Skip to comments.ZAMZAM ‘PRESUMED LOST,’ LONDON SAYS; 138 AMERICANS ABOARD, 35 CHILDREN (5/20/41)
Posted on 05/20/2011 5:17:31 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
Capture Best Hope 2-3
They Sailed Aboard the Egyption Liner Zamzam, Which is Reported Missing (photos) 4-6
Zamzam Voyage Bored Passenger 6
The International Situation 7
British Push Raids on Nazis in Syria 8
Major Glubb, Second Lawrence, is Casualty in Desert Fighting 8
Smuggled Picture Shows Sweeping Devastation Wrought by Nazis in Rotterdam (photo) 9
Desert Push Puts British Far Ahead 10
Nazi-Soviet Deal on Iran Reported 10-11
The Texts of the Days War Communiques 12
Airborne Germans land on Crete
Tuesday, May 20, 1941 www.onwar.com
In the Mediterranean... The German attack on Crete begins. There are airborne landings by forces of the 7th Paratroop Division from German 11th Air Corps. General Student is in command and has 5th Mountain Division in reserve. There is massive air support from German 8th Air Corps which has over 400 bombers and 200 fighters. Altogether the Germans employ 23,000 troops. The garrison consists mostly of troops recently evacuated from Greece. There are 32,000 British and Commonwealth troops and about 10,000 Greeks. General Freyberg is in command. The attack begins with heavy air raids and these are followed by airborne landings at Maleme and Canea. In the afternoon there are further landings at Retimo and Heraklion. The battle for the island depends on control of the airfields and the German attacks concentrate on these. At Retimo and Heraklion the defending forces are successful; at Canea the German forces retreat inland. At Maleme the fighting is very fierce, though inconclusive. However, during the night of the May 20-21st the New Zealand battalion holding the airfield withdraws, leaving the airfield in German control. The British Mediterranean Fleet is cruising off the island to prevent any German force arriving by sea.
In the North Atlantic... The Bismark and Prinz Eugen are reported in the Kattegat. The information reaches London with the cooperation of Intelligence officers of the Swedish navy. Meanwhile, the US merchant ship Robin Moor is sunk by a German U-boat.
May 20th, 1941
UNITED KINGDOM: Sloop HMS Landguard commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
FRANCE: Paris: The Gestapo arrest the Communist and Resistance leader Gabriel Peri.
GERMANY: Berlin: A circular issued by the central office of emigration tells German consulates that Göring has banned all emigration of Jews from France and Belgium because of the “doubtless imminence of the final solution.”
U-615, U-616 laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)
GREECE: Flt. Lt. Montague T St. John “Pat” Pattle of 80 Sqn., a South African and the RAF’s greatest ace with 41 confirmed victories, is killed in action.
The Luftwaffe launch a huge airborne armada against the island.
Operation Mercury begins at 7:15 AM. The German forces are divided into three groups: West Group under Maj. Gen. Eugen Meindl, which makes its drop at Maleme; Central Group under Lt. Gen. Sussmann, which attacks Suda Bay and Khania; and East Group under Maj. Gen. Ringel, which drops at Herklion. The overall commander is General Lohr of the 4th Air Fleet. His forces include VIII. Fliegerkorps under Air Fleet General von Richthofen, the XI. Fliegerkorps under Air Fleet General Student, the 7th Airborne Paratroop Division under Lt. Gen. Sussmann, the reinforced 5th Mountaineering Division under Maj. Gen. Ringel, and reserve forces made up of units of the 6th Mountaineering Division. There are 10 aerial combat groups with 453 Ju52s, 430 bombers, 180 fighters and 100 gliders.
The drop of the first wave of German paratroops went off almost without a hitch and contrary to expectations, losses of transport aircraft were few. Only 7 of the Ju52s deployed failed to return to their bases in Greece. But during descent and landing, the paratroops were met by strong defensive fire. Many companies of troops were too widely dispersed; they suffered heavy losses and were virtually incapable of going on the offensive. Thus they failed to capture the important Hill 107 near Maleme airfield which was being held by New Zealanders. German airborne infantry who made glider landings in the rocky terrain, also met surprisingly vigorous Allied fire and suffered far higher losses than they predicted. Instead of carrying out their assignment to secure the landing zone, they were immediately put on the defensive.
Gen. Meindl was one of the casualties of the first wave. When news reached Greece that Meindl was out of action, Hermann Bernhard Ramcke, who was then between assignments, decided to accompany the next wave of Fallschirmjaeger jumping into the Maleme perimeter. He landed at Maleme and took charge of that sector.
