SECOND WORLD WAR August 1941

SECOND WORLD WAR August 1941

(Britain)

By August 1941 the Government Code & Cypher School (GC & CS) was well established with both male and female British code-breakers. Bletchley Park was established as the principal centre for the code-breaking facilities in 1938. Before the beginning of the Second World War Polish code-breakers had cracked the Enigma Code which sent out military secret messages produced by the Germans. The original Enigma machine looked like a typewriter and when each letter was typed in, another letter came out so that messages would be received in code. The receiving party had an identical machine which changed the code back to the original message. The codes for the Enigma cyphers were frequently changed and the task was to find a way to access the more complicated code. As the Germans were changing their cyphers daily the Polish code-breakers were not able to proceed and handed the information over to the British to continue the task. The capture of German U-boat U-110 off the coast of Ireland on the 9th May 1941 proved beneficial to the Bletchley Park code-breakers. Before the U-boat could be scuttled the Enigma machine and code book was secured. U-110 was taken in tow back toward Britain but sank en-route to Scapa Flow. The British code-breakers eventually developed the “Colossus” computer in 1943.

The British special group nicknamed “The Shetland Bus” came into force on the 30th August 1941 and became a permanent link between Shetland in Scotland and German occupied Norway. The main purpose of the group of men and boats was to assist agents of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in and out of Norway. A fleet of camouflaged working fishing boats were used, armed with light machine-guns concealed inside oil drums placed on deck, and the crew passing as fishermen. ”The Shetland Bus” was used to transfer agents to Norway and to provide them with the necessary weapons and supplies. The crossing were mostly carried at night during the winter months which entailed the crews and passengers enduring very heavy North Sea conditions. By sailing without navigation lights the boats were under constant risk of discovery by German aircraft or patrol boats. There was always the possibility of being captured whilst carrying out a mission to the Norwegian as the operations were under constant threat from German forces.

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(Germany)

In Nazi Germany in 1939 the T4 programme was set up to establish the euthanasia of mentally ill and handicapped citizens. The T4 programme was formed to create the Euthanasia Department, headed by Doctor Viktor Brack and targeted some children as being mentally defective. The children, including Jewish children, were transported from all over Germany to a Special Psychiatric Youth Department and systematically murdered. Either they were injected with lethal substances or led into shower rooms where they were gassed.  Eventually the programme was extended to include adults. German doctors and clergy protested that the programme was barbaric. On the 18th August 1941, Dictator Adolf Hitler ordered the programme to be suspended in Germany as he did not need such bad publicity. The programme would be revived in occupied Poland. This programme continued when the T4 personnel were transferred to concentration camps primarily for the extermination of the Jewish population.

German U-boat U-570 was on patrol in the North Atlantic south of Iceland on 27th August 1941. U-570 was on her first patrol although the commander Kapitäieutant Hans-Joachim Rahmlow and his second-in-command were experienced surface naval officers, but not in submarine warfare. The U-boat crew were inexperienced in any type of naval service. U-570 spent most of the morning submerged but surfaced approximately 10.50 am and was attacked by an American Lockheed Hudson light bomber. The Hudson was on loan to the British and was being flown by the Royal Air Force (RAF) on patrol. Rahmlow ordered a crash dive after hearing the approach of The Hudson which dropped four depth-charges. One of the depth-charges detonated approximately 10 yards from the boat and U-570 resurfaced. Some of the crew emerged and displayed a white sheet after the Hudson had subjected them to machine-gun fire. A Catalina flying boat was ordered to fly out and watch the U-boat until Allied ships arrived. She was towed away for repair and eventually entered service with the Royal Navy as HMS Graph in September 1941.

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(Eastern Front)

Following Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Germany declared the District of Galicia in Poland as the fifth district of Generalgouvernement on the 1st August 1941. After occupying Galicia, Adolf Hitler formed a capital in the Galician province of Limburg. Prior to the German invasion of the Soviet Union the joint German/Soviet Union had invaded Poland in 1939 and the Soviet Union had temporarily occupied the District of Galicia.

In Stanislaw in Galicia on the 2nd August 1941 German S.S. Commander Hans Kruger ordered all Jewish and Polish intelligentsia be registered.  Subsequently the intelligentsia were tortured and murdered. This action became the first implementation of the “one bullet one Jew” system in the occupied territory of Galicia.

