But, with the helm already hard to port, I was unable to turn quickly enough to ram him before he crash-dived only 40 yards away on our starboard side. The submarine was visible for about 45 seconds, and, simultaneously with our ramming efforts, we opened fire with our starboard pom-poms. He was so close, however, that we were unable to depress the guns sufficiently and the shells passed over the conning-tower.

I then gave the order “Amidships” again to avoid turning into the Barham, which was still underway with her engines running but listing heavily to port. As we came upon her beam she heeled further about 20 or 30 degrees, and through the smoke, I could see all her quarter-deck and forecastle. Men were jumping into the water and running up on the forecastle.

The Barham was rolling on a perfectly even keel with neither bows nor stern sticking into the air. For one minute she seemed to hang in this position; then, at 4.28, she suddenly rolled violently, her mainmast striking the’ surface of the sea sharply a few seconds later.

I saw water pouring into her funnels. There followed a big explosion amidships, from which belched black and brown smoke intermingled with flames. Pieces of wreckage, Hung high into the air, were scattered far and wide, the largest piece being about the size of my writing-desk.

I immediately ordered “ Take cover ” as the wreckage started flying, and that was the last we saw of the Barham, which had run almost’ a mile since the moment she was hit. When the smoke cleared the only signs left were a mass of floating wreckage.


The 35,000-ton ship disappeared with unbelievable suddenness; it was only 4 minutes 35 seconds exactly from the moment the torpedoes struck until she had completely disappeared."


2019

November 24, 1941: Germans Abandon Rostov

Monday 24 November 1941

German troops near Leningrad, 24 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German troops on the outskirts of Leningrad, 24 November 1941 (AP).
Eastern Front: German 1st Panzer Army expended tremendous effort and took many chances to capture Rostov-on-Don only a few days ago, but on 24 November 1941 they begin to evacuate it. The drive to Rostov required the Wehrmacht to open a long corridor to the city which is wide open to attack from the north. Soviet 9th and 37th Armies seize the opportunity and attempt to cut off the German spearhead in the city, but General Ewald von Kleist recognizes the danger and begins pulling his troops out before he loses them.

Indian troops in North Africa find a German flag, 24 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Men of the 4th Indian Division with a captured German flag at Sidi Omar, North Africa." © IWM (E 6940).
Hitler wants Rostov held at all costs. The city is considered the "gateway to the Caucasus," and holding it would somewhat salvage the lofty goals for Operation Barbarossa in the spring. He orders the Army Group South Commander, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, to keep III Corps in the city regardless of the risks. At OKH headquarters, General Franz Halder more-or-less agrees with the Fuhrer:
The situation north of Rostov is serious but not critical at the moment. At some points, the enemy is pressing against our new positions. The right wing of Seventeenth Army [just to the north of 1st Panzer Army] has to fight off serious attacks. The Italians are still doing nothing.
The danger is that the Soviets break through the Seventeenth Army front and then wheel down to the coast of Azov, cutting 1st Panzer Army's only line of retreat. So far, that hasn't happened - but it still might. It is the first time that the Wehrmacht has been forced to retreat from a major objective.

HMS Dunedin, 24 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HMS Dunedin, sunk by U-124 on 24 November 1941.
Battle of the Atlantic: Kriegsmarine U-boat U-124 (Kptlt. Johann Mohr), on its seventh patrol out of Lorient, is operating roughly midway between Natal, Brazil and Monrovia, Liberia when it spots 4800-ton Royal Navy cruiser HMS Dunedin (Captain Richard Stratford Lovatt, RN). Dunedin has been searching the South Atlantic for German raider Atlantis as part of a three-cruiser task force. U-124 is on its way to refuel from supply ship Python but can't pass up the opportunity to attack. Dunedin's lookouts spot U-124's periscope but lose track of it again. After much maneuvering, Mohr pumps two out of three torpedoes into the cruiser's starboard side, causing it to sink quickly. There are about 250 men in the water, but Mohr only surfaces, circles the area, and then leaves without offering any aid. By the time U.S. freighter Nishmaha passes by three days later, only 72 men are left on six floats. Another five men perish from exposure on the way to port at Trinidad. A total of four officers and 63 ratings survive to see land again.

Exploding mines in Plymouth Sound, 24 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Blowing up British mines which had been in the water for months. The mines exploding just off the breakwater." Plymouth Sound off Cawsand Bay, 24 November 1941. © IWM (A 6370).
Battle of the Mediterranean: The British Operation Crusader in North Africa that began on 21 November has turned into a wild melee with the outcome completely in doubt. British 7th Armored Division of Eighth Army has taken horrendous tank losses, and overall the British have lost about 350 tanks and had another 150 severely damaged. General Erwin Rommel has a couple of advantages over German generals everywhere else in the Wehrmacht:
  1. He has complete freedom of action and the Allies cannot predict his movements by decoding his radio transmissions;
  2. The Italian troops under his command are fighting hard and effectively.
Rommel has freedom of action because the Wehrmacht is focused on the Eastern Front and considers the North Africa Theater to be an unimportant sideshow. How he manages to get vital assistance from his Italian allies, though, is unclear.

