Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1, 1941: US Military Reorganization

Saturday 1 February 1941

1 February 1941 Derna British troops
"Infantry advancing outside the fort at Derna, 1 February 1941." © IWM (E 1837).
Italian/Greek Campaign: The Battle of Trebeshina ramps up on 1 February 1941. The Cretan 5th Division, operating as part of II Corps, seizes Trebeshina from the defending Italian Blackshirts, while the 15th Division captures the village of Bubeshi. The Greeks are engaged in a very costly attempt to take the Trebeshinë massif which will take time, effort and a lot of lives. The Italians are fighting more effectively than they have at any time during the campaign. The weather is horrendous, especially at the higher altitudes, crimping operations.

East African Campaign: With the mass of defeated Italian troops fleeing from the Mount Cochen defensive line just breached by General Sir William Platt's Indian 4th and 5th Infantry Divisions, the British 4th Indian Division take Agordat and 5th Indian takes Metemma in Eritrea. This is a key road junction which joins the roads through the two different passes through the mountains used by the two British divisions independently. The Italians left a small garrison in Agordat of about 1000 men. They are captured with 14 damaged tanks, 43 guns and all of the supplies of the base.

The Italians of the 4th Colonial Division are running for Keren, but the plains beyond the mountains are much more difficult to defend against superior forces. The Italians at Barentu use a road that turns into a mule track which forces them to abandon all their vehicles. After this point, they basically retreat cross-country toward Keren.

In Abyssinia (Ethiopia), South African troops take Gorai and El Gumu.

2nd Lieutenant Premindra Singh Bhagat of the Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners wins the first Victoria Cross for clearing mines.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command raids Boulogne with 13 bombers after dark, while Coastal Command raids Brest - perhaps looking for the Admiral Hipper, which left during the day. There is little Luftwaffe activity during the day.

Oberstleutnant Benno Kosch takes over KG 55.
1 February 1941 Trafalgar Square London
Buses, taxis, and motorcycles drive past the National Gallery at the top end of Trafalgar Square, whilst pedestrians also go about their daily business, February 1941 (© IWM (D 2100)).
Battle of the Atlantic: German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper departs from Brest on another raiding mission. This is Hipper's second raiding mission, the first having ended in late December after mediocre results. This makes four German heavy warships in the Atlantic at once - Admiral Hipper, Admiral Scheer, Gneisenau, and Scharnhorst - for the first time in the war. However, they are widely dispersed (except for the latter two ships acting in concert) and thus the effects of having all this firepower on the loose at once are somewhat diluted. German battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz are approaching readiness for missions as well, and if they break out to join the four cruisers, the Kriegsmarine would have the possibility of seriously disrupting the Allies' convoy operations and also of defending themselves against the Royal Navy.

German raiders Scharnhorst and Gneisenau remain in the far north on Operation Berlin. They have rendezvoused with tanker Adria, but rough weather continues to prevent them from topping off yet. After they complete their fuel replenishment, the two heavy cruisers will head for the Denmark Strait to break out into the Atlantic.

U-48 (Kptlt. Herbert Schultze), on its tenth patrol, torpedoes, and sinks 4351-ton Greek freighter Nicolas Angelos in the Atlantic south of Iceland.

British 1251-ton collier Kai (formerly Torholm, Roskva, and Lom) sinks in the Bristol Channel near Trevose Head, Cornwall. This has been an area with numerous recent sinkings from mines.

British freighter Rockpool, from Convoy SC 19, runs aground in heavy fog at Little Cumbrae Island in the Firth of Clyde. The weather is fierce and causes great damage to her stern gear and bottom. She is later salvaged by the Ministry of War Transport and renamed Empire Trent.

German 2530-ton freighter Königsberg-Preussen hits a mine early in the morning and sinks off Cuxhaven.

Convoy OB 281 departs from Liverpool, Convoy BN 14 departs from Aden.

Royal Navy minesweeping trawler HMT Hoy and monitor HMS Roberts are launched.

USS Trigger is laid down.

