Skip to comments.U.S. BOMBERS STRIKE IN BLACK SEA REGION, REPORTED ATTACKING RUMANIAN OIL WELLS (6/14/42)
Posted on 06/14/2012 4:10:09 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
The News of the Week in Review
Twenty News Questions 12
Europes Battlelines in the Third War Summer (map) 13
British a Match for Nazis in Libya (Post) 14
Crucial Summer Battles Flame on Western Front (Baldwin) 15
Answers to Twenty News Questions 16
Convoys to Malta under attack
Sunday, June 14, 1942 www.onwar.com
Convoy to Malta under attack [photo at link]
In the Mediterranean... The two convoys bound for Malta continue to have difficulties. The Harpoon convoy from Gibraltar loses one merchant ship and one of its escort cruisers is damaged. The Vigorous convoy, sailing from Egypt, is attacked by Axis torpedo boats as well and an escort destroyer is sunk and a cruiser is damaged.
June 14th, 1942
FRANCE: Paris: A 12 year old Jewish boy jumps of a window to his death in the Alésia-Orléans neighbourhood, because he has to wear the yellow star.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA: Aircraftsman First Class O’Neill was one of a party of personnel from the newly formed RAF Regiment aboard the merchantman SS Aagtekirk en route for Malta. The ship was unable to remain in the safety of the convoy, and was diverted towards Tobruk. It came under heavy air attack. O’Neill manned an anti-aircraft gun, until a bomb blast destroyed it and left him seriously wounded. He nevertheless helped the ship’s captain attempt to rig hand steering gear. When the ship finally sank, he saved the lives of two colleagues in the water before being rescued. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, a unique award to an RAF Regiment member. (Dave Shirlaw)
U.S.S.R.: Moscow: A cruel hand-to-hand battle with many casualties on both sides is being waged for possession of the fortress city of Sevastopol in the Crimea. The assault by von Manstein’s Eleventh Army opened six days ago with a massive bombardment by the Luftwaffe and the heaviest guns in the Heer’s armoury, including the 31.5 inch “Big Dora”, the largest gun ever built.
This bombardment crushed Sevastopol’s own big guns, but the defenders are fighting in the rubble and the Germans are using flamethrowers to burn them out. Fort Stalin fell to the Germans yesterday, but the fight goes on.
NEW ZEALAND: The leading elements of the U.S. First Marine Division arrive in Wellington.
TERRITORY OF ALASKA: (Jack McKillop) In the Aleutian Islands, the 11th Air Force and Patrol Wing 4 continue to attack Kiska Island. Four B-17s and three B-24s bomb the island and claim hits on two cruisers and the destruction of one Japanese seaplane; two of the B-17s are badly damaged but make it back to base. A PatWing 4 PBY Catalina is shot down over Kiska by AA fire.
The light cruiser HIJMS Abukuma and four destroyers that departed Kiska two days ago, arrive at Amchitka Island and begin reconnoitring with aircraft and landing parties. A B-17 discovers the operation and flies over the area. The Japanese report back that there are no suitable sites for an airfield.
In the Aleutians, the USAAF’s 11th Air Force dispatches four B-17 Fortresses and three B-24 Liberators to bomb shipping in the harbour of Kiska Island from an altitude of 700-feet (213.4 m), the lowest altitude yet. The crews claim two cruisers are hit and one scout seaplane is shot down; two B-17s are heavily damaged but return to base.
A USN PBY Catalina bombs Japanese ships sailing southwest of Kiska just missing the light cruiser HIJMS Tama. The Japanese light cruiser HIJMS Abukuma and four destroyers arrive at Amchitka Island from Attu Island to reconnoitre and search for suitable airfield sites but none are found. The force is spotted by a B-17 and is shadowed.
Japanese bombers attack targets in the Nazan Bay area of Atka Island. (Jack McKillop)
U.S.A.: Washington: Mexico and the Philippines sign treaties agreeing to join the “United Nations”.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules that requiring students to salute the American flag is unconstitutional. [See 1943] (Jack McKillop)
Destroyer USS Baldwin launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
The first U.S. antitank rocket launcher, the M-1, the original “Bazooka”, produced in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Patrick Holscher)
CARIBBEAN SEA: U-161 sinks a freighter east of Nicaragua. (Jack McKillop)
SS Regent sunk by U-504 at 17.50N, 84.10W.
