Sunday, April 17, 2022

June 13, 1942: British Disaster in North Africa

Saturday 13 June 1942

Bf-109 of Luftwaffe ace Hans-Joachim Marseille 13 June 1942
The Bf-109F4Trop of Luftwaffe ace Hans Joachim Marseilles (WNr 10137) of 3.JG27 near Bir Hackeim in North Africa, 13 June 1942. Note planes taking off in the background (Optiz, Richard, Federal Archive Picture 101I-443-1567-19).

Eastern Front: The Germans continue grinding forward toward the port of Sevastopol on 13 June 1942. In the northeast sector, the German 22nd Infantry Division attacks at 03:00 with the goal of taking the important Soviet fortress Fort Stalin. The Soviets have just 200 men to hold it. After brutal hand-to-hand fighting, the Germans take the critical fort, which controls the way to Severnaya Bay.

The Soviets counterattack, but the Germans, now in possession of the fort, hold it and wipe out a company of Soviet soldiers. The Germans lose 32 dead, two missing, and 126 wounded and now have a clear path into the port of Sevastopol. At Fuhrer Headquarters in East Prussia, General Halder notes with satisfaction that "According to reports from frontline commands, the enemy is beginning to soften." This is a good thing for 11th Army Commander General Erich von Manstein (undoubtedly the source of this "news") because Hitler has been threatening to withdraw attack forces and convert the battle into a siege due to its slow progress. This would rob Manstein and the 11th Army of the glory of a quick, victorious campaign, so he needs results soon.

Local Luftwaffe commander Wolfram Von Richtofen, though, is more concerned about turf wars. His flak guns (primarily 88mm) are also useful against ground targets, so the army keeps "borrowing" them without asking his permission. This has been a constant source of friction throughout the campaign that has reached the highest levels of local leadership. He vents his frustration in his diary today:
I keep all flak guns subordinate and deploy them together in great concentration at Schwepunkte [the point of attack] against ground targets. The army wants formally to control them and spread them throughout divisions and, therefore - as always, like last time at Kerch - fritter them away. The most basic reason: the competitive jealousy of the army's artillery [soldiers], to whom I cannot give my flak guns because they have obsolete ideas and want to deploy them according to the tactical viewpoints of Wallenstein [from the 17th Century]. I remain stubborn, and the army continues to rage.
While this sort of thing may seem minor, it is a vivid illustration of the inter-service rivalries and jealousies that characterize the Wehrmacht (and other armies to one extent or another).

In general, the Luftwaffe is having a great time over Crimea. The front is so confined that Richtofen can actually see the remaining Soviet airfields from his observation tower. He personally can see when they are preparing to take off (dust clouds erupt when the engines start) and alerts his own fighter units, which can shoot them down as they take off. "Destroyed 18 Russian [aircraft] in this manner today," he writes today in his diary, "four by bombing. It is great fun!"

P-40E in the Aleutian Islands, 13 June 1942
P-40 "Aleutian Warhawk," 13 June 1942. This 11th Fighter Squadron Curtiss P-40E, ship #19 and named "Ruthie Babe," taxis out on Umnak's steel matting to takeoff for patrol duty in the Aleutian Islands.

Farther north on the front, the Germans have been trying to corner a large partisan force led by Soviet General Mayor Belov in the vicinity of Bryansk. Operating in a heavily wood area, Belov has a heterogeneous force composed of partisans, airborne troops, regular army soldiers, trucks, wagons, and tanks. The weak link in the German effort is a thinly held road on the east (the Rollbahn) which Belov's forces have been able to cross basically at will because the Germans do not have enough troops to close it. The Germans finally succeed in building a screening line along the entire road about this date and await a breakout attempt.

The main concern among German leadership, though, is not these minor operations, but the looming main offensive on the southern front. General Halder notes with satisfaction success in one of the preliminary operations for Operation Blau. Operation Wilhelm is a shallow pincer operation launched by the Sixth Army on June 10th east of Kharkov by VIII Corps in the north near Volchansk and III Panzer Corps in the south near Chuguyev. The aim was to cross the Donetsk River and meet near Belyy Koloez. Today the pincers meet after III Panzer Corps fights through several lines of Soviet tanks. Halder notes with satisfaction, "Operation Volchansk has scored a fine success. Large enemy bodies encircled, 20,000 PWs [prisoners] so far." The total POW count after all the counting is done comes to 24,800. Another preliminary attack, Operation Fridericus II, is planned to begin in about a week.

Not everything is rosy in Rastenburg, however. Halder records a meeting with General Quartermaster (supply chief) Eduard Wagner regarding Blau. "Fuel problems. Computations indicate that the fuel reserve for 'Blau' will last only until mid-September." He also has a meeting with General Blumentritt about "Preparations for next winter," though nobody has any idea where the front will be then.

A more ominous entry is a meeting that Halder has with General Ochsner about the Crimean campaign. "Approach to chemical warfare of the part of the enemy powers (increasing interest)," Halder writes,  and the conversation then turns to "Conditions for gas warfare on the Volkhov river." The implication here is that Allied preparations for chemical warfare (some is being manufactured in Canada, for instance) may be used by the Germans as a pretext for actually using gas on the battlefield.

Luftwaffe reconnaissance of Sevastopol, 13 June 1942
Luftwaffe aerial reconnaissance of Sevastopol (Karantinna Bay, Artilleryskaya Bay, scale 1:8000), 13 June 1942 (Federal Archive Picture 168-278-020).

Battle of the Pacific: The victorious U.S. Navy carriers of Task Force 11 from the Battle of Midway return to Pearl Harbor, now commanded by Admiral Frank Fletcher aboard USS Saratoga. Fletcher's command is short-lived, however, as he disembarks today and is soon replaced. The Japanese fleet - what remains of it - is still a day away from a safe anchorage at Hashirajima.

The Japanese send 27 "Betty" bombers against the RAAF airfield at Port Darwin. Led by Lieutenant Commander Goro Katsumi of the Takao Ku, the bombers leave Koepang at 08:12, escorted by 45 "Zeke" fighters of the 3rd Ku. They are intercepted by 36 P-40 Warhawks of the 49th Fighter Group. The Americans lose three planes in the encounter, while the Japanese lose two Zekes. There are multiple accusations by American pilots that the Japanese strafed U.S. pilots in parachutes, though everyone survived. The bombers do get through and drop 19,980 kgs of bombs on the airfield, damaging the runways, water pipeline, fuel dum, and telephone poles. One Lockheed Hudson is damaged on the ground.

In Alaska, the USAAF 11th Air Force continues to harass the new Japanese presence on Kiska Island. Despite bad weather, it sends five B-17s three B-24 Liberators, and PBY Catalinas to bomb shipping there.

US submarine USS Sargo torpedoes and sinks Japanese troopship Konan Maru off Yap, Caroline Islands.

US Submarine Drum (SS-228) torpedoes and sinks Japanese freighter Shonan Maru northeast of Mikimoto, Honshu.

