Monday, January 7, 2019

October 15, 1941: Soviets Evacuate Odessa

Wednesday 15 October 1941

Tobruk 15 October 1941
The British, Polish, and Australian troops at Tobruk have settled down to routine garrison duty since the struggles of the summer. Here, on 15 October 1941, two soldiers use gas masks while peeling onions for dinner.
Eastern Front: After dark on 15 October 1941, the Soviet troops of 51st Army, 9th Independent Army and Separate Coastal Army holding the pocket at Odessa break contact with the Romanian troops surrounding the city and head to troop transports. This is the 72nd day of the siege, a far longer period of time than anyone expected. The Soviet Black Sea Fleet ships take the 35,000 evacuees (including both soldiers and civilians) to Sevastopol in the Crimea, where they are needed to defend that area next.

"A discarded Italian bomb is blown up beside a Matilda tank near Tobruk. The resulting craters were used to hide the tanks, 15 October 1941." (© IWM (E 6022)).
During their evacuation, the Soviet troops set off explosives in Odessa that destroy port facilities and other installations that the Germans can find useful. The Soviets board two cruisers, four destroyers, and smaller ships for the perilous passage east. During the evacuation, Heinkel He 114 seaplanes of the Romanian Naval Air Force successfully stop and capture a Soviet armed freighter.

HMCS Columbia. On 15 October 1941, HMCS Columbia joins Convoy SC-8, under fierce U-boat attack in the North Atlantic. Ultimately, nine Allied ships are sunk before they reach port in England.
The fall of Odessa is important for a number of reasons. It is a very useful port for supplying the advanced Wehrmacht troops advancing further east. It frees up Axis troops, though Romania begins discharging a large portion of its own forces soon after the city's capture in the belief that its part in the war now is largely over - thus, this advantage is not as great as it might first appear. The Luftwaffe and Romanian Air Force now can operate from the city's airfields and serve as a defense against Red Air Force bombing attacks on the Romanian oilfields further west. The capture of Odessa is the most significant achievement by any of Germany's satellites throughout the entire war. It marks a high point of their achievements - though, of course, nobody can know that at the time.

"HRH The Duchess of Kent with Vice Admiral B. C. Watson, CB, DSO, at the saluting base during a march past of WRNS." WRNS an acronym for Women's Royal Naval Service, the women's branch of the British Royal Navy during World War II. Greenock, 15 October 1941. © IWM (A 5817).
Romania now can develop its new Transnistria Governorate (not to be confused with a later government in the 1990s). This is a significant area of 44,000 km2 and a population of 2.3 million inhabitants. Romania divides Transnistria into 13 counties: Ananiev, Balta, Berzovca, Dubasari, Golta, Jugastru, Movilau, Oceacov, Odessa, Ovidiopol, Rîbnița, Tiraspol and Tulcin. The Romanians begin a process of Romanianization. The Romanians also deport between 150,000 and 250,000 Ukrainian and Romanian Jews were to Transnistria, where they are held in ghettos and camps. Many of these unfortunate people perish due to inadequate living conditions. Those who collaborate with the Romanians - or simply are suspected of collaborating with them - face horrors of their own when the Soviets recapture the region in 1944.

Finnish troops stand in front of a Panzer 1 in Finland, 15 October 1941. The small Panzer 1 was obsolete by late 1941 but still useful for training, scouting, and some missions on secondary fronts.
Holocaust: German authorities begin transporting approximately 183,000 German, Austrian, and Czech civilians of Jewish or suspected Jewish ancestry to ghettos, transit ghettos, killing centers and killing sites in the Baltic States, in Belorussia, in the Generalgouvernement, and the Lodz ghetto. The rail network is the primary means of transport, so the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) coordinates the moves with the rail schedules established by the Transport Ministry - which also is responsible for supplying the troops in the East. This means that any space used by the RSHA for these deportations cannot be used to equip, feed, and clothe the men fighting in the Russian winter.

"HRH The Duchess of Kent leaving after her visit." This was a visit by HRH to the WRNS Headquarters at Greenock. Note the WRNS lined up along the road to bid her farewell. © IWM (A 5822).


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