At 0854, U-172 fired one torpedo at the unescorted bulk carrier, Lebore, which proceeded on a nonevasive course at 10.4 knots about 200 (321.9 km) miles north of Cristobal. A lookout spotted the wake 400 feet from the ship, but the helmsman had no time to avoid the torpedo, which struck on the starboard side at the #6 hatch. The explosion caused a hole in the #3 wing tank and jammed the after 4in gun (the ship was also armed with two .50cal and two .30cal guns). The tank rapidly filled with water and caused the ship to list 45° to starboard. The U-boat hit the vessel with two coup de grâce at 0918 and 1039 and finally sunk the now capsized ship with 12 rounds from her deck gun. The seven officers, 32 crewmen, six armed guards and 49 survivors from the Crijnssen, which had been picked up on 11 June after their ship had been sunk by U-504 that day, abandoned ship in three lifeboats and four rafts. The first assistant engineer failed to leave the ship and drowned. 40 survivors were picked up by destroyer USS Tattnall after boats and rafts had been spotted by an aircraft on 16 June, another 25 survivors were picked up from a boat by USS Erie, which also rescued 28 survivors from St Andrews Island, after they landed there in a lifeboat about 18 hours after the attack. All survivors were landed at Cristobal on 17 June. (Dave Shirlaw and Jack McKillop)
THE commissar's villa was furnished in surprisingly good taste.
Situated with a small garden of its own on the edge of the city of Kharkov, it was two-storied, with its own properly constructed wine cellar. The comrade commissar had done himself proud. But then he had also been a man in a highly responsible jobin charge of the heavy industry of the Kharkov region. Now the villa had been requisitioned by General of Panzer Troops Stumme and the staff of his XL Panzer Corps while the good commissar was otherwise occupied.
Stumme was an excellent officer and a man who enjoyed lifeshort of stature, bursting with energy, and always on the go. He was never without the monocle which he had worn even while still a junior cavalry officer. His high blood-pressure gave his face a permanent flush. His physical and temperamental characteristics had earned him the nickname of "Fireball" (Feuerball in German) among the officers and men of his headquarters. He knew his nickname, of course, but pretended not to, which saved him having to react every time he overheard some one using it.
Stumme was no scholarly General Staff officer, but a practical man with a genuine flair for spotting and grasping tactical opportunities. He was one of the best German tank commanders, clever in planning operations and resolute in executing them. He was a front-line officer, idolized by his soldiers, whose welfare was his constant concern. But he was also respected by his officers, who admired his energy and operational instinct. His weakness, a pleasant weakness at that, was good food and drink. "War's bad enoughwhy eat badly as well? No, gentlemen, not me!" was a favorite saying of his. But the choice delicacies which the commander of the headquarters staff got hold of would invariably be shared with guests and friends.
Just such a dinner-party was given by Stumme at his headquarters on the evening of 19th June 1942.
The guests included the three divisional commanders of the Corps and the chief of corps artilleryMajor-General von Boineburg-Lengsfeld, commanding 23rd Panzer Division, Major-General Breith, commanding 3rd Panzer Division, Major-General Fremerey, commanding 29th Motorized Infantry Division, and Major-General Angelo Müller, the artillery chief. Also present were Lieutenant-Colonel Franz, the chief of the Corps staff, Lieutenant-Colonel Hesse, the chief of operations, Second Lieutenant Seitz, the orderly officer, and Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Momm, the Corps adjutant, who also happened to be an international showjumper.
It was to be "the condemned man's last meal," as Stumme remarked jokingly. "Only a few more days of leisure, gentlemen then we're off again. Let's hope we manage to force Stalin to his knees this time."
"Let's hope so," grunted General Breith, the robust Panzer leader from the Palatinate.
Two days previously the three divisional commanders had been informed verbally about the Corps' task during the first phase of "Operation Blue." Verbally only, because under Hitler's very strict security regulations a divisional commander was not allowed to know Corps orders for an offensive until that offensive had actually begun-what would be known in years to come as a strictly need to know basis.
"Couldn't we have a few points in writing," one of the commanders had begged. It was against the strict security regulations, but Stumme consented.
"You can't lead a Panzer Corps on too tight a rein," he had said to his chief of staff and chief of operations, and had gone to dictate a brief outline of half a page of typescript: "For the eyes of divisional commanders only." And it had covered only the first phase of "Operation Blue." Lieutenant-Colonel Hesse had arranged for the top-secret document to go to the divisions by particularly reliable couriers. This, in fact, was the usual practice with many Panzer Corps. After all, how could a divisional commander, in charge of a fast unit, take intelligent advantage of a sudden opportunity to break through if he did not know whether the further advance would aim north, south, or west?