Japanese freighter Nagasaki Maru hits a Japanese mine and sinks off Nagasaki, Japan.

RAAF Hudsons attack Japanese shipping off Ambon, NEI (Indonesia), sinking auxiliary patrol boat Taifoku Maru and damaging gunboat Taiko Maru.

The USAAF 5th Air Force once again sends B-17 bombers to attack Lakunai Airfield at Rabaul.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: An unidentified Japanese submarine torpedoes and sinks 3748-ton Yugoslavian freighter Supetar in the Mozambique Channel about 100 nautical miles (190 km) south of Beira, Mozambique.

Crashed P-40, 13 June 1942
A downed P-40 after the 13 June 1942 Japanese raid on Port Darwin (Credit: "49th Fighter Group: Aces of the Pacific" by William N Hess).

European Air Operations: The weather continues to be poor on the Channel Front ("10/10ths" in pilot-speak). Many RAF units occupy themselves throughout the day with practice bombing, gas drills, aerobatics and formation flying, and similar exercises. There are some convoy patrols that do not find any enemy ships. 

Luftwaffe planes find 345-ton Dutch freighter Brabant off the coast of north Cornwall and sink it. there are no known casualties.

Battle of the Baltic: Soviet submarine Shch-405 has hit a mine and sinks in the Gulf of Finland off Someri Island, and today the Soviet Navy writes it off. The wreck is found in 2018. The Finns have an observation post on the island and the Soviets are considering sending a force to occupy it.

Battle of the Atlantic: US Coast Guard cutter USS Thetis drops depth charges on U-157 (KrvKpt. Wolf Henne), on its second patrol out of Lorient, northeast of Havana, Cuba, sinking it with all hands. All 52 aboard perish. U-157 ends its career with one victory of 6401 tons.

Italian submarine Leonardo Da Vinci torpedoes and uses its deck gun to sink 6438-ton British freighter Clan Macquarrie in the general vicinity of Freetown. There is one death, the Chief Engineer.

Before dawn, U-159 (Kptlt. Helmut Friedrich Witte), on its second patrol out of Lorient, pumps two torpedoes into 4693-ton US passenger ship / freighter Sixaola 50 miles off Bocas Del Toro, Panama. There are 29 deaths and 172 survivors. Most of the survivors are picked up by American gunboat USS Niagara (PG-52) and US Army tug Shasta, while 42 make landfall in a lifeboat.

U-159 gets another victim at sunset when it sends another two torpedoes into 6762-ton American freighter Solon Turman 100 miles north of Cristobal, Canal Zone. There are one death and 52 survivors. In both of these sinkings, the U-boat surfaces and offers assistance to the survivors before departing.

U.S. tanker Gulfprince has a close call six miles south of the Ship Shoals Sea Buoy off the coast of Louisiana when U-506 attacks it. The tanker evades two torpedoes, then evades a third. A fourth hits it but does not explode. Gulfprince scoots into New Orleans.

The Vichy French agree to immobilize aircraft carrier Béarn, light cruiser Emile Bertin, and training cruiser Jeanne D'Arc at Martinique, French West Indies.

Allied convoy forming up, 13 June 1942
An Allied convoy forms up to cross the Atlantic Ocean, 13 June 1942. (Naval Supply Corps Newsletter/Library of Congress).

Battle of the Mediterranean: German General Erwin Rommel's forces break out of the "Cauldon," routing British and South African forces trying to hold the Gazala Line. This becomes known as "Black Saturday" in the British Army.

The breakout begins when the 21st Panzer Division uses the cover of a sandstorm to attack the 2nd Scots Guards and 6th South African Anti-tank battery (eight guns) at Rigel Ridge, a key defensive position on the "Knightsbridge Box." The Guards Brigade is forced to withdraw after dark. Ultimately, the South African artillery unit is overrun, with the gunners firing at the approaching panzers over open sights. The Germans capture over 3000 prisoners and destroy 138 Allied tanks. 

British 8th Army now has only 75 armored vehicles remaining. This disaster compels British commander General Auchinleck to order a general retreat from the Gazala Line. This once again exposes Tobruk to attack. Auchinleck also is quickly falling out of favor with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

At sea, Axis forces continue their attacks on two Royal Navy convoys converging on Malta from opposite ends of the Mediterranean. The convoy heading from Gibraltar is Operation Harpoon, while that from Palestine and Egypt is Operation Julius.

The three separate convoys of Operation Julius assemble off of Mersa Matruh, Egypt, during the afternoon as the weather deteriorates. As a side effort, a submarine accompanying the convoy lands five commandos on Crete, and they destroy about 20 Luftwaffe aircraft at Maleme Airfield. This does not stop Axis air attacks, however, which begin after dark and last through the night, with the convoys illuminated by flares.

U-83 (Kptlt. Hans-Werner Kraus), on its eighth patrol out of Salamis, while patrolling off Al-Ramkin Island, Lebanon, uses its deck gun to sink 91-ton British schooner HMS Farouk. There are nine deaths and nine survivors.

Allied convoy heading toward Malta, 13 June 1942
Scene from one of the convoys to Malta on or about 13 June 1942 (© IWM A 10853).

Battle of the Black Sea: The Luftwaffe, which is once again permitted to operate over the Black Sea due to a secret deal between the local Luftwaffe commander and the head of local naval forces (and contrary to a standing order of overall Luftwaffe commander Wolfram von Richthofen), bombs and sinks Soviet transports Gruzyia and TSch-27, patrol boat SKA-092 and minesweeper T-413 off Cape Fiolent, motor ship SP-40, five barges, and a floating crane, most in Sevastopol Harbor.

The Soviets get one back with a pre-dawn attack on the German naval base at Yalta. Bombers hit the port while a Soviet MTB slips in and fires three torpedoes at the crowded port. It sinks the Italian mini-submarine CB-5 and causes damage to other vessels. This attack alarms local naval commander Konteradmiral Schweinitz and causes the Germans to send additional flak batteries to the port and for the Kriegsmarine to install anti-torpedo nets.

Spy Stuff: The four German saboteurs landed by U-2020 on Amagansett Beach (Operation Pastorius) on 12 June arrive in New York City and book hotel rooms in Manhattan. Up to now, they have strictly followed protocol and assumed that everyone else in their unit is devoted to the Third Reich. However, during the evening two of the men have a heart-to-heart and confess to each other that they oppose the regime and the mission.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guardsman who spotted the Germans during his normal foot patrol as they arrived, Seaman 2nd Class John C. Cullen, alerts his superiors. A search of the beach reveals their buried uniforms and equipment. The Coast Guard alerts the FBI and the White House. This begins a manhunt, but the authorities have no idea where to look. The incident is kept secret so as to not alarm the public.

The U.S. O.S.S. is formed by Executive Order on 13 June 1942
The OSS, the predecessor of the CIA, is created on 13 June 1942.