U-68 (K.Kapt. Karl-Freidrich Merten) is commissioned at Bremen, U-127 is launched and U-764 is laid down.
1 February 1941 Derna British artillery
A 40mm Bofors Gun outside Derna, 1 February 1941.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Italian troops are retreating from Benghazi to Barce, and their movements are spotted by RAF aerial reconnaissance. Middle East Commander General Archibald Wavell returns to Cairo from Nairobi in the evening and approves General O'Connor's plan to send his XIII Corps armored units south of Green Mountain to try to intercept the rapidly retreating Italians. O'Connor quickly assembles a force under Lieutenant Colonel J.F.B. Combe (the "Combe Force") to strike out for Msus and Antelat within a couple of days.

British Prime Minister Winston continues to obsess about the proportion of British troops in support services in the Middle East. He sends a memo to Secretary of State for War David Margesson complaining in which he purports to be "astonished' that Margesson has not replied to a previous lengthy memo "paragraph by paragraph and point by point." He reiterates:
[E]very effort should be made to secure the highest economy, and deductions drawn from the peculiar condition of the fighting, and the rapid advance made in Libya, do not necessarily apply to a campaign in Thrace or behind the Bosphorus.
He sends another memo to Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton expressing a desire to strangle Germany's copper supplies. Churchill sees a problem in South American copper exports going to Japan and the Soviet Union, from where they can make their way to Germany. He suggests purchasing the South American copper rather than leaving it for others.

Force H out of Gibraltar is steaming for the vicinity of Genoa to shell Italian shore installations (Operations Picket and Result). The Mediterranean sorties from Alexandria to divert attention from this risky mission. The Mediterranean Fleet in Operation MC 4 sweeps the area around Rhodes during the day.

Wellington bombers based on Malta attack Tripoli. On the island, the government closes the Three Cities during the night as a security measure, as it is largely abandoned due to bomb damage during the Illustrious Blitz. This is a protective measure for the nearby dockyards, the fear being that saboteurs could use the Three Cities ruins as a staging area for diversions from an invasion.

Fighter strength in Malta has increased from the worst days of 1940. The island has been reinforced with the air squadron from the battered HMS Illustrious and currently includes:
  • 28 Hurricanes of No. 261 Squadron
  • 3 Fairey Fulmars and 4 Gloster Gladiators of No. 806 Squadron.
Ten of the planes are out of service, though, and the Illustrious is no longer available to provide aerial support.

The garrison strength on Malta is 802 officers and 14,767 other ranks.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: Responding to a warning call from British freighter Troilus, Royal Navy authorities send aircraft carrier HMS Formidable and heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins to investigate the tanker lanes of the Persian Gulf. The Troilus had spotted German raider Atlantis, disguised as Norwegian freighter Tamesis. However, the Atlantis did not attack the Troilus, and the heavy British warships, operating as Force K, return to base.

Battle of the Pacific: The German naval attaché to Japan, Vice-Admiral Wenneker, has purchased a Nakajima E8N floatplane for German raider Orion, which receives it from supply ship Münsterland today at the Maug Islands in the Northern Marianas. This is the only instance where German forces operate with a Japanese plane.

Spy Stuff: Vera Atkins joins the French section of the Special Operations Executive as a secretary. Previously, she has been an Air Raid Precautions warden in Chelsea.

British Military: The RAF establishes the Air Training Corps to train interested cadets age 16 or over how to fly.

Soviet Military: Fresh off a highly successful performance in war games, Georgy Zhukov becomes the Red Army's Chief of the General Staff. Zhukov also is the Deputy Minister of Defense. General Kirponos replaces him as head of the Kieve Special Military District. Zhukov replaces Meretskov, who temporarily is on the outs with Stalin. General Chuikov becomes a chief military adviser to the Chinese High Command.

1 February 1941 General Clayton B. Vogel 2nd Marine Division
Major General Clayton B. Vogel at the activation of the 2nd Marine Division, 1 February 1941.
US Military: The US Navy reorganizes its commands with General Order 143. There now are three fleets: Atlantic, Pacific, and Asiatic. This had been the case in the past.

