World War II Day by Day - Page 7 - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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The Second World War (1939-1945).
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By Doug64
#15297028
November 29, Wednesday

Hitler plans to put England under siege


Hitler has told his military commanders that England is the “leading enemy power” and “animator of the fighting spirit of the enemy.” Defeat of England (as he calls Britain) is essential to final victory, he says, and in a secret directive he has ordered his navy and air force to carry the war to English industry, by mining and blocking ports; attacking shipping; and bombing factories, oil tanks, and food stores.

London, Liverpool, and Manchester are identified as the most important ports which, Hitler says, handle 95 percent of foreign trade. He says French ports should not be attacked unless they are used to break what he calls “the siege of England.”
By Doug64
#15297110
November 30, Thursday

Red Army launches attack on Finland


Stalin, impatient at the Finns’ rejection of his territorial demands, sends the Red Army crashing into Finland this morning. The main Soviet attacks are directed against the fortified Mannerheim Line on either side of Lake Ladoga and, in the far north, against Petsamo, west of the naval base of Murmansk.

Soviet warships are bombarding Finnish ports and Helsinki has suffered several severe bombing raids. There is no question of these raids being directed at military targets. Stalin is trying to do what Hitler did to Warsaw and bludgeon the capital into surrender with indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

The hospitals are filling with casualties, but, rather than destroying Finnish morale, the raids have aroused great anger and the Finns are determined to fight on.

On paper they would seem to have little chance, with only nine divisions totaling 130,000 men to face the 500,000 men in 26 divisions that the Soviets have unleashed. In the air, too, the Finns are hopelessly outnumbered, with only 145 planes against the Soviets’ 1,000. It is not just a question of numbers, however. The Red Army’s officer corps has been seriously weakened by Stalin’s purges which led to the execution or imprisonment of many of the USSR’s best officers.

It was noted during the little fighting that the Soviets undertook when they seized their Polish spoils that they were poorly led and that both their tactics and equipment were out of date. The Finns are hardy and well trained, especially in winter warfare, and if they can hold the Soviets until the snow comes they could give the Red Army a lesson in how to fight a winter war.

They are also led by the redoubtable Field Marshal Baron Carl Mannerheim, aged 72, a veteran fighter for Finnish nationhood against the Soviets, who has been appointed “Defender of Finland” and commander-in-chief. It is he who organized the fortifications which bear his name and on which the Finns are basing their defenses in the south.

This line, although not as sophisticated as France’s Maginot Line, consists of anti-tank “dragons’ teeth,” pill-boxes sited to cover the few tracks through the forest, and well-camouflaged weapon pits. What the Finns lack in numbers and heavy weapons they make up in mobility and individual skills.

It is doubtful, however, that their martial skill and ardor will enable them to resist the might of the Soviet Union for long.

Spiders weave web to help war effort

Spiders are doing their patriotic best to help the war effort. Vice-Admiral Sir Harold Brown of the Ministry of Supply has revealed the existence of special web factories, where spiders are kept in comfortable conditions and fed the choicest rations. Their mission is to weave webs which are used in making lens sights.
By Doug64
#15297421
December 1939

December 3, Sunday

First RAF bomb drops on Germany


RAF Wellingtons today drop the first Allied bomb on German soil—by accident. Twenty-four aircraft, flying in sections of three at 20,000 feet (6,282 meters), attack German shipping and score, according to the RAF, a hit on a cruiser. However, one Wellington of 115 Squadron suffers a “hang up” when one of its bombs fails to drop. It later falls off on the island of Heligoland, the first bomb of the war to land on Germany. The planes are engaged by antiaircraft fire and Messerschmitt Bf109 and Bf110 fighters. One Bf109 may well be shot down; all the Wellingtons get home safely.
By Doug64
#15297585
December 5, Tuesday

Churchill attacks German naval tactics


Germany has descended to “the lowest form of warfare that can be imagined,” Winston Churchill tells the House of Commons today. The First Lord of the Admiralty says that the Germans had first abandoned the gun for the torpedo and had now dropped that for the mine.

He claims great success for Britain’s policy of moving ships in convoys. There are always 2,000 ships at sea, and losses in convoy are down to one in 750. Two thirds of the ships now being sunk by the mines belong to neutrals. As far as the war at sea is concerned, “German friendship has proved far more poisonous than German enmity,” Mr. Churchill says. He doesn’t mention the capture off Brazil yesterday of the liner Ussukuma, which had been attempting to take supplies to German pocket battleships in the South Atlantic.
By Doug64
#15297713
December 7, Thursday

Queen, evacuee for a day, eats stew


Two hundred South London children far from home today have the pleasure of sitting down to lunch with Queen Elizabeth. They share a 3d (1¼p/5¢) menu of stewed steak, potatoes and jam tart with their royal visitor, who pronounced it all “very good.”

