Friday, December 24, 2021

June 11, 1942: U.S-Soviet Lend-Lease Agreement

Thursday 11 June 1942

Rommel in North Africa
German General Erwin Rommel in his command vehicle in North Africa, 11 June 1942 (Zwilling, Ernst A., Federal Archive Image 101I-443-1589-08).

Eastern Front: General Erich von Manstein's 11th Army continues battering away at Red Army defenses outside Sevastopol, Crimea, on 11 June 1942. His troops of the LIV Corps are having the most success north of the port, where the heaviest German artillery is located. The Soviet 345th Division counterattacks on the borderline between the Wehrmacht 132nd and 50th Divisions, but quick Luftwaffe intervention (1070 sorties while dropping 1000 tons of bombs today) prevents a rupture. The Red Army and LIV Corps, however, continue taking heavy casualties.

While progress is still being made at Sevastopol, the local commanders are getting concerned at the high cost of the small local gains. Luftwaffe General Wolfram von Richthofen, in command at Fliegerkorps VIII, comments sourly in his war diary that his forces have "only enough left for 1.5 more days of bombing." His mood is black, and he adds that "the specter of failure now seriously looms." On the spur of the moment, Richthofen decides that his bombers are dispersing their efforts too widely. He thus changes bombing procedures to conserve resources. The new tactic of "column bombing" involves bomber attacks on only specifically designated targets while the aircraft fly one after another in narrow air corridors.

The Red Air Force also is proving to be a nuisance, though not to the Luftwaffe. Instead, the Soviets are making nightly raids on German positions in the "rear" to the east at places like Simferopol, Theodosiya, Eupatoria, and Yalta. The Luftwaffe can see the attacks coming on their radar but do not have any night fighters to intercept them. Fortunately for the Germans, the Red Air Force bombing runs are very inaccurate, so the raids for the most part are ineffective.

Off the Crimean coast, a mini-war at sea also is brewing. The Soviets are running fast convoys to Sevastopol every night, and early in the morning, the Kriegsmarine decides to do something about it. For the first time, Axis small craft (MTBs and motorboats) manned by Italians attack a Soviet convoy near Cape Khersones. It is believed, but not absolutely certain, that they sink a Soviet ship.  

Back at Fuhrer Headquarters in East Prussia, General Halder also is getting impatient with Manstein's progress. He notes that the Soviet artillery at Sevastapol "is quite troublesome." However, further north, "The Voshansk attack is making very satisfactory progress." Meanwhile, the situation at Ninth Army is "unclear," with the Soviets "unaccountably" abandoning territory. This new Red Army tactic of not fighting for every inch of ground but instead trading space for time and tactical regrouping will befuddle and mislead the German High Command throughout the summer.

Battle of the Black Sea: Soviet submarine A-5 torpedoes and sinks 5695-ton Romanian freighter Ardeal off Odessa. Ardeal's captain beaches the ship to avoid sinking but is later repaired and returned to service.

British POWs in North Africa
British POWs in North Africa, 11 June 1942 (Farmer, Federal Archive Image 101I-443-1564-28A).

Battle of the Pacific: USS Saratoga rendezvouses with fellow carriers Enterprise and Hornet. It transfers 19 SBD Dauntless, five TBD Devastator of VT-5, and 10 VT-8 Avenger planes to the two other carriers to replace their losses at the Battle of Midway. The ships then turn head to Pearl Harbor in foul weather.

Reinforcements for the Pacific Fleet are on the way. USS Wasp and battleship North Carolina, along with escorting destroyers, pass through the Panama Canal. Battleships just barely fit through the channel with mere feet (sometimes only inches) to spare on each side. The Japanese know the importance of the Canal and have plans to block it throughout the war.

The U.S. 11th Air Force make their first attack on the Japanese on Kiska Island in the Aleutian chain. The attack is made by five B-24 and five B-17 bombers flying from Cold Bay and loading their bomb racks at Umnak Island. PBY Catalinas also participate in the attack. on Kiska Harbor. The attack only scores some near misses on the Japanese ships while losing a B-24 (Captain Jack F. Todd) to anti-aircraft fire. This begins a 48-hour period during which the Catalinas make repeated attacks without much success.

British POWs in North Africa
British and South African POWs in North Africa, 11 June 1942 (Zwilling, Ernst A., Image 101I-443-1589-34A).

Battle of the Indian Ocean: German raider Michel (HSK-9) uses its guns to sink 5186-ton British freighter Lylepark southeast of Cocos Islands (northwest of Perth, Australia). Michel is on her way from Japan for a hunting raid off the coast of South America.

Japanese submarine I-20 torpedoes and sinks 7926-ton British freighter Mahronda in the Mozambique Channel. There are two deaths and 40 survivors. The survivors are rescued by the Royal Indian Navy ship HMIS Orissa. This is an unusual situation where a German ship sinks a ship further west than a Japanese submarine in the Indian Ocean on the same day.

