15 - 21 November 1941

15 November 1941

Russia : German Panzer Armies 2, 3 and 4 with 2, 4, and 9. German Armies, resumed the attack on Moscow, Russia. Soviet 30th Army was pushed back from the Volga Reservoir and Moscow Sea Reservoir areas 75 miles north of Moscow. Across the Eastern Front, the temperature fell to -20 degrees Celsius, freezing both men and machines; the German offensive was generally slowed to a yard-by-yard advance from this date on. Mechanical failures due to extreme cold combined with operational losses in action and collapse of logistical system left only 150 panzers operational in 2nd Panzer Army. Even worse only small proportion of German troops issued winter clothing so far while Red Army Siberian troops equipped with full winter camauflage clothing and gear.

On the battlefront, November 15 saw a complaint by SS General Eicke, now returned from Sachsenhausen to his Death’s Head Division, that within the division’s ranks many of the ethnic Germans—those of German language and culture who lived in areas outside the Germany of 1938—were wounding themselves in order not to have to serve any longer. Incidents of cowardice were common among them, Eicke wrote. But the pressures of battle were impinging even upon German nationals; since entering Russia four-and-a-half months earlier , the division lost 8.995 casaulties , half of its initial strengh.

Libya : The first raid by newly formed SAS (Special Air Service) regiment on Axis airfields around Tobruk ended up with fiasco. SAS tropers were parachuted in by RAF amid a sandstorm. 32 of 55 raiders were either killed and captured and their objectives left intact. Regiment commander Capt. Stirling seeks cooperation with LRDG (Long Range Desert Group) transportation and infltration against enemy objectives next time.

South East Asia : US Army dispatched troops to Dutch Guiana to protect bauxite mines; this was agreed upon by the Dutch government-in-exile.

Hong Kong , China : 2.000 Canadian troops in two battalions arrived to Hong Kong to bolster up its defences

Washington , USA : Japanese diplomatic envoy Saburo Kurusu arrived in the United States.

Barents Sea : German submarine U-752 attempted to attack Soviet minelayer ZM-93 Jushar southeast of Murmansk, Russia at 1700 hours, but escorting minesweeping trawler T-889 forced U-752 to dive. At 1849 hours, U-752 fired a torpedo at T-889, sinking her and killing all 43 aboard

Baltic Sea : German submarine U-583 collided with U-153 and sank 90 miles northeast of Danzig at 2148 hours, killing all 45 aboard.

Mediterranean Sea : Italian SM.79 torpedo bombers sank British freighter Empire Defender of the Operation Astrologer convoy near the Galite Islands off the Tunisian coast, killing 4.

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16 November 1941

Russia : German 3rd Panzer Army established a crossing over the Lama River 70 miles west of Moscow, Russia. In the Moscow region, Russian ski troops went into action for the first time.

Mediterranean Sea : One of the turning points in war on sea. Royal Navy corvette HMS Marigold detected German submarine U-433 with centimetric wavelength Type 271 radar (first time in operational use) while she was approaching a small coastal convoy. By using radar guidence HMS Marigold attacked and badly damaged crash dived German submarine with depth charges 50 miles east of Gibraltar at 2255 hours. After U-433 surfaced, by using radar guidence again , HMS Marigold continued to attack her with guns. After suffering extremely heavy damage from gunfire , U-433’s crew scuttled their boat after suffering 6 killed; the 38 survivors were captured. The cavity magnetron equipped centimetric Type 271 surface radar which would be one of decisive weapons for Allies in naval war.

Iceland : Allied convoy PQ-3 departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland in stormy weather.

Japan : Obsolete Japanese battleship Settsu began to sail around the Inland Sea in Japan to generate fake radio communication messages at different ports.

Crimea : The German 11th Army captured Kerch peninsula, Russia. Soviet Deputy Navy Commissar Admiral Gordei Levchenko was arrested after being deemed responsible for this defeat.

Berlin , Germany : Even in the crisis of battle, the Nazi leaders could not rid themselves of their obsession with the imminent Final Solution. On November 16, Goebbels wrote in the magazine Das Reich : ‘The Jews wanted the war, and now they have it’. But, he added, ‘the prophecy which the Führer made in the German Reichstag on 30 January 1939 is also coming true, that should international finance Jewry succeed in plunging the nations into a world war once again, the result would not be the Bolshevization of the world and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe. We are in the midst of that process and thereby a fate fulfils itself for Jewry which is hard but which is more than deserved. Compassion or regret are entirely out of place here’.

