Wednesday, January 31, 2018

May 14, 1941: Holocaust in Paris

Wednesday 14 May 1941

Paris Holocaust 14 May 1941
Jews rounded up in Paris on 14 May 1941 being transported to concentration camps.

Anglo/Iraq War: The RAF on 14 May 1941 is keeping a very close eye on Syria, which is the obvious transit point for any German attempt to aid Rashid Ali in Iraq. A reconnaissance plane spots a Luftwaffe Junkers 90 transport operating out of Palmyra and confirms that there are many Axis transports at the airfield (they arrived from Greece on the 13th).

The RAF immediately sends three Blenheim bombers accompanied by two Curtiss Tomahawk (P-40) fighters (not held in high regard by the British, but they have an abundance of them) of RAF No. 250 Squadron to attack Palmyra and Aleppo airfields, both of which the Luftwaffe is using. This action is notable for the first operational use of a Curtiss Tomahawk in any theater, though the attack does not accomplish much. Just to add to the overall murkiness of relations between Vichy France and Great Britain, this is a completely illegal attack taken without warning and completely against previous informal understandings between the parties (the British, for instance, have not interfered previously with Vichy supply ships transiting from France to Syria and back). It also is the first round of hostilities that will lead to the conquest of Syria by the British and their allies.

Luftwaffe Special Force Junck (Sonderkommando Junck), under the command of Oberst (Colonel) Werner Junck, begins leaving Aleppo for Iraq. Three Bf 110s and three Heinkel He 111s, hastily converted to Iraqi war markings, land at Mosul. The main force, led by Oberst Junck, prepares to leave on the 15th.

Oberst Heinrich Kodre 14 May 1941
Oberst Heinrich Kodre receives the Knights Cross on 14 May 1941 for leading his battalion to victory against fort "Hellas" of the Metaxas Line on 7 April 1941.
European Air Operations: The RAF engages in Rhubarb operations along the French coast.

RAF No. 121 Squadron, an abortive World War I unit that disbanded during that conflict, reforms. A unit of Fighter Command, it is based at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey. This is the second of three Eagle Squadrons (aka "the second Eagle squadron") manned by American volunteers flying Hawker Hurricanes.

East African Campaign: At Amba Alagi, the newly arrived South African 1st Infantry Brigade joins the battle begun on the 13th by the Indian troops. The Italian defenders feel the pressure and withdraw from a key position known as the "Triangle" during the night.

The East African 22nd Infantry Brigade reaches Shashamanna in Galla-Sidamo.

Battle of the Atlantic: German raider Atlantis, disguised as the Dutch motor-ship Brastagi, remains on the loose in the South Atlantic. Late on the 13th, it encounters 5618-ton British collier Rabaul. Captain Rogge of the Atlantis signals it to stop, but the Rabaul makes no change to course and speed. Then, Rogge fires a warning shot across the Rabaul's bow. The Rabaul then turns and tries to escape. Rogge opens fire, and early on the 14th, after numerous hits, the Rabaul sinks. There are seven dead and 47 survivors, though most of the survivors are in bad shape and two later perish as well. The Atlantis takes one survivor aboard and allows the rest to try to make landfall on their own.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 96-ton British examination vessel M.A. West at the entrance to Great Yarmouth. There are no casualties.

The Luftwaffe bombs and badly damages 1843-ton Norwegian freighter Karlander in the Northwest Approaches. Everyone survives. The ship becomes a derelict and is sunk by a Royal Navy escort later in the day.

Royal Navy harbor defense patrol ship Minicoy hits a mine and sinks near St. Ann's Head. There are several deaths (no exact number).

German battleship Bismarck is engaging in exercises with light cruiser Leipzig to prepare for Operation Rheinübung when it develops issues with its port side crane and catapults. This delays the Atlantic sortie with cruiser Prinz Eugen, originally scheduled for the 18th, for three days.

Convoy HG 62 departs from Gibraltar bound for Liverpool.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Victorious is commissioned.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Thrasher (Lt. Patrick J. Cowell) is commissioned.

Canadian minesweeper HMCS Goderich and corvette New Westminster are launched, the former in Toronto, the latter in Victoria, B.C.

US destroyers USS Aulick and Charles Ausburne are laid down.

U-82 (Oberleutnant zur See Siegfried Rollmann) is commissioned.

Australian 6th Army Egypt 14 May 1941
Australian Army 6th Division soldiers entraining at El Kantara station, Egypt on 14 May 1941.
Battle of the Mediterranean: This is a time of great activity in the British Middle East Command, though none of the operations are of a particularly high profile. There are three major issues on the "front burner" right now - aside from mopping up in Abyssinia, which also is a Middle East Command responsibility.

Operation Brevity: The British are set to launch Operation Brevity. This is a limited offensive aimed at pressing the Wehrmacht and Italian forces back in the region around Sollum and Fort Capuzzo south of Tobruk. The grand aim is to liberate Tobruk.

Syria: The RAF now has firm confirmation of Luftwaffe planes using the Aleppo, Syria airfield as a transit hub to Iraq. Syria is occupied by the Vichy French, and they have not been particularly cooperative with the British. The Chiefs of Staff tell Middle East Commander General Archibald Wavell to invade Syria as soon as possible. Wavell doesn't feel that he has sufficient strength, replying that an invasion will require an entire corps, including an armored division.  Commander in chief of the Free French forces General Georges Catroux is in Cairo and plans to aid the invasion of Syria as a matter of national pride. Wavell is not too keen on De Gaulle's presence (and interference) in his theater due to De Gaulle's spotty record to date at Dakar and elsewhere, but Winston Churchill sends De Gaulle "a cordial invitation" to go to Cairo. De Gaulle orders the 1st Free French Fighter Squadron moved forward to support coming operations in Syria.

Crete: The British at this point have very solid information from their Ultra service that the Germans are going to invade Crete. The Wehrmacht has never been overly enthusiastic about Operation Mercury, the projected invasion of Crete, but it has to be completed soon. For one thing, Operation Barbarossa (projected to begin 22 June) is getting closer, and the high command doesn't need the distraction of a major operation going on in a secondary theater while all eyes are pointed east. So, somewhat reluctantly, the pace of preparation begins to pick up around this time. Operation Mercury will be one of the few land operations of the war controlled completely by the Luftwaffe, and Hermann Goering's prestige will be affected. So, massive resources are committed to an objective of fairly minor strategic importance, one of many islands in the Mediterranean whose main value lies primarily in depriving its use by the Royal Navy and RAF.

Oberleutnant Sophus Baagoe 14 May 1941
Oberleutnant Sophus Baagoe, KIA 14 May 1941.
To prepare for the projected airborne invasion within the coming week, Luftwaffe VIII Fliegerkorps begins shifting ifs priority from shipping (which at this point means military supplies to Tobruk, Malta and Suda Bay in Crete) to RAF airfields on Crete. The Luftwaffe loses six Bf 109s in the air, while the RAF loses two Hawker Hurricanes in the air and a Hurricane and Fulmar on the ground. During attacks on Heraklion airfield, Luftwaffe Bf 110 ace Oberleutnant Sophus Baagoe is shot down and killed. Baagoe accumulated 14 victories in 95 missions.