Stumme's Corps had been assigned the task, under the first phase of "Operation Blue," of thrusting across the Oskol as part of Sixth Army and then wheeling north in order to encircle the enemy. If the division managed to get across the river quickly it was important for the commanders to know the general outlines of the plan, so that they should act correctly without losing time. Stumme had always found his method of a brief written outline for his divisional commanders satisfactory. In this way he had never lost a chance, and nothing had ever gone wrong at least not until that 19th June.
Stumme was enjoying his guests' surprise at the delicacies served. The main course was roast venisona roebuck shot by Lieutenant-Colonel Franz on a reconnaissance outing. For an entrée there was caviar, washed down with Crimean champagne. Both these had been discovered in a Kharkov warehouse by a keen mess officer, and the visitors did not have to be asked twice to help themselves.
Nothing produces a merry atmosphere more quickly than sweet Crimean champagnea fact confirmed at the Tsar's banqueting-tables in the old days and at many a Soviet festive gathering since. Around Stumme's dinner table, too, there was relaxed gaiety on that 19th June. The officers, who had all gone through the appalling winter, were beginning to see the future more optimistically. Above all, the general commanding the Corps was full of energy and optimism. Earlier in the afternoon he had spoken to Army, where the mood had likewise been one of optimism. General von Mackensen with his reinforced XL Panzer Corps had just opened a breach in the enemy lines for Sixth Army, in the Volchansk area north of Kharkov and east of the Donets, and thus enabled it to take up excellent starting positions for the great offensive along the Burluk, on the far side of the Donets.
In a bold encircling operation Mackensen with his four fast and four infantry divisions had smashed greatly superior Soviet forces which had been firmly dug in along the commanding high ground on the Donets. The Corps had seized the high ground and taken 23,000 prisoners. In the impending large-scale offensive General Paulus's Sixth Army would not therefore now have to force a costly crossing of the Donets under enemy fire.
Lieutenant-Colonel Franz was using his knife, fork, dessert spoon, and brandy glass to illustrate Mackensen's interesting operation which had achieved such marked success at exceedingly low cost. His operation was seen as further evidence that the German Armies in the East had regained their old striking-power. "And now Mackensen is about to repeat the same performance south-east of us, in order to clear the enemy from the ground this side of the Donets and gain for us the Oskol as our starting-line for 'Operation Blue.' Splendid fellow Mackensenhe'll pull it off again, you'll see." Stumme raised his glass. Optimism and cheerfulness reigned unchallenged.
The time was five minutes to ten.
No writing appeared on the wall as at Balthazar's feast, nor did a bomb drop amid the gay revelers. All that happened was that Sergeant Odinga, the operations clerk, came in, bent down over Lieutenant-Colonel Hesse, and whispered something into his ear. The chief of operations rose from his chair and turned to Stumme. "If you'll excuse me, Herr General, I'm urgently wanted on the telephone."
Stumme laughed. "Don't come back with bad news!"
"I should hardly think so, Herr General," Hesse replied. "It's only the duty orderly officer of 23rd Panzer Division."
When they had closed the door behind them and were walking down the stairs to the map-room Sergeant Odinga remarked, "There seems to be quite a flap on at 23rd, Herr Oberstleutnant."
"Yesit seems Major Reichel, their chief of operations, has been missing since this afternoon."
Hesse instantly raced down the remaining stairs to the telephone.
"Yes, what's up, Teichgräber?"
He listened. Then he said, "No, of course he isn't here."
Hesse glanced at his wrist-watch. "He took off at 1400 hours, you say? But, My God it's 2200 hours now!
Suddenly it hit Hesse: Tell me what did he have with him?"
Hesse listened intently.
"His map-board? What? The file with the typed note too? But, for heaven's sake, that's not something to take with you on a reconnaissance flight?"
Hesse was stunned. He dropped the receiver on its rest and ran upstairs to the dining-room. The high spirits evaporated abruptly. They could tell from the chief of operations' expression that something had happened.