Midway Island, 24 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Midway Atoll. "Aerial photograph, looking just south of west across the southern side of the atoll, 24 November 1941. Eastern Island, then the site of Midway's airfield, is in the foreground. Sand Island, the location of most other base facilities, is across the entrance channel. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives."
Today, after several brilliant attacks that have blunted the British offensive, Rommel counterattacks hard by sending elements of Afrika Corps and the Italian Ariete Division toward Sidi Omar. This is known as "The Dash to the Wire" because the panzers are heading toward the wire barrier at the border. The main goal of the attack is to relieve trapped German troops at Bardia and then destroy British lines of communication from Egypt. Rommel plans to broaden the attack on the 25th by adding the 15th Panzer Division. Operation Crusader thus has turned into two separate offensives going in opposite directions, one by the British to the west and the other by the Axis forces to the east. Both can't be successful, so a potentially decisive moment is brewing at the Egyptian/Libyan border.

Indian troops in North Africa, 24 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Indian troops move forward in lorries, supported by Matilda tanks, 24 November 1941." © IWM (E 3720E).
Holocaust: The SS establishes a new camp at the fortress town of Terezin in occupied Czechoslovakia (called the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia since its formal incorporation into the Greater Reich). The camp, called Theresienstadt, is intended as a hybrid transit point and long-term Ghetto for Holocaust victims. It is euphemistically called a "retirement settlement" for Jewish elders and, at least at first, is a "show camp" for the Red Cross and others. The first trainload of residents, 342 young Jewish men, arrive today, the first of thousands, and make the 1.5-mile (2.4 km) walk from the train station. Conditions are brutal, the inmates are terribly mistreated, and people die as a matter of course even though technically Theresienstadt is not an extermination camp.

Admiral Thomas Hart on the cover of Time magazine, 24 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Admiral Thomas Hart, commander of the US Asiatic Fleet operating out of the Philippines,  on the cover of Time magazine on 24 November 1941.


2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

November 23, 1941: Germans Take Klin, Huge Battle in North Africa

Sunday 23 November 1941

Sidi Rezegh in North Africa, 23 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Panzers knocked out near Sidi Rezegh on 23 November 1941. Fierce fighting continues near Tobruk with the outcome of British Eighth Army's Operation Crusader still very much in doubt.
Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht makes more progress toward Moscow on 23 November 1941, capturing Klin in Moscow Oblast (the capture of cities can take days, some sources place the city's complete capture on 24 November). The panzers now are 85 km (53 miles) northwest of Moscow, the closest of any German forces.

Maginot Line pillbox in France, 23 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
 A bunker of the French Maginot Line at Haut-Rhin (Oberelsass), Grand Est Region of France on 23 November 1941. At this stage of World War II, these bunkers seem like quaint relics of a bygone age that will never be needed ever again (Proietti, Ugo, Federal Archive Bild 212-336).
The attack on Klin is a major German success which results from five days of increasing pressure and an envelopment from three sides - north, west, and south. The German 7th Panzer (Generalmajor Hans Freiherr von Funck) and 106th Infantry Divisions attack Klin from the west while 6th Panzer and 14th Motorized Divisions attack from the north. The Red Army defends in the north with the 107th Motorized Rifle and 5th Tank Divisions and in the west with the remains of a cadet regiment and the 25th Tank Brigade. Southwest of Klin, most of the German 2nd Panzer Division and 35th Infantry Division also advance, taking Gorki (six kilometers south of Klin) and then turn north to help capture the city. At the same time, part of 2nd Panzer Division turns south toward Solnechnogorsk, fighting off Soviet counterattacks. The Red Army has men fighting fiercely, but are overwhelmed by superior German firepower.

Philip John Gardner, VC, in North Africa, 23 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Gardner, Philip John: Place and date of deed Tobruk, North Africa, 23 November 1941." Gardner wins the Victoria Cross on 23 November 1941 when, as an acting Captain in the 4th Royal Tank Regiment, he takes two tanks to the rescue of two armored cars of the King's Dragoon Guards. Gardner braves counterfire to get out of his tank, hitch a tow rope to one of the cars, lift a badly injured officer into it, and then return to the car after the tow rope breaks. He transfers the wounded officer to one of his tanks and then - after being wounded in the neck - brings his tanks back to British lines. Gardner later was captured in 1942 and spent the remained of the war as a POW. Mr. Gardner passed away on 16 February 2003, and his VC is on display at the Imperial War Museum. © IWM (E 7479).
The Soviet forces on the western axis of Klin are too weak to combat German panzers moving towards them from three directions. Late in the day, the Stavka finally allows them to retreat to Klin's southwestern outskirts rather than be surrounded. The 2nd Panzer forces destroy over two dozen Soviet tanks and secure intact several bridges over the Moscow/ Volga canal. The day winds up with the Soviets pushed back about 2-4 km south of Solnechnogorsk (about 35 km from Moscow) and panzers fighting in the center of Klin.

British soldiers at Sidi Rezegh in North Africa, 23 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Some survivors of Sidi Rezegh, 23 November 1941. After the battle, Gunner C H Glass (left) and what remained of the 3rd Field Regiment (THA) returned to Mersa Matruh in Egypt to be re-formed as a fighting unit (Photo: By courtesy,  SA National Museum of Military History).
General Franz Halder and Army Group Center Commander Field Marshal Fedor von Bock have a telephone conversation in which they feel cautiously optimistic at the day's events. Halder writes in his diary:
Situation on the northern wing of Army Group Center is good. Klin taken. Now we must try to get the rest of the entire front in flux by putting on pressure from the north.
Halder's comment reveals both success and failure. The success at Klin is good, but only if it can shake the entire front loose. Everywhere else around Moscow, the Wehrmacht is at a standstill despite optimistic plans.