The queen is visiting evacuees during a surprise tour of the area. It is a gesture of appreciation for the invaluable work of the Women’s Voluntary Service during the evacuation program.
By Doug64
#15297878
December 9, Saturday

Jews murdered on Nazi death march


Two hundred Polish Jews, exhausted and starving, tonight cross the river Bug into Soviet-occupied Poland. The Jews, mainly middle-aged men from the cities of Hrubieszow and Chelm, have been “deported”—brutally force-marched—from their homes by the Germans. The march took a week, in which time 1,400 of the original 1,800 Jews were murdered, often by soldiers competing to see how many could be killed in a given time. A further 200 died from exhaustion and maltreatment.

Russia bombs Helsinki

“General Winter,” normally Russia’s wartime ally, has come to the aid of the Finns. Bad weather has prevented the Red bombers from resuming the attacks on Helsinki which so badly damaged the Finnish capital in the first two days of the war.

The respite has given the Finns a chance to organize their defenses. The fires caused by incendiary bombs have been put out, the rubble has been cleared, and the women and children who fled to the safety of the snow-covered forest have been properly evacuated.

The Finns are in no doubt that the Red bombers will return to their capital as soon as the weather clears, but now they are ready for them. Shelters have been prepared, fire-fighting teams set up, patients evacuated from hospitals, and, with the women and children out of harm’s way, Helsinki’s defenders are confident they can now defy the bombers.

Eighty people died in the first raids, but their deaths and the photographs of the devastation, far from sapping the Finns’ morale, have served only to strengthen their determination to carry on the fight.

Nowhere is this determination more evident than in the Finnish air force. With only 36 Dutch Fokker DXXI fighters backed up by obsolete Bristol Bulldogs, the Finnish pilots have torn into the swarms of Russian aircraft wherever they have appeared over the battle front.

It is true that the Russians, confident of overwhelming the Finns, have not sent in their most modern fighters, but the elan and skill of the Finnish pilots in attacking large formations virtually single-handed have proved to the Russians that this war will not be a walkover.

The Finns’ tactics are simple, brave, and effective. They charge into the middle of the Russian formations, causing them to scatter like a flock of starlings, and then pick off their individual “birds.”

These were the tactics used by Lieutenant Eino Luukkanen when he intercepted and shot down an SB-2 bomber on its way to Helsinki on the second day of the war. The four machine-guns of his Fokker riddled the twin-engined Russian and sent it crashing into the snow.

Help is on its way to the hard-pressed Finns. Britain is sending thirty Gloster Gladiators, and a volunteer squadron of Swedish pilots is being formed.

King inspects British army in the trenches

King George VI has completed a five-day visit to British and French troops defending the Western Front, which he began on December 4th. He has talked with men who have clashed with Germans during night patrols and with pilots who have shot down enemy aircraft. He also ate chicken pie and cheese in a French estaminet and was awarded the Maginot Medal, given to men who serve in the “impregnable” fortifications system. The king crossed the Channel in bad weather and was met by the British C-in-C, Lord Gort.

He made a 100-mile (160-km) tour of the British lines, inspecting trench systems built along the Belgian border to close the gap between the Maginot Line and the Channel coast. He frequently left his car to walk down lines of cheering troops paraded in his honor. Yesterday, visiting the French lines, he was met by President Albert Lebrun. General Gamelin took the king on one of the underground ammunition and troop trains. From a fortified observation post he looked across three miles of no-man’s-land to the German defenses and was shown the Order of the Day: “Be vigilant, keep cool and fire low—to the last round and the last man and a bit more ... your proud watchwords will be: ‘On ne passe pas, on les aura’ [They will not pass, we will win].”

On his return to London the king sends Lord Gort this message: “I am satisfied from all you have shown me that the British soldier of today is at least the equal of his predecessor, both in efficiency and spirit.”
By Doug64
#15298080
December 11, Monday

Barrage balloons float above British cities to deter air attacks


Britons who live in and around cities and large towns, or close to strategic targets, will have by now become used to that new sight in the sky, the barrage balloon. This seemingly innocuous object provides a vital part of Britain’s air defenses.

The barrage balloon’s weapon against the German bomber is its tough steel cable which keeps it tethered to the ground—and threatens amputation of the wings of any He111 or Ju88 which tries to bomb by flying low. Balloons force the Germans to fly higher, which puts them in the sights of General Frederick “Tim” Pile’s Anti-Aircraft Command, now made up of five Territorial divisions.