Briefly, turning alternately to Stumme and to von Boineburg-Lengsfeld, Lieutenant-Colonel Hesse reported what had occurred. Major Reichel, the chief of operations of 23rd Panzer Division, a brilliant and reliable officer, had taken off in a Fieseler Storch at 1400 hours, with Lieutenant Dechant as his pilot, to fly to XVII Army Corps Headquarters in order to have another look at the Division's deployment area as outlined in the typed note for the divisional commanders. Reichel must have flown beyond Corps Headquarters to the main fighting-line. He had not yet returned, nor had he landed anywhere within the division's area. He had had with him not only the typed note, but also his map with the Corps' divisions marked on it as well as the objectives of the first phase of "Operation Blue" Stumme had shot up from his chair. Boineburg-Lengsfeld tried to reassure the party: "He could have come down somewhere behind our divisions. There's no need to assume the worst straight away." He was fighting against the terrible thought that was written on every face: the Russians have got him, complete with the directive and the objectives of "Operation Blue."
Stumme was living up to his nickname. All divisions along the front were instantly rung up: divisional commanders and regimental commanders were instructed to inquire from forward artillery observers and company commanders whether any incident had been observed at all.
Corps' headquarters was like a beehive. There was a continuous buzzing and ringing of telephones until, barely forty-five minutes later, the 336th Infantry Division came through. A forward artillery observer had seen a Fieseler Storch in the scorching hot afternoon haze, somewhere between 1500 and 1600 hours. The machine had banked and turned into a very low cloud, and finally, just as a heavy summer downpour blanketed the whole sector, it appeared to have floated down and come to rest close to the Soviet lines almost in the middle of no-mans land.
"Strong assault party to be sent out at once," Stumme commanded.
Lieutenant-Colonel Hesse issued the detailed orders for the reconnaissance. The main interest, of course, was in the two men. If Reichel and his pilot could not be found, then a search must be made for a briefcase and a map-board. If the enemy had got to the spot first the ground must be searched for traces of fire or battle, or anything suggesting destruction of the papers.
In the grey dawn of 20th June the 336th Infantry Division sent out a reinforced company into the rather brush-filled terrain. A second company provided flank cover and put up a show of activity to divert the Soviets. The aircraft was eventually found in a small valley.
It was empty. There was no briefcase and no map-board. The instruments had been removed from the dashboarda favorite Russian practice whenever they captured a German machine (the Germans also attempted to collect aircraft clocks and other scarce instruments from their damaged aircraft). There were no traces of fire which might suggest destruction of the map or papers. Neither were there any traces of blood or any indication of a struggle. The aircraft's fuel-tank had a bullet-hole. The petrol had run out of the tank.
"Search the neighborhood," the captain ordered.
The men moved off in small groups.
A moment later came the voice of a sergeant: "Over here!"
He pointed to two mounds of earth, some 30 yards from the aircrafttwo fresh graves. The company commander was satisfied. He recalled his parties and returned to base.
General Stumme shook his head impatiently when he was given the report about the two graves. "Since when have the Soviets shown such respect for our dead as to bury them? And alongside that aircraft, too!""Certainly looks odd to me," remarked Lieutenant-Colonel Franz.
"I want to know more about this: it may be some piece of devilry," Stumme decided.
The 336th Infantry Division was ordered to send out a party yet again, to open up the graves and to find out whether they contained Reichel and Lieutenant Dechant. The men of 685th Infantry Regiment set out again. With them went Major Reichel's batman, to identify him. The graves were opened. The lad thought he could recognize his major, although the body was in its underclothes and altogether was not a pleasant sight. In the second grave there were no items of uniform either.
Precisely what report XL Panzer Corpsat whose headquarters the entire investigation was concentratedmade to Army about the bodies found in the graves can no longer be reliably established. Certain staff officers do not even remember that any bodies were found at all. The intelligence officer of XL Panzer Corps, who was only a few miles away from the point where the aircraft came down, functioning as a kind of forward post of General Stumme's headquarters, and who was immediately enlisted in the search operation, considers that Major Reichel had vanished without trace. Lieutenant-Colonel Franz, as he then was, on the contrary believes that the bodies were identified beyond any doubt. In spite of such definite views expressed by staff officers of 336th Infantry Division there must remain a good deal of suspicion that the Russians may have staged an elaborate trick to deceive the Germans. Frau Reichel, admittedly, received a letter from Colonel Voelter, the chief of operations of Sixth Army, informing her that her husband had been "buried with full military honors in the German Army cemetery at Kharkov." She was even sent a photograph of the grave; but she did not receive the wedding-ring which her husband invariably wore. Consequently, a certain element of doubt continues to attach to the incident to this day.
