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This Week in World War II: 75 Years Ago

 

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Winston Churchill promised “should the United States become involved in war with Japan, the British declaration will follow within the hour.”

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.

In the Black Sea about 25 miles off Yalta, the Soviet hospital ship Armenia is sunk by German aircraft on November 7 while evacuating refugees, wounded military personnel and the staffs of several Crimean hospitals. Exact casualty figures are unknown, but over 5,000 people are estimated to die in the sinking. The RAF undertakes large-scale night bombings of Berlin, the Ruhr and Cologne, but incurs heavy losses. In Moscow, Stalin predicts the fall of Nazi Germany within 12 months. In Washington, the United States Senate votes 50-37 to amend the Neutrality Act, permitting American merchant ships to be armed and to enter combat zones. In Japan, senior commanders of the Japanese Army and Navy are informed that the start of war against Great Britain and the United States is tentatively set for December 8, 1941 (December 7 in the U.S., which is east of the International Date Line). On Guam, the island’s commandant orders dependents of U.S. military personnel to begin evacuating.

In Russia, Tikhvin, a rail center about 100 miles east of Leningrad, falls to the Germans on November 8, completing the encirclement of Leningrad and further isolating that city. In Ukraine, Yalta, in the Crimea, falls to the German 11th Army.

In the Mediterranean, the Royal Navy’s Force K — comprising two light cruisers and two destroyers — on November 9 intercepts a Libya-bound Italian convoy of 7 merchant ships escorted by 2 heavy cruisers and 10 destroyers. In short order, the 7 merchant vessels and one Italian destroyer are sunk, with no losses and little damage to the British flotilla.

In a speech in London on November 10, Churchill promises “should the United States become involved in war with Japan, the British declaration will follow within the hour.” In Japan, the first ships of the Pearl Harbor attack force begin leaving the naval base at Kure.

An offensive to finally push the Italians out of East Africa begins on November 11, as Allied forces attack to the west and to the southeast of the main Italian position at Gondar, in Ethiopia. In general elections in the Philippines, incumbent president Manuel Quezon wins an unprecedented second term.

As the Battle of Moscow continues, temperatures around the Soviet capital on November 12 drop to –24°F. The Soviet Union deploys ski troops for the first time against the freezing German forces near the city. Meanwhile, German field commanders meet with Gen. Franz Halder, the Chief of the German General Staff, to hear his plans for the continued attack on Moscow. The Soviet 52nd Army launches a counterattack at Volkhov, 76 miles east of Leningrad. The British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal delivers another squadron of Hurricane fighter planes to Malta.

The next day — November 13 — in the Mediterranean, HMS Ark Royal is torpedoed by German submarine U-81, killing one sailor and leaving the ship listing and dead in the water. The vessel is taken under tow for Gibraltar. On the Crimean Peninsula, German and Romanian troops make an unsuccessful attempt to take Sevastopol. In the U.S., the House of Representatives, by a vote of 212-194, joins the Senate in amending the Neutrality Act, permitting the arming of merchant vessels and abolishing “combat zones,” thereby allowing U.S. merchant ships to carry goods directly into the ports of belligerent countries.

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