Applied Science: The US Navy uses non-rigid airship K-2 to test the Long Range Navigation (LORAN) system from the airship base at Lakehurst, New Jersey. This first airborne test is a success, as the equipment guides the airship from 50-75 miles offshore to, as the pilot says, "the middle of the hangar." 

US Military: The first issue of Yank magazine is published, dated 17 June 1942. The final issue is 28 December 1945.

The US 1st Armored Division in Northern Ireland receives the last of its tanks. The Americans hold a parade through town, and Sir Archibald Sinclair gives a speech. The US presence in Ireland is intended not just to build up an American military presence in the British Isles, but also to play on Irish sympathies for America. Americans, for instance, financed much of the Irish fight for independence and there are many Irish-Americans in the U.S. armed forces.

The Bureau of Navigation is renamed the Bureau of Naval Personnel.

German Military: Munitions Minister Albert Speer, General Adolf Galland, and General Erhard Milch visit Peenemunde to observe a test flight of the Me 163A. Three aircraft take off at once in a formation takeoff. The Me 163 Komet is a revolutionary rocket plane already has set a new world speed record (on 2 October 1941). While very fast, the plane still has some issues, such as a jettisonable undercarriage that makes landing an adventure.

US Government: President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9182, creating the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and Office of War Information (OWI). The former, which coordinates overseas espionage activities, is ultimately succeeded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The latter is a major propaganda initiative that results in the Voice of America (VOA), numerous patriotic radio programs that glorify the new U.S. ally Russia (such as "An American in Russia,"), and pro-war effort films and documentaries (such as "This is Our Enemy").  

Typical ad in the The New Yorker, 13 June 1942
Advertisement in The New Yorker, June 13, 1942 p. 9.

American Homefront: In her syndicated "My Day" column, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt writes:
In the morning paper I read that, not satisfied with wiping out the village of Lidice, the Germans have gone further and killed 34 more people in the cities of Prague and Bruenn ‘in reprisal.’ It does not seem to cross their minds that they are imprinting the name of this village on the minds of the people of the world. None of us will ever forget a little village named Lidice. Reprisals of this kind only bring more reprisals, so that it is an unending spiral of murder.
Roosevelt is correct that the name of Lidice will be long-remembered. The Germans have placed a bounty on the assassins of Reinhard Heydrich and given local communities until 18 June to turn them in.

Future History: Abdulsalami Abubakar is born in Minna, Northern Region, British Nigeria. He joins the new Nigerian Air Force in 1964, later transfers to the Nigerian Army, and becomes the 11th President of Nigeria in 1998 due to the military coup of 1983.

The Saturday Evening Post, 13 June 1942
The Saturday Evening Post of 13 June 1942.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

June 12, 1942: First US Air Raid On Occupied Europe

Friday 12 June 1942

Free French attack in North Africa, 12 June 1942
Free French on the attack near Bir Hackeim, 12 June 1942 © IWM E 13313.

Eastern Front: On vacation in Berchtesgaden, Adolf Hitler is full of hope and secret dread for the coming "decisive" summer offensive in the Soviet Union. The whole point of the attack, he muses, is to "clear the table" and win the war. "If I do not get the oil of Maikop and Grozny, then I must end this war," Hitler admits to his cronies.

The current attacks are not going well, let alone ones in the future. The assault on entrenched Russian defenses at the Crimean port of Sevastopol continues on 12 June 1942 without much progress by either side. The Soviets receive reinforcements when cruiser Molotov and destroyer Bditel'nyy evade the Axis blockade and deliver 2,314 soldiers, 190 tons of ammunition, and 28 artillery pieces to the besieged garrison.

German ground attacks continue without much success. In the critical northeast sector, LIV Corps continues its relentless attacks and loses 1957 men in the fighting of 11-12 June, but the Soviet defenders also are in bad shape. 

The Germans, though, are determined. Super-heavy artillery piece "Dora" and eleven 420 mm mortars open fire on Fort Stalin, which guards the approaches to Severnaya Bay but have little impact. Finally, a dive-bombing attack by Junkers  Ju-87 Stukas of StG 77 knocks out three of the fort's main 76.2 mm guns, and General Erich von Manstein's 11th Army assembles an attack force to take the fort for early on the morning of 13 June.

Resistance to superior orders is fairly common within the Wehrmacht, but everyone in uniform knows that it must be done "the right way." An example occurs today in Crimea. Luftwaffe General Wolfram von Richtofen has forbidden all air attacks in the Black Sea for fear of hitting Axis naval vessels. The local German naval commander, Vizeadmiral Gotting, vehemently disagrees, but von Richtofen's order is final and he will not listen to any complaints.

Accordingly, Gotting meets today in private with von Richtofen's naval liaison, Koneradmiral von Eyssen - who gives von Richtofen all of his naval information. Together they secretly agree that the order prohibiting Luftwaffe operations at sea is counterproductive and they jointly limit the order to a very small restricted zone directly off Crimea - without, of course, telling von Richtofen. Von Eyssen then coordinates this with Luftwaffe Oberst Wolfgang von Wild, who commands Lufftwaffe forces (Fliegerfuhrer Sud) operating over the Black Sea. Von Wild also agrees that von Richtofen's order is nonsense, and all three men subvert von Richtofen's direct order. This is the "right" way to disobey orders in the Third Reich and is done by different commanders throughout the war.

At Fuhrer Headquarters in East Prussia (Hitler is on vacation on the Obersalzberg), General Franz Halder has a disturbing conference with Vice Admiral Fricke and his aide. It is disturbing because, as Halder records in his diary, "Those people are dreaming in terms of continents." He writes that they "assume without another thought" massive German land victories that will obtain ports on the Persian Gulf and on the East African coast. "The problems of the Atlantic," Halder notes with incredulity, "are treated with off-hand superiority and those of the Black Sea with criminal unconcern."  Halder, of course, has first-hand information on just how precarious the Axis position in the USSR really is.

Battle of the Pacific: Both sides are heading for home following the decisive American victory at Midway Island. Admiral Frank Fletcher, in command aboard USS Saratoga, is one day's sail from Pearl Harbor, while Admiral Nagumo is still two days' sail from Hashirajima. the Americans are eagerly publicizing their victory, while the Japanese are keeping their losses a guarded secret known only to the Emperor and a small number of high-ranking naval personnel.

USS Swordfish (Lt. Cdr. Chester C. Smith SS-193), operating northwest of Poulo Wai in the Gulf of Siam (later Gulf of Thailand), torpedoes and sinks Japanese freighter Burma Maru. The wreck is discovered in February 2017.

Japanese submarine I-21, operating off the east coast of Australia, torpedoes and sinks 5527-ton Panamanian coke freighter Guatemala while on the surface. The freighter is traveling in an eight-ship convoy from Newcastle to Whyalla, such convoys having been organized only recently due to the recent submarine assault on Sydney Harbor. HMAS Doomba picks up the crew, all of whom survive.

In China, the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) has a big day. At dawn, the 1st Squadron shoots down four Ki-27 Nate bombers and five other twin-engine plans over Kweilin (Guilin, on the west bank of the Li River).