In Norway on the 2nd August 1941 the Nazi German occupation authorities implemented the confiscation of all Norwegian civil radios in order that the population did not have access to BBC broadcasts.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union, codenamed Operation Barbarossa, was initially a spectacular success and on 5th August 1941 the German army trapped the Soviet army at Smolensk on the drive toward Moscow. Smolensk fell to the Germans on the 6th August 1941 but overall the German advance had slowed down. Hitler took personal control of the campaign and on the 12th August 1941 he issued a directive that he believed would be a tactical move to take Leningrad in the north and the Crimean industrial basin in the south before winter. Against the advice of his military Generals, who wanted to continue the advance to Moscow, Hitler moved some of his troops advancing on Moscow to the Leningrad fronts. By the 22nd August 1941 the German forces were closing in on Leningrad and the first steps in the Siege of Leningrad began on the 31st August 1941.

Spain during the Second World War was officially a neutral country. However, on the 20th August 1941 a new German Infantry division was formed and had the assistance of 18,000 Spanish volunteers. The volunteers were officially designated as the Blue Division who were to serve in the German Army on the Eastern Front. Spanish leader General Francisco Franco sent an official offer of help to Berlin in June 1941 on the proviso that the volunteers would only fight against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front. Adolf Hitler readily approved of the Spanish volunteers on the 26th June 1941 and Spanish volunteers flocked to recruiting offices in Spain to fight against the Soviet Army. The offer of help was to repay German support during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 and to maintain their neutrality they would not take up arms against the Allies on the Western Front.

The Soviet Union began the evacuation of Tallinn in Estonia on the 28th August 1941. Soviet forces had occupied Estonia since June 1940 and, following Operation Barbarossa, German forces advanced rapidly through the Soviet-occupied Baltic States. 190 ships in the Red Army Baltic Fleet were bottled up in the harbour of the Estonian capital Tallinn surrounded by German forces. In anticipation of a Soviet breakout the German navy began laying minefields and the Soviet minesweepers tried to clear a pathway through the minefields. The Soviet embarkation was protected by smokescreens, but previous minesweeping activities were largely ineffective. Bad weather and the shortage of Soviet aircraft was the main cause for the lack of protection for the fleet. Despite this the Soviet evacuation of Tallinn was successful in that 165 ships, 28,000 civilian passengers and 66,000 tons of equipment managed to escape. There are not any available records showing how many Soviet soldiers and airmen were evacuated, however, 12,400 people were thought to have drowned.

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(Other Theatres)

On the 1st August 1941 the United States of America announced a ban on oil exports to “aggressor countries” including Japan. There had been tensions between America and Japan following the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Japan imposed an embargo of all oil imports and war supplies from America to China. The Japanese Imperial Navy estimated it had less than two years bunker oil remaining following the American ban of oil imports to Japan. This eventually would lead to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 bringing America into the war.

During 1941 the Japanese military planned to attack the British colonies of Malaya and Burma in a bid to conquer Southeast Asia. Germany encouraged Japan on the proposed invasion as it would divert British military forces away from the European theatre of war. In order to attack Malaya and Burma the Japanese sought free passage through Thailand. The British however, began to suspect that Japan was planning to set up bases in Thailand. On the 6th August 1941 the British and American Governments warned Japan not to invade Thailand and severe sanctions were placed on Japan. Despite the sanctions the Japanese invasion of Thailand occurred on the 8th December 1941.

The Atlantic Charter was a joint statement by the British and American governments and issued on the 9th August 1941. This statement outlined the British and American aims for the world at the end of the Second World War. The Charter proposed that there was not any territorial changes made against the wishes of the people, restoration of self-government and reduction of trade restrictions. There never was a signed version but when it was released to the public the Charter was titled “Joint Declarations by the President of the U, S. and the British Prime Minister”.

The Anglo-Soviet invasion of neutral Iran began on the 25th August 1941. The joint UK and Soviet troops invaded as they suspected the Iranian Leader Reza Shah was friendly to Germany. The invasion was to secure Iranian oil fields and Allied supply lines. Upon occupying Iran the Allies replaced Reza Shah with his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the invasion ended on the 17th September 1941 as the occupation took over.     

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