British soldiers at Sidi Rezegh in North Africa, 23 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Lt Col Ian Buchan 'Tiger' Whyte, DC, and a captain of the 3rd Field Regiment (THA) pose in front of some of the 32 German tanks knocked out by their guns at Sidi Rezegh on 'Totensonntag', 23 November 1941. (Photo: By courtesy, SA National Museum of Military History).
South of Moscow, at Tula, General Guderian's panzers are no longer moving forward, and Halder even poses the rhetorical question, "What can Guderian still accomplish?" The problem for the Germans is that an envelopment of Moscow requires progress in more than one direction - and the only troops still moving forward are in the north. Unless Guderian can break the Red Army resistance and continue north on the Moscow highway, it is highly unlikely that just one arm of a pincer movement can accomplish the gigantic task of taking Moscow.

PBY-5 Catalinas which arrive on Oahu on 23 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Nine U.S. Navy Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina patrol bombers fly in formation in the Hawaiian area, circa November 1941. These planes, from Patrol Squadron 14 (VP-14), arrived on Oahu on 23 November 1941. The plane closest to the camera is "14-P-1", which on 7 December 1941 was flown by Ens. William P. Tanner during the attack with USS Ward (DD-139) on a Japanese midget submarine. Most of the other planes were destroyed at Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay." (Official U.S. Navy photograph 80-G-279382).
Over the past week, the Soviets have made some tentative experimental crossings of Lake Ladoga to supply Leningrad. The city's more than one million inhabitants otherwise are getting virtually no supplies. Since those experimental crossings were successful, today the Soviets run a major convoy of 60 trucks which bring in 33 tons of flour and 2.5 tons of other supplies across the frozen lake. The hazards of driving across include the ice breaking under the heavily laden trucks, which does happen occasionally, and occasional shells falling nearby from German artillery on the south shore. However, Russian truck drivers are tough and used to taking risks that would be considered unacceptable elsewhere. In any event, they have no choice, as everyone understands the result of refusing to follow orders.

Sailors of HMS Marigold, 23 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Lieut J Grenwick, RNR, the Captain of the MARIGOLD, in the center with the ship's company." These sailors are aboard the Royal Navy corvette which sank U-433 south of Malaga, Spain on 16 November 1941. The British believe at the time this picture is taken that U-433 sank aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal on 14 November 1941, so they take this celebratory "revenge" photo. However, in fact, U-81 sank the aircraft carrier, and it got away. Gibraltar, 23 November 1941. © IWM (A 6349).
Even these successful truck convoys may be too late. Leningrad is in very poor shape. It requires about 600 tons of supplies per day for the survival of its people, but this is out of the question, and it hasn't received any supplies except those few tons that can be flown in for weeks already. Looking ahead, the situation is a virtual mirror image of the situation the Germans will face in Stalingrad, though even worse because of the larger population in Leningrad. There really is no good solution for the people of Leningrad, as there is no way out for all but a relative handful of VIPs and not enough food for those who remain. Even if the city were to surrender - which is absolutely out of the question - the population knows it would be mistreated by the Germans and perhaps be treated even worse than they are already. So, the city holds out and people starve to death.

Map of Sidi Rezegh battle in North Africa, 23 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The situation at Sidi Rezegh near Tobruk on 23 November 1941.
Battle of the Mediterranean: The Germans consider the North African campaign to be a sideshow to the main event in the Soviet Union. However, it is a very serious affair to the British, and they are determined to rescue their encircled comrades in Tobruk. General Erwin Rommel finally is in full legal command of Afrika Corps after Italian authorities in Rome bow to the inevitable and agree to put Italian XX Mobile Corps (Ariete and Trieste Divisions) under his direct command early in the day. The two sides have been "mixing it" for several days now without any sign of a final decision, and Rommel decides to try for the win. He orders a concentric attack on British 7th Armored Division southeast of Tobruk by having his panzers advance from the north and the Italian Corps Gambara from the south. The German commander on the spot, however, General Cruewell, has no faith in the Italians. He crafts his own plan (before receiving Rommel's orders at 04:30) to send his panzers south and then attack with them toward the north - thereby not relying on the Italians.

Condor Memorial dedication in Spain, 23 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Inauguration of a memorial to the fallen of the German Condor Legion in Madrid, Spain on 23 November 1941. This was financed by the German government. The monument was removed in 2017. (La Vanguardia Espanola of 23 November 1941).
The German attack launches at 07:30, a bit later than planned, and the 4th South African Armored Cars unit sees it coming over five or six miles. However, 8th Army Headquarters does not believe the report and tells the South Africans that they are mistaken. This enables the panzers to advance virtually unmolested while they could still be brought under artillery fire. The panzers of 15th Panzer Division blast through startled British supply columns and keep going. This unexpected attack into the British rear echelons causes panic and chaos, and only scattered British units are in a position to return fire. These British units do, however, at least slow the Germans, but the action is an unqualified German success - until General Cruewell inexplicably decides to withdraw to regroup. This enables the British also to recover somewhat, but the panzers renew their advance around noontime and finally do link up with the Italians. The day turns into a disaster for Eighth Army, and recriminations ring out in Cairo as Lieutenant-General C.W.M. Norrie in command of 30th Corps ponders ways to salvage the situation over coming days. The day is a brilliant success for General Erwin Rommel, but the British are still very much in the fight.

