SECOND WORLD WAR July 1941

SECOND WORLD WAR July 1941

 (Britain)

On the 12th June 1941 Britain and the Soviet Union signed the Anglo-Soviet Agreement pledging to assist each other and not make a separate peace with Germany. This military alliance was to be for the duration of the war and was the direct result of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on the 22nd June 1941 code named Operation Barbarossa.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to the “V for Victory” campaign in a speech, on the 19th July 1941, from which point he began using the “V” hand sign. In January 1941 the “V” sign was introduced as part of a campaign by the Allies. The Belgian Minister of Justice, Victor de Lavelete suggested, on the Belgian-French language broadcasts on the BBC, that the “V for Victory” sign be used as a rallying emblem during the Second World War. The emblematic use of the letter “V” had spread through occupied Europe by July 1941. The BBC started the “V for Victory” campaign using the Morse code rhythm (three dots and a dash) as its call sign. The opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony has the same rhythm and the BBC used this call sign in its foreign language programmes to occupied Europe throughout the remainder of the war.

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(Germany)

German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen whilst under repair in Brest Harbour, on the French coast, was attacked by British bombers on the 1st July 1941. An armour-piercing bomb dropped on and destroyed the control centre deep down under the bridge which also controlled all the guns. During the Battle of the Atlantic in May 1941 the German battleship Bismarck was joined by the Prinz Eugen and escorted by three destroyers in an attempt to break out into the Atlantic. They engaged with the Royal Navy and Bismarck was sunk on the 27th May 1941. Although damaged Prinz Eugen managed to escape to Brest, arriving on the 1st June 1941. German battle ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were also under repair in Brest Harbour at the time of the attack. The three ships were out of action and under repair until the end of 1941.

The Final Solution to the “Jewish question” began on the 31st July 1941. The Final Solution was a Nazi plan for the genocide of the Jews. It was designed as a deliberate and systematic genocide across German occupied Europe. Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler became the new architect of the plan proposed by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler about the forcible removal of Jews from German controlled territories. Reichsmarshall Herman Göring wrote to Reinhardt Heydrich, Himmler’s deputy, authorising him to submit concrete proposals for the extermination of the Jews.    

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(Mediterranean Campaign and Desert War)

The Battle of Palmyra was part of the Allied invasion of Syria during the Syrian-Lebanon campaign. Vichy-France had substantial forces in the region and their ally Germany were allowed to use the air bases as staging posts for the Luftwaffe to take part in Anglo-Iraqi War. The Germans were also allowed to use the railway systems for send arms and ammunition to Iraq. In June 1941 the Allied forces had been launched from Palestine and Trans-Jordan into Syria and Lebanon. On the 1st July 1941 British mechanised cavalry and an Arab legion desert patrol advanced to defeat the Vichy-French 2nd Garrison at Palmyra to secure the oil pipeline from Iraq to Tripoli. The Allies entered Sukhna as it was not occupied by Vichy- French troops, but was attacked by the Vichy 2nd Light Desert Company. After a sharp battle the Vichy-French retreated into a box valley pursued by Arab Legion troops and surrendered. This caused the 3rd Light Desert Company, garrisoned at Palmyra, to lose heart and surrender. One minute past midnight of the 12th July 1941 the campaign ended and a ceasefire came into effect.

On Malta the new Air Commodore Hugh Lloyd made an inspection tour of the airfields and main workshops in early July 1941. The state of the island was worse than he expected but he realised the protection of air and naval assets would have to be his first priority. The Royal Air Force (RAF) had fewer than 60 serviceable aircraft of all types with very limited spares and what spares he did have was supplemented by sifting through the debris of wrecks or cannibalising of damaged aircraft. German air activity was slackened after the Luftwaffe departed for the Eastern Front following Operation Barbarossa after Germany had undertaken their attack on Russia. The Italian Regia Aeronautica was left to continue the effective air campaign against Malta By mid -July 1941 supplies were beginning to reach Malta and RAF British Hurricane fighter aircraft were arriving in readiness to defend the island.

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(Eastern Front)

In June 1941 the Russian nation was unprepared for war. The Germans advanced over a wide front and Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union dictator, proposed “a scorched earth policy” during a radio broadcast on the 3rd July 1941. When the Soviet army was forced to retreat all materials, food and military equipment was to be destroyed in order that the advancing German army could not benefit from the evacuation. In the occupied territory the remaining citizens were required to form into partisan groups and sabotage the enemy progress at every possible opportunity.  Despite “the scorched earth” policy the invading forces, code named Operation Barbarossa, reached the Dnieper River near Kiev on the 5th July 1941. On a wide front stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea on the 16th June 1941 the Battle of Smolensk began and by the 28th July 1941 German Panzers had reached Smolensk with the infantry following up.