The Cretan airfields are the key to Operation Mercury because the slow Junkers Ju 52s carrying Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) will be very vulnerable to fighter interception during their daylight drops. In addition, the only Wehrmacht supply route during the lodgement phase will be through those same airfields. The original date for the operation was today, but delays in operations are not unusual, and the date for the attack is postponed. On Crete, the composite New Zealand 10th Infantry Brigade receives a new commander, Colonel Kippenberger.

British freighter SS Turkia catches fire for unknown reasons in its No. 3 hold and explodes in the Red Sea (at the Gulf of Suez near the Zafarana light) when its cargo of explosives catches fire. This incident sometimes is dated 17 May. The site becomes popular with wreck divers.

The Luftwaffe attacks Suda Bay, Crete, and bombs 6343-ton British freighter Dalesman. The ship's master grounds the ship to avoid sinking, and the Germans later will repair and refloat the ship for their own use.

The Luftwaffe attacks Port Said and damages 5643-ton British freighter Cape Horn.

A very large force, including battleships HMS Barham and Queen Elizabeth, sails from Alexandria. This is Forces A and D for the defense of Crete.

Royal Navy gunboat Gnat operates off Tobruk Harbour and shells a German mobile artillery position.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Unbeaten spots two Italian schooners off the Libyan coast and attacks them with a torpedo and gunfire. However, both vessels escape.

At Malta, the Luftwaffe changes tactics slightly and begins using Bf-109s as fighter-bombers (Jabos). Regular bombers, typically Junkers Ju 88s, also continue missions. The British note that this tactic is producing good results for the Germans.

Convoy AS-31 departs from Suda Bay, Crete. This convoy carries about £7,000,000 sterling of Greek bullion. The convoy's destination is Port Said.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: German raider Kormoran, having entered the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic, makes a rendezvous with whaling ship Adjutant and supply ship Alstertor.

HMNZS Puriri 14 May 1941
HMNZS Puriri, sunk on 14 May 1941 near Auckland by a mine.
Battle of the Pacific: New Zealand 927 ton auxiliary minesweeping trawler HMNZS Puriri hits a mine and sinks about 8 miles northeast of Bream Head (near Auckland). There are five deaths, the survivors are picked up by nearby warships.

Spy Stuff: Karl Richter, a German spy who parachuted into woods north of London on 13 May, is walking along a road when a lorry driver stops to ask him directions. Richter, of course, has no idea where he is, let alone how to direct someone to their destination, so he is of no help. The lorry driver thinks about it as he drives off, and decides to tell the local police about the strange man who had no idea where he was. The police quickly apprehend Richter and end his brief career as a spy.

Curtiss Tomahawks 14 May 1941
Royal Canadian Air Force Curtiss Tomahawks.
German/Soviet Relations: Adolf Hitler already has sent "Mr. Stalin" a letter dated 31 December 1940. Today, Hitler sends Stalin a second letter. As in the earlier letter, he vows to finish the "final shattering of England." However, he claims that "the German people consider the English a fraternal people" and that opposition to an invasion of the British Isles has arisen. He states:
In order to organize troops for the invasion away from the eyes of the English opponent, and in connection with the recent operations in the Balkans, a large number of my troops, about eighty divisions, are located on the borders of the Soviet Union.
Citing "rumors" that he plans a coming "conflict" between Germany and the Soviet Union, Hitler writes:
I assure you, on my honor as a chief of state that this is not the case.
He then promises that "By approximately June 15–20 I plan to begin a massive transfer of troops to the west from your borders." He concludes that he has "hope for a meeting in July."

Anglo/US Relations: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sends a cable to President Roosevelt about current issues. You might think that this would include a review of what he has learned from Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess, now lying under guard in a military hospital in Glasgow - but Hess receives only a cursory mention at the end of the communication, "I will send you a special report about Hess shortly." The rest of the communication is devoted to emphasizing how "important" it is that the US "go forward with all your plans for supplying our Middle Eastern Armies by American ships to Suez."

Churchill also casually mentions that the Germans are using Syrian airfields - but does not indicate any decisions are being made about that. This Churchill does as he is telling his War Cabinet that Syria must be conquered, and soon. The cable is a study in downplaying the significance of major issues in order not to strain the alliance.

British Military: The Home Guard is one year old today, and the King issues an order of the day congratulating it. There are about 1.5 million men in the Home Guard, organized into 1200 battalions spread out across the length and breadth of Britain. Much has changed in the last year, and they now sport standard arms (rifles and Thompson submachine guns). The Home Guard is given the honor today of guarding Buckingham Palace.

The British fire fighting system has been put under enormous strain during the Blitz. The 10/11 May bombing of London, the largest Luftwaffe raid on London throughout the war, has put into stark relief the disorganization and inefficiency of having local fire fighting services that operate independently and often require payment before they will go to a neighboring city's aid. Home Secretary Herbert Morrison today nationalizes the nation's fire services in order to make it more responsive and efficient. This standardization gives authorities greater control over fire fighting capabilities and eliminates confusion.

Lord Gort becomes Governor of Gibraltar.

British Government: At the evening War Cabinet meeting, Winston Churchill and his cronies run through the major issues of the moment. According to the minutes, they conclude:
  • Syria - "we must do everything possible to organize a force to go into Syria to support the air action."
  • Vichy France - "it must be made clear to the Vichy Government how we regarded the situation.... the French in Tunis had assisted the Germans.... the French authorities were conniving at German infiltration into Syria."
  • Canary and Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic - "in view of the present situation [Churchill] could not allow the Expedition [Operation Puma, occupation of the islands] to sail now."
  • Crete - "we regarded Operation Scorcher [the defense of Crete] as holding a higher priority even than the interruption of enemy supplies to Tripoli."
As usual in the War Cabinet, most of the decisions made are simply Churchill stating his own opinion on the matter.

Churchill rings Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden up in the middle of the night proposing to inform the House about Rudolf Hess. Eden protests strongly saying it is best to say nothing. After much back-and-forth, Churchill agrees with ill humor and hangs up on Eden.

Paris Holocaust 14 May 1941
A Jew arrested in Paris on 14 May 1941 and sent to a concentration camp.
German Government: The northern part of the Red Sea is declared a zone of military operations, and the entire Red Sea a danger area. This mirrors a similar decision by the Americans, who earlier declared the Red Sea a war zone under the Neutrality Act (but revoked that designation on 12 April 1941). The declaration today by the Germans has no practical effect, though it apparently is related to their designs on Iraq.

Vichy French Government: Vice Premier Admiral Darlan, who basically is running the government with Marshal Petain as a figurehead, informs Petain that it is necessary to collaborate with the Reich so as to retain some degree of independence. The fear is that there will be "Polandization," or vast annexations accompanied by placing the French citizenry in a state of virtual slavery.

Yugoslavia: The Archbishop of Zagreb, Aloysius Stepinac, sends a letter of protest to Croat nationalist and fascist Ante Pavelić after hearing of the killings in recent days at Glina. Stepinac, however, does not mention the incident publicly. Pavelić ignores the letter and decides to maintain a scheduled visit to the Pope in Rome on the 15th.