Condor Memorial dedication in Spain, 23 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The front page of the La Vanguardia Espanola newspaper of Barcelona of 23 November 1941, showing the dedication of the German memorial to the fallen of the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War.

2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

November 22, 1941: Kleist in Trouble at Rostov

Saturday 22 November 1941

A German tank destroyer in Rostov, 22 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A German tank destroyer in the center of Rostov, 22 November 1941 (AP Photo).
Eastern Front: The Germans now are in possession of Rostov-on-Don, one of the key objectives set forth for Operation Barbarossa in 1941. This should be cause for celebration at the Fuehrer Headquarters in East Prussia on 22 November 1941. However, behind the scenes, Adolf Hitler is growing increasingly agitated at the army's handling of operations. The success of the entire 1941 campaign depends upon holding Rostov and other key objectives, and there are growing signs that these accomplishments may be in serious jeopardy.

A British Bedford "crossing the wire" into Libya, 22 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A Bedford OYD truck loaded with troops going through barbed wire into Libya in the Western Desert, 22 November 1941." The border between Egypt and Libya is denoted by this wire, so "crossing the wire" means entering the combat zone. © IWM (E 6686).
Superficially, the situation on the ground in Russia does appear successful for the Germans. As General Franz Halder, chief of the Oberkommando des Heeres staff (OKH, Army High Command), writes in his war diary:
Rostov is in our hands. All bridges are reported destroyed except one that leads across the island south of the eastern part of the city. The Russians withdrew across the frozen river. On the southern bank [are] new Russian forces (two Cavalry Divisions).
However, the Wehrmacht had to exert a massive effort to reach this gateway to the Caucasus and, as Halder notes, the Red Army is bringing in reinforcements. As Halder further notes:
North of Rostov, First Panzer Army was forced into the defense by the Russian attack with superior forces and will have a hard time seeing it through. The measures instituted are well taken and promise to be successful. However, after First Panzer Army has disposed of the attacker, it probably would be too much to expect it to clear the enemy out of the Donets bend with what is left of its forces.
The bottom line is that, glorious as the capture of Rostov is, the situation is extremely tenuous.

Christening of USS Aaron Ward, 22 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ship sponsor Miss Hilda Ward, daughter of the ship's namesake Rear Admiral Aaron Ward, christens destroyer USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) during the launch ceremony on 22 November 1941.
In fact, serious doubts are creeping into the rosy picture at the highest levels of the Wehrmacht. Halder indicates some dissatisfaction with the generals at the front cooperating towards the greater good:
Despite all efforts of the Army Group to get Sixth Army moving there are no signs of an attack or initiation of the transfer of the divisions destined for First Panzer Army [which is trying to hold Rostov]. The consequence is that the enemy is withdrawing forces fronting this passive Army to commit them against the First Panzer Army.
Adolf Hitler is taking an increasingly close eye on developments at the front, and Field Marshal Keitel reports that the Fuehrer is "in a state again." As Halder records in his diary, one of the issues is General von Kleist, whose 1st Panzer Army forces hold Rostov.
OKW is worried about Kleist. Fuehrer discusses lateral shifting of forces within the Seventeenth Army in order to help IV Corps get ahead so as to relieve Kleist. Sector boundaries between Kleist, Hoth, and Reichenau must not be allowed to interfere.
The seriousness of the situation is highlighted by the fact that Halder returns to it several times in his diary. Obviously, Kleist's situation is a topic of major discussion throughout the day. OKW Headquarters definitely recognizes the problem, Halder emphasizes:
Kleist's Army is in serious trouble and no one does anything to help him. The Army Group has been ordered to report what steps have been taken (shifting of forces of Seventeenth Army on the baseline to IV Corps, getting on the move Sixth Army and anything else that is available, especially Assault Guns.
Such repeated hand-wringing by Halder is unusual and likely a sign that everyone knows this is the Fuehrer's main concern today. The bottom line is that, glorious as the capture of Rostov is, the vulnerabilities of the Wehrmacht's position and even the possible loss of the strategic initiative are beginning to take center stage.

View of HMS Victorious, 22 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Royal Navy warships at Hvalfjord, Iceland sometime between 20 to 22 November 1941. The photo is taken aboard Tribal class destroyer HMS Ashanti. "Front to back: HMS ORIBI, HMS OFFA, and in the distance, HMS VICTORIOUS." © IWM (A 6598).
Battle of the Mediterranean: The British offensive in North Africa, Operation Crusader, continues with mixed success. Today is the "Battle of the Omars" due to much of the fighting taking place near Sidi Omar. A British breakout from Tobruk has been stopped by Italian defenders who are showing their mettle. The Italians hold strong points "Tugun" and "Dalby Square" by using superior position on nearby heights to devastate attacking British tanks and reduce one British company to 33 men of all ranks. The Italian Army shows on 22 November 1941 that, properly armed and positioned, they can be a tremendous asset to the Axis despite all the negative publicity they receive. Coming up from the south, General Scobie's Eighth Army, led by the 2nd York and Lancaster Regiment, does make some progress and takes strong point "Tiger." However, these British forces also continue to be unable to make a clean breakthrough against the Italian and German forces who have the advantage of prepared defensive positions. The two sides are grappling fiercely, "in the clinch," and it remains unclear who will win.