I. Battalion of the Sturm Regiment is left almost leaderless. The regimental chief surgeon, Dr. Heinrich Neumann, takes over the battalion.
Meanwhile the second wave of German paratroop regiments were standing by at Greek airfields, waiting for the return of the transport aircraft that were due to drop them on Crete that same afternoon. But the first wave transports were delayed in arriving back at their takeoff bases and most had to be refuelled out of portable fuel drums, which was a slow process. It was no longer possible to relay new orders because British agents had cut all the telephone cables between Luftwaffe XI Corps. The Germans therefore attacked Rethimnon and Heraklion at 3.15 PM just as the second wave were about to take-off, the second wave was expected by the defenders and they were shot to pieces by tanks which appeared before they could free themselves from their parachutes, the attacks on the airfields failed.
New Zealand General Freyberg, commander of Crete, reporting to Wavell:
At dawn on Tuesday, powerful German forces began heavy assault on Crete. Large numbers of paratroops jumped onto the island, and according to reports received so far, airborne troops have landed in transport aircraft. British and Greek units have engaged the enemy. A number of German paratroops have been killed and captured. The battles are continuing.
Minesweeper HMS Widnes is badly damaged and sinks in shallow water due to a German air attack at Suda Bay on Crete. She is later salved by the Germans and commissioned into the Kriegsmarine as UJ.2109. (Alex Gordon)(108)
“C” Squadron of the 3rd King’s Own Hussars was in its leaguer four miles west of Canea, and 2nd Lieutenant Farran was sent to block the road from Galatos with his troop of tanks.
When he saw a party of Germans escorting a group of about 40 hospital patients who had been taken prisoner, he killed the guards. The next day he supported 10th Infantry Brigade in a successful attack on Cemetery Hill.
After the Germans broke through the line at Galatos, Farran counter-attacked to retake the village, but was wounded in both legs and an arm, and taken prisoner. He was awarded his first MC.
PALESTINE: Wavell orders 7 Aust Division (Maj-Gen John Lavarack) to move from Mersa Matruh to Palestine in preparation for invasion of Syria. (Michael Alexander)
CHINA: A Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter is shot down by the Chinese over the city of Chengdu, north of Chungking. The wreckage is examined and details sent to the U.S.|Naval Attaché. More...
U.S.A.: Destroyer USS Barton laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)
NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN: Unescorted convoy HX126 from Halifax is attacked at 40 degrees west and losses are heavy.
The USN’s Task Force 2 consisting of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7); the heavy cruiser USS Quincy (CA-39); and the destroyers USS Kearny (DD-432) and USS Livermore (DD-429) departs Bermuda for a 4,000+ mile (6,400+ km) neutrality patrol that concludes in Bermuda on 3 June. The Wasp Air Group consists of Marine Bombing Squadron Two (VMB-2), Fighting Squadron Seventy One (VF-71) and Scouting Squadron Seventy Two (VS-72). (Jack McKillop)
The ninth Lake-class US Coast Guard Cutter, USCGC Shoshone (CGC-50), is transferred to the Royal Navy as HMS Languard. (Jack McKillop).
At 0458 hours on 20 May 1941, the Norman Monarch in station #91 of convoy HX-126 was torpedoed and sunk by U-94. The Harpagus in station #93 was the designated rescue ship for the column and dropped back to rescue survivors. After picking up the whole complement of 48 men, she set course to regain the convoy. At 2320, the Harpagus, having almost regained position, was struck by two torpedoes from U-109 in the starboard side and sank very quickly about 250 miles SSE of Cape Farewell. 25 crewmembers, four gunners, three passengers and 26 survivors were lost. The master, 17 crewmembers and 22 survivors were picked up by destroyer HMS Burnham and landed at Reykjavik.
At 1644, the San Felix, dispersed from Convoy OB-322, was hit by one of two torpedoes from U-111, but escaped in a rain squall with a slight list to starboard after evading a second attack by zagging. The tanker arrived in St Johns on 26 May and later returned to service.
At 2124, the Javanese Prince was torpedoed and sunk by U-138 155 miles NW of the Butt of Lewis, Outer Hebrides. One crewmember was lost. The master, 45 crewmembers, eight gunners and four passengers were picked up by destroyers HMS Faulknor, Lincoln and tug HMS Assurance. All survivors were transferred to the British rescue ship Toward and landed at Gourock on 28 May.
