World War Two Daily: December 28, 1941: Operation Anthropoid Begins

Friday, March 29, 2019

December 28, 1941: Operation Anthropoid Begins

Sunday 28 December 1941

Finnish T-28 tank and crew, 28 December 1941
Finnish T-28 crewmen in Karhumäki in -40° weather, December 1941 (SA-Kuva).
Battle of the Pacific: On New Britain Island in the Bismarck Archipelago, Australian National Airlines (ANA) begins evacuating dependents from the naval base at Rabaul on 28 December 1941. The Japanese already have this key naval base in their sites and are preparing Operation R for early 1942. Plan R is planned to be undertaken by the Japanese South Seas Detachment under Major General Tomitaro Horii once it secures Guam.

Muslims in the Indian Army at Woking Mosque, 28 December 1941
Muslims in the Indian Army celebrate Id-ul-Adha at Woking Mosque, 28 December 1941 (Islamic Review, September 1942, 293-294, via Woking Mission).
The Japanese Navy considers Rabaul vital for control of the nearby Caroline Islands, which includes a key Imperial Japanese naval base at Truk. It also is strategically located along Allied convoy routes from the United States to Australia and New Zealand. The Allies also consider Rabaul important as the capital of the Australian-administered Territory of New Guinea and a secure fleet anchorage, but the Australians only first garrisoned it in March 1941. As of 28 December 1941, Rabaul only has about 1400 soldiers there in "Lark Force." The Japanese place much more strategic importance on Rabaul than do the Allies. They are determined to capture New Britain to use Rabaul as a springboard for their ambitions to the west and south.

Destroyer tender USS Melville, 28 December 1941
Destroyer tender USS Melville in a photo taken on 28 December 1941. It services neutrality patrol ships in the North Atlantic at Bermuda and occasionally sails to Europe.
In the Philippines, the Japanese advance in southern Luzon, crossing the Agno River and approaching Cabanatuan. The Filipino 52nd Infantry Regiment retreats to Tiaong, and the Filipino 51st Division receives orders to withdraw into the Bataan Peninsula. The Japanese in the area advance along Route 1 and seize Luisiana, forcing the Filipino 1st Infantry Regiment to withdraw. The US Army Air Forces in the region continue to withdraw, with the 17th Bombardment Squadron withdrawing from Cabcaben to Limay, Luzon.

Florence South Carolina Morning News, 28 December 1941
The Florence (South Carolina) Morning News for 28 December 1941 headlines "Undefended Manila Set Afire In Three-Hour Bombing."
Dutch B-10 bombers fly from Singapore to bomb the Japanese at Kuching, Borneo. The Japanese are approaching Singawang while retreating Dutch and British troops head into the jungle toward Sampit and Pangkalanbun. There is a Dutch airfield near there at Kotawaringin which the Allied troops hope to protect and at which supplies can be received.

At Midway Island, which has recently been reinforced with troops and equipment originally destined for Wake Island, the seaplane tender USS Tangier and its accompanying ships depart. They carry with them 850 civilian construction contractors.

Wormerveer Noordidijk, 28 December 1941
The London Margarine Factory (the white building) at Wormerveer Noorddijk, the Netherlands (just northwest of Amsterdam), burns down on 28 December 1941.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Off of the Egyptian coast near Mersa Matruh, U-75 (Kptlt. Helmuth Ringelmann) torpedoes and sinks 1587-ton British freighter Volo. Royal Navy destroyer HMS Kipling, guarding Convoy AT-6, chases down U-75 and sinks it with depth charges. There are 30 survivors and 14 men perish.

Soviet bridge-builders at Naro-Fominsk, 28 December 1941
With Soviet troops having taken Naro-Fominsk near Moscow, Soviet engineers build a bridge near there on 28 December 1941. Photo: Soviet news agency RIAN.
Eastern Front: The German plan to combat the Red Army landings near Kerch is to eliminate the bridgeheads one at a time. This strategy is forced upon them because of their lack of troops in the Kerch Peninsula. Lieutenant General Kurt Himer, commander of the German 46th Infantry Division in Lieutenant General Hans Graf von Sponeck's 42nd Army Corps, uses troops recalled from the port of Feodosiya as part of a renewed effort to eliminate the three main Soviet bridgeheads near Kerch. The 1st and 3rd Infantry battalions of Infantry Regiment 97 attack at dawn. Supported by two 10.5 cm howitzers, six Heinkel He 111 bombers and a handful of Stukas, the German troops wipe out the Soviet bridgehead at Zyuk by noontime. The two battalions take 458 prisoners and count about 300 Red Army troops killed at a cost of only 40 casualties. Another German attack at Cape Khroni by Infantry Regiment 72 also wipes a Red Army bridgehead. These are stunningly successful operations that illustrate the fragility of a bridgehead if attacked quickly. Overall, the two operations take about 1700 prisoners. Sponeck and Himer now turn their attention to the Bulganak Bay bridgehead, where about 1000 Red Army troops are trying to consolidate. Once this is eliminated, it appears the Soviet landings would have been completely repulsed.

