Wednesday, May 4, 2016

December 15, 1939: Chinese Winter Offensive in High Gear

Friday 15 December 1939

15 November 1939 Australian 6th Division
Women wave farewell to members of the 6th Division AIF aboard troop transport ship Strathallan, December 15, 1939.
Winter War Army Operations: The Finns on 15 December 1939 have been launching attacks on Suomussalmi that the Soviets in the town have been deflecting. Today, after days of waiting, the Finns on the Ratte road are attacked from the east. Units of the Soviet 44th Rifle Division reach Battle Group Kontula, which is barricading the road. Stretched out over the road, the Soviets attempt a company-sized assault which the Finns easily brush off.

The leader of the 163rd Rifle Division in Suomussalmi knows the danger and repeatedly requests permission to withdraw. He is told to await the 44th Rifle Division. Ninth Army (KomKor M.P. Duhanov) fails to coordinate assaults from the village and the relief force. With this failed attempt, the relief attack, in fact, ends for the time being. The 44th Division itself, confined to the road, now presents a tempting target for the Finns.

At Taipale, the Soviet attacks are failing. In the far north, the Finns withdraw from Salmijaervi near the coast and blow up the nickel mines. They can easily travel off-road, the Soviets not so much.

Western Front: British 5th Division of the BEF is formed from three infantry brigades and deployed south of Lille. The British are not shielded by the Maginot Line but are constructing some of their own fortifications. The German and British lines are far apart except at Metz.

Battle of the Atlantic: Captain Langsdorff of the Admiral Graf Spee spends part of the day going to funerals for 36 of his men and ponders what to do with his ship and men. The released British sailors attend the funeral of their own volition and lay wreaths.

Langsdorff is told that he must leave within 72 hours. His men are repairing what battle damage they can, but the ship requires much more time. The British spread rumors by various means, including phony radio transmissions, suggesting that the British forces awaiting the Admiral Graf Spee are larger than they actually are. The British also play games with departures of British merchant ships, sending them out at intervals - the Admiral Graf Spee must give departing ships 24 hours head start, and the British want more time to assemble a fleet outside the Platte River estuary.

Light cruiser HMS Ajax is refueled while the heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland minds the store.

U-48 (Kapitänleutnant Herbert Schultze) torpedoes and sinks the Greek freighter, Germaine, south of Ireland. Kpt. Schultze disembarks the ship before sinking it, so all of the crew survives.

US destroyers continue shadowing the German liner Columbus, which is near Key West, Florida. Two of the destroyers head off after the German freighter Arauca, which left Vera Cruz shortly before the Columbus.

The British release US freighter Exmoor from detention at Gibraltar.

15 November 1939 Columbus liner
German liner Columbus (Ang, Federal Archive).
British Government: Prime Minister Chamberlain visits the BEF in France with General Ismay.

Peace Talks: The Foreign Minister broadcasts an appeal to the Soviet Union to reopen negotiations, saying, "the Finns will never submit to a foreign yoke." The appeal is ignored.

China: The Chinese Winter Offensive shifts into high gear:
  • Chinese 1st War Area captures Lowang railway station;
  • Chinese 6th War Area (southern Hupei and western Hunan), assisting 9th War Area, unsuccessfully attacks Yuehyang and railroad station at Kaochiao approximately this date, but plays no other role in the winter offensive
  • Chinese 8th War Area (Kansu, Ninghsia, Tsinghai, and Suiyuan) commences operations with 35th Army and 81st Army capturing Anpei approximately this date
  • 19th Army Group of Chinese 9th War Area attacking Hsintanpu, Tongyang, and Nanliqiao
  • Chinese East Hupei guerrilla forces begin nuisance raids
The Japanese throw in some counterattacks where possible:
  • Japanese counterattacks against Chinese 2nd War Area
  • Japanese counterattack Southern Honan Army of Chinese 5th War Area and recapture Yangliuho
  • Japanese counterattack Left Flank Army of Chinese 5th War Area around Chihchengshan, forcing the Chinese to withdraw to Chikutien and Sanchingkuan
  • Elements of Japanese 33rd Infantry Division and 40th Infantry Division attack Chinese 9th War Area around Shihmen and Shihpihu
Overall, the Japanese are withstanding the Chinese Winter Offense and throwing in some solid counter-punches.

American Homefront: Nylon yarn begins to be manufactured. "Gone With the Wind" premieres in Atlanta. Eurith D. Rivers, the governor of Georgia, declares December 15 a state holiday.

15 November 1939 Gone With The Wind
Atlanta premiere of "Gone With the Wind" on 15 December 1939.

December 14, 1939: Quisling Meets Hitler
December 15, 1939: Chinese Winter Offensive in High Gear
December 16, 1939: Battle of Summa
December 17, 1939: End of Admiral Graf Spee
December 18, 1939: Battle of Heligoland Bight
December 19, 1939: British Disarm Magnetic Mines
December 20, 1939: Finnish Counterattacks Continue
December 21, 1939: Finns Plan More Counterattacks
December 22, 1939: Enter Chuikov
December 23, 1939: Failed Finnish Counterattack
December 24, 1939: Soviets on the Run
December 25, 1939: Fresh Soviet Attacks
December 26, 1939: Vicious Battles at Kelja
December 27, 1939: Grinding Finnish Victories
December 28, 1939: Liberators
December 29, 1939: Finns Tighten the Noose
December 30, 1939: Finnish Booty
December 31, 1939: Planning More Soviet Destruction


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