Greece: Bulgaria annexes large portions of Greek Thrace and Macedonia without asking Hitler.

Bolivia: The government seizes Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano and reorganizes it as a state-owned company. This is not the first time Bolivia has nationalized the airline, as it did the same thing during the 1932 Chaco War with Paraguay, but this change is permanent. From this point forward until its demise in 2007-2010, it is the flag carrier of Bolivia.

Oberfeldwebel Walter Meyer 14 May 1941
Walter Meyer receives the Knights Cross today for services in Greece as Oberfeldwebel (shock troops leader) in the 7./Infanterie-Regiment 125.
China: In the continuing Battle of South Shanxi, the Japanese North China Front Army completes its conquest of the north bank of Yellow River. There are still some remnants of the Chinese 1st War Area in the area that are trying to escape in small groups to begin guerrilla operations

Holocaust: The Vichy French in Paris imprison many Jews (figures vary, between 1000-3700 and even perhaps up to 5000) between the ages of 18 and 40 who have been told to register. The French hand them over to the Gestapo. These prisoners ultimately wind up at camps at Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande.

Romania passes laws compelling adult Jews to perform manual labor.

In the Netherlands, the German occupation authorities ban the playing of Jewish music.

French Homeland: Vice Premier Admiral Darlan makes a radio broadcast urging collaboration with the Reich.

American Homeland: Quality Comics (later acquired by DC Comics) introduces Plastic Man in Police Comics #1. Note that, although the cover is dated August 1941, the issue actually appears for sale today, 14 May 1941. This misdating is fairly typical at this time with comic books for marketing purposes.

"Major Barbara," a film starring Wendy Hiller in the title role and Rex Harrison, is released. It is a typical "switching lives" film in which a millionaire and Salvation Army worker experience each other's lives for a day, changing them forever.

Wendy Hiller Major Barbara 14 May 1941
Wendy Hiller as "Major Barbara."

May 1941

May 1, 1941: British Hold Tobruk
May 2, 1941: Anglo-Iraq War
May 3, 1941: Liverpool Hammered
May 4, 1941: Hitler Victory Speech
May 5, 1941: Patriots Day
May 6, 1941: Stalin In Command
May 7, 1941: May Blitz
May 8, 1941: Pinguin Sunk
May 9, 1941: U-110 Captured
May 10, 1941: Hess Flies Into History
May 11, 1941: The Hess Peace Plan
May 12, 1941: Tiger Arrives Safely
May 13, 1941: Keitel's Illegal Order
May 14, 1941: Holocaust in Paris
May 15, 1941: Operation Brevity
May 16, 1941: Blitz Ends
May 17, 1941: Habbaniya Relieved
May 18, 1941: Croatia Partitioned
May 19, 1941: Bismarck at Sea
May 20, 1941: Invasion of Crete
May 21, 1941: Robin Moore Sinking
May 22, 1941: Royal Navy Destruction Off Crete
May 23, 1941: Crete Must Be Won
May 24, 1941: Bismarck Sinks Hood
May 25, 1941: Lütjens' Brilliant Maneuver
May 26, 1941: Bismarck Stopped
May 27, 1941: Bismarck Sunk
May 28, 1941: Crete Lost
May 29, 1941: Royal Navy Mauled Off Crete
May 30, 1941: Sorge Warns, Stalin Ignores
May 31, 1941: British Take Baghdad


Monday, January 29, 2018

May 13, 1941: Keitel's Illegal Order

Tuesday 13 May 1941

Bismarck 13 May 1941
German battleship Bismarck as seen from cruiser Prinz Eugen during refueling exercises, 13 May 1941.
Anglo/Iraq War: The remainder of Special Force Junck (Sonderkommando Junck), commanded by Luftwaffe Oberst Werner Junck, arrives in Aleppo, Syria on 13 May 1941. The squadron composed of Bf 110 Zerstörer heavy fighters (12 aircraft in total) from the 4. Staffel/ZG 76 Heinkel He 111 bombers (12 aircraft) is spotted by British agents. Sonderkommando Junck intends to fly on to Mosul, Iraq in order to aid Rashid Ali in his war against the British. Today, for the first time, the RAF encounters a Luftwaffe plane (flying under Iraqi colors) in the theater. This contributes to a growing British conclusion that they must invade Syria.

Vichy French weapons already are arriving in Mosul from Syria. The first shipment includes 15,000 rifles, 6 million rounds of ammunition, 200 machine guns, four 75mm field guns, and 10,000 artillery shells.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, in exile in Baghdad, renews his calls for a jihad against the British from Baghdad.

Bristol Beaufighter 13 May 1941
A Bristol Beaufighter MkI RAF of 217 Squadron (W6494) shot down at Carpiquet airfield, Caen, France, 13 May 1941.
European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe again attacks London. One new characteristic of these night raids is that they now are accompanied by a fighter escort (day fighters that operate at night without radar are known in the Reich as "wild boar" fighters). This is an indication of growing RAF success at interdicting the nightly Luftwaffe bomber streams with Beaufort night fighters.

The damage to London is growing and alters daily life there. The chamber of the House of Commons is in ruins, so the MPs must meet in Church House, Westminster. Prime Minister Winston Churchill states there that "Parliamentary business will not be interrupted by enemy action." Big Ben is damaged, but still functional. The historic hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall is intact, but the lobby roof is destroyed. Westminster Abbey also has lost its lantern roof for lack of water to fight the fires - something that the Luftwaffe helped cause by timing its recent mass raid of 10-11 May to low tide in the Thames.

The list of damaged and destroyed architectural treasures goes on and on:
Tower of London
British Museum
Tower Pier
Royal College of Surgeons
Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn
Law Courts
Victoria Station
War Office
Scotland Yard
Lambeth Palace
The Deanery
15 hospitals, including Charing Cross and St. Thomas'
Numerous Christopher Wren churches.
The London Palladium Theatre has a lucky escape - a parachute mine of devastating power crashes through the roof but catches on the beams, remaining suspended above the stage. It later is removed and intentionally exploded elsewhere.

RAF Bomber Command attacks Heligoland with 44 aircraft, while the Luftwaffe sends 40 aircraft against shipping targets along the Channel coast.

East African Campaign: The Indian troops of the 5th Indian Division renew their attacks on the Italian stronghold of Amba Alagi. They attack the Twin Pyramids position. The newly arrived 1st South African Brigade prepares to join in the attacks on the 14th. The Italians continue to put up fierce resistance, but they have no source of supply and small stockpiles of essential goods such as food and water.

Somersby 13 May 1941
SS Somersby, sunk on 13 May 1941 by U-111. Everyone on board survives.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-98 (Kptlt. Robert Gysae), part of Wolfpack West and on its second patrol out of Lorient, is operating south of Cape Farewell, Greenland when it spots a large ship. It is the 10,549-ton British armed merchant cruiser (AMC) HMS Salopian (Captain Sir John Meynell Alleyne), part of the escort for Convoy SC-30. At about 04:00, Gysae fires two torpedoes but misses. At 06:20, Gysae tries again but again misses. Fortunately for U-98, the AMC apparently does not spot the torpedo tracks in the morning gloom. Finally, around 07:30, Gysae succeeds in hitting the AMC, with two torpedoes striking and opening holes in the bow and amidships.