Australian corvette HMAS Wallaroo (J 222) sinks after colliding with a ship it is escorting, U.S. Liberty Ship Henry Gilbert Costin. The sinking ironically occurs because the ships are sailing without navigation lights in overcast weather to avoid detection by the enemy. Wallaroo sinks while trying to return to Fremantle, while the other ship makes it back. There are three deaths.

European Air Operations: The foul weather that has characterized the spring of 1942 continues today. It is 10/10ths clouds during the morning, but visibility clears a bit by noon. RAF fighters attack Koksijde and the Furnes Canal, sinking and damaging barges. The attacks are broken off after encountering heavy anti-aircraft fire at Nieuport. These attacks in low visibility are quite hazardous, and several planes narrowly avoid collisions or hitting ground obstructions.

Battle of the Baltic: German support ship MRS-11 Osnabruck hits a mine and sinks off Tallinn, Estonia. There are 84 deaths. The ship is later salvaged.

German cruiser Lutzow spotted by Allied air reconnaissance 11 June 1942
German heavy cruiser Lutzow photographed by Allied air reconnaissance, 11 June 1942 (Naval History and Heritage Command NH 110843).

Battle of the Atlantic: Italian submarine Leonardo da Vinci uses torpedoes and gunfire to sink 5483-ton Dutch freighter Alioth in the Atlantic Ocean near Freetown, Sierra Leone. Everyone survives.

U-504 (Kptlt. Hans-Georg Friedrich Poske), on its third patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 4282-ton Dutch freighter Crijnssen 85 miles southwest of the Cayman Islands. There are one death and 93 survivors, who abandon the ship in four lifeboats and a gig. The sinking is especially traumatic for some on board because there are a dozen survivors of Sylvan Arrow (sunk by U-155 on 20 May 1942) and one from U.S. tanker T.C. McCobb (sunk by Italian submarine Pietro Calvi on 31 March 1942). The survivors in one lifeboat and the gig from Crijnssen are picked up by the U.S. freighter Lebore, which itself is sunk by U-172 a few days later. The other lifeboats make landfall in Mexico aside from four crewmembers on a raft who are picked up by the Panamanian tanker J.A. Mowinckel.

Freighter American sunk on 11 June 1942
SS American, originally the Santa Barbara, was sunk by U-504 on 11 June 1942. 

Much later in the day, U-504 also torpedoes and sinks 4846-ton U.S. freighter American off Honduras. The ship is hit by two torpedoes and sinks within 25 minutes. There are four deaths and 34 survivors, who are picked up by British freighter Kent. One survivor perishes after being picked up.

U-159 (Kptlt. Helmut Friedrich Witte), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 7130-ton British freighter Fort Good Hope northwest of Colon, Panama. Two torpedoes hit and sink the freighter (carrying wheat, timber, lead, and zinc) within half an hour. There are two deaths and 45 survivors, who are picked up by U.S. gunboat USS Erie (PG 50).

U-455 (Kptlt. Hans-Heinrich Giessler), on its third patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 6914-ton British tanker Geo H. Jones northeast of the Azores. The tanker is a straggler from Convoy SL-111 heading from Aruba to Freetown. There are two dead and 40 survivors, who are picked up by HMIS Orissa (J 200).

U-157 (KrvKpt. Wolf Henne), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 6401-ton U.S. tanker Hagan five miles off the north coast of Cuba. Hagan is simply steaming a straight course independently and thus is an ideal target. Two torpedoes hit the engine room and fuel bunkers, sinking the ship, which is carrying 2,676 barrels of blackstrap molasses, fairly quickly. There are six dead and 38 survivors, who make landfall in Cuba in two lifeboats. This is the only victory for U-157 in its career, which ends a couple of days later when it is sunk.

U-94 (Oblt. Otto Ites), on its ninth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 4458pton British freighter Pontypridd northeast of St. John's, Newfoundland. Pontypridd is a straggler from Convoy ONS-100. There are two dead and 46 survivors, who are picked up by HMCS Chambly (K 116).

U-158 (Kptlt. Erwin Rostin), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 13,467-ton Panamanian tanker/transport Sheherazade 20 miles west of Ship Shoal Buoy, Louisiana. Sheherazade is a French ship turned over to the U.S. War Shipping Administration (WSA). There are one dead and 58 survivors, who are rescued by shrimp boat Midshipman and fishing vessel 40 Fathoms. The rescue happens quickly enough that nine men are found swimming after having jumped overboard.

Norwegian 6049-ton freighter Haugarland hits a mine and sinks off Terschelling, Netherlands. It appears that everyone survives.

U.S. 9310-ton tanker F.W. Abrams hits a U.S.  defensive mine and sinks east of Morehead City, North Carolina (near Cape Hatteras). The 36 men on board make it to shore near Morehead City. A tug ("Relief") attempts salvage of the floating wreck without success.

U-87 mines the waters off Boston, Massachusetts, while U-373 mines the area near Delaware Bay.

Rommel in North Africa
General Rommel in his Sd.Kfz. 250 command truck, 11 June 1942 (Zwilling, Ernst A., Federal Archive Image 101I-443-1589-09).