Werner Mölders, KIA 22 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Werner Mölders, KIA 22 November 1941.
German Military: Oberst (Colonel) Werner Mölders, Inspector of Fighters and, quite possibly, the greatest air ace of all time, perishes in an air crash at Breslau while his plane tries to land during a thunderstorm. Mölders is just a passenger in the Heinkel He 11 of Kampfgeschwader 27 "Boelcke" as he flies to attend the funeral of General Ernst Udet in Berlin. The event is a visceral shock that reverberates throughout the Luftwaffe, as Mölders is honestly liked and respected by the rank and file both for his attitude and for having over 100 victories. A state funeral is planned for 28 November 1941. Within hours, Mölders' old unit, Jagdgeschwader 51, is renamed "Mölders" in his honor. Werner Mölders, respected for his pure skill and expertise regardless of politics, will be honored in numerous ways during the post-war years. Some of those honors remain in the 21st Century despite efforts to reverse them, including the naming of the street "Möldersstraße" in Geilenkirchen and Ingolstadt. Colonel Mölders' grave at The Invalidenfriedhof has been restored after being destroyed by the East German government for political reasons.

A German tank destroyer in Rostov, 22 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The USS Aaron Ward just after her launching on 22 November 1941 (US Navy). She sank 7 April 1943 in a shoal near Tinete Point of Nggela Sule, the Solomon Islands during Operation I-Go. Her wreck was rediscovered on 4 September 1994.

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November 21, 1941: Germans Take Rostov

Friday 21 November 1941

Rommel 21 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Erwin Romel discusses the situation at Italian headquarters with Italian General Enea Navarini and liaison officer Colonel Diesener on 21 November 1941. Notice that Rommel is seated and the Italian general is standing (Moosmüller, Federal Archive Picture 183-1982-0927-502).
Eastern Front: The III Panzer Corps, led by the 1st SS Panzer Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler" (LSSAH) under Josef "Sepp" Dietrich, captures Rostov-on-Don on 21 November 1941. This is a major feat, achieved by forming a wedge to the southeast against fierce Red Army opposition. Dietrich is Adolf Hitler's former personal bodyguard and an aggressive commander, but he does not have any formal military training. This works in Dietrich's favor in this offensive because it is a very risky endeavor, exposing his forces in three directions to counterattacks that could trap his men far from the main German troop concentrations to the west.

Rommel 21 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Erwin Rommel arrives at the headquarters of the Italian Army Corps that is manning the line around Tobruk, 21 November 1941 (Moosmülle, Federal Archive Bild 183-R95988).
Far to the north, the winter weather finally has frozen Lake Ladoga sufficiently for surface traffic across it. The trip from the nearest Soviet-held town is 40 miles round-trip. Captain Murov's horses and wagons make the first risky trip across carrying flour, sugar, and other foodstuffs in 24 hours. This becomes the "Road of Life."

General Udet's casket, 21 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Udet's casket is brought in to the Reich Ministry of Aviation in the presence of Reichmarschall Hermann Goering (left) and Adolf Hitler (on the overlooking portico) on 21 November 1941. Adolf Galland leads the procession to the casket's left. All of the pallbearers are holders of the Knight's Cross. Udet's suicide has been described as being the result of an accident to the Reich press (Federal Archive Picture 146-1981-066-11A).
South of Moscow, General Guderian's attempt to bypass Tula is making a little progress every day, and today shows some small gains. General Karl Weisenberger’s LIII Army Corps takes Uzlovaya, southeast of Tula. This gives Colonel Heinrich Eberbach's dwindling panzers some flank protection. However, it does nothing to help the all-important drive to reach the road to Moscow north of Tula. The Stavka decides that they need someone new in charge of 50th Army, so the chief of the Red Army General Staff, Marshal Boris Shaposhnikov, appoints Lt. Gen. Ivan Vasilievich Boldin. Boldin sets out for Tula, where he will arrive on the 22nd through the narrow opening north of the city that the Soviets still hold.

Winston Churchill outside 10 Downing Street, 21 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"The Prime Minister Winston Churchill poses outside 10 Downing Street, London, England, wearing a 'Thumbs up' badge on 21 November 1941" © IWM (H 15674).
Battle of the Mediterranean: The British attempt to relieve Tobruk, Operation Crusader, has led to a wild melee involving British Eighth Army, Panzer Group Africa, and the garrison of Tobruk. The British still have not reached Tobruk, but they have one more ace to play. British 70th Division launches a three-pronged attack out of the besieged port, with the 2nd Black Watch in the center, the 2nd King's Own on the right, and the 2nd Queen's Own on the left. This takes the Italians who are on garrison duty by surprise, and the Black Watch loses about 200 men and its commanding officer but advances about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) towards Ed Duda. The Italians rally, however, and manage to retain their strongpoint at Tugun. The official New Zealand history recounts:
The more elaborate attack on Tugun went in at 1500 hours and gained perhaps half the position, together with 250 Italians and many light field guns. But the Italians in the western half could not be dislodged and the base of the break-out area remained on this account uncomfortably narrow... [The] strong Italian opposition at Tugun was part of the reason for the decision to halt the sortie at this time.
Another fierce battle develops around Sidi Rezegh that leads to heavy casualties by both sides but little change in positions.

