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This Week in World War II: 75 Years Ago

Georg-Hans_Reinhardt, second from left, crossed the Moscow-Volga Canal on November 29, 1941.

Georg-Hans_Reinhardt, second from left, crossed the Moscow-Volga Canal on November 29, 1941. Wikimedia Commons.

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

In East Africa, terms are negotiated and accepted on November 28, 1941, for the surrender of 22,000 Italian troops in Ethiopia. In North Africa, there is renewed fighting around Sidi Rezegh, Libya. Northwest of Ed Duda, Libya, New Zealand troops make contact with soldiers from the Tobruk garrison, breaking the siege. In Berlin, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, meets with Hitler; they both pledging mutual support.

Panzer forces commanded by Gen. Georg-Hans Reinhardt reach the Moscow-Volga Canal on November 29 and cross it. Red Army resistance, however, is fierce. At Taganrog, on the Sea of Azov, the Germans are forced to withdraw in the face of stiff Soviet defense.

On November 30, a British Whitney bomber sinks the German submarine U-206 in France’s Bay of Biscay with the assistance of air-to-surface-vessel radar. It is the first successful use of the equipment. In Borneo, British sources report Japanese naval movements; the assumption is that the vessels are headed for Malaya or the East Indies. In North Africa, Axis forces attack New Zealand troops at Sidi Rezegh, Libya, in a renewed attack on Tobruk.

On December 1, the Germans continue their attack on Tobruk; New Zealanders facing them are forced to retreat. The Axis troops, however, are becoming exhausted, and many officers have been killed or wounded. The British Eighth Army, though battered, is still receiving supplies and replacement tanks. In Japan, the government of Hideki Tojo decides that the terms of the “Hull Note” are an unacceptable ultimatum; Emperor Hirohito approves attacks against the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands. A state of emergency is declared in British Malaya. In the U.S., Fiorello LaGuardia, mayor of New York City and Director, U.S. Office of Civilian Defense, signs Administrative Order Number 9 creating the Civil Air Patrol, which will operate under the authority of the U.S. Army Air Forces. On the Eastern Front, SS Col. Karl Jäger reports to Berlin that Lithuania is “clean of Jews.” Farther south, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt resigns following the German retreat that he ordered from Rostov-on-Don (on November 24th against Hitler’s direct command), the first significant German withdrawal of the war. Subsequent commanders later affirm that Rundstedt had made the correct decision.

From Tokyo on December 2 the code message “Climb Mount Niitaka” is sent to the Japanese task force en route to Hawaii, indicating that negotiations have broken down and the attack is to be carried out as planned. In the Soviet Union, small German scout units reach the outskirts of Moscow as the weather turns colder with heavy snow falling in blizzard conditions. U.S. cryptologists intercept Japanese orders to destroy codes at the embassy in Washington.

In North Africa, Lt. Gen. Erwin Rommel orders attacks against the garrisons of Bardia, Libya, and Sollum and the Halfaya Pass, in Egypt, but all are repulsed. In the United Kingdom, conscription is expanded on December 3 to include all males between the ages of 18 and 50. Women are encouraged to join auxiliary groups and to serve on fire brigades. In Finland, the Soviets evacuate the naval base at Hanko, 80 miles west of Helsinki, besieged since June 29.

On December 4, the temperature on the Moscow front falls to –34°F. In the U.S., the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Times-Herald publish an article revealing leaked details of the top-secret war plan put together by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy, including the statement that the U.S. would not be able to field forces in strength until mid-1943. The German chargé d’affaires in Washington radios a report on the article to Berlin.

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