Salopian is badly damaged, losing engine power and wireless communications, but it opens fire anyway. This forces U-98 to submerge. Gysae pumps two more torpedoes into the stricken AMC at 08:00 and 08:50, but it stays afloat. Finally, the sixth torpedo from U-98, fired at 10:43, causes the Salopian to split in two. It sinks in two minutes.

Overall, Gysae has to use nine torpedoes, an extraordinary number to sink one ship and over half the normal U-boat load. The Salopian's survival for so long is partially due to the practice of filling the holds of AMCs with empty barrels and other buoyant material. Despite the ship's dramatic ending, only three men perish, and the 228 men on the ship are picked up by HMS Impulsive on the 14th.

U-105 (Kptlt. Georg Schewe) is operating about 700 miles off of Freetown when it spots 6434-ton British freighter Benvrackie, part of Convoy OB-312. The U-boat had suffered from the explosion of its 105mm deck gun on 5 May but remains serviceable. Schewe torpedoes the Benvrackie, sending it to the bottom. The Benvrackie had picked up 25 survivors from the Lassell on 30 April, sunk by U-107, and 15 of those survivors now perish in this sinking. In addition, 13 crew of the Benvrackie perish, for a total of 28 deaths. There are 55 survivors, ten of both sinkings, and they must spend 13 days in lifeboats until picked up by HMHS Oxfordshire. The Benvrackie's master, William Edward Rawlings Eyton-Jones, was awarded the Lloyd's War Medal for bravery at sea.

U-105 13 May 1941
U-105 during a mid-ocean rendezvous with another U-boat during World War II.
U-111 (Kptlt. Wilhelm Kleinschmidt) is part of Wolfpack West, operating with U-97 south of Greenland, and it is on the first day on station on its very first patrol when it spots 5170-ton British freighter Somersby. The Somersby, part of Convoy SC-30, has failed to maintain convoy speed and become a de facto independent. Kleinschmidt fires two torpedoes at 11:41, with one hitting the Somersby. At 12:46, Kleinschmidt fires another torpedo, causing the Somersby to capsize and sink. Everyone on board survives and is rescued by Greek freighter Marika Protopapa.

British 496 ton hopper barge F hits a mine and sinks just 350 yards south of Dingle Oil Jetty at Liverpool. There are five deaths and six survivors.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 203-ton British trawler Fort Rona about 15 miles southwest of Bardsey Island (which lies 1.9 miles (3.1 km) off the Llŷn Peninsula in the Welsh county of Gwynedd). Everyone survives.

A Spanish fishing trawler, Nueva Elisa, hits a mine and sinks in the Bay of Biscay.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages 2468-ton British freighter Lottinge about three miles off the mouth of the Tyne. The Lottinge makes it back to port.

The Luftwaffe bombs destroyer HMS Franklin in the North Sea, but a near miss does not cause significant damage.

German battleship Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen practice refueling at sea in preparation for their upcoming sortie into the Atlantic.

Royal Navy destroyer Lance (Lt. Commander Ralph W. F. Northcott), corvette Clover (Lt. Commander Frank A. Shaw) and ASW trawler Valse (Lt. Donald S. Hutton) are all commissioned.

Australian minesweeper HMAS Townsville is launched.

Shropshire AMC Salopian 13 May 1941
SS Shropshire before its conversion into HMS Salopian (F 94) (Photo Courtesy of Library of Contemporary History, Stuttgart).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Churchill is ecstatic about the safe conclusion of the Tiger convoy to Alexandria directly through the Mediterranean and sends a memo to David Margesson and General Sir John Dill noting that the success of the Tiger convoy "may well have transformed the situation in the [Middle East]." He reasons that:
It is much better to provide ample forces in war so as to achieve a swift result, rather than to budget for a continued flow of wastage over a long period of months. I am therefore of the opinion that we should send all we can from [England] at the very earliest moment.
Churchill says that he has asked the Admiralty to consider sending a repeat of the Tiger Convoy and also to return some convoy ships from Alexandria to England via the same direct route.

The British start preparing for Operation Brevity, a small offensive planned for the Libyan/Egyptian border. The Luftwaffe notices the growing troop concentrations and attacks them.

Operation MD 8, composed of light cruisers HMS Ajax and Orion and HMAS Perth, accompanied by three destroyers, departs from Alexandria. The objective is to bombard El Fateyah airfield near Derna. They get lost in the dark and fail to fire a shot.

Royal Navy gunboat HMS Gnat parks offshore during the night and bombards Galala Airfield.

The Luftwaffe bombs Malta, sinking tug Cornflower at Mersa. The strange case of the "Miracle" bell happens when a church bell used to warn of impending air raids tolls at 14:00, sending residents of a home for the elderly and disabled in Qomi to shelters. Seconds later, the building is bombed and destroyed. However, the church had not been informed of an impending raid, and nobody admits to ringing the bell. The Spiritual Director of the building ascribes it to "truly miraculous deliverance."

Mennonite farmer Lancaster England 13 May 1941
A Mennonite farmer in Lancaster with a load of tobacco, May 1941.
War Crimes: Following the delivery of a report of the court of inquiry into the conduct of military personnel on board the HMT Dunera in the summer of 1940, an order to court-martial the captain and other military personnel on the vessel is issued. The crew of Dunera is accused of malicious and predatory conduct of evacuees from England to Australia, including, inter alia, savage beatings, and theft.

Spy Stuff: A German consul in Chunking, China has access to Soviet secret diplomatic circulars. He reports today, on May 7th, the Soviets had instructed all missions to ascertain the probable attitude of other countries in the event of a German-Soviet conflict. Since the Soviets are presumed not to know about Operation Barbarossa, this suggests to the Germans that the Soviets are planning an attack of their own. This jibes with military intelligence gained after the invasion which claims that Stalin had made many warlike statements to graduates of Moscow staff colleges on 5/6 May.

Professor Karl Bömer, head of the Foreign Press Department, is at a diplomatic reception in the Bulgarian embassy in Berlin when he states in a drunken stupor to diplomats and journalists that he in line to be promoted to Gauleiter of the Crimea. Of course, the Crimea is a Soviet possession well behind the frontier, and this comment draws a lot of attention. Bömer is brought up on charges and sentenced by the People's Court for "negligent treason" to three years in prison. Bömer later is sent to the army to serve in Russia, where he perishes in 1942.

Partisans: Yugoslav Army Colonel Dragoljub Mihailovich establishes new headquarters on the western slopes of the remote Suvobor Mountains in Serbia. Mihailovic is a royalist whose ultimate goal is the restoration of the monarchy. His resistance movement, one of the first open resistance movements within Occupied Europe, is called the Ravna Gora.