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17 November 1941

Beda Littoria , Libya : Operation Flipper , British commando raid on presumed headquarters of Rommel failed. The aim of operation was to kill and capture Rommel before Operation Crusader (British offensive on Cyreneica) started but the villa targeted by commandos (who landed on Libyan shore three days ago by submarine) was not Rommel’s HQ at all and Rommel himself was at Rome in a conferance by this time. In resulting attack two commandos (including their commander Lt. Col. Geoffrey Keyes) and four German troops killed , 27 commandos captured , only three of British radiers escaped and reached Allied lines at Tobruk.

Germany : After a series of arguements with Luftwaffe Field Marsghal Ernest Milch , and disgraced with air operational failures in east , the disgraced Luftwaffe Chief Aircraft Developer Ernst Udet committed suicide

Russia : German troops near Moscow, Russia fought Central Asian troops for the first time (Soviet 44th Cavalry Division) at Musino, Russia, 70 miles west of the capital. German artillery blunted the cavalry charges, with the Germans claiming 2,000 killed.

On the Eastern Front, the German position, so impressive on the map, was worsening daily on the ground. By mid-November 1941 it had become so cold that sentries who accidentally fell asleep at their post were found frozen to death in the morning. The Russians were better trained to survive in extreme cold. They were also defending their heartland and their capital. On November 17, near Volokolamsk Moscow Front, a Russian private soldier, Efim Diskin, the sole survivor of his anti-tank battery, and himself severely wounded, destroyed five German tanks with his solitary gun. He was later awarded the medal, Hero of the Soviet Union.

The Reichskommissariat Ostland was established under Alfred Rosenberg to administer territories taken from the Soviet Union.

Leningrad : Soviets dispatched several small teams to test the thickness of the ice on Lake Ladoga near Leningrad, Russia.

Japan : Japanese Navy Admiral Yamamoto revealed the Pearl Harbor attack plan to the naval leadership

Egypt : German submarine U-331 landed eight German Brandenburg commandos on the Egyptian coast to mine the railway line near Daba, 60 miles west of Alexandria. They were captured next day by British military police though before they completed their mission.

North Sea : British cargo ship Bowey Tracey was bombed and sunk by Luftwaffe DO-217 bombers

Black Sea : Soviet cargo ship Kamalesk Podusk was bombed and sunk by Luftwaffe JU-87 dive bombers

Baltic Sea : German cargo ship Schwaneck struck a Russian mine and sank

Iceland : Allied convoy QP-2 arrived at Kirkwall, Scotland, United Kingdom and convoy PQ-4 departed Hvalfjörður, Iceland.

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18 November 1941

North Africa : 8th Army , made up from Commonwealth units British, New Zealand, and Indian troops launched Operation Crusader, a major offensive from Egypt into Libya. Surprise was achieved, and the attack met no serious resistance on the first day while armored brigades of 30th Corps (600 tanks , a lot of them light or mechanically unreliable though) began advancing from right flank across desert towards Sidi Rezegh. While 13th Corps made up by 2nd New Zealand and 4th Indian Division infantry with support of 100 tanks prepare to attack Egypt-Libyan border and Axis strongpoints at Halfaya Pass and Sollum. The Germans would later call this offensive Winterschlacht. After sundown, Royal Navy cruisers HMS Naiad and HMS Euryalus and destroyers HMS Kipling and HMS Jackal bombarded German positions at Halfaya Pass.

Japan : Five large Japanese carrier submarines, each containing midget submarines, departed from Kure Naval Base, Japan for Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii. Meanwhile, Joseph Rochefort’s US Navy cryptanalytic team reported no Japanese carrier movement.

Atlantic Ocean : British cargo vessel Congonian was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-65

UK : General John Dill, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal and assigned to liason with US War Department in British Embassy in Washington. In his place General Alan Brooke was assigned as Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

Leningrad : The teams dispatched on the previous day out of Leningrad, Russia to Lake Ladoga returned to the besieged city at 0400 hours, reporting that the ice on the lake was about 10 centimeters thick, which made light travel possible, but not for heavy equipment such as 1-ton trucks.

Berlin : In a meeting with German Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop , Japanese ambassador Baron Oshima requested Germany to not conclude a separate peace with any common enemies of the two countries, but did not share its plans to attack the United States.

Russia : German 4th Panzer Army launched a 400-tank attack 70 miles west of Moscow, Russia, supported by 3 infantry divisions; Soviet 30th Army fell back northward to Klin, while Soviet 16th Army was pushed south to Istra. 120 miles south of Moscow, German 3rd Panzer Army was held up at Tula, with its latest attempt to surround the Soviet garrison there foiled by the newly-arrived Soviet 413th Rifle Division.

