Friday, February 22, 2019

November 30, 1941: Japan Sets the Date for its Attack

Sunday 30 November 1941

Gotha 145 in Switzerland, 30 November 1941
This picture was taken on 30 November 1941 Basel-Firsfelden Airfield in Switzerland shows a Luftwaffe Gotha Go-145A (Work no. 1455/1937, H4 + VA) piloted by Gefreite Erwin Lange which was forced to land at Basel-Birsfelden after running low on fuel during a flight from Hildesheim to Freiburg im Breisgau. It is a staff aircraft of Airborne Squadron I, based in Hildesheim. The Swiss allow the plane to return to the Reich on 3 December 1941 after the weather clears.
Eastern Front: Furious at having been excluded from the process by which German troops were ordered to retreat from Rostov-on-Don, Adolf Hitler on 30 November 1941 berates Germany Army commander Walther von Brauchitsch at the Wolfsschanze. Army Group South commander Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt receives the order and refuses to comply, so the retreat continues. The commander of First Panzer Army, General Ewald von Kleist, retains his command despite the fact that the retreat was his idea and von Rundstedt merely ratified his orders. With the matter decided, von Kleist acts swiftly during the morning and orders III Panzer Corps not just to set up a defensive line outside Rostov, but to retreat the entire 45 miles east to the Mius River. He has been trying to get approval for this move for a week, and now that Hitler has selected his scapegoat von Kleist temporarily has a free hand.

The Honolulu Advertiser headline, 30 November 1941
"Kurusu Bluntly Warned Nation Ready For Battle," blares the headline of the 30 November 1941 The Honolulu Advertiser.
At Army Group Center, Field Marshal Fedor von Bock is worried, and not about events at Rostov. The German intelligence services have been consistently under-estimating Red Army capabilities, and they continue to do so. During the day, the operations branch chief at the OKH, Colonel Adolf Heusinger, called von Bock on the telephone and with instructions that presupposed a quick and easy capture of Moscow. Von Bock then calls up von Brauchitsch to complain that there insufficient forces to encircle Moscow, much less capture it and proceed on to other objectives. To this, von Brauchitsch has no reply, and, in fact, von Bock has to ask him several times if he is even still on the telephone. Late in the day, Von Bock confides to his diary that "something does not add up."

Soviet T-60 tank with T-30 turret, 30 November 1941
A Soviet T-60 tank with a T-30 turret sometime in November 1941. The Red Army is desperate for tanks and is mixing and matching parts. The T-60 itself was a rush job but became the most numerous small tank in history.
Field Marshal von Bock is correct. The German military intelligence services remain completely ignorant of actual Red Army strengths, and basing decisions on their estimates is ludicrous. Many German generals understand this, and the intelligence service confessed this itself at the Orsha Conference held on 14 November. The Soviets, in fact, are about to launch a counteroffensive. Today in the Kremlin, General Georgy Zhukov submits a formal plan to the Stavka for an attack against the Wehrmacht forces both north and south of Moscow. The essence of the plan is to strike past Klin and Solnechogorsk in the north to push the German spearheads back about sixty miles. A similar attack in the south would drive the Germans away from Tula and send them past Stalingorsk to the Upa River. However, even this seems wildly optimistic, and the acting chief of the General Staff, General Vasilevskiy, cautions Ivan Konev, commander of Kalinin Front, that:
We can only halt the German attack toward Moscow and thereby... lay the groundwork for beginning to inflict a serious defeat on the enemy by active operations with a decisive aim. If we do not do that in the next few days, it will be too late.
The Stavka approves Zhukov's plan, but its members show in many of their own orders that they only view it is another in a long line of attempts to disrupt the current German offensive, nothing greater.

Hilo Tribune-Herald of 30 November 1941
War jitters are high in Hawaii. The headline on the 30 November 1941 Hilo Tribune-Herald blares, "Japan May Strike Over Weekend." This headline is a typical talking point in arguments that the United States knew in advance of the planned Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and intentionally did nothing about it.
German/Japanese Relations: In Berlin, Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Oshima receives instructions to inform his counterpart, German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop, that war with the United States is imminent. He also is instructed to get Ribbentrop to sign a document promising that Germany will declare war on the United States if war breaks out between Japan and the US. Such a declaration is not strictly required by the Tripartite Pact which forms the foundation of Germany's military alliance with Japan, but certainly would express the spirit of the alliance. For his part, Ribbentrop already has expressed his preference on behalf of the Reich that Japan should attack the Soviet Union, not the United States, British, or Dutch. However, the Japanese have rejected that option. Whether or not Ribbentrop will sign such a document, and whether Hitler will honor it, remains an open question.

