World War Two Daily: December 18, 1941: Hitler Lays Down the Law

Monday, March 18, 2019

December 18, 1941: Hitler Lays Down the Law

Thursday 18 December 1941

The Japanese 10th Independent Artillery Brigade attacking North Point Power Station, Hong Kong, on December 18, 1941.
Eastern Front: After two days of deliberation and introspection, Adolf Hitler on 18 December 1941 issues an order to Army Group Center which sets for how the Wehrmacht shall respond to the unrelenting Soviet counteroffensive. The order reads:
The Fuehrer has ordered: Larger evasive movements cannot be made. They will lead to a total loss of heavy weapons and equipment. Commanding generals, commanders, and officers are to intervene in person to compel the troops to fanatical resistance in their positions without regard to enemy broken through [sic] on the flanks or in the rear. This is the only way to gain the time necessary to bring up the reinforcements from Germany and the West that I have ordered. Only if reserves have moved into rearward positions can thought be given to withdrawing to those positions.
This is not the order that the commanders at the front desired. The entire front is in motion, and the question now becomes whether it can even be stopped, much less hold a new line where it is.

Adolf Hitler hosts a Christmas party for German soldiers at the Lowenbraukeller restaurant in Munich on 18 December 1941. There is some doubt whether this series of pictures is from 1941 and not actually from the 1930s, but they are identified in the original sources as being from 1941, so that is why they are placed here (Photographer Hugo Jaeger dated these photos as being from 18 December 1941).
Field Marshal Fedor von Bock sends the order along to his army commands without comment. When General Erich Hoepner protests that the order cannot be followed, von Bock curtly tells him to "hold your fist in the backs of these people." General Guderian responds to the Army Group Center chief of staff:
The situation is more serious than one could imagine. If something does not happen soon, things will occur that the German armed forces have never before experienced. I will take these orders and file them. I will not pass them on even under threat of court-martial. I want at least to give my career a respectable ending.
Guderian then arranges a flight to the Wolfsschanze to argue his case directly with Hitler. Von Bock himself has fallen out of favor at the Fuehrer headquarters, which directs him to submit an immediate request for medical leave and relinquish his command to Field Marshal Günther von Kluge. Von Bock remains in good standing and will be put on the "Fuehrer Reserve" (Führerreserve) for future assignments.

The New Castle News of New Castle, Pennsylvania is full of good war news on 18 December 1941.
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese Navy is hungry for information about the damage caused at Pearl Harbor and decides to take a chance to find out. Submarine 1-7 launches a floatplane that flies over Pearl Harbor at dawn on 18 December to find out. The plane apparently is not detected, showing that whatever security improvements the Americans have put in place have not been completely effective. This reconnaissance information leads to a Japanese Navy communique on 19 December that announces that 8 battleships, 4 cruisers, and 2 destroyers have been sunk or heavily damaged, and lesser damage has been done to another battleship and 4 more cruisers. The communique also claims that 450 US planes were destroyed on the ground and 14 shot down. These claims, particularly those related to aircraft, are inflated but not complete fantasy. The figures appear to stem more from enemy prewar overestimates of Hawaiian air strength than to the damage actually done, bad as it was.

Late in the day, Japanese forces cross the waterway to the north shore of Hong Kong Island and land on the island's northeastern shoreline. They consolidate their position and prepare to advance inland in the morning. They capture about 20 Commonwealth gunners of the Sai Wan Battery (5th Anti-Aircraft Battery of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defense Corps) and also roughly the same number of medical staff in the Salesian Mission on Chai Wan Road and execute almost all of them on the morning of the 19th.

While the Third Reich celebrated Christmas, they renamed it Julfest and claimed that its origins predated Jesus Christ and in fact simply celebrated the winter solstice. In any event, at this Christmas party, Hitler seems pensive and out of sorts, as do others at the party, such as Reich Commissioner for Social House-Building Robert Ley sitting next to him. 18 December 1941 (Hugo Jaeger).
On Borneo, the Japanese landing forces begin to fan out from their beachhead positions. The Dutch send Martin B-10 Bombers to slow them down. The Japanese apparently don't know where the Dutch Singkawang II airfield is, so it remains in Dutch possession despite the nearby Japanese forces.

Attendees at Hitler's 18 December 1941 Christmas party in Munich (Hugo Jaeger).
On the Malay Peninsula, the Indian 11th Division completes its withdrawal behind the Krian River and proceeds to the Taiping region. The British plan on making a stand along the river and the Grik road, but commanding Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur E. Percival contemplates another withdrawal to the Perak River. The Japanese consolidate their advances and occupy Penang, which the British abandoned on the 17th. The RAAF orders all planes that can fly to proceed to Singapore.

In the Philippines, the Japanese advance from Legaspi, southeast of Manila, continues. The troops reach Naga after brushing off light resistance from the Filipino Army.

A typical 1941 blood chit. This would be pinned to the back of a pilot's flight jacket.
In China and Burma, the American Volunteer Group (AVG, or "Flying Tigers") are fighting hard. However, the American pilots are concerned about how they will be treated by Chinese civilians if they are forced to parachute to safety. These concerns have been exacerbated by difficulties encountered by pilot Eriksen Shilling and local Chinese fighters who treat him roughly. The Chinese Intelligence Service allays these concerns by printing pictures on silk and then stitching these onto the back of the pilots' jackets. These are called "blood chits" and have pictures such as the flag and a promise of a reward for safe return to authorities of the pilot.

Attendees at Hitler's 18 December 1941 Christmas party in Munich seem ill at ease, perhaps because the Fuehrer himself seems preoccupied (Hugo Jaeger).
American Homefront: Just as happened during the Civil War, the government asserts broad new authoritarian powers over citizens and companies. These powers are in the War Powers Act of 1941 and, among other things, permit censorship of all communications entering and leaving the United States. The director of censorship, Byron Price, generally follows a laissez-faire approach to censorship, relying on the threat of censorship to do his work for him. However, Price does not hesitate to intervene at times, such as when his office bars publication of photographs of US military war dead.

The decorations at the 18 December 1941 Christmas Party celebrate the Third Reich more than Christmas (Hugo Jaeger).
President Roosevelt signs an executive order, No. 8984, establishing the Roberts Commission. This commission will be headed by Supreme Court Associate Justice Owen J. Roberts and will investigate the defenses of Pearl Harbor prior to its attack on 7 December 1941. The order provides that the Roberts Commission is to:
ascertain and report the facts relating to the attack made by the Japanese armed forces upon the Territory of Hawaii on 7 December provide bases for sound decisions whether any derelictions of duty or errors of judgment on the part of United States Army or Navy personnel contributed to such successes as were achieved by the enemy on the occasion mentioned; and if so, what these derelictions or errors were, and who were responsible therefor.
Recently fired Admiral Husband Kimmel and General Short, in command at Hawaii, will be star witnesses before the Roberts Commission.

Hitler can't seem to take his mind on the festivities at his 18 December 1941 Christmas party (Hugo Jaeger).
The US State Department announces that all French possessions in the Caribbean have been neutralized. The French have large naval forces based at Martinique in the French West Indies. Rear Admiral Frederick J. Horne and Admiral Georges Robert, French High Commissioner at Martinique, reach this agreement which prevents the need for any military intervention there by the United States Navy.

"Woody Herman In Disco Order, Volume 12" features recordings between 5 September 1941 and 18 December 1941.

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 the 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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