At 1448, 1450 and 1516, U-556 fired torpedoes at Convoy HX-126 south of Cape Farewell and sank three ships, the Darlington Court, British Security and Cockaponset. The British Security caught fire after she was hit and burned for three days until she sank in 57°14N/39°23W. The master, 48 crewmembers and four gunners were lost. The master and 40 crewmembers from the Cockaponset were picked up by the Dutch rescue ship Hontestroom and landed at Reykjavik on 27 May. The master Charles Hurst, ten crewmembers and one gunner from the Darlington Court were picked up by the rescue ship Hontestroom and landed at Reykjavik on 27 May. 22 crewmembers, three gunners and three passengers were lost.
At 1817, the John P. Pedersen, dispersed from Convoy HX-126 the same day, was torpedoed by U-94 about 160 miles south of Greenland. One British gunner was lost and 37 survivors abandoned ship in two lifeboats. The U-boat sank the tanker with two coup de grâce fired at 1850 and 1920. 16 survivors in one boat were picked up by the Dutch rescue ship Hontestroom on 23 May and taken to Reykjavik. Four of them joined the Norwegian Navy there, while eight continued to Gourock on board the Dutch vessel. Another three were sent to Preston, while one was briefly admitted to a hospital at Reykjavik. The other lifeboat with 21 survivors, including the master (13 Norwegians, two Dutch, two Swedish and four British) was never found.
At 0453, the Norman Monarch in position #91 of Convoy HX-126 was hit on the starboard side by one of two torpedoes from U-94 and sank about 200 miles SSE of Cape Farewell. The Harpagus in station #93 was the designed rescue ship for the column and dropped back to rescue survivors. After picking up the master, 41 crewmembers and six gunners the ship tried to rejoin the convoy, but was torpedoed and sunk by U-109. The master, 19 crewmembers and six gunners from the Norman Monarch did not survive the second sinking, the remaining 22 crewmembers were picked up by HMS Burnham and landed at Reykjavik.
At 1729, the Rothermere, dispersed from Convoy HX-126 the same day, was hit in the engine room by one torpedo from U-98 SE of Cape Farewell. The ship sank by the stern after being hit by a coup de grâce at 1756. The master and 21 crewmembers were lost. 29 crewmembers, four gunners and one passenger were picked up by the Icelandic merchantman Bruarfoss and landed at Reykjavik.
SS Rothermere (5,356 GRT), Newfoundland-registered, Anglo-Newfoundland merchantman torpedoed and sunk by U-98, Kptlt Robert Gysae, Knight’s Cross, Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, CO, in the North Atlantic, in position 57.48N, 041.36W. Rothermere was proceeding to England in Convoy HX-126. There were twenty-two casualties from the crew.
HMCS St Francis, a Town-class destroyer (ex-USS Bancroft), a Clemson-class destroyer), rescued survivors from the British freighter Starcross (4,662 GRT), which had been torpedoed in position 51.45N, 020.45W by the Italian Glauco-class submarine Otaria, LCdr Giuseppe Vocaturo, CO. (Dave Shirlaw)
Day 628 May 20, 1941
At 8 AM, German paratroops from Junkers Ju52 troop-carriers and 750 glider-borne troops land between Suda Bay and Maleme airfield on the North coast of Crete, establishing positions in a dry river bed near the airfield. A second wave of paratroops lands around 2 other airfields (Rethimnon at 4.15 PM, Heraklion at 5.30 PM). 1856 Germans are slaughtered in the air or on landing by Allied troops (or Cretan civilians wielding knives and clubs), with many wounded. General Freyberg, still misreading Ultra signals and expecting amphibious landings, holds back artillery & reserve troops. Overnight, amid confusion about who controls Maleme airfield, New Zealand defenders fall back to regroup for an attack in the morning (but reinforcements do not arrive). Overnight, British destroyers HMS Jervis, Nizam & Ilex bombard a German airfield on the Greek island of Karpathos, trying to reduce the threat to Navy ships from German air attack.
German bombers sink British minesweeper HMS Widnes in Suda Bay.
Operation Rheinübung. Swedish seaplane-cruiser Gotland spots German warships Bismark and Prinz Eugen in the Kattegat. The British naval attaché in Stockhlom, Henry Denham, learns the news and informs the Admiralty in London.
U-94, U-98, U-109 and U-556 attack convoy HX-126 250 miles Southeast of Cape Farewell, Greenland, sinking 7 ships. British tanker MV British Security burns out of control for 3 days, killing all 53 on board. SS Harpagus rescues 48 men from SS Norman Monarch, but is then sunk at 11.20 PM killing 26 of those survivors plus 25 crew, 4 gunners and 3 passengers. 155 miles Northwest of Outer Hebrides, U-138 sinks British MV Javanese Prince. 430 miles West of Ireland, Italian submarine Otaria sinks British SS Starcross (all hands rescued by Canadian destroyer HMCS St. Francis).