Anglo/Vichy French Relations: It is fair to say that Vichy France is caught between the millstones of the Reich and Great Britain at this time, and relations with both are murky at best. Both sides have been reaching separate agreements with Vichy, some public but many private. The Royal Navy is the flashpoint for many incidents, and one happens today which threatens to poison relations between the two powers.

Royal Navy armed merchant cruiser (AMC) Bulolo seizes 4484 ton Vichy French freighter Bourbonnais several hundred miles southwest of Dakar. The Bourbonnais, however, have time to send out a distress call that is received in Dakar, and the French authorities there are tired of having their ships seized on the high seas. They send out destroyers Fantasque and Terrible to "assist" the Bourbonnais. More ships follow. However, they can't find the Bulolo and Bourbonnais.

German/Turkish Relations: German ambassador to Turkey Franz von Papen, former chancellor of Germany and Vice-Chancellor in 1933-34 under Hitler, reports from Ankara. He indicates that Turkey is increasingly favorably disposed to the Reich. Turkey, due to von Papen's influence, is steadily increasing its trade with the Reich.

US/Australian Relations: Prime Minister Robert Menzies travels from Washington to New York and addresses the Council on Foreign Relations dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. He states:
. . . for parliamentary liberty and the ordered rights of self-government are our joint and several heritage. . . . it is essential for the world not only that tyranny should be defeated but that it should be defeated quickly before the scars made by it are too deep and too lasting.
Menzies soon will head west on his epic circumnavigation that includes meetings with virtually of the world's Allied leaders.

Keitel order 13 May 1941
A rare copy of the 13 May 1941 OKW order to troops in preparation for Operation Barbarossa (Russian Military Historical Society, Moscow, Russia).
German Military: OKW Chief Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, on behalf of the OKW and Adolf Hitler, issues the first in a stream of flagrantly illegal orders to the Wehrmacht concerning the upcoming Operation Barbarossa. Entitled (in German, of course) "Application of Military Jurisdiction in the Barbarossa Region and Special Army Measures," the order provides that German soldiers of all ranks are relieved of responsibility in advance for future crimes committed within the Soviet Union. Basically, the order suggests, "anything goes" and anything up to and including outright murder by Wehrmacht troops is not only permitted, but encouraged.

As translated, the 13 May 1941 order provides in pertinent part:
Persons [Russian civilians] suspected of criminal action will be brought at once before an officer. This officer will decide whether they are to be shot.
With regard to offences committed against enemy civilians by members of the Wehrmacht, prosecution is not obligatory....
This broad order, under an interpretation, dispenses with due process completely and is contrary to every law of warfare regardless of specific treaties, and everyone within the Wehrmacht must realize this instantly - but it stands. Keitel will, on 27 June, order all copies of this infamous order destroyed, but the Soviets will obtain copies and retain them in the Kremlin.

Wilhelm Keitel 13 May 1941
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, who distributed the OKW order of 13 May 1941.
Soviet Military: Soviet Chief of General Staff Georgi Zhukov has ordered four armies sent to the Western and Kyiv army groups. The Soviet armed forces sent west, however, are poorly equipped and understrength. The Soviet western border is roughly 2000 miles long, and four armies can only man isolated strong points.

Pursuant to Stalin's expressed desire to attack the Reich, which he stated clearly on 5/6 May 1941, Soviet Defense Commissar Marshal Timoshenko and Zhukov submit a plan of operations. They project sending 152 divisions and over 3000 aircraft toward southern Poland. However, reviewing all the data of troop readiness and dispositions, Stalin decides against an attack at this time. He also rules against a general mobilization, though Soviet citizens are being called up in increasing numbers to serve in the armed forces.

British Military: Churchill's Tank Parliament meets at 10 Downing Street and reviews armored formation strategy for the defense of the British Isles, a German invasion still being considered an imminent threat. Churchill emphasizes the need for close cooperation between the RAF and tanks. In fact, he states that ground forces should have control over air operations and that "he would like a scheme prepared to equip as early as possible fourteen Army Co-operation Squadrons." These, he adds, "would then be completely at the disposal of the Army." Air Commodore Robert Goddard notes that equipping such squadrons, flying Blenheims, and Tomahawks, could only come at the expense of Bomber Command, but the decision is made and Lord Beaverbrook is instructed to begin the conversions.

The RAF refine their wireless navigation system known as Oboe. It is not ready for use yet. Oboe is a more sophisticated system of navigation than the current German systems that have proven effective, but easy to jam.

Bridgeport Connecticut 13 May 1941
Bridgeport, Connecticut Municipal Wharf at Stratford Avenue, 13 May 1941 (National Archives No. 7290326).
British Government: Having listened to Rudolf Hess drone on for two days in Glasgow about his (and presumably Adolf Hitler's) peace proposal, military intelligence expert Ivone Kirkpatrick flies down to London and reports to Prime Minister Winston Churchill at 10 Downing Street. Churchill already knows the main outlines of the proposal, and nothing that Kirkpatrick tells him has any influence on his absolute refusal to consider any peace proposals.

Churchill's main concern at this time is to prevent Hess from spreading his proposal to a wider audience. In a memo to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, Churchill calls Hess "potentially a war-criminal" and the other German leaders possibly "outlaws." This is one of the first indications that this is how the Allies intend to treat the German leaders after the war.

Churchill further states:
In the meanwhile [Hess] should be strictly isolated in a convenient house not too far from London, fitted by "C" [head of the Secret Intelligence Services Stuart Menzies] with the necessary appliances, and every endeavour should be made to study his mentality and get anything worthwhile out of him.
Churchill emphasizes that Hess "should not have any contacts with the outer world or visitors except as prescribed by the Foreign Office." However, Churchill specifies that Hess "should be treated with dignity as if he were an important General who had fallen into our hands."

Churchill never meets with Hess despite the latter's repeated requests to do so. The former deputy fuehrer is kept in isolation and not informed of Churchill's adamant refusal to consider his proposal, instead of being allowed to believe that the offer was being actively considered. For the time being, Hess is kept isolated from all news and sources of outside information.

German Government: Adolf Hitler flies back to Berlin and addresses an emergency meeting of party functionaries. He announces that Martin Bormann has taken office as NSDAP Party Chancellor. Bormann will control all appointments to the NSDAP and access to Adolf Hitler from this point forward. This enrages others within the German government whose own power depends upon their access to the Fuhrer, but Hitler wants to free his hands for tighter control over military operations now that war with the Soviet Union is looming. This marks a major reorientation of German life from one in which the NSDAP is dominant to one in which the Wehrmacht becomes increasingly predominant.

Camp Polk 13 May 1941
View of the post incinerator at Camp Polk, Louisiana on 13 May 1941 (The Digital Collections of the National WWII Museum).
Philippines: Ernest Hemingway leaves Manila for Hawaii via flying boat, and things begin to return to normal after the recent massive influx of new soldiers on USAT Washington (which sets off on its return voyage carrying departing soldiers and dependents). Major Kirtley Gregg, newly made commanding officer of the 4th Composite Group, prepares to move his quarters to Nichols Field, the only asphalt runway suitable for fighter squadrons (Clark Field is turf and only suitable for old bombers). This is a time of great upheaval in the Philippine Department, with many new officers and men and new positions for old hands.