Lewis Gun of the Singapore Volunteer Force, November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Recruits of the Singapore Volunteer Force training with a Lewis gun, November 1941.
The day's fighting leaves the Axis forces still in control of their critical defense points, but the outlook is grim due to the British advances. New Zealand troops advance across the Egyptian-Libyan frontier and occupy the vacant Fort Capuzzo. Everything is not rosy for the British, however. The British 7th Armored Brigade has lost 132 of its initial force of 160 tanks due to Italian gunners on the heights surrounding the battlefields. Still, the British are attacking and advancing and the Axis forces are defending and retreating, and that is usually a bad omen in the desert for the forces that are defending and retreating.

Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku, 21 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku waits at Hitokappu Bay (Kasatka Bay) at Iturup, the Kuril Islands on or about 21 November 1941. The Japanese carrier strike force is waiting for final orders to proceed across the Pacific Ocean to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. All communications from Iturup have been blocked for the time being by Japanese authorities to prevent disclosure of the strike force's presence.
US Military: The US Navy is well aware of threatening moves by the Japanese despite the continuation of largely pointless negotiations in Washington. The Navy Department transmits a warning message to commanders of the Asiatic and Pacific Fleets:
Have been informed by Dutch Legation that they have received a dispatch as follows: 
“According to information received by the Governor General of The Netherlands East Indies a Japanese expeditionary force has arrived in the vicinity of Palau. Should this force, strong enough to form a threat for The Netherlands Indies or Portuguese Timor, move beyond a line between the following points Davao (Philippine Islands) Waigeo (Island, Netherlands East Indies) Equator the Governor General will regard this as an act of aggression and will under those circumstances consider the hostilities opened and act accordingly."
Inform Army authorities of foregoing. Request any information you may have concerning development of this Japanese threat against the Dutch East Indies and your evaluation of foregoing information.
Thus, events are rapidly approaching a crisis point in the Pacific. The real question is not whether hostilities will commence, but when and where. The Dutch have strong naval forces present and a willingness to use them, and it is quite possible that the Pacific flashpoint could have nothing to do with United States forces.

William Powell and Myna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles in "Shadow of the Thin Man," released on 21 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
William Powell as Nick Charles and Myrna Loy as Nora Charles in "Shadow of the Thin Man," released by MGM on 21 November 1941. The film features 20-year-old Donna Reed in one of her first film roles. (Entertainment Pictures).

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Monday, February 11, 2019

November 20, 1941: The US Rejects Final Japanese Demand

Thursday 20 November 1941

Cordell Hull and Ambassador Nomura 20 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull with Ambassador Nomura and Special Envoy Kurusu on or about 20 November 1941.
Japanese/US Relations: More than any other day's events until the actual attack on Pearl Harbor, those of 20 November 1941 is conclusive with respect to the likelihood of war in the Pacific Theater. With special envoy Saburo Kurusu now in Washington, D.C., Japanese Ambassador Nomura delivers the final Japanese peace proposal to Secretary of State Cordell Hull. This is "Proposal B," the U.S. already having rejected proposal A. Both proposals were formulated at the Imperial Conference held in Tokyo on 5 November. The Americans already know from the "Magic" intelligence operation that the peace proposal handed over today is the last one that the Japanese have any intention of making.

Cordell Hull and Ambassador Nomura 20 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
No 1 Squadron's CO, Squadron Leader James MacLachlan, in the cockpit of his Hurricane IIC at Tangmere, 20 November 1941. © IWM (CH 4014).
In Proposal A, Japan promised to withdraw from China and French Indochina (Vietnam), which is what the Americans want. However, this depended upon Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek signing a peace treaty which would permit the Imperial Japanese forces to remain in parts of China indefinitely. In addition, the Japanese would have agreed to free trade principles which are important to the Americans, and basically cast aside its obligations under the Tripartite Pact.

Cordell Hull and Ambassador Nomura 20 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
This is the Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-1 on 20 November 1941 of Oblt Walter Schneider, an ace with Adolf Galland's JG 26 fighter unit based at Abbeville. Schneider will be shot down and killed just after getting victory No. 20 on 22 December 1941.
Proposal B, delivered today, is intended as a last resort but is no more acceptable to Hull and President Roosevelt. It provides that Japan will immediately withdraw all troops from French Indochina and also negotiate a final peace treaty with China - as long as the United States do not interfere. Japan and the United States then together would acquire the Netherlands Indies (Indonesia) and the two nations thereafter would become trading partners and, presumably, allies. It is a sweeping proposal that basically calls for a predatory alliance between the two powers, with the clear implication that Japan and the United States could do similar "deals" in the future.

Cordell Hull and Ambassador Nomura 20 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Painting an unidentified corvette's stern at Liverpool on 20 November 1941. © IWM (A 6357).
In his memoirs published in 1948, which may or may not accurately reflect Hull's thinking in 1941, Hull is dismissive of the proposals. He writes that the Japanese offer
put conditions that would have assured Japan's domination of the Pacific, placing us in serious danger for decades to come.
Hull goes even further in his memoirs, at least rhetorically, claiming that this Japanese proposal called for "virtually a surrender" by the United States.