For the German Command at the end of June 1942 it was, of course, of decisive importance to know whether Reichel was dead or whether he was alive in Russian captivity. If he was dead, then the Russians could know only what they had found on his map and in the typed notethe first phase of "Operation Blue." If they had caught the major alive, then there was the ever-present danger that GPU specialists could easily make him reveal all he knew. And Reichel, naturally, knew very nearly everything, in broad outline, about the grand plan for the offensive. He knew that it aimed at the Caucasus and at Stalingrad. The idea that Soviet Military Intelligence had got Reichel and might make him talk was appalling .
Yet there was every grounds for suspecting that that is exactly what had just happened!
It was no secret that Soviet front-line troops had strict orders to handle any officer with crimson stripes down his trousersi.e., every General Staff officerlike a piece of china and to take him at once to the next higher headquarters. Any German General Staff officers killed in action had to be brought in if at all possible, because in this way the Germans would be kept guessing uneasily whether they were alive or not. This uncertainty was deliberately fomented by skilful front-line propaganda. Why should the Soviets suddenly make an exception? And even if they did, why the burial?
There is only one logical solution to the mystery. Reichel and his pilot had been taken prisoners by a Soviet patrol and subsequently executed as were the majority of German POWs at that time. When the leader of the patrol brought the map and the briefcase to his commander the latter must have realized at once that this had been a senior German staff officer. To avoid unpleasantness and any possible questions about the bodies, he had sent the patrol back with orders to bury the two officers they had killed.
Needless to say, Stumme had to report the Reichel incident to Army at once.
Lieutenant-Colonel Franz had already made a telephonic report during the night of 19th/20th June towards 0100 hours, to the Chief of Staff of Sixth Army, Colonel Arthur Schmidt, subsequently Lieutenant-General Schmidt.
And General of Panzer Troops Paulus had no other choice but to report the matter, though with a heavy heart, via Army Group to the Fuehrer's Headquarters in Rastenburg.
Fortunately Hitler was just then in Berchtesgaden, and the report did not come to his ears straight away. Field-Marshal Keitel was in charge of the initial investigations. He was inclined to recommend to Hitler to take the severest measures against "the officers culpable as accomplices."
Keitel of course guessed Hitler's reaction. The Fuehrer's order had laid it down quite clearly that senior staffs must pass on operational plans only by word of mouth. In his Directive No. 41 Hitler had once again laid down strict security regulations for that vital operation, "Operation Blue." Hitler was constantly afraid of spies, and on every possible occasion had emphasized the principle that no person must know more than was absolutely necessary for the discharge of his task. General Stumme, together with his chief of staff, Lieutenant-Colonel Franz, and General von Boineburg-Lengsfeld, the commander of 23rd Panzer Division, were relieved of their posts three days before the offensive, and Stumme and Franz were tried by a Special Senate of the Reich Military Court. Reich Marshal Goering presided.
The indictment consisted of two chargespremature and excessive disclosure of orders.
In a twelve-hour hearing Stumme and Franz were able to prove that there could be no question of a "premature" issuing of orders. Moving the Panzer Corps into the Volchansk bridgehead over the only available Donets bridge alone required five of the short June nights. That left the charge of "excessive disclosure of orders," and this became the core of the prosecution's case. It was pointed out that Corps had warned its Panzer divisions that, after crossing the Oskol and turning northward, they might encounter Hungarian formations in khaki uniforms similar to the Russian ones. This warning had been necessary since there was a danger that the German Panzer formations might otherwise mistake the Hungarians for Russians.
But the tribunal did not accept this excuse.
The two defendants were sentenced to five and two years' fortress detention respectively. True, at the end of the hearing, Goering went and shook hands with both prisoners and said, "You argued your case honestly, courageously, and without subterfuge. I shall say so in my report to the Fuehrer."
Goering seems to have kept his promise.
Field-Marshal von Bock likewise put in a good word for the two officers in a personal conversation with Hitler at the Fuehrer's Headquarters. Whose intervention it was that softened Hitler's heart it is impossible to establish today. But after four weeks Stumme and Franz were informed in identical letters that in view of their past services and their outstanding bravery the Fuehrer had remitted their sentences. Stumme went to Africa as Rommel's deputy, and Franz followed him as chief of staff of the Afrika Corps. On 24th October General Stumme was killed in action at El Alamein. He lies buried there.
Following Stummes recall, the XL Corps was taken over by General of Panzer Troops Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg, the successful commander of XXIV Panzer Corps. He inherited a difficult task. There was no doubt left: by 21st June, at the latest, the Soviet High Command knew the plan and order of battle for the first phase of the great German offensive.