China: The Battle of South Shanxi continues as the Japanese North China Front Army captures Tungfeng. The Japanese effectively have surrounded elements of the Chinese 1st War Area, which are ordered to break out to the north in any way possible. The Chinese begin to try to slip through Japanese lines in small groups.

Yugoslavian Homefront: The Glina massacres continue and come to a temporary conclusion. The Ustaše executes 100 Serb males in the nearby village of Prekopi. All told, roughly 260-300 Serbs have been killed in the previous few days (historians vary on their figures).

American Homefront: "Dangerous Moonlight," a typical wartime British propaganda drama directed by Desmond Horst, receives its US premiere via Republic Pictures under the title "Suicide Squadron." Future star Michael Rennie appears in a small role. The film, not very well remembered, is notable for aerial scenes of actual combat featuring RAF No. 74 Squadron, its planes featuring the unit's "ZD" marking. The film is a big success due less to its cinematic quality than its patriotic tale of a love story between a US female journalist (Sally Gray) and a Polish ace (Anton Walbrook) flying for the RAF.

Vic Ghezzi wins the PGA Championship.

Senta Berger 13 May 1941
Senta Berger, born on 13 May 1941.
Future History: Richard Steven Valenzuela is born in Pacoima, Los Angeles, California. He teaches himself to play the guitar and learns how to sing, often improvising lyrics and riffs. He joins local group the Silhouettes at age 16 and is discovered in San Fernando High School by Bob Keane, the owner of a small record label, in 1958. Keane convinces Richard to change his professional name to Ritchie Valens in order to broaden his appeal. As Ritchie Valens, Valenzuela goes on to record classic songs such as "La Bamba" and "Come On, Let's Go." "La Bamba" is one of the first popular songs in the US sung entirely in Spanish, and Valens is the first Latino to cross over into mainstream popular music. Ritchie Valens passes away in a plane crash in the early morning hours of 3 February 1959. His death helps to inspire singer/songwriter Don McLean to write his own classic song, "American Pie," immortalizing the day of Valens' death as "The day the music died." Also perishing in that crash are Buddy Holly and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, who was given his seat by Waylon Jennings because Richardson was ill.

Senta Berger is born in Vienna, Austria. She goes on to marry director Michael Verhoeven and become a major film star in her own right. One of her more memorable films is Sam Peckinpah's "Cross of Iron" (1977), a searing look at soldiers during World War II that is a huge success in Germany. Senta continues to perform into the 21st Century and has won many awards for her acting.

Ritchie Valens 13 May 1941
Richard Valenzuela aka Ritchie Valens.

May 1941

May 1, 1941: British Hold Tobruk
May 2, 1941: Anglo-Iraq War
May 3, 1941: Liverpool Hammered
May 4, 1941: Hitler Victory Speech
May 5, 1941: Patriots Day
May 6, 1941: Stalin In Command
May 7, 1941: May Blitz
May 8, 1941: Pinguin Sunk
May 9, 1941: U-110 Captured
May 10, 1941: Hess Flies Into History
May 11, 1941: The Hess Peace Plan
May 12, 1941: Tiger Arrives Safely
May 13, 1941: Keitel's Illegal Order
May 14, 1941: Holocaust in Paris
May 15, 1941: Operation Brevity
May 16, 1941: Blitz Ends
May 17, 1941: Habbaniya Relieved
May 18, 1941: Croatia Partitioned
May 19, 1941: Bismarck at Sea
May 20, 1941: Invasion of Crete
May 21, 1941: Robin Moore Sinking
May 22, 1941: Royal Navy Destruction Off Crete
May 23, 1941: Crete Must Be Won
May 24, 1941: Bismarck Sinks Hood
May 25, 1941: Lütjens' Brilliant Maneuver
May 26, 1941: Bismarck Stopped
May 27, 1941: Bismarck Sunk
May 28, 1941: Crete Lost
May 29, 1941: Royal Navy Mauled Off Crete
May 30, 1941: Sorge Warns, Stalin Ignores
May 31, 1941: British Take Baghdad


May 12, 1941: Tiger Arrives Safely

Monday 12 May 1941

Westminster Abbey London 12 May 1941
Westminster Abbey after the raids of 10/11 May 1941.
Anglo/Iraq War: On 12 May 1941, having just secured permission from Vichy Vice Premier Admiral Darlan on 11 May for Reich use of Syria as a transit hub for the military supply of Iraq, the Luftwaffe flies six Heinkel He 111s (Special Force Junck (Sonderkommando Junck)) toward Damascus. Having flown from Greece via Rhodes under the command of Luftwaffe Oberst (Colonel) Werner Junck (Commander of Aviation Iraq. (Fliegerführer Irak)), these are the first major Reich attempt at interdiction in the Iraq war. Their ultimate destination is Mosul, Iraq.

British reconnaissance planes spot several German aircraft in Iraq.

Joseph Stalin is keeping an eye on the situation in Iraq. The Soviet Union/Russia long has had its eyes to the south. Stalin decides today to recognize the Rashid Ali government.

Distance to targets map 12 May 1941
A map in the 12 May 1941 Guardian showing flight distances to Reich targets.
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command continues raiding ports in northern Europe. Tonight, it sends 105 bombers against Mannheim and Ludwigshafen.

During the day, the Luftwaffe launches standard anti-shipping sweeps by 125 planes in the English Channel. After dark, the Luftwaffe launches scattered attacks on Newcastle and Eshott in Northumberland, Billingham, Stockton, Darlington, North Hylton, Darlington, and Hartlepool in Co Durham and Middlesbrough, Northallerton, Thornaby and Hull in Yorkshire. Billingham, in particular, suffers from an attack on a chemical factory by 19 bombers.

The Reich Press Chief today indicates indirectly that the RAF raids are beginning to affect morale when he cautions broadcasters to:
avoid any sort of cynicism, frivolousness and puerile or brazen expressions in broadcast reports about air raids, which destroy immeasurable cultural, economic and human treasures. This is how we can best live up to the mood in cities like Hamburg and Bremen.
He further draws a distinction between different types of citizens - a hallmark of the Third Reich is dividing people up - when he adds gratuitously that "we are fortunate that the bombing raids made on German territory are taking place in the northern part of the Reich" which is populated by "hardy Schleswig-Holsteiners and other Nordic people." Presumably, the slackers in the South would not stand up to the bombings as well. Hitler, incidentally, is from the south. A lot of these subtle regional antagonisms influence Germans throughout the war but are completely missed by outsiders.

In England, Air Marshal John Slessor takes over RAF No. 5 Group of Bomber Command.

East African Campaign: The East African 21st Infantry Brigade captures the Italian position at Alghe in Galla-Sidamo.

The British Indian troops at Amba Alagi prepare another battle to take the Italian stronghold.