The barrage balloons are manned by the men of RAF Balloon Command. Some 40,000 members of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force make up the command. Their balloons are filled with hydrogen and can be winched to the required height in just a few minutes. In high winds, however, the balloons have to be lowered. One person who knows what it is like to fly into their cables is a Canadian pilot, Flight Lieutenant John Kent. A Farnborough test pilot, he deliberately flew aircraft into cables to see what would happen. On one occasion he lost three feet of wing but still managed to land safely. Whether the balloons will effectively deter the Luftwaffe remains to be seen.
By Doug64
#15298287
December 13, Wednesday

Royal Navy corners the Graf Spee


Just before sunset tonight one of Germany’s finest modern ships, the Admiral Graf Spee, steams into sight heading for the harbor at Montevideo. Two British cruisers, the Ajax and the Achilles, stand off in the mouth of the estuary. The Battle of the River Plate had lasted for less than two hours. The biggest British ship, the Exeter, had limped off to the Falklands for repairs. And although the Graf Spee still has her engines and armaments intact, she had been hit 20 times and needs a respite.

The Graf Spee is one of three pocket battleships, built small so that they appear to fit in with the 10,000-ton limit imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty, but in fact are armed more heavily than much bigger vessels. Today she weighs in at 16,000 tons with her full load of wartime guns, stores and ammunition. She has six 11-inch guns, eight 5.9 inch guns and six 4.1 inch guns.

Today only the Exeter with 8-inch guns could get near enough to inflict any serious damage. However, by the time the action was over she had only two guns intact and was listing heavily to starboard.

Under Captain Hans Langsdorff the Graf Spee has spearheaded the German campaign to harass ships in the South Atlantic supplying vital goods to Britain. To date she has claimed ten ships totaling over 50,000 tons. However, Captain Langsdorff has been scrupulous in avoiding loss of life. He has stopped and boarded his prey and taken off crew and passengers before sinking their ships.

MPs discuss arms in secret session

The House of Commons meets in secret session today for the first time since 1918, in what were then the dire days of the last world war.

Following ancient usage, the prime minister “spies strangers.” This is the signal for the public, minor officials and members of the press gallery to be ordered out. The doors are locked.

According to a tense statement issued after seven and a half hours of debate, MPs discuss “the organization of the war.” It would be a grave breach of privilege for anyone to report what was said.
By Rich
#15298312
Doug64 wrote:Royal Navy corners the Graf Spee[/b]

The Graf Spee is one of three pocket battleships, built small so that they appear to fit in with the 10,000-ton limit imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty, but in fact are armed more heavily than much bigger vessels. Today she weighs in at 16,000 tons with her full load of wartime guns, stores and ammunition. She has six 11-inch guns, eight 5.9 inch guns and six 4.1 inch guns.

Why do we have to keep repeating British WWII propaganda lies in 2023. The Graf Spee was a heavy Cruiser. It was not a Battle Ship, not even close, it was less than half the displacement for a typical battleship of the period.
By Doug64
#15298335
Rich wrote:Why do we have to keep repeating British WWII propaganda lies in 2023. The Graf Spee was a heavy Cruiser. It was not a Battle Ship, not even close, it was less than half the displacement for a typical battleship of the period.

From Wikipedia: “The ship was nominally under the 10,000 long tons (10,160 t) limitation on warship size imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, though with a full load displacement of 16,020 long tons (16,280 t), she significantly exceeded it. Armed with six 28 cm (11 in) guns in two triple gun turrets, Admiral Graf Spee and her sisters were designed to outgun any cruiser fast enough to catch them. Their top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph) left only a few capital ships in the Anglo-French navies fast enough and powerful enough to sink them.[1]”
By Doug64
#15298454
December 14, Thursday

League of Nations expels the USSR


The League of Nations, meeting in emergency debate, expels the Soviet Union today because of its unprovoked invasion of its small, peaceful neighbor, Finland. The League also calls on its members to give all possible help to the Finns. Although the League has little power in this war-torn world its plea will fall on receptive ears.

France has announced a substantial program of military aid. Britain has promised thirty fighter aircraft, and a number of foreign volunteers have traveled to Helsinki to join the Finnish forces. The USA, not a member of the League, has made a strong protest to Moscow.
By Doug64
#15298648
December 16, Saturday

Skiing Finns stem Russian advances


The Finns have stopped the Russian “steamroller” in its tracks. Fighting skillfully on skis and camouflaged in white to blend in with the snow, they are inflicting terrible casualties on the Russians, who were so confident of an easy victory that they had not been issued with winter clothing.