B-17s of the 5th Air Force bomb Lakunai Airfield and Vunakanau at the Japanese main overseas base of Rabaul.

NY Times 12 June 1942
NY Times, 12 June 1942.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: Japanese submarine I-10 shells and sinks 2052-ton Panamania freighter Hellenic Trader in the northwestern Mozambique Channel near Bahla de Cruz. Later in the day, I-10 torpedoes and sinks 5064-ton British freighter Cliftonhall.

Japanese submarine I-16 torpedoes and sinks 3748-ton Yugoslav freighter Supetar in the Mozambique Channel near Cabo de Sao Sebastiao.

Japanese submarine I-20 shells and sinks 5063-ton British freighter Clifton Hall in the Mozambique Channel off Angoche, Mozambique.

European Air Operations: A small force of a dozen U.S. Army Air Force B-24 Liberators flying from northeast Egypt bomb the Ploesti, Romania, oil fields after taking off at 22:30 on 11 June. The bombing is extremely inaccurate due to poor weather and no appreciable damage is caused. The bombers encounter flak and a few enemy fighters. Altogether, the planes drop 24 tons of bombs, with a thirteenth bomber attacking the port of Constanta. The bombers then proceed on to Habbaniyah, Iraq, making this an early example of shuttle bombing. Four bombers make it to Habbaniyah, while the others land at other fields in Iraq and Syria. Four of the bombers land in Turkey and their crews are interned. 

This is the first offensive mission by U.S. planes over Europe during World War II. General Dwight D. Eisenhower comments drily that the failed attack "did something to dispel the illusion that big planes could win the war." The bombers are from the Halverson Project 63, or HALPRO and have flown across the Atlantic for the mission. This small force forms the genesis of the 1st Provisional Bombardment Group (PBG) and the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group, completing another 450 missions.

The poor weather of spring 1942 continues and gets worse throughout the day on the Channel Front, but it is mild enough in the morning and early afternoon for some operations.

Group Captain Ken Gatward and navigator Flight Sargeant George Fern conduct The Beaufighter Raid on Paris, or Operation Squabble. This has been delayed for a month due to poor weather. This is a daring propaganda strafing run on a German parade down the Champs-Élysées that includes dropping Tricolor flags on prominent monuments (the Arc de Triomphe and the French Naval Ministry, currently being used as Kriegsmarine headquarters).

The two men take off from RAF Thorney Island in rain and clouds, but the weather clears sufficiently to carry out the mission. Flying at an extremely low altitude, the Beaufighter circles the Eiffel Tower at 12:27 and then heads for the Champs-Élysées. It turns out there is no German military parade (it hasn't begun yet), but the men drop the flags as intended. After strafing the Ministry building, the men return to RAF Northolt at 13:53. During the strafing run, the plane suffers a birdstrike, and the French crow is found in the starboard radiator. Gatward receives the DFC and Fern the DFM for their efforts.

RAF aircraft of Coastal Command engage in routine convoy patrols. They bomb and sink 1497-ton Swedish freighter Senta 30 nautical miles Cuxhaven, Germany (near the Weser River). There are no casualties.

RAF Beaufighter, 12 June 1942
Beaufighter Mk IC T4800 code ND-C of No. 236 Squadron RAF on the ground at Wattisham Suffolk 12 June 1942.

Battle of the Baltic: Swedish 1046-ton Bojan hits a mine and sinks off Saßnitz, Germany.

Battle of the Atlantic: German cruiser Michel, operating off the coast of Brazil, on 6 June had spotted the disabled 7176-ton U.S. freighter George Clymer and launched its MTB Esan. The MTB torpedoed the freighter and the crew abandoned ship. However, the ship remained afloat, and the crew re-embarked. British armed merchant cruiser HMS Alcantara has remained in the vicinity of the badly damaged ship since arriving on the scene on 8 June, but today departs, leaving the freighter still afloat. It is assumed that George Clymer eventually sinks.

U-158 (Kptlt. Erwin Rostin), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks US 8192-ton tanker Cities Service of Toledo 20 miles east of the Trinity Shoal Buoy in the Gulf of Mexico. There are 15 deaths.

U-124 (Kptlt. Johann Mohr), on its ninth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 4093-ton British freighter Dartford south of Cape Race. There are 17 survivors and 30 deaths.

U-129 (Kptlt. Hans-Ludwig Witt), on its fifth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 9005-ton refrigerated cargo freighter Hardwicke Grange 120 nautical miles (220 km) north of Puerto Rico. There are three deaths and 78 survivors. The survivors are in four lifeboats for two weeks, and each lifeboat lands in a different country: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Haiti.

German 125-ton minesweeper M-4212 (formerly Belgian trawler Marie-Frans) hits a mine and sinks south of Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains, France. The mine was laid previously by French submarine Rubis.

Map of North African campaign, 12 June 1942
Map of North African campaign, 12 June 1942.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The British in the El Adem "box" are under intense pressure by General Erwin Rommel's 15th Panzer Division and give ground as the Germans attempt to break out of  "the Cauldron." The 2nd and 4th Armoured Brigades retreat 6 km (3.7 miles) in disarray, leaving only the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade holding its ground. Rommel orders the 21st  Panzer Division to join the attack on the 13th. A breakthrough here would open a pathway to Tobruk.

The Allies are only in as good a situation as they are due to the previous stout Free French defense at Bir Hakeim. Now that the fortress has fallen, the Germans can bring much greater pressure to bear on the British. Today, General Auchinleck praises the French, saying, "The United Nations need to be filled with admiration and gratitude in respect of these French troops and their brave General Kœnig."

While the intense Luftwaffe air campaign against Malta has eased in recent weeks, it remains in a precarious position due to supply shortages. Today, the Royal Navy begins Operations Harpoon and Vigorous, typical convoy missions to the embattled island. Harpoon sets out from Haifa, Palestine, while Vigorous begins at Gibraltar.

Convoy MW4 leaves Gibraltar heading east with six merchantmen (the British Troilus, Burdwan and Orari, the Dutch Tanimbar, the American Chant, and the tanker Kentucky) carrying 43,000 short tons (39,000 t) of cargo and oil. It is protected by Force X, which includes distant cover by battleship HMS Malaya and aircraft carriers Argus and Eagle.

The westward operation is a little more complicated. Convoy MW-11a embarks from Haifa with five merchantmen (British Ajax, City of Edinburgh, City of Pretoria, City of Lincoln, and Elizabeth Bakke) heading west. It is escorted by the 7th destroyer flotilla. This convoy has trouble immediately when Elizabeth Bakke is ordered back to port because it cannot maintain station due to overloading and its poor condition. Convoy MW11b departs from Alexandria, Egypt, with a tanker (Bulkoil), a merchantman (Potaro), and a decommissioned battleship (Centurion) being used as a freighter. It is escorted by five destroyers, four corvettes, and two rescue ships (Antwerp and Malines). There also is a third convoy from this direction that departs from Port Said, MW-11C, composed of freighters Aagtekirk, Bhutan, City of Calcutta, and Rembrandt.

