Skip to comments.R.A.F. IN THIRD MAJOR RAID ON GERMANY; LIBYA DRIVE CURBED, ROMMEL MAKES STAND (6/3/42)
Posted on 06/03/2012 5:58:15 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
* Beginning here and for 8 consecutive days Harold Denny will tell the tale of his adventures as a prisoner of the Italians and Germans after his capture less than two weeks before the U.S. entered the war. Quite a tale it is.
US bombers attack Japanese fleet
Wednesday, June 3, 1942 www.onwar.com
In the Pacific... The Midway Invasion Group and their naval support (Admiral Kondo) are discovered by air reconnaissance from Midway. A group of American B-17 Flying Fortresses are launched on an unsuccessful attack of the Japanese forces.
In Malta... The HMS Eagle flies in 31 Spitfires of which 27 arrive intact.
June 3rd, 1942
UNITED KINGDOM: The government announces that it will take over the running of all coal mines.
A Wellington of No. 172 Squadron RAF makes the first Leigh Light attack on a U-boat. (22)
FRANCE: British commandos raid Le Touquet.
NORTH AFRICA: The British have raised a special unit called SIG (Special Interrogation Group) from the volunteer, German speaking, Jewish refugees who fled Nazi Germany and Austria and now fight in the British forces. SIG is the idea of Oxford scholar and German linguist, Captain Herbert Cecil A. Buck, MC, of the Punjabi Guards and Scots Guards. Wounded and captured in Egypt, he had escaped using an Afrika Korps uniform. Surprised by how easy it was for a German-speaker to pass unmolested through Axis lines, he reported to British High Command in Cairo and was rewarded with command of the new unit.
He found eager recruits from the ranks of the German-speaking Jews in the British Army, French Foreign Legion and Free Czech Forces. One, Maurice “Tiffen” Tiefenbrunner, escaped just as the war broke out. “I was alone in Palestine. My parents and a hundred other relatives were in dire straits in Poland. I had a dream that I could help them by joining the British Army and being parachuted into Poland,” he says from his home in Jerusalem.
Declassified cables of military intelligence reveal that in March 1942 the SIG was given the green light.
A top-secret letter from the War Office spoke of “a Special German Group as a sub-unit of ME Commando ... with the cover name ‘Special Interrogation Group’, to be used for infiltration behind German lines in the Western Desert, under 8th Army.”
Another early volunteer was a battle hardened commando, Ariyeh Shai. Now in his eighties and living in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, he recalls how the straight-talking Captain Buck explained that a Jew caught masquerading as a soldier of the Master Race was finished. “Captain Buck had warned that our lives would depend on our ability to wear disguises faultlessly, to learn to perfection the slang prevalent among the soldiers of the Afrika Korps and to drill in accordance with all the German methods,” says Shai. “Buck told us ‘If your true identity is found out, there is no hope for you’.”
The SIG training camp was at the far end of an isolated group of desert escarpments. Contacts with other British units were “nil”, says Shai, so that he and his comrades could live, eat, drill, speak and behave like Germans. They even goose-stepped to the mess room.
Meanwhile, their “Aryan” identities were embellished with pay books, cigarettes and chocolates, and even love letters to fictitious sweethearts in Germany. In Cairo, ATS women dressed as civilians and posed for photos with the men in their Afrika Korps uniforms against a Germanic background.
The training - handling explosives, desert navigation, unarmed combat - under the Saharan sun welded the individuals into a team with all the skills required by a special raiding force. Within months the SIG was ready for action. The early missions involved using captured German vehicles and going behind the lines and setting up roadblocks. Dressed as German military police, they stopped and questioned German transports, gathering crucial intelligence. On other forays they would carry out acts of sabotage or simply pull in at German camps to chat amiably with their “fellow’” soldiers and gather information. Tiffen even collected his German Army pay at one stop.
On June 3, 1942, the SIG was given its first big task: to blow up Luftwaffe airfields 100 miles west of Tobruk, which were threatening the Malta supply convoys. Captain Buck was delighted; it would give him a chance to show what his Jews could do. But among his commandos lurked a suspicion that the greatest danger was from within the ranks.
Now a sprightly 85, Tiffen still clearly recalls the two real Germans who had been selected to help train the SIG in the minutiae of the life of an Afrika Korps trooper. They were recruited in the PoW camps, where they had spied effectively on their fellow prisoners for the British military intelligence. They were deemed reliable by the British but distrusted by the Jewish soldiers.