The Russian soldiers, many of whom have frozen to death, call their white-shrouded tormentors Bielaja Smert—the White Death. The Russians know that if they are wounded death is almost inevitable from frostbite. The Finns have developed a tactic they call motti, their name for a stack of wood ready for chopping. They move like ghosts around the Russian columns strung out along the forest roads, sniping, then disappearing on their skis. They lay mines on the tracks, booby-trap farm animals, burn their own farms to deny the invaders shelter, and have become expert at using “Molotov cocktails,” bottles filled with gasoline with burning rags round the necks, to knock out the Red Army’s tanks. Sometimes they attack in force at several points, chopping the Russian columns into several disorganized pieces, then surround the pieces and wipe them out as they flounder in the snow.

Along the 800-mile (1,280-km) length of the Russo-Finnish border in the south, along the Gulf of Finland, the Finns have repulsed a number of amphibious attacks and are holding the main thrust of the Red Army at the Mannerheim Line on both sides of Lake Ladoga.

North of Lake Ladoga the Russians have made more progress because the Finns do not have enough men to guard the long frontier. But the Russians do not seem to have the mobility to exploit their successes. They have been thrown out of Suomussalmi, which they took on December 9th. In the far north, on the Arctic Ocean, they have succeeded in capturing Petsamo and are advancing southwest down the Arctic Highway, but are being held at Nautsi. Nowhere have they scored the simple victory which they had expected. The Finns are proving very tough nuts to crack.
By Doug64
#15298723
December 17, Sunday

Graf Spee is scuttled


Thousands of people line the riverbank tonight as the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee leaves Montevideo’s harbor just before sunset. In the river mouth three British cruisers wait for their prey—the Ajax and Achilles, which fought in the battle four days ago, and the much more powerful Cumberland, who has just arrived to give support.

All of Montevideo, and much of the world by their radio sets, wait to see how Captain Hans Langsdorff will end the drama of the last four days. International law permits a warship to remain for 24 hours for emergency repairs, and the Germans won a 72-hour extension. Langsdorff thought that a substantial Royal Navy force was waiting to pounce on him. He had been misled by rumors in Montevideo, by a mistaken “sighting” by one of his own officers, and by BBC reports suggesting that the main British reinforcements had actually arrived when they were really still several days away.

Langsdorff asked for instructions and Hitler himself said that he only had two choices—scuttle, or fight it out on the open sea. Now just before the three-mile limit the ship stops and the crowd sees the crew taking to the boats. Minutes later come a series of shattering explosions and flames light up the approaching dusk. The ship settles on the riverbed, her upper decks above the water and still burning.

For the Royal Navy the news should be as much of a tonic as was the defeat of Admiral Graf Spee’s squadron at the Falklands in the early stages of the last war.

First Canadian troops land in Britain to join war against Hitler

Beneath battleship grey clouds, the first Canadian troops to reach Britain—7,400 men of the First Division—dock in Liverpool. For a country with a permanent army of 4,500 men, five mortars and 16 tanks, to create a division in three months is some achievement.

The Canadians, under the command of Major-General McNaughton, arrives in five liners. Officers slept in suites and men in first class cabins. It was a better trip than McNaughton made in the last war, cramped in a hammock for 28 days. Otherwise things have hardly changed since 1914-18. There are the same infantry manuals, same weapons, and probably the same stretch of front in France.
By Doug64
#15298795
December 18, Monday

Air forces battle over Heligoland


Twenty-two Wellington bombers fight a tremendous battle in a cloudless sky over the North Sea today. As they approach the Heligoland Bight, off northwestern Germany, on their mission to bomb German warships, they can see a swarm of Bf109 and Bf110 fighters waiting for them. Soon the sky is full of bullets and cannon shells as the German pilots, working in coordination with the flack {anti-aircraft guns} tear into the Wellingtons. They attack from the beam, trying to avoid the nose and rear gun turrets.

The stoutly-built Wellingtons take a tremendous amount of punishment. One has both turrets smashed, loses most of the fabric from its wings, and has its fuel tanks holed. It is forced to ditch. Wing Commander R. Kellett, who is leading the raid, will say afterwards that it is “the biggest aerial battle ever fought.” He insists that his crews have “returned confident that on the next occasion the enemy will suffer a far heavier blow. The occasion they hope will not be too distant.” Brave words, but, although his men shot down four Germans, twelve Wellingtons have been lost and three more have made forced landings. These losses cannot be sustained by a relatively small air force.
By Doug64
#15298914
December 19, Tuesday

Scientists defeat magnetic mines


Admiralty scientists led by Dr. C.F. Goodeve and Dr. E.C. Bullard have now found a way to defeat the magnetic mine threat. Since the mines are detonated by a ship’s magnetic field, a system cancelling this out has been developed. Ships will be fitted with electric cables passed round the hulls and connected to the generators. Known as “degaussing,” this will create a magnetic field exactly opposite to the ship’s.