The objective is to confuse and disperse the Axis defenses with all of these simultaneous convoys. In theory, this should enable maximum resupply of the island despite inevitable losses.

Unknown to the British, the Axis knows all about these operations already due to a major security breach by the US Military Attaché in Egypt, Colonel Bonner Fellers. Italian military intelligence (Servizio Informazioni Militare) has broken the American code and thus has deciphered Fellers' detailed reports to Washington. While not strictly Fellers' fault, better precautions could have avoided this. In any event, this incident proves that codebreaking during World War II was not just a one-way street that benefited only the Allies.

With the Axis ready and waiting, the attacks begin almost immediately. In the evening, 15 Junkers Ju 88 bombers of I Kampfgeschwader 54 based in Crete attack MW-11c. They score a near-miss on City of Calcutta, which slows it and forces the freighter to divert to Tobruk along with its towed MBT, escorted by two escorts. During the night, MW-11c slows to arrange a rendezvous with the other two convoys off Mersa Matruh.

Separately, U-77 (Kptlt. Heinrich Schonder), on its sixth patrol out of La Spezia, torpedoes and sinks the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Grove (L77) off Sollum, Egypt. The ship sinks in 14 minutes with 110 deaths and 79 survivors. Escort destroyer HMS Tetcott picks up the survivors.

SS Hardwicke Grange, sunk on 12 June 1942
British refrigerated freighter Hardwicke Grange, sunk by U-129 on 12 June 1942.

Spy Stuff: U-202 (Kptlt. Hans-Heinz Linder), on its sixth patrol out of Brest, arrives off the south coast of Long Island, New York, in early-morning darkness and disembarks four German spies/saboteurs. The four men land at Amagansett. This is Operation Pastorius, one of a series of such operations planned to disrupt the economy of the United States. They are wearing German Navy uniforms to avoid being shot as spies if captured during the landing. However, upon landing and finding themselves alone on the beach, they quickly change into civilian clothes and bury their uniforms and other equipment.

A problem quickly develops when Coast Guardsman John C. Cullen spots the men posing as fishermen on a raft. Cullen also notices the submarine and sees that the men are armed. He approaches them, and the spies give Cullen $200 to keep quiet. Cullen takes the money but alerts his superiors later in the day, by which time the four spies have taken the LIRR into Manhattan.

Anne Frank's diary, begun on 12 June 1942
The first page of Anne Frank's diary, written on 12 June 1942.

Holocaust: In Amsterdam, Anne Frank is gifted a red-and-white plaid diary on her thirteenth birthday. The Franks, German Jewish refugees, have not yet gone into hiding. Her first entry begins, "On Friday, June 12th, I woke up at six o’clock and no wonder; it was my birthday." Later in the entry, she says, "I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support."

US Military: The US Army activates the 100th Infantry Battalion, composed of Japanese-Americans from Hawaii.

German Military: Oblt. Egon Albrecht becomes Staffelkapitaen of 1./ZG 1.

George Bush joins the US Navy, 12 June 1942
George Bush during World War II.

Russian Homefront: Russian revolutionary Anna Yakimova dies in Novosibirisk, aged 86. She was a prime early agitator against the Tsar around the turn of the 20th Century.

American Homefront: In the evening, a tornado hits the southwest section of Oklahoma City near Will Rogers Airfield. Local sources (the Ada Evening News) report 21 dead, 25 critically injured, and 250 made homeless.

Future President George Herbert Walker Bush graduates from high school and immediately enlists in the U.S. Navy despite already having been admitted to Yale University.

Future History: Bert Sakmann is born in Stuttgart, German Reich. He grows up to become a noted cell physiologist who wins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Erwin Neher in 1991. As of this writing, Sakmann leads an emeritus research group at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Heidelberg, Germany.

Memorial to the 100th Infantry Brigade, activate on 12 June 1942
Brothers in Valor Monument in Honolulu, Hawaii, commemorating the 100th Infantry Battalion and other Japanese-American units in World War II (Photo: Sarah Sundin).


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.


Friday, November 26, 2021

June 10, 1942: Germans Destroy Town of Lidice to Retaliate for Heydrich Assassination

Wednesday 10 June 1942

Elephants rescuing refugees in Burma, 10 June 1942
A still from a film taken by Gyles Mackrell, the tea planter who used elephants to save refugees in Burma. (Source: Cambridge University/PA).

Eastern Front: Army Group South begins Operation Wilhelm, a short envelopment across the Donets River east of Kharkov, on 10 June 1942. This is not the opening of the main summer offensive, but just a preliminary attack to improve the launching pad for Case Blue. The offensive launches in rainy weather when III Panzer Corps captures two bridges across the Burluk River and turns upstream. The VIII Corps attacks north of Volchansk, taking three bridges on the Donets and bypassing Volchansk on the northeast.

While Army Group South commander Field Marshal Fedor von Bock calls the day's results "gratifying" and General Halder notes the attack has "started off well," the rain slows down the tanks and disrupts the tight timeline. Only the infantry keeps trudging along. The plan is for Sixth Army's VIII Corps to turn south once east of Volchansk to meet First Panzer Army's III Panzer Corps heading up from the south. Speed is of the essence, both because this is only one of a sequence of operations on the docket that all depend on each other's success and because the Germans want to trap the Soviet 28th Army west of the pincers before it can escape to the east.

Meanwhile, General Erich von Manstein's siege of Sevastopol continues to stumble. The Red Army forces in the port launch a counterattack today that is stopped with the heavy assistance of the Luftwaffe dropping anti-personnel bombs on them. No Axis progress at all is made in the south, where the 30th Corps is stopped by the 109th Rifle Division. Soviet defenses on the Sapun Ridge (Sapun-gora) prove highly resistant to Axis attacks. The German bright spot is in the north, where the 132d Infantry Division clears the Haccius Ridge, while the Soviets hold the Maxim Gorky fort only due a fierce defense put up by the Soviet 1st Battalion of the 241st Rifle Regiment.

At Fuhrer Headquarters, General Halder has a lot to say today, mostly coming across as a pundit who has no personal stake or influence on what he is describing, like a football announcer who has no impact on what he is saying:
Notwithstanding heavy enemy counterattacks, good progress at Sevastopol. It appears that the enemy has moved artillery and infantry from the southern sector to the threatened northern sector; the attack tomorrow, therefore, is to be launched with maximum surprise.
In other words, the initiative is no longer completely in German hands. In any event, the whole campaign in Crimea is a sideshow and is not expected to have a significant effect on the larger war.

The stress is getting to  Luftwaffe commander General Wolfram von Richthofen. He becomes obsessed that there will be "friendly fire" incidents on Kriegsmarine ships and submarines. The commander of the German Black Sea Fleet (Admiral Schwarzes Meer) Vice-Admiral Friedrich Götting obligingly orders ships to sport prominent large Swastika flags as identification.