Admiral (temporary) Husband E. Kimmel takes up his new post as Commander in Chief US Fleet (CINCUS). He also is Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) and only becomes CINCUS when his command combines with one or both of the other two fleets (a very unlikely possibility in the case of the Atlantic Fleet). If this seems confusing, well, it kind of is, but it is the result of having a two-ocean navy. Kimmel's flagship is the battleship HMS Pennsylvania anchored at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. He replaces Admiral James O. Richardson, who has made a lot of enemies stateside due to his criticism of various decisions, such as moving the Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Hawaii and the lack of any regular aerial patrols from Pearl Harbor.

Promoted to Admiral, Ernest J. King now is the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. He is good friends with Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold "Betty" Stark, and this relationship will come in quite handy in the future.

Rear Admiral H. Fairfax Leary takes over as Commander Cruisers Battle Force, and Vice Admiral Wilson Brown Jr. becomes the new Commander Scouting Forces, while Rear Admiral John H. Newton becomes Commander Cruisers Scouting Force.

The 1st Marine Division, based aboard the battleship USS Texas, is activated under the command of General Holland Smith. It is created from the 1st Marine Brigade. The division's units, however, are scattered about the Pacific. The 2nd Marine Division, under the command of General Clayton Vogel, also forms from the 2nd Marine Brigade.

The War Department upgrades the US Patrol Force in the Caribbean to fleet status.

Construction begins of Fort Greely on Kodiak Island. This is a coastal fort (not to be confused with the later missile base in the interior of Alaska). It is located near the US Navy base at Chiniak Bay. The fort will include barracks, administration buildings, and hospital facilities. This is a very difficult construction project because of inclement weather and the fact that virtually everything has to be shipped from Seattle.

Chief of Naval Operations Harold Rainsford Stark sends Admiral Kimmel a warning dated today that was contained in a 27 January 1941 communication from the US ambassador in Tokyo to the State Department:
The Peruvian Minister has informed a member of my staff that he has heard from many sources, including a Japanese source, that in the event of trouble breaking out between the United States and Japan, the Japanese intend to make a surprise attack against Pearl Harbor with all of their strength and employing all of their equipment. The Peruvian Minister considered the rumors fantastic. Nevertheless he considered them of sufficient importance to convey this information to member of my staff.
By coincidence, Admiral Yamamoto is meeting on this very topic with his own staff today on this topic.

1 February 1941 Admiral Stark Admiral Kimmel memo
Warning sent from the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C. to CINCPAC (Admiral Kimmel) in Honolulu delivering warnings from the Peruvian ambassador about a contemplated Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Japanese Military: Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto discusses Operation Z, the planned attack on Pearl Harbor, with his Chief of Staff. Currently, the plan goes under the name "Operation Hawaii."

Vichy France: Marcel Déat creates the Rassemblement national Populaire, RNP ("National Popular Rally"). This is a Fascist organization that joins other parties of a similar bent, including Jacques Doriot's French Popular Party (PPF), the far-right Social Revolutionary Movement (MSR) of Eugène Deloncle,  and Marcel Bucard's Francisme. The Germans are big supporters of the RNP.

The RNP and MSR quickly join forces, but there are tensions within all these parties because some, like the RNP, actually take the supposed socialist bent of Fascism seriously. The RNP is actually a socialist party with a Fascist orientation, whereas many of the other Fascist-leaning French parties are, for lack of a better word, Monarchist. Thus, there is no monolithic movement going on with France, but rather various splinter movements that only overlap in certain areas. This is what creates the fertile ground for the seeding of additional parties like the RNP, which is based near the Gare Saint-Lazare.

1 February 1941 Oxford Street London
Oxford and Gilbert Street, London, February 1941.
Panama: The US plans to add a third set of locks to the Panama Canal, which is taking on huge strategic importance due to rising war fears.

South Africa: Members of the Ossebrandwag ("Ox-wagon Guard") (OB) riot in Johannesburg, with 140 soldiers seriously hurt. The OB is a Boer militant group that, according to later documents, is:
based on the Führer-principle, fighting against the Empire, the capitalists, the communists, the Jews, the party and the system of parliamentarism... on the base of national-socialism.
The OB is openly against the British war effort, but this is the first time that they actually start a riot. The Union government begins cracking down on the OB after this, setting up internment camps.

