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This Week in World War II: 75 Years Ago

Vannevar Bush, left, and Arthur H. Compton, Director of the "Chicago Metallurgical Project," 1942-1945, at Del Monte Lodge, 1940.

Vannevar Bush, left, and Arthur H. Compton, Director of the “Chicago Metallurgical Project,” 1942-1945, at Del Monte Lodge, 1940. The venture would later become known as the Manhattan Project, the creation of the atomic bomb. Source: atomicarchive.com

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.

The Battle of Raseiniai, in Lithuania, ends in an overwhelming German victory on June 27, 1941. The four-day fight pitted the 245 tanks of the 4th Panzer Group under Gen. Erich Hoepner against 749 tanks of the Soviet Red Army, commanded by Col.-Gen. Fyodor Kuznetsov. Of the Soviet armored force, 704 tanks are destroyed, while German losses are “light.” The victory allows the Germans to continue their push eastward. In Belorussia, German Panzer groups link up and encircle about 20 divisions of the Soviet Red Army between Białystok and Nowogródek, near Minsk. Churchill and Stalin reach an agreement that the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union will form an alliance to defeat Hitler.

On June 28, German forces take Minsk, in Belorussia, and Rovno, in Ukraine. Albania declares war on the Soviet Union. In Washington, President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 8807, creating the Office of Scientific Research and Development. It will be headed by Vannevar Bush, an electrical engineer who co-founded the Raytheon Company. The agency’s research ranges widely; it includes the super-secret S-1 Section, later to become designated as the Manhattan Project.

In a decree issued on June 29, Hitler’s second-in-command, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, is named as Der Führer’s successor should Hitler die or be incapacitated during the war. In the Karelian Isthmus (on the Finnish-Soviet border) the Germans and the Finns begin attacks on Soviet positions. Farther north, the Germans and the Finns launch Operation Silver Fox, aimed at capturing the Soviet Arctic port of Murmansk.

The German 6th Army, part of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt’s Army Group South, takes Lwów, Poland, on June 30 while, farther east, another of von Rundstedt’s units, the 5th Army, moves towards Kiev. Vichy France severs diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

On July 1, British mechanized cavalry and an Arab Legion desert patrol from Transjordan combine to break up a Vichy French mobile column near the city of Palmyra, in Syria. They capture four officers and 60 soldiers, prompting the Vichy garrison in Palmyra to surrender. In the U.S., registration for the draft becomes mandatory for all male citizens over the age of 21. Having received approval from the Federal Communications Commission, the National Broadcasting Company begins commercial television broadcasting over station WNBT (channel 1) in New York. The first commercial — a 10-second pitch for Bulova watches (which costs the company $9 to air) — occurs at 2:29 p.m., before a Brooklyn Dodgers-Philadelphia Phillies baseball game. Later in the day, the Columbia Broadcasting System begins its first TV broadcasts, over station WCBW (channel 2) in New York. In the Middle East, British Gen. Claude Auchinleck is named Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, replacing Gen. Archibald Wavell. Wavell, whom Churchill blames for the failure of Operation Battleaxe to relieve Tobruk, takes over Auchinleck’s position as Commander-in-Chief, Indian Army.

In Tokyo, on July 2, the government decides that attempts should be made to establish bases in Indochina, even at the risk of war. One million men are called for military service. In Poland, massacres by German SS Einsatzgruppen (“task forces”) begin, as 7,000 Jews are executed in Lwów. In New York, Yankee centerfielder Joe DiMaggio homers against the Boston Red Sox, extending his consecutive-game hitting streak to 45, a major league record.

The Battle of Białystok-Minsk ends on July 3 in a German victory: 290,000 Red Army soldiers surrender and 2,500 tanks are captured. The Soviets suffer another 50,000 killed and 71,700 wounded. In a radio broadcast, Joseph Stalin calls for a “scorched-earth” policy of resistance and guerrilla warfare against the invaders. In southern Ethiopia, Italian resistance ends with the surrender of 7,000 troops by Gen. Pietro Gazzera to a force from the Belgian Congo

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