US Government: Having journeyed to his holiday home in Warm Springs, Georgia only yesterday, President Roosevelt hurriedly returns to Washington, D.C. by car and his private train. The war news is troubling and the media, especially in Hawaii, is full of news of an imminent attack. The British, through Ambassador Lord Halifax, also want assurances that the United States will support its forces in the Pacific if the Japanese attack Singapore and/or Hong Kong but not also the United States. The British assume this will happen due to Roosevelt's vigorous support against Hitler to date, but there is nothing in writing codifying the relationship to depend upon.

Fairey Swordfish flying from HMS Victorious, 30 November 1941
"A Fairey Fulmar as seen from HMS VICTORIOUS while carrying out flying exercises at sea en route to Scapa Flow." The date is given as sometime between 25 and 30 November 1941 (© IWM (A 6440))
Battle of the Mediterranean: The final outcome of British Operation Crusader remains very much in doubt. The British have established a supply corridor to Tobruk, but it is weak and large German panzer forces threaten it. There are both small and large actions that show mixed results. Two companies of 2/13th Australian Infantry Battalions launch a bayonet charge against Italian positions on the night of 29/30 November. This attack succeeds, and the Australians take 167 prisoners at the cost of 2 dead and five wounded. General Rommel, meanwhile, orders the 15th Panzer Division to attack between Sidi Rezegh and Belhamed. The panzers overrun the New Zealand 24th and 26th Battalions, but the 25th Battalion stands firm against the Italian Ariete Division. As with all battles in the desert, the Italians are fighting hard, but their positions somehow always turn into the weak link in the Axis line. The day ends with Panzer Korps Afrika in a slightly better position, but a decisive victory still eludes Rommel.

French women collecting shellfish on the seashore, 30 November 1941
Women in northern France scouring the shoreline for edible shells, November 1941 (Leo, Federal Archive Bild 101I-597-B0510-22A).

November 1941

November 1, 1941: Finns Attack Toward Murmansk Railway
November 2, 1941: Manstein Isolates Sevastopol
November 3, 1941: Japan Prepares to Attack
November 4, 1941: German Advances in the South
November 5, 1941: Last Peace Effort By Japan
November 6, 1941: Stalin Casts Blame in an Unexpected Direction
November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade
November 8, 1941: Germans Take Tikhvin
November 9, 1941: Duisburg Convoy Destruction
November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol
November 11, 1941: Finland's Double Game Erupts
November 12, 1941: T-34 Tanks Take Charge
November 13, 1941: German Orsha Conference
November 14, 1941: German Supply Network Breaking Down
November 15, 1941: Operation Typhoon Resumes
November 16, 1941: Manstein Captures Kerch
November 17, 1941: Finland Halts Operations
November 18, 1941: British Operation Crusader
November 19, 1941: Sydney vs. Kormoran Duel
November 20, 1941: The US Rejects Final Japanese Demand
November 21, 1941: Germans Take Rostov
November 22, 1941: Kleist in Trouble at Rostov
November 23, 1941: Germans Take Klin, Huge Battle in North Africa
November 24, 1941: Rommel Counterattacks
November 25, 1941: HMS Barham Sunk
November 26, 1941: Japanese Fleet Sails
November 27, 1941: British Relieve Tobruk
November 28, 1941: Rostov Evacuated, German Closest Approach to Moscow
November 29, 1941: Hitler Furious About Retreat
November 30, 1941: Japan Sets the Date for its Attack

December 1941

December 1, 1941: Hitler Fires von Rundstedt
December 2, 1941: Climb Mount Niitaka
December 3, 1941: Hints of Trouble in the Pacific
December 4, 1941: Soviets Plan Counteroffensive
December 5, 1941: Soviets Counterattack at Kalinin
December 6, 1941: Soviet Counterattack at Moscow Broadens
December 7, 1941: Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor
December 8, 1941: US Enters World War II
December 9, 1941: German Retreat At Moscow
December 10, 1941: HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse Sunk
December 11, 1941: Hitler Declares War on US
December 12, 1941: Japanese in Burma
December 13, 1941: Battle of Cape Bon
December 14, 1941: Hitler Forbids Withdrawals
December 15, 1941: The Liepaja Massacre
December 16, 1941: Japan Invades Borneo
December 17, 1941: US Military Shakeup
December 18, 1941: Hitler Lays Down the Law
December 19, 1941: Brauchitsch Goes Home
December 20, 1941: Flying Tigers in Action
December 21, 1941: The Bogdanovka Massacre
December 22, 1941: Major Japanese Landings North of Manila
December 23, 1941: Wake Island Falls to Japan
December 24, 1941: Atrocities in Hong Kong
December 25, 1941: Japan Takes Hong Kong
December 26, 1941: Soviets Land in the Crimea
December 27, 1941: Commandos Raid Norway
December 28, 1941: Operation Anthropoid Begins
December 29, 1941: Soviet Landings at Feodosia
December 30, 1941: Race for Bataan
December 31, 1941: Nimitz in Charge


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