Categorized | Carousel, Historical

This Week in World War II: 75 Years Ago

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Somali

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Somali

By Phil Kohn. Dedicated to the memory of his father, GM3 Walter Kohn, U.S. Navy Armed Guard, USNR, and all men and women who have answered the country’s call in time of need. Phil can be contacted at ww2remembered@yahoo.com.

Fighting around Tobruk, Libya, continues on May 2, 1941. A large Iraqi ground force attacks the British airfield at Habbaniyah, Iraq, about 55 miles west of Baghdad. The base houses around 80 obsolescent planes, used mainly for training, and has only a small contingent of ground troops for defense. Despite their unsuitability and age, the planes are launched and used against the Iraqis with some success. Several skirmishes occur closer to the Persian Gulf, especially at Basra, where rioting breaks out among the civilian population.

In East Africa on May 3, British Commonwealth forces attack very strong Italian positions at Amba Alagi, Ethiopia. The Italian lines guard mountain passes on the road between the capitals Asmara, Eritrea, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Defenders are dug into many caves on the sides of the steep hills. In North Africa, Australian troops launch a counterattack from Tobruk, Libya, but it is repulsed by Italian forces.

On May 4 Lt. Gen. Rommel halts his attacks on Tobruk and instead lays siege to the city. Both sides adopt a strategy of sending out offensive night patrols to discourage rest. An airfield at Mosul, Iraq, staffed by a small German force, is bombed by the RAF. The base has been supplying the Iraqis with provisions and armaments from Syria with the cooperation of Vichy French authorities in that country. At Amba Alagi, the 29th Indian Division drives the Italians off three hills in the western portion of their positions.

Emperor Haile Selassie returns to his capital, Addis Ababa, taken from the Italians, on May 5. At Amba Alagi, the Italians are being pushed out of the center of their defensive positions. At Tobruk, a Royal Navy destroyer slips into the city’s harbor overnight, delivering needed supplies and taking away wounded Allied defenders. Two destroyers will alternate on this mission and, roughly weekly, reinforcements will be brought in and the wounded evacuated.

The British attempt to run a convoy of five transports carrying supplies and tanks to Egypt for use in an offensive in the desert. On May 6, the convoy, code-named “Operation Tiger,” passes Gibraltar and is ultimately joined by an escort of two battleships, an aircraft carrier, four cruisers and 13 destroyers. In Iraq, the British consolidate their hold on the Habbaniyah airfield, pushing the Iraqis toward Fallujah, nearer Baghdad. In the U.S., at March Field, a U.S. Army Air Corps base in Riverside, California, actor-comedian Bob Hope puts on his first USO show.

On May 7, the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Somali intercepts the German weather trawler München off Iceland. Before British sailors can board her, the German crew throws an ultra-secret Enigma signal-coding machine overboard in a weighted bag. However, they do not have time before boarders arrive to destroy operating manuals for the Enigma and code books, all of which will prove invaluable to Allied code-breakers. To deceive the Germans about the operation’s success, Somali sends a clear (i.e., uncoded) message that München was scuttled by its crew before a boarding party could be sent over. In northern China, the Battle of South Shanxi begins between Japanese and Chinese forces. The fighting ends 20 days later in an overwhelming Japanese victory. Although the Japanese lose over 20,000 troops, the Chinese lose over 100,000.

Italian planes on May 8 attack the British “Operation Tiger” convoy heading for Egypt but are fended off by British carrier aircraft. In Ethiopia, the fighting continues around Amba Alagi, with Indian troops taking a pass and three small hills south of the city. The British heavy cruiser HMS Cornwall finds and sinks the German commerce raider Pinguin, an auxiliary cruiser, near the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean around 930 miles east of Africa. Pinguin had captured or sunk 28 Allied ships totaling 136,550 tons during its 357-day voyage.

Comments are closed.

Browse Current Issue - Click Here

Perth Amboy Calendar

MON. Jan 22
• City Council, Caucus,
4:30 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

WED. Jan 24
• City Council, Regular,
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

THURS. Jan 25
• Historic Preservation Commission
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

MON. Jan 29
• Special Public Meeting, RE: Discussion of Rezoning Ordinance
6 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

 

Stay informed! Attend public meetings. All are welcome!

South Amboy Calendar

WED. Jan. 31
• City Council, Regular,
7 p.m.
City Hall, N. Broadway

WED. Feb. 7
• City Council, Business,
6 p.m.
City Hall, N. Broadway

Stay informed! Attend public meetings. All are welcome!