USS Drum 12 May 1941
Drum (SS-228), launched today, gets a tug at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, ME, 12 May 1941.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-boats captains typically are prone to zealously limiting their torpedo usage in order to preserve as many as possible for future operations. In fact, it is not unheard of for U-boats to surface and use their deck guns in questionable circumstances. Kptlt. Heinrich Liebe in U-38 has a very bad day with his torpedo management when he spots a freighter off Freetown in the mid-Atlantic, fires four torpedoes - and misses with all four. Fortunately for Liebe, the Kriegsmarine supply network in the Atlantic remains intact and he can be resupplied at sea. This allows U-38 to continue an extremely long patrol of almost three months.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 4484-ton British freighter Fowberry Tower near the Humber Light Vessel. There are six deaths.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 5358-ton freighter Richard De Larringa in the Tyne. An attempt is made to tow her to port, but she sinks near Hard Sands.

The Luftwaffe bombs and damages destroyer HMS Ripley near Londonderry, but the destroyer continues with her mission.

British freighter Speybank, captured by German raider Atlantis in the Indian Ocean in January 1941, finally arrives at Bordeaux.

Convoy OB 322 departs from Liverpool.

Admiral Günther Lütjens and embarks on battleship Bismarck at Gdynia/Gotenhafen in preparation for Operation Rheinübung, a planned sortie into the Atlantic in the company of cruiser Prinz Eugen.

Corvette HMS Bergamot is commissioned, minesweeping trawler Bute, minesweeper Fraserburgh, destroyer Middleton, corvettes Snowdrop and Stonecrop, and submarines Turbulent and Unbending are launched, and submarine Unrivalled is laid down.

Minesweeper HMAS Whyalla is launched.

Submarine USS Drum is launched.

U-128 (Kptlt. Ulrich Heyse) is commissioned, U-155 is launched, and U-516 is laid down.

MV Rawnsley 12 May 1941
MV Rawnsley, sunk off southeastern Crete and now a popular dive site.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Operation Tiger (Convoy WS 8A) completes its bold passage through the Mediterranean when it arrives at Alexandria. It brings some 238 precious tanks (including 135 Matildas, 82 of the new 2-pounder-gunned Mark VI Crusader cruiser tanks and 21 light tanks), vital for the defense of the Nile River Valley and Tobruk. Also included are 43 Hawker Hurricanes. With this desperate operation completed successfully, the Mediterranean Fleet returns to Alexandria and Force H returns to Gibraltar.

An Italian convoy of two freighters departs from Tripoli escorted by torpedo boats Clio, Orione, and Pegaso. The torpedo boats attack a submarine, which may be HMS Undaunted, which is lost around this date of unknown causes. There are 32 deaths on the Undaunted.

Royal Navy gunboat HMS Ladybird has given sterling service in support of British ground forces in North Africa. She is bombarding Tobruk during the night when her luck finally runs out. Italian aircraft catch and sink the Ladybird (some sources say these are Luftwaffe Stukas). There are four deaths and 14 wounded. On the bright side for the British, the gunboat settles in only ten feet of water, meaning her guns remain above water level and can remain in operation with the assistance of another ship to provide power. Admiral Andrew Cunningham commends the ship's captain, stating:
Great fighting finish worthy of highest ideals and tradition of the Navy and an inspiration for all who fight on the seas.
The Regia Aeronautica (Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 aircraft of 281 Squadron) bombs and sinks 4998-ton British freighter Rawnsley during an attack on Ierapetra Bay, southeast Crete. The wreck has become a very popular dive site.

Royal Navy submarine Rorqual is off Lemnos when it torpedoes and sinks 25 ton Greek freighter Aghios Paraskavi and accompanying schooner. These are transports carrying Wehrmacht troops to garrison Aegean islands.

The Royal Navy command structure in the Mediterranean experiences a shakeup. Among the changes:
  • Vice Admiral Pridham Wippell CB, CVO, former Vice Admiral Light Forces => Vice Admiral, 1st Battle Squadron with his flag on battleship Queen Elizabeth
  • Rear Admiral E. L. S. King CB MVO => Rear Admiral, 15th Cruiser Squadron with his flag in anti-aircraft cruiser Naiad
  • Rear Admiral H. B. Rawlings CBE => Rear Admiral, 7th Cruiser Squadron with his flag in light cruiser ORION.
  • Rear Admiral I. G. Glennie => Rear Admiral (D) the Mediterranean with his flag in anti-aircraft cruiser Dido or depot ship Woolwich, if Dido was required at sea as a private ship.
At Malta, a second permanent fighter squadron is formed at Hal Far, No. 185. The Squadron Leader is Flight Lieutenant P W O Mould, DFC. The other fighter squadron on Malta remains No. 261 and is based at Ta Qali. By some accounts, RAF No. 261 Squadron is disbanded at this time and its equipment is given to No. 185. RAF No. 249 Squadron - composed of planes flown in from aircraft carrier Ark Royal - also participates in the island's defense.

There is a major air raid over Malta around 22:00 and continuing almost to midnight. There is extensive damage to numerous points on the island, including Luqa, Kalafrana, Garden Reach and St. Georges Bay. The Bighi Royal Naval Hospital is badly damaged.

Luftwaffe bomber prisoners are interrogated at Malta and their morale is excellent. They exhibit great confidence in an early victory by the Reich and have great faith in Adolf Hitler.

1st Polish Corps England 12 May 1941
"Gunners of the 3rd Battery of the 1st Field Artillery Regiment (1st Polish Corps) hitching their French-built 75mm field gun to a Morris-Commercial C8 'Quad' artillery tractor during an exercise near St Andrews in Scotland." 12 May 1941 (Captain W.T. Lockeyear, © IWM (H 9522)).
Spy Stuff: Abwehr agent Karel Richard Richter, a Czech sailor with a US girlfriend and son, is dropped by parachute north of London near London Colney. Richter, whose mission is to check on fellow agent Wulf Schmidt, hides in the forest, too afraid to go into London. The police will capture him when he is unable to give directions to a lorry driver. 

POWs: Polish Lieutenant Mietek Chmiel and Lieutenant Miki Surmanowicz attempt to escape from Colditz Castle. They contrive to be sent to solitary confinement - usually considered a punishment - and then pick the locks and then climb to the prison roof. This brings them to the attic of the German guardhouse. They then lower a rope and climb down the castle wall. However, while climbing down, their boots make noises against the wall which wake up the German duty officer inside the guardhouse. The German spots them immediately from his window and arrests the escapees in comical fashion, yelling "Hände Hoch" ("hands up") while the two Poles are dangling from a rope dozens of feet above the ground.

HMS Sennen 12 May 1941
HMS Sennen (Y 21), formerly USCGC Champlain.
Anglo/US Relations: Another group of US Coast Guard cutters transfers to the Royal Navy pursuant to Lend Lease:
USCGC Champlain (CGC-48) => HMS Sennen
USCGC Sebago (CGC-51) => HMS Walney
USCGC Cayuga (CGC-54) => HMS Tortland
All of these ships, as have several in the past, are manned by crew selected from battleship Malaya, which is in New York undergoing major repairs.

US/Australian Relations: Visiting Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies meets with President Roosevelt. He finds Roosevelt looking older and more tired than he remembers, but still sharp and up-to-date on the war.