However, this good-faith gesture does not mollify Richtofen. Konteradmiral (Rear-Admiral) Robert Eyssen then sends Götting a message:
As it is impossible always to be informed if and when submarines and light forces of the German and Italian navies are in Crimean waters, Commanding General, 8th Air Corps [von Richthofen], has given orders prohibiting his planes from making any attacks whatsoever on any submarines or light forces, including Russian vessels in the entire Black Sea.
This is a strange situation, as there haven't been any friendly-fire incidents involving the ships. It leaves everyone but Richthofen shaking their heads. Götting is confused and exclaims:
There is no valid reason why these air attacks on submarines and light forces should be prohibited in the whole Black Sea area, as at present the German and Italian E-boats and submarines are only operating in the Crimean area.
Working behind von Richthofen's back, Götting then has Eyssen discreetly talk the matter over with the commander of Luftwaffe planes operating out to sea and not near Sevastopol where mistakes are likeliest, General Wolfgang von Wild. Eyssen and Von WIld privately agree that the prohibition makes no sense. Von Wild agrees to disobey this clear order and continue air attacks at sea (which the Kriegsmarine wants) outside of a small zone near Sevastopol.

This is a classic case of how these types of matters are handled in the Wehrmacht, technically insubordinate but just adapting to reality. It happens more and more as the war goes on, Wehrmacht fortunes deteriorate, and the German situation does not match up with Adolf Hitler's perception of reality.
Sunken Soviet ship at Sevastopol, 10 June 1942
Abkhaziya after the 10 June 1942 Luftwaffe attack.

Luftwaffe Junkers Ju-88 bombers catch Soviet passenger/ cargo ship Abkhaziya at port in Sevastopol and sink it. Eight people lose their lives. The ship is raised after the war and broken up. The bombers also sink Soviet destroyer Svobodny (or Svobodney) at the south bay at Sevastopol. Svobodny has a crew of 271, but casualties are unknown.

Operation Kreml, a Wehrmacht deception campaign, shifts into high gear today. Army, corps, and division staffs begin holding meetings to discuss resuming the offensive toward Moscow by 1 August. The Luftwaffe also increases reconnaissance flights over Moscow and surrounding areas. Only the top people such as chiefs of staff and branch chiefs know the entire concept of an offensive toward Moscow is a complete sham and that the true orientation of the summer offensive is toward Stalingrad.
USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor, 10 June 1942
USS West Virginia (BB-48) is shown still in a Pearl Harbor drydock getting its damage from the 7 December 1941 raid repaired. Photo was taken 10 June 1942. In a few months, it will sail to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for permanent repairs. (US Navy). 

Battle of the Pacific: The Imperial Japanese Navy today reports the results of the Battle of Midway to the military liaison conference in deliberately vague terms in order to not lose face after its staggering losses there. Admiral Chūichi Nagumo is not present and will not submit a detailed report until 15 June. The main Japanese goal now is to hide the results of the defeat as completely as possible, and elaborate steps are planned to do this once the fleet returns to Japan.

As part of this deception campaign, Tokyo radio today grandly announces the unopposed occupation of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians as a "great victory." US Patrol Wing 4 is flying patrols over the two islands and now knows that they are occupied, but this silly broadcast could have given the US significant information under slightly different circumstances. In any event, this is an example of the blatant propaganda of World War II. Just to be fair, the Allies sometimes hide their own losses as long as possible, too (see, for example, the sinking of HMS Barham, sunk on 25 November 1941), but this takes disinformation that is not outright lying (what is broadcast is reasonably accurate, it's just the emphasis and omissions that make this pure deception) to another level.

Some practical steps based on the failed tactics of the battle are taken. From now on, returning planes will be refueled and re-armed on the flight deck rather than taken below to the hangars. All unused fuel lines are to be drained in order to reduce the chance of catastrophic fires. New carrier designs are prepared to incorporate only two flight deck elevators, which proved to be a severe vulnerability of the old designs. Enhanced training in damage control and firefighting is mandated, but this is commonly seen as "unheroic" and instituted more in theory than actual practice. 

The Japanese reaction is understandable and does contain some good ideas, but the Japanese economy cannot replace the losses with nearly the capability of US industry. It is a classic case of "shutting the barn door after the horses have escaped." Training of replacement pilots must be accelerated, and this causes a drop in quality right when USAAF pilots are benefiting from their combat experience. The experienced crews, meanwhile, become overworked and dispirited, adding to the problems. The ships can and will be replaced, but the veteran pilots cannot.

The Japanese practice of mistreating prisoners that has permeated the war in the Pacific to date continues. While the Japanese attempt to cover their tracks carefully, they savagely execute the three U.S. Navy airmen taken prisoner during the battle in medieval style. Two are killed by tieing them to water-filled gasoline cans and then throwing them overboard.

Fifth Air Force raids Rabaul, bombing airfields and buildings.

In Sydney Harbour, Australian authorities use a crane to raise mini-submarine M-21 from the depths. Four Japanese crew members of the submarines are cremated and buried today with full naval honors at the Eastern Suburbs Crematorium.

Convoy OC 1, the first from Melbourne to Newcastle, begins today. This is part of tightened control over commercial sea traffic around Australia as a result of the Japanese attacks at Sydney Harbour and elsewhere.
USRaising a sunken Japanese mini-submarine at Sydney Harbor, 10 June 1942
A floating crane raising mini-submarine No. 21 in Sydney Harbour, 10 June 1942. Source: Australian War Memorial 30588.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: Gyles Mackrell, a 53-year-old British tea exporter in the Indian provinces of Assam, uses about 20 elephants with Indian drivers to rescue at least 68 Burmese refugees (his own claim in his diary) or perhaps over 200 people (modern scholarship) fleeing the Japanese invaders across the treacherous Daphna River (swollen by monsoon rains) to India. Some are trapped on an island in the middle of the river that later washes away after the rescue. The elephants must walk more than 100 miles to even reach the river. The operation continues through the summer in spite of an order from British authorities to end it. Mackrell becomes known as "The Elephant Man" and is awarded the George Medal.

European Air Operations: The weather is 7/10th Cumulus clouds at 1500 feet (meters), so missions for the day are mostly scrubbed. The pilots spend the day watching combat films by Station Intelligence and the men find other ways to occupy themselves.
SS Surrey, sunk by U-68 on 10 June 1942
SS Surrey, sunk by U-68 on 10 June 1942, under way.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-68 (KrvKpt. Karl-Friedrich Merten), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks three British freighters, 8581-ton Surrey, 5025-ton Ardenvohr, and 5882-ton Port Montreal, all northeast of the Panama Canal.