Australia: Prime Minister Robert Menzies continues his long journey from Melbourne to London. Today, he reaches Iraq, which is going through governmental turmoil and where a local official suggests that the locals may need a "show the flag" type of visit by Australian forces on their way to Egypt.

Philippines: Due to rising war fears, Henry L. Stimson's US War Department issues a bulletin for dependents to return to the United States. The extent of the US military presence on the archipelago is under serious debate, with local commanders such as General MacArthur wishing a larger commitment, but the bureaucrats in D.C. preferring a smaller commitment there and at Guam due to the difficulty of defending isolated positions far across the Pacific.

Japan: Rice rationing is instituted. This likely is related to the loss of fertilizer supplies due to the German attack on the phosphate facilities at Nauru in December 1940.

Antarctica: Having evacuated West Base, the Interior Department now sends auxiliary USS Bear to Adelaide Island to evacuate Antarctica Service's East Base later in the month. It is, of course, high summer in the Antarctic.

American Homefront: Glenn Miller signs a new contract with RCA Victor Records. Miller is at the height of his fame and creativity, and he and his band are scheduled to star in two Twentieth Century Fox films in the next year or two, "Sun Valley Serenade" and "Orchestra Wives." With his new three-year RCA contract, Miller makes about $15,000-20,000 per week.

1 February 1941 Brooklyn Library
February 1, 1941. Children's Rooms at the Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park Plaza. Taken by Sam Gottscho from the balcony.

January 1941

January 1, 1941: Muselier Arrested
January 2, 1941: Camp Categories
January 3, 1941: Liberty Ships
January 4, 1941: Aussies Take Bardia
January 5, 1941: Amy Johnson Perishes
January 6, 1941: Four Freedoms
January 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor Plans
January 8, 1941: Billions For Defense
January 9, 1941: Lancasters
January 10, 1941: Malta Convoy Devastation
January 11, 1941: Murzuk Raid
January 12, 1941: Operation Rhubarb
January 13, 1941: Plymouth Blitzed
January 14, 1941: V for Victory
January 15, 1941: Haile Selassie Returns
January 16, 1941: Illustrious Blitz
January 17, 1941: Koh Chang Battle
January 18, 1941: Luftwaffe Pounds Malta
January 19, 1941: East African Campaign Begins
January 20, 1941: Roosevelt 3rd Term
January 21, 1941: Attack on Tobruk
January 22, 1941: Tobruk Falls
January 23, 1941: Pogrom in Bucharest
January 24, 1941: Tank Battle in Libya
January 25, 1941: Panjiayu Tragedy
January 26, 1941: Churchill Working Hard
January 27, 1941: Grew's Warning
January 28, 1941: Ho Chi Minh Returns
January 29, 1941: US Military Parley With Great Britain
January 30, 1941: Derna Taken
January 31, 1941: LRDG Battered

February 1941

February 1, 1941: US Military Reorganization
February 2, 1941: Wehrmacht Supermen
February 3, 1941: World Will Hold Its Breath
February 4, 1941: USO Forms
February 5, 1941: Hitler Thanks Irish Woman
February 6, 1941: Operation Sunflower
February 7, 1941: Fox Killed in the Open
February 8, 1941: Lend Lease Passes House
February 9, 1941: Give Us The Tools
February 10, 1941: Operation Colossus
February 11, 1941: Afrika Korps
February 12, 1941: Rommel in Africa
February 13, 1941: Operation Composition
February 14, 1941: Nomura in Washington
February 15, 1941: Churchill's Warning
February 16, 1941: Operation Adolphus
February 17, 1941: Invade Ireland?
February 18, 1941: Panzerwaffe Upgrade
February 19, 1941: Three Nights Blitz
February 20, 1941: Prien's Farewell
February 21, 1941: Swansea Blitz Ends
February 22, 1941: Amsterdam Pogrom
February 23, 1941: OB-288 Convoy Destruction
February 24, 1941: Okuda Spies
February 25, 1941: Mogadishu Taken
February 26, 1941: OB-290 Convoy Destruction
February 27, 1941: Operation Abstention
February 28, 1941: Ariets Warns Stalin


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