Methods have also been found for sweeping these mines. Experiments using wooden trawlers towing sweeps made up of energized electrical cables have proved successful in safely detonating them. A Wellington bomber has also been fitted with energized coils and a fuel generator, although it has to fly as low as sixty feet to explode the mines.
#15299090
Doug64 wrote:December 19, Tuesday

Scientists defeat magnetic mines


Admiralty scientists led by Dr. C.F. Goodeve and Dr. E.C. Bullard have now found a way to defeat the magnetic mine threat. Since the mines are detonated by a ship’s magnetic field, a system cancelling this out has been developed. Ships will be fitted with electric cables passed round the hulls and connected to the generators. Known as “degaussing,” this will create a magnetic field exactly opposite to the ship’s.

Methods have also been found for sweeping these mines. Experiments using wooden trawlers towing sweeps made up of energized electrical cables have proved successful in safely detonating them. A Wellington bomber has also been fitted with energized coils and a fuel generator, although it has to fly as low as sixty feet to explode the mines.

The Second World War was very much a “war of the boffins”. This is only the beginning….
#15299128
Potemkin wrote:The Second World War was very much a “war of the boffins”. This is only the beginning….

Very true, but it had its problematic side as well. The Nazis got a little too focused on bleeding-edge tech, that was too little too late.
By Doug64
#15299145
December 21, Thursday

Stalin at 60: half beast, half giant, but Russian master


As the son of a cobbler from a primitive village in Georgia is celebrating his 60th birthday amid the Czarist splendors of the Kremlin in Moscow, a telegram is handed to him:

    To Joseph Stalin: Best wishes for your personal well-being as well as for the prosperous future of the peoples of the friendly Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler.

A delighted Stalin replies:

    To the Chancellor of the German Reich, A Hitler. The friendship of the peoples of Germany and the Soviet Union, cemented by blood, has every reason to be lasting and firm.

There is more than a hint of unease in Stalin’s reference to a lasting friendship cemented in blood. The blood is that of the Polish people, victims of the unholy Nazi-Soviet alliance, and neither of the dictators trusts the other. Stalin, whose Red Army is at this moment being mauled by the Finns, observed with mounting apprehension the German Blitzkrieg in Poland. Hitler, who speaks of Stalin as “half beast, half giant,” believes that war with Russia is less than a year away.
By Doug64
#15299262
December 22, Friday

Outnumbered Finns stun mighty USSR


The Finns continue to astonish the world with the defeats which they are inflicting on the immensely more powerful Red Army. Yesterday they caught the Russian 44th Motorized Division as it approached Suomussalmi to attempt the relief of the trapped 163rd Division.

The Finns blocked the road in front of and behind the Russians and then began their log-cutting tactics, using Suomi submachine guns, very effective weapons for close range forest work, then going in with grenades and knives. They have inflicted enormous casualties and tonight both Russian divisions are fighting for their lives in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit (also -40 degrees Celsius). Russian losses also include tanks and artillery.

At the same time the Finns entrenched near Taipale, at the eastern end of the Mannerheim Line, have cut down whole Russian battalions attempting to storm their positions. Few Finns are under any illusions. They know they cannot hold out forever, but they are putting up a magnificent fight.
By Doug64
#15299361
December 23, Saturday

IRA steals Irish small-arms ammo


Troops and police cordon off the Irish capital tonight in a search for a huge IRA arms haul. The theft of more than a million rounds of rifle, revolver and machine-gun ammunition stolen from the magazine fort in Phoenix Park has led to the biggest round-up of IRA suspects since the civil war. Sixteen men have been arrested. All have refused to make statements or apply for bail. Three have been charged with possession of firearms.

Roadblocks have been set up on major roads throughout Ireland and troops have searched hundreds of cars, trucks, and buses. Pedestrians are being stopped for random checks and women are being compelled to open their shopping bags and allow prams to be searched. Two large hauls of bullets—weighing half a ton—have been recovered in County Kildare.

Maximum security has been imposed on the Ulster border. The IRA continues to regard itself as being “in a state of war” with Great Britain, and many Irish politicians fear a diplomatic backlash from an angry British government.
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