In the first action, Merten fires three torpedoes at Surrey, two of which hit, and one at Ardenvohr. Of the two ships, Ardenvohr sinks quicker, within about eight minutes. About 45 minutes after the first strikes on Ardenvohr, Merten fires a coup de grâce that fails to explode, and then a second that does. There is an unusual incident when Merten picks up a British seaman from Surrey found clinging to a buoy to rescue him, then finds a lifeboat and lets the man join his crewmates. There are a dozen dead and 55 survivors of Surrey and one dead and 70 survivors from Ardenvohr.

Five or six hours later, Merten spots Port Montreal about 178 miles north of Cristobal, Panama. The ship's crew also spots U-68, but it is too late. As it turns to run, the freighter is hit by a torpedo in the stern and this causes it to sink fast. Merten describes it in his personal war diary as a lucky hit. It may have been luckier than that for the ship's crew, because Port Montreal is carrying 7500 tons of ammunition that could have created quite an explosion if the ship had been hit broadside. There are two dead and 86 survivors, who are picked up on 16 June by Colombian schooner Hiloa.

U-94 (Oblt. Otto Ites), on its ninth patrol out of St. Nazaire, also makes a convoy attack and hits multiple ships, this time southeast of Cape Farewell. All three torpedoes strike, though it is unclear which ship got hit twice. In any event, both ships sink. The victims are two British freighters, 4855-ton Ramsay and 6147-ton Empire Clough. There are eight survivors and 40 dead on Ramsay and five dead and 44 survivors on Empire Clough. Survivors of the ships are picked up by Portuguese trawler Argus, escort destroyer HMS Vervain (K 190), and the escort destroyer HMS Dianthus (K 95).
Allied soldiers enjoying a day at the club in Beirut  on 10 June 1942
"Original wartime caption: The British swimming club at Beirut is a popular rendezvous for both Free French and British forces." 10 June 1942. © IWM E 13191.

U-129 (Kptlt. Hans-Ludwig Witt), on its fifth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 4362-ton Norwegian freighter L.A. Christensen well east of Miami while en route from Durban to Philadelphia. The ship sinks within 12 minutes, but the crew has enough time to launch the lifeboats and all 31 crewmen survive. They are picked up after 12 hours by Norwegian freighter Bill. This is the first victory in a very successful cruise by U-129 during which it sinks over 40,000 tons of shipping.

U-107 (Kptlt. Harald Gelhaus) is usually credited with the sinking of 2606-ton US freighter Merrimack about 60 miles from Cozumel Island, Mexico. I have my doubts, because my records show that U-107 is in between patrols on 10 June 1942, but it's possible. More likely in my view is that an unidentified Italian submarine did the deed. Anyway, most of the crew abandons ship in one overcrowded lifeboat (the other is destroyed by the explosion). Unfortunately, all in the boat perish when it is sucked into the freighter's still-spinning propeller. Other men, including the master, simply jump overboard and make it to rafts. This proves to be the more successful strategy. Overall, 31 crewmen survive and 43 perish, with the lucky men in the water spotted by a PBY Catalina and picked up by USS Borie (DD 215).

Speaking of Italian submarines, Leonardo da Vinci uses its deck gun and a torpedo to sink 5483-ton Dutch freighter Alioth the ship is en route from Birkenhead to Capetown. I can't find a more precise location, but Italian submarines tend to operate south of the Mediterranean and often in the general vicinity of Sierra Leone. I'm guessing this was near Freetown. Everybody survives. This sinking is sometimes listed as occurring on 11 June 1942. Italian submarine captain records tend to be much spottier than their more precise and detailed Kriegsmarine counterparts.

Soviet submarine D-3 ("Krasnovgardeyets") mysteriously sinks with all hands in Varangerfjord, Norway (at the most northeastern portion of Norway, north of Finland). One theory is that the submarine hit a mine.

Norwegian 6049-ton freighter Haugarland hits a mine and sinks in the North Sea off Terschelling, Netherlands. The ship takes a day to sink, so this is usually listed as occurring on 11 June 1942.

Royal Navy 96-ton drifter Groundswell, being used as minesweeper under the name Trusty Star, either hits a mine and sinks off Malta or is sunk there in an air raid. Either way, casualties are unknown.
British Army war maneuvers near Sudbury on 10 June 1942
"Universal carriers and infantry of 10th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment advance 'under fire' during training near Sudbury in Suffolk, 10 June 1942." © IWM H 20536

Battle of the Mediterranean: Fierce air battles continue above the fortress of Bir Hakeim, with the RAF's Desert Air Force flying more slightly more sorties than the Axis but also losing more planes. The Free French at Bir Hakeim begin retreating in small groups from Bir Hakeim during the early morning hours but continue to maintain the defense of the fortress throughout the day. The French are almost out of ammunition but manage to hold their lines against a determined Afrika Korps attack in the north. The Messmer and Lamaze units counterattack to restore the line, supported by Bren Gun Carriers, but expend their last mortar rounds during the day. The French are reduced to searching the corpses of their comrades for rifle ammunition.

After dark, the French send sappers to clear mines from the western side of the fortress to open an escape route and General Kœnig drives out around 20:30 in a Ford ambulance driven by Susan Travers, the only (unofficial at this time) female member of the French Foreign Legion who is assigned tot he medical detail. Kœnig and Travers barely make it out in their bullet-ridden vehicle. A small force of the Foreign Legion remains behind at the fort to disguise the retreat.

The Axis troops quickly get wind of this retreat and send up a flare, showing the column of French vehicles heading west and south. The 90th Light Division tries to block the road, but Kœnig orders the column to blast through, which it does during a wild mêlée in the dark. British troops of the 550 Company Royal Army Service Corps (RASC), escorted by the 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) and the 2nd Rifle Brigade, assist the breakout from the south. Despite suffering many casualties, including the day's hero, Lamaze, Capitaine Charles Bricogne, and Lieutenant Dewey, most of the French manage to escape to British lines at Bir el Gubi. Foreign Legion commander Amilakhvari performs the sacrificial duty of remaining in command of a skeleton force holding out in the fortress.

Everyone with a map can see that Tobruk is in danger, so the British ramp up their supply activities to the port. That leads to a great deal of activity along the convoy route and some Allied losses today.

U-559 (Kptlt. Hans Heidtmann), on its eighth patrol out of Salamis, attacks two ships in Convoy AT-49 heading to Tobruk. At 04:56, Heidtmann attacks the convoy by firing three torpedoes and reports hits on a tanker and freighter. The former is 4681-ton Norwegian tanker Athene, which blazes for a full day before sinking due to its cargo of 600 tons of aviation fuel. There are 14 dead and 17 survivors. The latter ship is 5917-ton British oiler Brambleleaf, whose crew abandons ship and are picked up by RHS Vasilissa Olga (D 15) (seven dead and 53 survivors). Brambleleaf is towed to Alexandria, where it is used as an oil hulk until it suddenly sinks on 15 September 1944.

U-81 (Kptlt. Friedrich Guggenberger), on its seventh patrol out of Salamis, torpedoes and sinks 2073-ton British freighter Havre in the same Tobruk convoy. There are 20 dead and 30 survivors, who are picked up by British armed trawler HMS Parktown.

