Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 732 September 1, 1941

US Navy allocates battleships USS Idaho, USS Mississippi & USS New Mexico plus 2 cruisers and 13 destroyers to patrol the Denmark Strait, escorting Atlantic convoys with American merchants.

Operation Gauntlet (Allied destruction of coal mines on Norwegian island of Spitsbergen). Troopship RMS Empress Of Canada and escorts British cruiser HMS Nigeria & 3 destroyers return to Spitsbergen from Arkhangelsk, USSR (carrying 200 French escapees from German POW camps who traveled to Arkhangelsk). All Allied forces embark for UK plus 800 Spitsbergen inhabitants and 15 sled dogs. Operation Gauntlet was concluded with no casualties and the ships return to Scapa Flow after a 7,000 mile round trip.

Day 731 August 31, 1941

Evacuation of Soviet Baltic Fleet through the Gulf of Finland from Tallinn, Estonia, is complete. The last ships arrive at Kronstadt naval base on Kotlin Island, 19 miles West of Leningrad, where they will serve as a floating battery firing on German forces attacking Leningrad. Despite the heavy losses, 165 ships and 66,000 tons of equipment are evacuated from Tallinn, plus 28,000 Soviet civilian and military personnel.

Overnight, Germans bomb British naval base at Alexandria, Egypt, but cause no damage to ships or facilities (2 Royal Navy officers killed).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 730 August 30, 1941

German/Romanian invasion of USSR, Operation Barbarossa. In the North, Germans capture Mga near Leningrad severing the last railroad between Leningrad and the rest of the USSR. In the Ukraine, Kleist's Panzergruppe 1 (Army Group South) and Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 (detached from Army Group Center) converge on Kiev to encircle the Soviet Southwestern Front (850,000 men under General Mikhail Kirponos). Further South on the Black Sea, Romanian 4th Army under General Nicolae Ciupercă and elements of German 11th Army are held by the Soviet the defensive line 6km around Odessa (Romanian 4th Army has already suffered 27,307 casualties, including 5,329 killed).

Day 729 August 29, 1941

Soviet Baltic Fleet resumes the voyage through the Gulf of Finland from Tallinn to Kronstadt. The warships steam as fast as possible to Kronstadt near Leningrad while the slower vessels are again attacked by German bombers, sinking 2 troop transports. Only 1 bomb-damaged transport will reach Kronstadt, carrying 2700 troops after leaving 2300 on an island in the Gulf of Finland. A special salvage force of ships operating from the island of Suursaari will rescue 12,160 survivors from damaged vessels and Gulf islands (although a Soviet submarine covering this operation will be lost, presumably to mines).

Finnish troops recapture all territory in the Karelian Isthmus given up to USSR in the truce ending the Winter War (March 12, 1940) including their second city Viipuri. Despite German urging to push on towards Leningrad, Finns stop more or less at the old border.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 728 August 28, 1941

With the Germans entering the Estonian capital Tallinn, Soviet “Red Banner” Baltic Fleet leaves port, heading 200 miles East through Gulf of Finland for Kronstadt near Leningrad. 200 vessels carrying Soviet 10th Rifle Corps sail in 7 groups starting at 11.18 AM. The main battlefleet with cruiser Kirov, under the command of Vice-Admiral Vladimir Tributs, is the last to depart at 2.52 PM. German Ju88 bombers attack immediately. At 4 PM, Soviet ships become trapped in German/Finnish minefields off Cape Juminda, under aerial bombing plus shellfire from the Estonian shore, and at dusk they are attacked by German & Finnish torpedo boats. A total of 15 warships and submarines and 15 transports ships are sunk (12,000 lives lost). Soviet ships anchor overnight, unable to proceed through the minefield.

In the Ukraine, NKVD blow Zaporozhye hydroelectric dam on the River Dnieper to prevent its use by the Germans. People downstream are not warned and thousands are killed in the torrent. Germans will rebuild part of the dam and restore power generation.

The new Iranian government of Mohammad Ali Foroughi signs a treaty allowing the Britain and USSR to protect oil fields and the Trans-Iranian Railway; however, troops are not allowed in the capital Tehran. In addition, German, Italian, Hungarian and Romanian legations are to be closed and all remaining German nationals handed over to the Allies.