US/Japanese Relations: Ambassador Nomura and US Secretary of State Cordell Hull continue their discussions regarding a settlement of claims in the Pacific. Nomura presents Hull with a draft proposal.

German/Vichy French Relations: The Germans invite a select delegation of Vichy French officers to a meeting to discuss participation in Operation Barbarossa.

British Military: Charles Henry George Howard, 20th Earl of Suffolk, 13th Earl of Berkshire, is serving as a volunteer bomb disposal expert when he perishes. The Earl of Sussex is working on a 250 kg (500 lb) bomb dropped some six months earlier in London which had been taken to a "bomb cemetery" in remote Erish marshland when it suddenly explodes. The bomb could have been detonated safely but was being worked on to retrieve its rare Type (17) and Type (50) fuzes for instructional purposes. A total of 13 people in the vicinity perish, including the Earl's private secretary Eileen Beryl Morden and his chauffeur, Fred Hards. One theory is that the Earl's attempt to disarm the bomb triggered a hidden Zus 40 booby trap. It is the 35th bomb the Earl has worked on, and he dies at age 35 and will receive the George Cross.

Winston Churchill will make special mention of this particular incident "as symbolic of the others" in volume 2 ("Their Finest Hour") of his massive "The Second World War." The BBC will televise a biographical series of the Earl's life in 1973 called "The Dragon's Opponent." The Earl of Sussex earlier in the war was a key player in rescuing French nuclear scientists and the entire world stockpile of heavy water from France as it fell to the Wehrmacht in 1940.

Vought Kingfisher 12 May 1941
Vought OS2U-2 Kingfisher floatplane, 12 May 1941.
Soviet Military: Soviet Chief of Staff General Zhukov, wary of continuing reports from many sources warning of a brewing German attack on the USSR, orders four Soviet Armies to forward positions. The Soviet border is so long, however, that they can only provide a local defense.

German Government: Joseph Goebbels meets with Hitler at the Berghof to discuss the Hess affair. After a curiously long delay, the German government issues a formal statement concerning the flight of Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess to Scotland on 10 May. The release ascribes the incident to "hallucinations and a mental disease" in Hess. In addition, it states that all those who assisted Hess are to be arrested, but this is not done - though apparently astrologers, occultists, and clairvoyants are rounded up because Hess supposedly consulted them before making his flight.

Hitler abolishes the post of Deputy Fuehrer and creates instead the new post of Chief of the Party Chancellery (Head of the Parteikanzlei). Martin Bormann, who has been Rudolf Hess's party secretary since 4 July 1933 and has done personal tasks for Hitler such as overseeing renovations at the Berghof in 1935, takes the position. In his new role, Bormann controls access to Hitler in much the same manner that a US President's Chief of Staff does, and in addition, he controls all NSDAP appointments. Due to his ability to restrict access to Hitler even by such Hitler confidantes as Albert Speer and Joseph Goebbels, Bormann instantly becomes one of the most hated figures within the hierarchy of the Third Reich.

In Glasgow, military intelligence officer Ivone Kirkpatrick continues listening to the injured Hess describing the terms of a fantastic peace offer. Hess basically offers peace on Great Britain's terms so as to free the Reich's rear for the real war in the offing in the East. In a carefully memorized statement, Hess claims that he has come "to save humanity."

Civilian Conservation Corps 12 May 1941
Bonneville enrollees at the transportation depot for the Civilian Conservation Corps, 12 May 1941.
British Government: Ivone Kirkpatrick, interviewing Hess in Scotland, is keeping Whitehall informed of his findings. Churchill's aide Sir Alexander Cadogan notes in his diary that Churchill has been informed about Hess' announcement which claimed that he "had come here 'in the name of humanity.'" Cadogan notes next, "This won't do - looks like a peace offer, and we may want to run the line that he has quarreled with Hitler." The last thing the Allies want to do is dangle the possibility of peace before a war-weary nation - why is open to debate. However, this has been Churchill's consistent attitude throughout the war.

Members of Parliament meet in the House of Lords due to the extensive damage to their own chamber.

Queen Elizabeth sends a very rare note to Churchill from Windsor Castle to offer her "thanks... for his kindness in sending news of the progress and safe arrival of Tiger." She adds, "Any risk was well worth taking," and adds that she is "dreadfully sorry" about the destruction of the House of Commons and Westminster Abbey during the air raid of 10/11 May.

Croatia: Atrocities in Yugoslavia continue as members of Pavelic's Ustaše led by Mirko Puk kills 200-300 Serbs by burning them alive in the Orthodox church in Glina. There is an obvious edge of religious hatred involved in the symbolism of many of these killings.

Philippines: Ernest Hemingway, on a stopover in Manila after a six-week tour of China, briefs the Philippine Department's intelligence (Colonel Joseph O'Hare) and air officer (Colonel Richards) about the military situation in China. Hemingway is coy about the extent of his observations, claiming never to have gotten near any battlefields, but gives an extremely perceptive summary of ongoing and likely events in China. Among his conclusions is that the Chinese Nationalists and Communists soon will be fighting each other as much as they are fighting the Japanese and that Japan at some point will attack the United States. The 4th Composite Group CO, Major Kirley Gregg calls Hemingway "quite an interesting chap," while the 3rd Pursuit Group CO, Major William  Maverick, says Hemingway is "a marvelous fellow... a real genius" with a "striking personality."

China: The Battle of South Shanxi continues, with the Japanese North China Front Army capturing Kuangkou, Maotien, and Shaoyuan. The Japanese now have reached their first objective, the north bank of the Yellow River. Elsewhere, the Japanese also continue attacking Tungfeng.

Life Magazine 12 May 1941
Life Magazine, 12 May 1941, Hugh Randall, U.S. Army Parachutist.

May 1941

May 1, 1941: British Hold Tobruk
May 2, 1941: Anglo-Iraq War
May 3, 1941: Liverpool Hammered
May 4, 1941: Hitler Victory Speech
May 5, 1941: Patriots Day
May 6, 1941: Stalin In Command
May 7, 1941: May Blitz
May 8, 1941: Pinguin Sunk
May 9, 1941: U-110 Captured
May 10, 1941: Hess Flies Into History
May 11, 1941: The Hess Peace Plan
May 12, 1941: Tiger Arrives Safely
May 13, 1941: Keitel's Illegal Order
May 14, 1941: Holocaust in Paris
May 15, 1941: Operation Brevity
May 16, 1941: Blitz Ends
May 17, 1941: Habbaniya Relieved
May 18, 1941: Croatia Partitioned
May 19, 1941: Bismarck at Sea
May 20, 1941: Invasion of Crete
May 21, 1941: Robin Moore Sinking
May 22, 1941: Royal Navy Destruction Off Crete
May 23, 1941: Crete Must Be Won
May 24, 1941: Bismarck Sinks Hood
May 25, 1941: Lütjens' Brilliant Maneuver
May 26, 1941: Bismarck Stopped
May 27, 1941: Bismarck Sunk
May 28, 1941: Crete Lost
May 29, 1941: Royal Navy Mauled Off Crete
May 30, 1941: Sorge Warns, Stalin Ignores
May 31, 1941: British Take Baghdad