Operation Harpoon, another complicated convoy operation with British ships sailing from both ends of the Mediterranean to resupply Malta and British forces in Egypt, begins today. It is under the command of Admiral Vian on the Alexandria side and Admiral Curteis on the Gibraltar side. Some freighter sail independently, depending on the convoys to distract the Axis defenses.
HMS Trusty Star, sunk on 10 June 1942
HMS Trusty Star, sunk 10 June 1942, on the seafloor. Source: Gration, Dave, Heritage Malta.  

Partisans: German and Ustaše authorities begin the Kozara Offensive, an attack against partisan forces around the mountain of Kozara in the former Yugoslavia. The Germans supply 15,000 soldiers and the Independent State of Croatia over 20,000. The Hungarians supply five monitor ships.

As with most anti-partisan operations, the Kozara Offensive suffers from the difficulty of telling actual partisans from ordinary civilians. The mountainous, forested terrain also gives the defenders ample opportunities to take potshots at the advancing Axis forces from concealment. This leads to several times as many casualties on the Axis side. The partisan forces concentrate their units in the city of Široka Luka, with a major formation led by Josip Broz Tito. The Axis troops take many captives, but it is difficult to tell the partisans and civilians apart and the Germans wind up shipping them from Kozara to Sajmište concentration camp.

Applied Science: The US Navy establishes Project Sail at NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island. This program will perform airborne testing of Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) and other advanced projects such as 10 cm radar.

US/Soviet Relations: Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov is in Washington, D.C., as the Allies attempt to iron over some differences in strategy. Stalin wanted an invasion of northwestern Europe in 1941, and Molotov now presses home the urgent need for one in 1942. However, President Franklin Roosevelt fobs him off with vague phrases and unenforceable "wishes" and "hopes" that it might happen. In fact, Roosevelt knows that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have no plans whatsoever for an invasion of France in 1942. Instead, they are beginning to look at North Africa as the place to start. As a sign of good faith and comity among allies despite their other disagreements, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and  Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov jointly sign a new Lend-Lease Agreement.

US Military: The second contingent of the 1st Armored Division arrives at Belfast on passenger ship Oriente. The division still does not have its full complement of tanks. Other soldiers from the 141st Armored Signals Company arrive on Dutchess of York, and the 47th Armored Medical Battalion arrives on SS North King.

German Military: Bernhard Woldenga, Geschwaderkommodore of JG 27, is promoted to a staff posting. The Luftwaffe often does this with officer pilots who are considered too valuable to lose in combat (Adolf Galland is the best example of this) or too vulnerable to keep flying for some reason. Woldenga is ill, so this case is probably the latter reason. Replacing him is Major Eduard Neumann replaces Woldenga, Hptm. Gerhard Homuth replaces Neumann as Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 27, and Oblt. Hans-Joachim Marseilles replaces Homuth as Staffelkapitaen of 3./JG 27. This is quite a change of fate for Marseilles, who began his Luftwaffe career as a virtual outcast due to his unorthodox ways.
Germans destroy Lidice on 10 June 1942
German occupation authorities blow up the town of Lidice, 10 June 1942. Source: Lidice Memorial.

German Homefront: Having decided for spurious reasons that the Czech village of Lidice (20 km west of Prague) harbored the assassins of Reinhard Heydrich, the local authorities destroy the town. The operation is savage and permanent. The town has 503 residents and all who are found are disposed of in some fashion. 

The Germans arrive right after midnight and herd all the villagers into the main square. The Germans shoot all 173-199 men aged 14 to 84 that they find at a local farmhouse and send 195 women to Ravensbrück concentration camp (four pregnant women are forced to have abortions and then are sent to the camp). Women who refuse to leave their husbands are shot with them. The women are not told what happened to their husbands. The Germans make a point of tracking down village residents who happen to be out of town that day and kill them, too. The authorities then destroy every building and even dig up the town cemetery. 

The men are stood in long rows and there they fall. The photos show them laid out in eerily precise order in rows outside the farmhouse awaiting burial. Inmates at local concentration camp Terezin are made to dig mass graves for the victims.

Of the 95 children in Lidice, 81 are sent to Chelmno extermination camp in Łódź, Poland, to die, while eight or nine who have Germanic features are adopted by German families after first being brought to Puschkau, Poland, to learn German ways. In all, only 17 children survive the war. One of them, Václav Zelenka, later becomes mayor of the rebuilt town of Lidice.

The Germans carefully the results of the operation. They show it proudly widely to illustrate to anyone thinking of challenging their rule what might happen to their homes, too. It becomes worldwide news and helps harden hearts against the Third Reich.

The Germans also plan to destroy the smaller Czech village of Ležáky, which actually does have a connection to the Allies as evidenced by a forbidden radio transmitter belonging to Operation Silver A, a three-man Czech squad trained and inserted by the British SOE and RAF that is separate from, but assisted, Operation Anthropoid (the mission to assassinate Heydrich). All adults in Ležáky are to be killed and the leader of Silver A, Alfréd Bartoš, commits suicide.

The two agents who assassinated Heydrich, Jozef Gabčík, Jan Kubiš, remain at large despite a massive German manhunt. They are being shuttled between safe houses provided by the Jindra group. Frustrated, the Germans have adopted a carrot-and-stick approach to this problem, offering a huge reward and threatening further savage reprisals if the men are not betrayed. This is being heard with receptive ears.
Jewish residents assembling at the Dneipr River for transport to concentration camps, 10 June 1942
Jewish inhabitants are assembled on the western bank of the Dneister River. They await deportation by Romanian authorities, who control the area based on ancient claims, to the Transnistria region across the river. Yad Vashem.

British Homefront: As announced in the King's Birthday Honours on 5 June 1942, economist John Maynard Keynes receives a hereditary peerage. He acquires the title "Baron Keynes, of Tilton, in the County of Sussex," and now is entitled to sit in the House of Lords on the Liberal Party benches.

American Homefront: Congress gives final approval to the "Big Inch" pipeline. This will transport crude oil from its production site in Texas to the northeast. This has become necessary due to U-boat successes against tankers along the east coast of the United States.

Future History: Gordon Henry Burns is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He becomes a popular Northern Irish journalist and broadcaster. Notable jobs include serving as the host of "The Krypton Factor" from 1977-1995 and serving as the chief anchorman of the BBC regional news show "North West Tonight" from January 1997 to October 2011. Burns, who is the second cousin of popular British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran, enters retirement in 2013.

Ernest Preston Manning is born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He becomes a member of Parliament for Calgary Southwest in 1993 under the Reform Party and leads the party until it is abolished in 2000. He then switches to the Canadian Alliance from 2000 to 2003 and has been in the Conservative Party since 2003.
Allied soldiers at a swimming club in Beirut, Lebanon, 10 June 1942
"Original wartime caption: A British and Free French soldier set out in search of another diversion from the British Swimming Club." 10 June 1942. © IWM E 13193.