On 18 November, the German troops attacking Venev were themselves attacked by a Siberian division and armoured brigade, both newly arrived from the Far East with a full complement of T -34 tanks. So cold was it that the German automatic weapons would only fire single shots. As the Siberian troops advanced, in their white camouflage uniforms, ‘the panic’, a German Army report later noted, ‘reached as far back’ as Bogorodisk: ‘This was the first time that such a thing had occurred during the Russian campaign, and it was a warning that the combat ability of our infantry was at an end, and that they should no longer be expected to perform difficult tasks.’

The Russians now began to prepare for a major offensive, to save Moscow. They were able, with great skill, to hide entirely from German reconnaissance and Intelligence eyes the forward movement of their reserves. The ‘enemy’, noted General Halder in his diary on November 18, ‘had nothing left in the rear, and his predicament probably is even worse than ours’. Those, however, whose ‘predicament’ was worse even than that of the fighting soldiers in the wintry fields of Russia or the sand blown hills of Libya, were the Red Army men, numbering as many as three million, perhaps even more, who had been taken prisoner by the Germans in the previous five months. The fate of seven thousand of these Russian prisoners-of-war was noted on November 18 by the commander of a German artillery regiment who saw them in their camp. The windows of the building in which they were being held, he wrote, ‘are several metres high and wide, and are without covering. There are no doors in the building. The prisoners who are thus kept practically in the open air are freezing to death by the hundreds daily—in addition to those who die continuously because of exhaustion’.

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19 November 1941

Russia : General Franz Halder noted in his diary that, in a meeting Adolf Hitler held with his top military leaders on this date, Hitler no longer talked about ending the war in 1941; instead, plans for Soviet targets east of Moscow, Russia were made for spring and summer of 1942. Meanwhile, 70 miles west of Moscow, German 4th Panzer Army attempted to penetrate the gap between the Soviet 30th and 16th Armies which were pushed back on the previous day, but stubborn Soviet resistance slowed the German advance in the area of Istra.

Leningrad : In northern Russia, Soviet 4th and 52nd Armies continued to attack Tikhvin, held by the German Army Group North, 120 kilometers east of Leningrad. Meanwhile, near Leningrad, General Feofan Nikolaevich Lagunov drove an American-built M1 Scout Car across the frozen Lake Ladoga and declared it safe to use as a truck route.

Libya , Operation Crusader : Italian Ariete Division halted the advance of British 22nd Armoured Brigade at Bir el Gubi, Libya; 40 British Crusader tanks were destroyed or disabled by Italian anti tank or field gunners. Elsewhere, British 7th Armoured Brigade continued its advance toward Tobruk, capturing Axis held Sidi Rezegh airfield south of Via Balbia (main Axis supply route) in the process , British tanks charged full speed in a suprise attack to airfield , destroying 19 Luftwaffe bombers and fighters on the ground and secured the airfield. To the north, tanks of the British 4th Armoured Brigade engaged German tanks of the 21st Panzer Division. In further north at Halfaya Pass , German garrison with 88 mm guns under command of Major Baum defending Halfaya Pass repulsed 13th Corps temporarily , knocking out several British I type Matilda tanks

North Sea : German 2nd Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla attacked Allied convoy FS.650 10 miles east of Lowestoft, England, United Kingdom, torpedoed and sinking British tanker War Mehtar and transports Aruba and Waldinge. In exchange German torpedo boat S.41 collided with a convoy escort destroyer HMS Garth and sank , all German crew of E-Boat was picked by by British escorts and captured.

Battle of Shark Bay , Australia : Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney was intercepted by German merchant raider (auxilary cruiser) Kormoran 140 miles west of Shark Bay, Australia. Captain of HMAS Sydney made the fatal mistake of approaching Kormoran too close , in range of hidden guns of German merchant raider (confusing it with an Dutch cargo vessel) With Kormoran firing the first shot at 1730 hours from 2.000 yards , the battle started. Kormoran with suprise advantage badly damaged HMAS Sydney with her initial salvos but Australian cruiser also replied with gunfire from her aft turrets hitting Kormoran several times. Both ships were heavily damaged after the 20-minute battle. Gravely damaged HMAS Sydney sank next day with all hands (645 crew). However return fire from HMAS Sydney also started a fire aboard Kormoran that got out of control and reached mine depot of German raider. After 322 of her crew evacuated the ship , Kormoran exploded and sank. Most of the German crew managed to reach Australian shores and captured.


20 November 1941

UK : The Norwegian government-in-exile officially endorsed the resistance movement Milorg.

Washington , USA : Japanese ambassador to the US Nomura presented Japan’s final proposal to keep peace in Asia and the Pacific.

Vichy France :General Weygand was relieved of his position due to German pressure

Libya : Operation Crusader continues. The British 7th Armoured Brigade repulsed a counter attack launched by the German 90th Light Infantry Division and the Italian Bologna Division on recently captured Sidi Rezegh airfield. In the afternoon, the British 4th Armoured Brigade on right flank of 30th Crps salient engaged with heavier tanks of the German 15th Panzer Division, losing several American-built M3 tanks but despite that 4th Armored Brigade held its position. After dark, Royal Navy cruisers HMS Ajax and HMS Neptune and Australian cruiser HMAS Hobart bombarded Bardia, Libya.