Cordell Hull and Ambassador Nomura 20 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"The officers and crew of HMS MONTGOMERY aboard the ship." This was taken on 20 November 1941 at Gourock. The Montgomery formerly was US destroyer USS Wickes, it was given to the Royal Navy pursuant to Lend-Lease. © IWM (A 6344).
Since Hull knows this is the final Japanese proposal, he faces a stark choice of either trying to work with it somehow or knowing that war is going to break out. Both Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, and Brigadier General Leonard T. Gerow, a member of the War Plans Division who is representing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General George C. Marshall, both off advice. They counsel Hull to continue trying to find some modus vivendi with the Japanese despite the unacceptability of this plan. Gerow says:
Even a temporary peace in the Pacific would permit us to complete defensive preparations in the Philippines and at the same time ensure continuance of material assistance to the British -- both of which are highly important.
Despite indicating that the Japanese proposal is insufficient, Hull thus continues the negotiations even though the likelihood of some accommodation is very dim. Hull tasks Gerow, Stark, and their staffs to work up some more drafts of peace proposals over the next few days that might at least keep the negotiations going indefinitely. He promises Nomura that the U.S. will make a counterproposal.

Cordell Hull and Ambassador Nomura 20 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Kurt Briesen, commander of LII Army Corps, in Paris in front of the city commandant. He perishes on 20 November 1941 due to a Soviet aircraft attack (either bombing or strafing) near Isjum on the Seversky Donets River, southeast of Kharkov. (Federal Archive Picture 146-2008-0358).
The Japanese, however, are not prepared to wait for Hull's empty gestures. Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori sends a revealing message to the Japanese Ambassador to Turkey today:
Insofar as Japanese-American negotiations are concerned, in proceeding upon these negotiations for the adjustment of diplomatic relations on a just basis, conferences have been in progress since the 7th. However, there is a great disparity between their opinions and our own. In the light of the trend of past negotiations, there is considerable doubt as to whether a settlement of the negotiations will be reached. Insofar as we are concerned we have lent our maximum efforts in order to bring about a settlement of the negotiations. However, the situation not permitting any further conciliation by us, an optimistic view of the future is not permitted. In the event that negotiations are broken off, we expect that the situation in which Japan will find herself will be extremely critical. The above is for your information alone.
Given the rejection of Proposal B by Hull, the Japanese government begins battening down for a likely conflict. All communications are cut with Iturup in the Kuril Islands because of the presence there of the Imperial Japanese Navy carrier fleet which is assembling in Tankan Bay for the attack on Pearl Harbor. The government also makes a number of administrative changes that reflect the need to shift the government to a war posture. These include upgrading Ryojun Military Port (Port Arthur) and the naval base at Mako in the Pescadores Islands to the status of Guard Districts.

Cordell Hull and Ambassador Nomura 20 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Police booking photo of Iris Eileen Mary Webber dated 20 November 1941. Webber, a petty thief and "grog seller" earns the title "The most violent woman in Sydney" by carrying a "knuckleduster" to mug people. She physically attacked men who competed with her, including some notorious toughs of the day. The men often dropped the charges and claimed that a man had attacked them. This photo was probably taken after she was arrested for selling beer out of her home in Woolloomooloo. Or, it could have been for assaulting a man named Jackie Holder with a tomahawk. Webber passed away in 1953 (State Archives & Records New South Wales).
Eastern Front: German 1st Panzer Army under General Ewald von Kleist seizes a bridge across the frozen Don River, the last natural barrier before the Caucasus. The panzers of 1st Panzer Division Leisbstandarte SS "Adolf Hitler" under the command of Josef "Sepp" Dietrich are fighting in Rostov-on-Don. Things look promising for further advances into the oil fields to Hitler back at the Fuehrer Headquarters. However, the German spearhead, led by III Panzer Corps in Rostov and XIV Panzer Corps guarding its north flank, is elongated and vulnerable. The Red Army prepares forces to the south, east, and north of Rostov for a counterblow.

Cordell Hull and Ambassador Nomura 20 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A wedding announcement in the 20 November 1941 Madison, Wisconsin State Journal. The article notes that the married couple "will leave on a short wedding trip," which during 1941 likely meant Niagara Falls.

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Saturday, February 9, 2019

November 19, 1941: Sydney vs. Kormoran Duel

Wednesday 19 November 1941

German raider Kormoran, lost at sea on 19 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German raider Kormoran. Australian War Memorial 053867.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: Some people question whether World War II was actually a "world" war due to lack of military action in certain areas. The events of 19 November 1941 prove conclusively that major military actions took place in the Indian Ocean (there were many others). The sea duel between German raider Kormoran and Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney just off the west coast of Australia was one of the most devastating events in the entire history of the Royal Navy, let alone World War II, and its repercussions continue well into the 21st Century.

