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 email@example.com.
On November 14, 1941, the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal sinks off Gibraltar while under tow after being torpedoed the previous day in the Mediterranean by German submarine U-81. At Slonim, Belorussia, German SS Einsatzgruppen (task forces) murder 9,000 Jews. Germany bans the news correspondents of the American NBC, CBS and Mutual radio networks. (NBC and Mutual had actually ended their news-broadcasting operations the previous day due to Nazi censorship of their material.) In Washington, President Roosevelt announces that the 980 U.S. Marines stationed in China are being withdrawn.
The Germans renew their attack on Moscow on November 15, with panzer tanks attacking the capital from the north and the south.
In Ukraine, Kerch, on the far eastern part of the Crimean peninsula, falls to the German 11th Army under Gen. Erich von Manstein on November 16. Attacks continue against the Soviet naval base at Sevastopol on the southern tip of the Crimea.
Operation Silver Fox, a joint German-Finnish attempt to capture the Soviet Arctic port of Murmansk, comes to an end on November 17 as the Red Army successfully fends off the attacks. Joseph Grew, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, sends a cable from Tokyo to Washington, D.C., warning that Japan may strike suddenly and unexpectedly. In Washington, President Roosevelt signs off on the changes to Section 5 of the Neutrality Act that have been approved by Congress, allowing the U.S. to arm its merchant ships. In Berlin, Hitler appoints Nazi Party ideologist Alfred Rosenberg as head of the new Reich Ministry for Occupied Eastern Territories. Rosenberg’s mandate is to “remove undesirable elements” and to exploit the areas for German economic benefit.
In North Africa, “Operation Crusader” — a British Eighth Army offensive to relieve the siege of Tobruk — begins on November 18 with a sortie across the Egyptian border into Libya. (British and Commonwealth forces in North Africa have been reorganized into the Eighth Army, under command of Lt. Gen. Alan Cunningham.) In Tokyo, the Japanese Diet approves a “resolution of hostility” directed against the U.S. Eleven submarines depart Japan to take up station-keeping posts and undertake scouting missions off Hawaii. Another nine Japanese vessels depart the naval base at Kwajalein, in the Marshall Islands, headed for Hawaii.
Both the commerce-raiding German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran and the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney sink following their engagement on November 19 off the coast of Western Australia. There are no survivors from the crew of 645 Australians aboard Sydney; Kormoran’s casualties number six officers and 76 sailors of the 400-man crew. The British 7th Armoured Brigade reaches Sidi Rezegh, Libya, 10 miles south of Tobruk, as part of Operation Crusader. British Field Marshall Sir John Dill retires as Chief of the Imperial General Staff. He is succeeded by Gen. Sir Alan Brooke.
On November 20, in North Africa, the British 4th Armoured Brigade engages the German 15th Panzer Division and takes heavy losses. Gen. Cunningham orders the Tobruk garrison to begin breakout attacks. In Washington, Japanese ambassador Nomura and special envoy Saburo Kurusu propose to U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull that, in return for Japanese withdrawal from Indochina and a pledge that Japan will make no further armed advances in Southeast Asia, the U.S. should give Japan a free hand in China, relax all trade restrictions and halt U.S. naval expansion in the Pacific.