“(Herbert) Brueckner was in his twenties. He was big, brash and fair; (Walter) Essner was quiet, good-natured and in his thirties. They were former members of the French Foreign Legion before the war, professing to be anti-Nazi communists,” he says.
Tiefenbrunner, whose early years were spent in Wiesbaden, says the commander would not listen to his concerns. “I grew up in German society and knew the mentality, but Buck insisted and the orders were obeyed.”
The raid took place in mid-June. SIG and Free French SAS soldiers plunged into enemy territory to attack the airfields at Derna. At dusk they struck; one unit blew up 27 aircraft. But a second group was cornered by Nazi troops - Brueckner had managed to slip away, and betray them to the nearest battalion of Germans.
Thirty men were surrounded; all but one fought and died; the last SIG soldier blew himself up to avoid capture.
That night Hitler himself issued an order that “German political refugees” fighting in North Africa “were to be immediately wiped out”.
Back in Berlin, Brueckner received a medal. But Essner never got an opportunity to betray the SIG. Closely guarded by Tiffen throughout the raid, he was given to the Military Police and later shot.
The Times November 17th, 2000 (Julian Kossoff and Mike Yared)
CHINA: Chinese troops abandon Chuchow air base.
PACIFIC OCEAN: The Japanese Invasion Group is spotted by land based aircraft from Midway. An unsuccessful raid by USAAF B-17s is mounted.
Preliminary action begins in the Battle of Midway. Nine B-17 Flying Fortresses, flying out of Midway Island, attack five large transports 570 miles (912 km) off Midway, claiming 5 hits and several near misses; actually, they hit nothing. Seven other B-17s leave Oahu, Territory of Hawaii and fly to Midway. (Jack McKillop)
Despite dense fog and rough seas, the Japanese light aircraft carriers HIJMS Junyo and HIJMS Ryujo, supported by the heavy cruisers HIJMS Takao and HIJMS Maya, three destroyers and an oiler, begin launching aircraft at 0325 hours local against Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island, Aleutian Islands. The is part of the “AL” Operation. Only half of the aircraft reach the objective; the other half either crash into the sea or return to their ships. At 0545 hours, 15 aircraft appear and begin strafing targets at naval installations at Dutch Harbor and the Army’s Fort Mears; at 0555 hours, the first of four waves of bombers in groups of three or four, Nakajima B5N, Navy Type 97 Carrier Attack Bombers, Allied Code Name “Kate,” release 16 bombs on Fort Mears killing 25 and wounding many others.
P-40s from Cold Bay trying to intercept them arrive 10 minutes after the last attack wave departs. Other P-40s at Otter Point Field on Umnak Island are notified too late due to communication failure. The Japanese cruisers had catapulted four Nakajima E8N2 Navy Type 95 Reconnaissance Seaplanes, Allied Code Name “Dave,” to reconnoitre the area west of Dutch Harbor and two of them flew over Umnak and one was shot down and the other was damaged and retreated still unaware of the new airdrome. By 0745 hours local, the Japanese carriers had recovered their aircraft. Meanwhile, nine P-40s and six B-26 Marauders fly a patrol but cannot find the fleet, 180 miles (288 km) south of Dutch Harbor. However, a PBY-5A Catalina of the USN’s Patrol Squadron Forty Two (VP-42) flies through a snow squall and locates the Japanese ships. The aircraft is attacked by Japanese fighters but the Americans linger in the area until the composition and position of the force can be determined. The PBY finally heads for home but runs out of fuel and makes an open sea landing where the crew is rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Nemaha (WSC-148). Another PBY-5A of VP-41 searching for the Japanese are shot down and three are captured and taken aboard the cruiser HIJMS Takao. The Japanese torture the three in an attempt to learn the location of the unknown USAAF base but the sailors reveal nothing. The three are taken to Japan and survive their internment.
One Mitsubishi A6M Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter, Allied Code Name “Zeke,” is damaged by AA fire and the pilot makes an emergency landing on Akutan Island. However, he was fooled by the flat surface; it is actually a bog and the aircraft flips over killing the pilot. The recovery of this aircraft in July 1942 reveals many of its secrets.
Six B-17Es equipped with SCR-521 radar arrive at Kodiak and are immediately dispatched on search missions to locate the Japanese ships.