Once I read about the sinking of ZamZam by the raider Atlantis.
Interesting to read about its disappearance in a newspaper, puts it into the perspective of the day.
Interviews with the ZamZam survivors
German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis immediately after she had stopped Egyptian passenger liner ZamZam in the South Atlantic, 18 Apr 1941
From the “Blly Graham archives”
that must be some interesting material
20 May 1941 (Tuesday):
0200-0600. Passes through the Great Belt together with Prinz Eugen and the destroyers Z-10, Z-16, and Z-23.
1300. Bismarck and Prinz Eugen are sighted in the Kattegat by the Swedish cruiser Gotland.
The Swedish cruiser Gotland, under the command of Captain Agren, sighted the battleship Bismarck in the Kattegat on 20 May 1941 and immediately reported her position to Stockholm. The sighting report was leaked to the British Naval Attaché, Captain Henry W. Denham who later alerted the Admiralty in London:
“Kattegat, today 20 May. At 1500, two large warships, escorted by three destroyers, five ships and ten or twelve planes, passed Marstrand to the northeast. 2058/20.”
Your tagline is right on today. All the previous non-Homer replies have been about the headline story - the Zamzam. Bismarck and Crete are nowhere to be found in today’s “news”.
One additional item for today.
Today Franz Halder had a meeting with the commander of the Replacement Army, Colonel-General Fritz Fromm to outline the limitations for personnel in the upcoming operation BARBAROSSA.
Halder notes in this meeting that he expects 275,000 casualties on the initial Soviet border battles and a further 200,000 casualties by the end of September. With an existing replacement army reported by Fromm of only 385,000 men with 90,000 earmarked for the Luftwaffe, Halder knew he wouldn’t have enough men to maintain forces after September.
The strategic importance of Crete for the Balkans and the Mediterranean has been recognised throughout recorded history. It is the largest island in the Aegean and occupies a central position in the eastern Mediterranean. Developments in naval and air warfare by 1939 had· enhanced its importance, and the harbour at Suda Bay, as the largest in the Mediterranean, was an obvious base for naval operations.
Under British control its airfields, properly exploited, could threaten the Balkans as far as the oilfields in Rumania; if available to an enemy, they could endanger British sea communications through the Mediterranean to Alexandria, and the island itself could be used as a staging post for reinforcements to any part of the Western Desert.
The island is about 160 miles long from west to east and about 36 miles wide from north to south. It is dominated by four mountain ranges. The south coast has four harbours, but these are fit only for fishing-boats; the best harbours- Suda Bay, Retimo, and Heraklion-are on the north coast. The airfields, so valuable to whoever controls them, are all in the neighbourhood of these latter ports. Communications in 1941 were primitive. The important roads were few, bad, and mainly concentrated on the north coast, while there was only one lateral east-west road. Strung along this road were the ports and the airfields, easily accessible to air attack from the mainland of Greece. The road could take only one line of traffic, and its bridges were unsafe for vehicles over 7 tons; there was no mesh of subsidiary roads to relieve pressure on it, for the roads running south were little but cart-tracks, and only three of these ran right across the island. There were only three local narrow-gauge railways in the island and these were of no military importance, while telephone and telegraph facilities were negligible.
From the point of view of a potential defender of the island, the only advantages afforded by topography were the ruggedness of the country inland from the north coast, which made outflanking manceuvres slow and laborious; and the fertile tracts on the north coast, which had many groves of olives and almond trees to give good cover to troops. These potentialities were realised by the British from the outbreak of war- but, because of Greek neutrality, nothing could be done until Italy invaded Greece at the end of October 1940. Plans had then been put in train for the island's occupation in brigade strength, with projected reinforcement by the Marine Naval Base Defence Organisation (MNBDO) and a large complement of heavy and light anti-aircraft guns.
The Bismarck during her voyage to Norway seen from a minesweeper of the 5th Flotilla on 20 May 1941.
Seems to me that Halder’s estimates weren’t that far off the actual figures, either.
My God...half a million lives ended or ruined... and Halder was throwing out such high casualty estimates like they were just numbers in a ledger. He isn’t even counting projected Soviet losses, of which he cares not. Cougar, your post really shows the cold brutality of this war.
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