Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 628 May 20, 1941

At 8 AM, German paratroops from Junkers Ju52 troop-carriers and 750 glider-borne troops land between Suda Bay and Maleme airfield on the North coast of Crete, establishing positions in a dry river bed near the airfield. A second wave of paratroops lands around 2 other airfields (Rethimnon at 4.15 PM, Heraklion at 5.30 PM). 1856 Germans are slaughtered in the air or on landing by Allied troops (or Cretan civilians wielding knives and clubs), with many wounded. General Freyberg, still misreading Ultra signals and expecting amphibious landings, holds back artillery & reserve troops. Overnight, amid confusion about who controls Maleme airfield, New Zealand defenders fall back to regroup for an attack in the morning (but reinforcements do not arrive). Overnight, British destroyers HMS Jervis, Nizam & Ilex bombard a German airfield on the Greek island of Karpathos, trying to reduce the threat to Navy ships from German air attack.

German bombers sink British minesweeper HMS Widnes in Suda Bay.

Operation Rheinübung. Swedish seaplane-cruiser Gotland spots German warships Bismark and Prinz Eugen in the Kattegat. The British naval attaché in Stockhlom, Henry Denham, learns the news and informs the Admiralty in London.

U-94, U-98, U-109 and U-556 attack convoy HX-126 250 miles Southeast of Cape Farewell, Greenland, sinking 7 ships. British tanker MV British Security burns out of control for 3 days, killing all 53 on board. SS Harpagus rescues 48 men from SS Norman Monarch, but is then sunk at 11.20 PM killing 26 of those survivors plus 25 crew, 4 gunners and 3 passengers. 155 miles Northwest of Outer Hebrides, U-138 sinks British MV Javanese Prince. 430 miles West of Ireland, Italian submarine Otaria sinks British SS Starcross (all hands rescued by Canadian destroyer HMCS St. Francis).

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