Additional losses in the Aleutians: 26 Army and 1 Navy were killed, and four quonset huts, one barracks building, and one radio tower were destroyed. All but one of the carrier-based air returned safely but two of four Pete floatplanes were shot down late in the day when they were ambushed by P-40’s from Cold Bay.
Anti-aircraft fire from the few US Navy weapons was heavy but ineffective due to the siting of the weapons. The US Army’s 206th CA (AA) was ashore and well-sited but the commander refused to allow it to open fire from concerns about revealing its location. Accurate fire was returned from the SS PRESIDENT FILLMORE, moored in the harbour, which had G/260th CA (AA) (often but inaccurately listed as G/503rd CA (AA) on board with its guns on deck through the foresight of then 1st Lt Perry Faust. The Port Captain later credited this unit for its performance and noted that he had thought the ship had exploded, so heavy was the fire being returned from the ship.
The Port Engineer had only recently completed the pier at Dutch Harbor, a example of really solid engineering due to the extreme depth of the harbour. He ran along the dock during the attack and continued to order all moored vessels to set sail lest the Japanese damage “his” pier. He was ignored by the ship’s captains. (Marc Small)
U.S.A.: German U-boat operations continue off the U.S. east coast:
- U-502 sinks an unarmed U.S. tanker off the Florida keys. The Germans take two survivors aboard for interrogation but have to dive when a USN patrol bomber appears. The sub later surfaces and the U.S. sailors are released and provided with a life raft and provisions. The sailors are rescued on 8 June.
- U-432 sinks two armed U.S. fishing boats en-route from Gloucester, Massachusetts to Sea Island, Nova Scotia with gunfire after allowing the crews to abandon ship and board lifeboats. (Jack McKillop)
The second prototype Grumman F6F-3 is ordered with a more powerful engine, the R-2800, following experience gained in the Battle of the Coral Sea. (Will O’Neil)
I just started reading a book called "Tail-End Charlies: The Last Battles of the Bomber War, 1944-45" in which the author states that the RAF bomber crews received a great deal of vilification from their countrymen shortly after the war because of Dresden and other raids. He compared their treatment to that of U.S. troops returning from Vietnam.
I had no idea. I'm not surprised that leftist-types would do this, I just didn't realize it happened immediately after the war and was apparently not isolated to those on the fringe of English society. Does anyone have any insight on this?
"The Markuszów (Poland) Ghetto was liquidated on May 9, 1942, a day when the ghetto's remaining 1,500 Jews were deported to the Sobibor death camp.
This and other May deportations from ghettos in the region signaled the beginning of Sobibor's mass-extermination program.
However, a few of Markuszow's Jews escaped to the Parczew Forest, located about 25 miles northeast of the city.
There, men and women--ill-trained, poorly armed, and underfed--organized as partisans and resolved to take the measure of their persecutors."
"Gestapo chief Reinhard Heydrich and his wife, Lina, attend a concert in Prague on May 26, 1942, the night before he was ambushed and mortally wounded by Czech partisans.
Also the Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, Heydrich was charged with rooting out and destroying the increasingly effective underground movement that operated along the Czech countryside.
Toward this end, thousands of Czechs were arrested and hundreds killed."
The concert was comprised of some of his father’s [Bruno Heydrich] works.
Churchill (and Roosevelt) fully supported "Bomber" Harris' heavy bombing of German civilian targets, indeed pushed for ever more bombing all the way up until Dresden in February 1945.
At that point, a number of factors came to play:
On March 28, 1945 (two months before war's end), Churchill turned and in effect stabbed his bomber chief in the back:
"The Foreign Secretary has spoken to me on this subject, and I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives such as oil and communications behind the immediate battle-zone, rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive."
Roosevelt died on April 12, and the new President, Harry Truman, was far less sympathetic to "Uncle Joe" Stalin than FDR had been.
Anyway, the new-found western angst over bombing of German civilians served only one useful purpose I can imagine: to win sympathy among post-war Germans for the West versus Soviets.
It’s my recollection that Harris was the only senior commander to not receive a knighthood.
On a personal note, some years ago I traveled to Dresden, and got a west German to make reservations for me in that city. (It was shortly after the wall came down.). The innkeeper repeatedly questioned whether I was American or English. He had ample accommodation for an American, but nothing available those dates if I was British.
I also believe Bomber Command was the only major component of the British military not to get their own campaign ribbon.