130 miles West of Crete, Greece, British Submarine HMS Rorqual sinks Italian steamer Cilicia. Rorqual is rammed by escort torpedo boat Antares, sustaining damage to her periscope. U-101 and U-558 attack convoy OS-4 330 miles West of Ireland. U-558 sinks British MV Otaio (13 dead and 58 survivors picked up by destroyer HMS Vanoc). U-101 is chased away by a destroyer which drops 30 depth charges over 3 hours causing minimal damage.

Day 727 August 27, 1941

Ostfront. Germans begin final assault on the Estonian capital, Tallinn. Soviet “Red Banner” Baltic Fleet has permission to break out of the Baltic port with over 200 military and civilian vessels (including former Estonian and Latvian warships). Overnight, Soviet 10th Rifle Corps embark on troop transports to leave Tallinn (1000 killed by German bombing and shelling of the harbour).

Iran. The Shah of Iran, Rezā Shāh, appoints Mohammad Ali Foroughi as Prime Minister of Iran (replacing Ali Mansur). The new Iranian government immediately seeks an armistice, as Soviet troops advance on Tehran from the North and British troops seize oil fields and refineries in the South and West.

Between 01.25 and 04.26, U-557 sinks 4 steamers in convoy OS-4 300 miles West of Ireland. At 14.35, U-202 sinks tiny British trawler Ladylove near Iceland (all 14 hands lost). 80 miles South of Iceland, U-570 surfaces immediately below a British Hudson aircraft of 269 Squadron Coastal Command, which damages U-570 with depth charges. The submarine surrenders, is towed to Iceland and commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Graph on September 19.

The French resistance movement is born. Vice President Pierre Laval and a pro-German newspaper editor are shot and wounded near Versailles by French patriot Paul Colette. In response, Vichy government begins arresting and executing opponents, as “communists”.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 726 August 26, 1941

At 04.59, U-571 hits Soviet submarine supply ship Marija Uljanova with 2 torpedoes in the Barents Sea, 27 miles north of Teriberskij lighthouse. Soviet destroyers chase U-571 away with depth charges and pick up 14 survivors blown overboard. Marija Uljanova will be beached as a total loss the next day and used for oil storage.

Iran. British forces take control of Abadan at the head of the Persian Gulf. In the North, Soviet troops moving enter Tabriz while Soviet planes bomb Teheran.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 725 August 25, 1941

British and Soviet forces invade Iran, meeting little opposition, and their ambassadors in the capital Tehran demand that Iran accepts "protection" of oil supplies. This intervention also encourages Turkey to remain neutral. Soviet forces cross from USSR in the North, either side of the Caspian Sea, heading for Tehran. British land from the Persian Gulf at Bandar Shapur, Abadan and Khoramshahr, taking oil installations at Abadan. They sink 2 small Iranian warships and capture several Axis merchant ships. British troops advance from Baghdad in neighbouring Iraq, to seize installations at Kermanshah.

Operation Gauntlet. 527 Canadian troops supported by 118 Norwegian and British engineers capture the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen (600 miles south of the North Pole) to destroy coal mines before they are annexed and defended by the Germans. They land from troopship Empress of Australia, escorted by cruisers HMS Nigeria and HMS Aurora pus 3 destroyers (commanded by newly-promoted Rear Admiral Philip Vian). While 2000 Soviet miners are evacuated, the demolition teams remain on Spitsbergen to destroy coal mines and equipment plus 450,000 tons of coal and 275,000 gallons of fuel.

At 10.11, U-752 sinks Soviet minesweeping trawler T-898 in the Barents Sea, 80 miles East of Cape Chernyj (41 dead and 2 survivors). In the North Sea south-east of Iceland, British anti-submarine trawler HMS Vascama and a British Catalina aircraft of 209 Squadron sink U-452, 6 days into her first patrol, with depth charges (all 42 hands lost). Kriegsmarine orders 61 new submarines.

At midnight, 30 miles off Grimsby, East coast of England, British destroyer HMS Wolsey rams and sinks British minesweeper Kos XVI (Norwegian whaler taken over in July 1940 by Royal Navy but still with a Norwegian crew).

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