Royal Navy officers on HMS Victorious, 28 December 1941
"The Commanding Officer of the Royal Naval Air Station Hatston, Captain Fancourt, RN, talking to Sub Lieut (A) Mewton, RNVR, on the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS." This photo was taken sometime between 28 and 31 December 1941. © IWM (A 6987).
Around Moscow, German troop strength is declining fast both due to combat casualties and frostbite. The low temperatures and heavy snow are making aerial reconnaissance impossible, which, as Second Army commander General Rudolf Schmidt reports, leaves his troops "blind." General Ludwig Kuebler at Fourth Army - Army Group Center commander Field Marshal Hans Guenther von Kluge's former command - warns that even his own headquarters now is almost in the front lines. Soviet cavalry is across the Sukhinichi/Kaluga railroad and roaming far to the rear, virtually unimpeded no matter how far west they choose to go.

Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, who parachute into Occupied Europe on 28 December 1941
 Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, landing in the Protectorate in the night between 28 and 29 December 1941, carried out the successful assassination of the Deputy/Acting Reich-Protector Reinhard Heydrich. 
Special Operations: After extensive training funded by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík parachute into Czechoslovakia (the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) from a Handley Page Halifax on 28 December 1941. This is the start of Operation Anthropoid. There, the two men find a local priest, František Samek, who helps them to go into hiding for several months. Their mission is to assassinate the province's Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, the ruthless SS-Gruppenführer who is a key figure behind the "Final Solution" and who ruthlessly suppresses all dissent. December 28 is remembered every year in the village of Nahvizdy in central Bohemia for the arrival nearby of the two agents.

HMS Victorious, 28 December 1941
"Fairey Fulmars of 809 Squadron ranged on the flight deck for a squadron exercise." This photo was taken between 28 and 31 December 1941 apparently aboard HMS Victorious (© IWM (A 6968)). 
Australian/US Relations: The first of several Allied conferences takes place at RAAF Base Amberley Field southwest of Brisbane. This is a follow-up to Prime Minister John Curtin's New Year's Message released on 27 December 1941 in which he characterized the United States as his country's chief protector. The Australian and the United States militaries reach some formal agreements for the conduct of the war. These include building bases on a line between Brisbane and Darwin which contain refueling depots at Charleville, Cloncurry, Daly Waters, and Darwin. This is to provide for servicing of routine air traffic. In addition, Royal Australian Air Force pilots will train new US Army Air Force pilots for B-24 crews at Archerfield and for P-40 pilots at Amberley. The prescribed course will teach night flying, dive-bombing, and aerial gunnery. These Amberley Field conferences build a close working relationship between the Royal Australian Air Force and the USAAF throughout the war.

A US military wrecker, 28 December 1941
A US military Diamond-T 969A 4 ton Wrecker, built to military specifications. This photo was taken on 28 December 1941.
US Military: Rather than use vulnerable civilian construction workers who now are being captured all across the Pacific Theater, the US Navy decides that it would be best to form a separate construction service. US Navy Chief of Bureau of Yards and Docks Vice Admiral Ben Moreell places a formal request with the Bureau of Navigation for such units. This is the birth of the Naval Construction Battalion, more colloquially known as the Seabees for the acronym of its name.

New Zealand Military: The tiny New Zealand military has its 2nd Division fighting in Libya with great distinction. However, it now finds that it has few troops on hand to defend against a potential Japanese attack. There is little war industry on New Zealand and a complete lack of tanks, artillery, and other instruments of modern warfare. However, the time has come to start worrying about the homeland. The military begins raising three battalions and the New Zealand Navy recently has sent minesweeper HMNZS Gale to Fiji. More minesweepers are to be sent to Fiji to form a minesweeping flotilla. These can serve as troop-convoy escorts.

Burnham Camp in New Zealand, 28 December 1941
A group photo of No. 2 Platoon, D Company at Burnham Camp in New Zealand. This is the largest military base in New Zealand's South Island.
British Homefront: William Joyce, aka Lord Haw-Haw, delivers his typical English-language propaganda broadcast on behalf of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment from Hamburg, Germany. This broadcast is recorded and preserved. Joyce urges listeners to "Tell Roosevelt to keep his hands off the Royal Navy."

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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