HMAS Sydney, lost at sea on 19 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Starboard side view of the cruiser HMAS Sydney (D48), August 1941. Australian War Memorial 301407.
German converted auxiliary cruiser Kormoran (HSK-8, Fregattenkapitän (Commander) Theodor Detmers) is nearing the end of a year-long cruise primarily in the Indian Ocean on 19 November 1941when it is sighted by the Sydney (D48, sometimes referred to as Syndey II, Captain Joseph Burnett) roughly 106 nautical miles (196 km; 122 mi) off Dirk Hartog Island (southwest of Carnarvon). Detmers tries to flee, but the Kormoran has temporary engine issues and, in any event, cannot outrun the faster cruiser. The Kormoran is disguised as the Dutch freighter Straat Malakka, which is known to be operating in these waters, but Detmers knows that this disguise cannot withstand scrutiny. After some inconclusive back-and-forth between the two ships that arouses his interest enough to investigate further, Captain Burnett follows standing Admiralty orders to seize all suspected enemy merchantmen and approaches the Kormoran and stops approximately 1,300 meters (4,300 ft) from Kormoran.

Commandos training in Scotland on 19 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Men of No. 1 Commando scrambling up a hillside during training at Glencoe in Scotland, 19 November 1941."  © IWM (H 15661).
From this point forward, events are disputed. The official and most accepted version, supported by the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence, is that at around 17:30, in response to a Sydney signal to "Show your secret sign" (which Detmers did not know), the Kormoran suddenly runs up its Kriegsmarine ensign. A gun battle immediately breaks out. Detmers' crew has had the advantage of knowing that they may have to open fire and thus has the Sydney targeted, while it is unclear what Sydney's crew was thinking. The Kormoran's crew drops the false hull plates hiding its 5.9-inch (15-cm) guns, raises other guns on hydraulic lifts, and launches two torpedoes. Sydney's crew opens fire at roughly the same time.

Commando training in Scotland on 19 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A soldier from No. 1 Commando, armed with a 'Tommy gun', climbs up a steep rock face during training at Glencoe in Scotland, 19 November 1941." © IWM (H 15667).
The battle lasts for roughly half an hour. The Kormoran's fire is more accurate and quickly smashes Sydney's bridge and disables some of its 6-inch (152 mm) main guns. In addition, at least one of Kormoran's torpedoes hits Sydney near the bow and assures that it will sink. Sydney's fire, while ineffective at defending the ship, scores enough hits to disable Kormoran and assure that it will sink as well. With Korman unable to follow, Sydney sails away at a very slow speed in a cloud of smoke, with Kormoran's crew continue to score some hits. Both ships sink at around midnight, though nobody is exactly when Sydney goes under.

Aircraft carrier USS Hornet on 19 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
USS Hornet (CV-8) in drydock after its commissioning at Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, 19 November 1941.
While Kormoran sinks, it suffers much less damage than Sydney and its crew is able to abandon ship about a half hour before it explodes in a fireball due to exploding mines that it is carrying. There are 317 survivors, including Detmers, and total Kormoran casualties are six officers, 75 German sailors, and one Chinese laundryman. The survivors are picked up over the next week by Australian ships and land patrols after two of the lifeboats make landfall at a sheep station at 17-Mile Well and Red Bluff. There is not a single survivor of the Australian cruiser and only a very few remnants (some disputed as being from Sydney at all). A total of 645 men perish on Sydney, making it the largest loss of life in the history of the Royal Australian Navy and the largest Allied warship lost with all hands during World War II. The 645 lives lost represent over 35% of all RAN personnel killed during World War II.

A WC-4 truck with gun mount and 37-mm artillery piece of US 30th Division, 19 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
WC-4 truck and 37 mm Gun M3 of US 30th Division in exercise south of Peedee River, Cheraw, South Carolina, 19 November 1941. 
While the Kriegsmarine learns about the Kormoran's loss fairly quickly, it is unable to turn the sinking of Sydney into an immediate propaganda coup because nobody is sure what happened to the ship. Australian Prime Minister John Curtin finally announces the cruiser's loss on 30 November 1941, but there are few details to share. While in prison camps, the entire crew of Kormoran receives decorations, with Detmers being awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz), three others being awarded the Iron Cross First Class, and the remainder of the crew receiving the Iron Cross Second Class.

Alfred Rosenberg, 19 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Alfred Rosenberg, Leader of the Foreign Policy Office of the NSDAP, giving a press conference on 19 November 1941 upon his official appointment as Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. Also visible are (to his left) Gauleiter Alfred Meyer, Rosenberg's permanent deputy, and (to his right) R. Hauptschriftleiter Weiss, head of the Association of German Press (Federal Archive Picture 183-B05926). 
Sydney's story does not end during World War II despite its sinking. It eventually enters a twilight zone of conjecture, conspiracy theories, paranoia, and outright fiction which finally is contradicted by tangible evidence after the wreck is located in March 2008. There are many unanswered questions, including the possible recovery of the remains of a temporary Sydney survivor after they washed ashore on Christmas Island in February 1942. There are many memorials to the crews of Sydney and Kormoran, the most prominent being one for Sydney's crew on Mount Scott at Geraldton, Australia and one for the dead among Kormoran's crew in the Laboe Naval Memorial. Disputes and investigations continue, making the battle between HMAS Sydney and auxiliary cruiser Kormoran one of the most enduring mysteries of World War II.

Men of HMS Sutherland pay respect to HMAS Sydney, lost on 19 November 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Men of frigate HMS Sutherland pay their respects to the men of HMAS Sydney.

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