Ukraine : German troops from Army Group South captured Rostov, Russia , less than two hundred miles from the western foothills of the Caucasus. That day, in an Order of the Day issued to all his troops, General von Manstein declared: ‘The Jews are the mediators between the enemy in our rear and the still fighting remnants of the Red Army and the Red leaders’. The German soldier in the East, in fighting the Bolsheviks, was ‘the bearer of a ruthless ideology’; he must therefore ‘have understanding of the necessity of a severe but just revenge on sub-human Jewry’.

Crimea : Nine days after von Manstein issued this order, 4,500 Jews were murdered in the Crimean port of Kerch by SS Einsatzgruppen , local Ukranian militias and German Army units. Two weeks later, 14,300 more Jews were murdered out of Sevastopol. These killings were witnessed by hundreds of bystanders, and reported on in detail in the German Army Operational Situation Reports USSR, with their distribution to between thirty and sixty senior officials and civil servants.

Leningrad : The daily bread rations in besieged Leningrad, Russia was reduced to 500 grams for military personnel, 250 grams for engineers and technical workers, 125 grams for other workers and children. Starvation , disease , malnutrition , cold is killing thousands of civilians each day in ex Tsarist Empire capital. The situation was hoped to be improving soon, however, as the first successful crossing of the frozen Lake Ladoga was made with horse-drawn sleighs, hoping to bring back food from Kobona.

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21 November 1941

Russia : General Heinz Guderian commander of 2nd Panzer Army wrote Chief of Staff General Franz Halder from Russia, noting the miserable cold and fierce Soviet resistance.

Leningrad : The Russian horse-drawn sleigh team returned to Leningrad, Russia from Kobona, bringing back flour, sugar, and fat across the frozen Lake Ladoga for the first time since the city was surrounded.

Barents Sea : German troop transport Bessheim struck a mine laid previously by Royal Navy submarine HMS Sealion and sank , eight killed.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Utmost torpedoed and badly damaged Italian heavy cruiser Trieste 10 miles east of Catania, Sicily, Italy at 2312 hours

Libya : The Allied garrison at Tobruk , 70th British Division with tank support, started a breakout to link up with the main attack force 30th Corps coming from Egypt, which engaged with German 15th Panzer Division in a large-scale tank battle that would last for the next three days near Sidi Rezegh. At Tobruk perimeter 70th British Infantry Division achived an initial sucess , capturing five Axis strongpoints in siegelines at Bel Ahmed and got 1.000 prisoners , (half of them German from 90th Light Division ,rest from Italian Bologna Division) , ten Italian 37 mm guns and two German 88 mm guns. However first breakout attempt cost attackers heavy , two British battalions leading the breakout lost almost half of their strength and 37 Matilda I tanks were knocked out and Axis siege lines were not broken out complately.

On 30th Corps front at Sidi Rezegh , 7th British Armored Brigade and 7th Armored Division Support Group cleared the Axis positions aroud the airfield but , 6th Royal Tank Regt. leading assault ambushed by a German 88 mm AT gun battery and repulsed. In the afternoon 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions arrived and in a wholesale counter attack , drove British back to their start up positions in airfield. Both Support Group and 7th Armored Brigade suffered heavy casaulties. Further south remains of 4th Armored Brigade and 1st South African Division captured Bir El Gubi from Italian Arierte Armored Division. Then 4th Armored and 22nd Armored Brigades headed north.

On 13th Corps front , 2nd New Zealand Division and 4th Indian Division crossed Libyan-Egypt border and captured Fort Capusso. Sollum and Halfaya Pass were bypassed and besieged by New Zealand and Indian units.

Pressed for fuel, General Erwin Rommel (who finally realised a major British offensive started and returned from Rome yesterday) dispatched Italian cruiser Cardona from Brindisi, unescorted, to bring fuel to Benghazi.

Berlin , Germany : On November 21, Albert Speer asked Hitler for thirty thousand Soviet prisoners-of-war to be utilised as slave labor , to help with the building of Berlin’s new monumental buildings. Hitler agreed. The building, he said, could begin before the war was over. Among the projects, of which Speer showed Hitler miniature models that day, were a Great Hall for the Chancellery and an Office for Goering. Hitler also drew for Speer, in ink on lined paper, the design for a Monument of Liberation to be built at Linz, on the Danube, near Hitler’s own birthplace. The monument, an imposing arch, was to be the centrepiece of a stadium holding thousands of spectators.

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