The Baltic state of Latvia was occupied by the Germans on the 1st July 1941. The Soviet Union had annexed Latvia from Germany and Riga became the capital of Latvia under the Soviet regime prior to Operation Barbarossa. Following the German occupation, which began on the 10th July 1941, Riga became the German capital of Latvia. Once the Germans had established its authority the elimination of the Jewish and Roma population began. Anyone not racially acceptable or who opposed the German occupation were either killed or sent to concentration camps. Any Latvian citizen who cooperated with the Soviet Union suffered the same fate. The Jewish community were humiliated and deprived of their rights by being confined to their homes for most of the time. They were only able to shop in special stores and were allotted lower food rations. They were forced to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothes, restricted in their movements and had to surrender any securities they possessed. On the 27th July 1941 guidelines on the Jewish question was made public. They were herded into specific areas where ghettoes were arranged and they were forbidden to leave them. They were also used as cheap labour being paid minimum wages and provided with minimum food.

Operation Arctic Fox began on the 1st July 1941 when joint Finnish-German forces conducted a major offensive against the Soviet Union. This offensive followed the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. The principal goal was to capture the town of Salla, just inside the Finnish border with the Soviet Union, then advance toward Kandalaksha in the Soviet Union. This advance was an effort to block the railway route to Murmansk. The joint operation combined Finnish arctic troops with unsuitably equipped German troops who had been based in Norway. After fierce fighting Salla was captured by the Finnish-German troops and they advanced to within 19 miles (30 km) of the Murmansk railway. Further advance was prevented by the arrival of strong Soviet reinforcements. Owing to the offensive of Operation Barbarossa the Germans were unwilling to commit more units to this theatre and called an end to their attack. Operation Arctic Fox ended in November 1941 when both sides dug in after the Finns were reluctant to continue the attack on their own. 

During Operation Barbarossa, Hungary who was an ally of Nazi Germany, occupied the Polish city of Stanislawow on the 2nd July 1941. By orders of the Nazi Gestapo, on the 26th July 1941, a Jewish council was established to organise Jewish life and implement German orders. By the end of July 1941 the German occupiers took control of the city.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ordered a contingent of the Italian Royal Army to the Eastern Front on the 10th July 1941. In an effort to show solidarity to the Axis Powers Mussolini sent a corps size formation into the Soviet Union called the “Italian Expeditionary Force in Russia”. This force participated in the German advance through the Ukraine to the Volga along the southern part of the Eastern Front.         

A general uprising in Montenegro broke out on the 13th July 1941 against the Italian forces in occupied Yugoslavia. The uprising was instigated by the Yugoslav Communist Party who objected to the privileged position offered by the occupiers. In three weeks the insurgents forced the Italian troops to retreat to their stronghold position and captured almost all of the territory of Montenegro. The Italians conducted a counter-offensive and suppressed the uprising within six weeks.

In Poland between the 1st and 4th July 1941 in the city of Lwow (modern day Lviv in the Ukraine) the occupying Nazi German army murdered 25 Polish academics. The Massacre included professors, scientists and writers and their families in an effort to prevent anti-Nazi activity. By targeting prominent citizens and intellectuals they wished to weaken the resolve of the Polish resistance movement

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(Other Theatres)

In America on the 1st July 1941, all men aged twenty-one and under the age of thirty-three years were required to register with their local draft officer under the Selective and Service Act of 1940. Draftees were then selected by national lottery to be included in the first military conscription in the U.S. history. If selected the draftee served on active duty for twelve months and then served in a reserve capacity for a further ten years.

The defence of Iceland was transferred to the United States of America from Britain on the 7th July 1941. At the beginning of the war neutral Iceland was a sovereign kingdom of Denmark. With the German invasion of Denmark, Britain imposed strict export controls on Icelandic goods as part of its naval blockade preventing profitable shipments to Germany. The British invaded Iceland during May 1940 and by June 1940, to protect the North Atlantic sea lanes, handed control over to the Canadians. The British was able to return back in the defence of Britain. Although still officially neutral the United States of America was handed the role of defence of Iceland by Britain on the 7th July 1941. Iceland remained neutral throughout the Second World War and cooperated with the British and the Americans whilst enjoying the benefits of being “protected” by them.

In America on the 26th July 1941 Japanese assets were frozen and relations suspended between the U.S and Japan. This was in response to the Japanese occupation of French Indochina. For the Japanese this meant a 77% loss of foreign trade and a 90% loss of oil supplies. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt had ordered these events following similar freezing of German and Italian assets and the withdrawal of their consular staff in June 1941. 

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