Battle of the Mediterranean: German General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps occupies the fortress of Bir Hakeim, which has been a roadblock in his advance toward Tobruk. The Free French defenders have almost all escaped to British lines to the south save for a small rear guard left to delay the attackers. The French and British pull back from their advanced position outside the fortress to Gasr-el-Arid early in the morning, completing the breakout by 2700 men and women (there are some female nurses).

After finally clearing this obstacle, about which he later comments "seldom in Africa was I given such a hard-fought struggle," Rommel quickly resumes his offensive, sending the 15th Panzer and 90th Light Divisions toward El Adem. The British 201st Guard Brigade in the Knightbridge Box, which blocks the way to Tobruk to the east, comes under severe pressure. While the Allied defense of Bir Hakeim has seriously disrupted Rommel's overly ambitious timetable, his advance now regains momentum.

Molotov and FDR in Washington on 11 June 1942
Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt meet in Washington, D.C., to finalize the lend-lease agreement, 11 June 1942 (

US/Soviet Relations: The United States and Soviet Union sign a lend-lease agreement. The agreement contemplates "mutually advantageous economic relations" between the two powers, with the agreement to continue in force "until a date to be agreed upon by the two governments." U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Soviet Ambassador Maxim Litvinov sign for their respective governments.

Article 1 sets out the main purpose of the agreement:
The Government of the United States of America will continue to supply the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with such defense articles, defense services, and defense information as the President of the United States of America shall authorize to be transferred or provided.
This agreement, however, is not specific on certain key points. These become a lingering bone of contention during the post-war era. Significantly, the title to the equipment supplied by the U.S. is not transferred to the Soviet Union. The U.S. believes it still "owns" the items and retains rights to them, while the USSR believes it now owns them because they were freely given.

Technically, under the U.S. interpretation of the agreement, the Soviet Union is obligated to return any intact equipment or compensate the United States for it after the war. The USSR, perhaps understandably, has a vastly different interpretation. This leads to awkward exchanges between the two governments in the late 1940s in which the United States demands either the return of the intact equipment or payment for them, including limitations on the equipment's transfer to other countries. Ultimately, the United States simply demands payment for the "civilian-type articles remaining in existence."

Of course, the United States already has abandoned military equipment of its own at bases around the world because it is obsolete and considered too expensive to return to the homeland. Thus, there seem to be deeper reasons underlying the disagreement. It is entertaining to ponder the reactions of the Soviets when they receive these petty and abrasive demands for payment for goods they always assumed were given for free to win the war at the cost of Soviet blood. These pointless and unproductive "negotiations" help to poison the relations between the two nations and contribute to the growth of the Cold War, a hostile relationship that more or less continues to the present day.

An Avro Lancaster and its crew on 11 June 1942
An Avro Lancaster and the personnel and equipment needed to keep it flying. This photograph was taken at Scampton, Lincolnshire, on 11 June 1942.  © IWM CH 15362.

German Military: Adolf Hitler issues Führer Directive 32. It sets out operations to be undertaken after the defeat of the Soviet Union, including the capture of Gibraltar with or without Spain's cooperation and resumption of the "siege of England." It is a curious mixture of far-sighted planning and mundane objectives such as the capture of Tobruk. It presupposes the quick defeat of the USSR in the coming Case Blue summer offensive and, like many of Hitler's grand strategies, assumes launch conditions that do not yet exist.

U.S. Military: With the threat to the U.S. west coast vastly reduced due to the Japanese defeat at Midway, the 97th Bombardment Group deployed for emergency purposes on the coast is transferred back to New England for eventual movement to join the Eighth Air Force in Great Britain.

Holocaust: Adolf Eichmann holds a meeting for his underlings controlling Jewish Affairs in France, Belgium, and Holland. This meeting sparks a systemic deportation scheme for Jewish residents of those areas to the extermination camps in the East that affects tens of thousands of people.

German Homefront: Michael Kitzelmann, 26, is executed at Orel Prison after being court-martialed and convicted of crimes against the state. Kitzelmann, a Wehrmacht lieutenant, was denounced by a sergeant for saying things that "undermined the military." He was in a hospital being treated for wounds when the allegations against him were made, but apparently, he made them previously while serving on the Eastern Front. The statements apparently concerned certain atrocities that Kitzelmann witnessed against the Russian population. While Kitzelmann became outspoken, he also had earned the Iron Cross Second Class and the Wound Badge in Gold.

TheGerman Bundestag rehabilitated Kitzelmann on 8 September 2009. A plaque in his memory is at the Johann-Michael-Sailer-school in Dillingen an der Donau.

American Homefront: The New England Journal of Medicine reports a case of "internal anthrax," which is considered quite novel because the vast majority of cases are of the cutaneous type. The patient died after showing progressively worse symptoms and a full autopsy was performed. Penicillin, still in its experimental phase, will become the accepted treatment for anthrax in 1944. 

German Signal magazine from June 1942
Signal magazine, June 1942.