It was also known at the Kremlin that the Germans intended to make a direct west-east thrust from the Kursk area with extremely strong forces, and to gain Voronezh in an outflanking move by Sixth Army from the Kharkov area, in order thus to annihilate the Soviet forces before Voronezh in a pocket between Oskol and Don. What the Soviets were not able to see from the map and piece of paper which the unfortunate Reichel had had with him was the fact that Weichs' Army Group was subsequently to drive south and southeast along the Don, and that the great strategic objectives were Stalingrad and the Caucasus. Unless, of course, Reichel had after all been taken alive by the Russians, and grilled, and the body in the grave by the aircraft had been some one else's.
Considering the cunning of the Soviet Intelligence Service, this possibility could not be entirely ruled out. The question, therefore, which the Fuehrer's Headquarters had to answer was: Should the plan of operation and the starting date be upset? Both Field-Marshal von Bock and General Paulus opposed this suggestion. The deadline for the offensive was imminent, which meant that it was too late for the Soviets to do very much about countering the German plans. Moreover, General Mackensen had mounted his second "trail-blazing operation" on 22nd June, and, with the objective of gaining a suitable starting-line for Sixth Army, had fought a successful minor battle of encirclement together with units of First Panzer Army in the Kupyansk area, resulting in the taking of 24,000 prisoners and the gaining of ground across the Donets to the Lower Oskol.
The launching platforms for "Operation Blue" had thus been gained. To interfere now with the complicated machinery of the great plan would mean to jeopardize everything. The machine, once started and so far running smoothly, must be allowed to run on.
Hitler therefore decided to mount the offensive as envisaged: D-Day for Weichs' Army Group on the northern wing was 28th June, and for Sixth Army with XXL Panzer Corps it was 30th June.
The die was cast.
What followed is closely connected with the tragic affair of Major Reichel and contains the seed of the German disaster in Russia. It marks the beginning of a string of strategic mistakes which led inescapably to the disaster of Stalingrad, to the turning-point of the war in the East, and hence to Germany's defeat. To understand this turning-point, this change of fortunes which struck the German Armies in the East so suddenly, at the very peak of their success, it is necessary to look more closely at the involved strategic moves of "Operation Blue"
The basis of phase one of the German offensive in the summer of 1942 was the capture of Voronezh. This town, situated on two rivers, was an important economic and armaments centre, and controlled both the Don, with its numerous crossings, and the smaller Voronezh river. The town, moreover, was a traffic junction for all central Russian north-south communications, by road, rail, and river, from Moscow to the Black Sea and the Caspian. In "Operation Blue" Voronezh figured as the pivot point for movements to the south, and as a support base for flank cover.
On 28th June von Weichs' Army Group launched its drive against Voronezh with Second Army, the Hungarian Second Army, and the Fourth Panzer Army, Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army acting as the main striking force. Its core, in turn, its battering-ram as it were, was XLVIII Panzer Corps under General of Panzer Troops Kempf with 24th Panzer Division in the middle and 16th Motorized Infantry Division and the "Grossdeutschland" Division on the right and left respectively.
The 24th Panzer Divisionformerly the East Prussian 1st Cavalry Division and the only cavalry division in the Wehrmacht to be re-equipped as a Panzer division during the winter of 1941-42was assigned the task of taking Voronezh. The division, under Major-General Ritter von Hauenschild, struck with all its might. Under cover of fire provided by VIII Air Corps the Soviet defenses were over-run, the Tim river was reached, the bridge across it stormed, and the fuse, already lit for the demolition of the bridge, ripped out just in time. Then the divisional commander raced across in his armored infantry carrier, ahead of the reinforced Panzer Regiment. With the dash of cavalry the tanks raced down towards the Kshen river. Artillery and transport columns of the Soviet 160th and 6th Rifle Divisions were smashed. Another bridge was seized intact. It was a headlong chase. Divisional commander and headquarters group were right in front, regardless of exposed flanks, in accordance with Guderian's motto: "An armored force is led from in front and is in the happy position of always having exposed flanks."
Whenever a refueling halt had to be made the force was regrouped and quickly assembled combat groups raced on. By the evening of the first day of the attack motor-cyclists and units of 3rd Battalion, 24th Panzer Regiment, were charging the village of Yefrosinovka. "Well, well, what have we got here?" Captain Eichhorn said to himself. On the edge of the village was a veritable forest of signposts, as well as radio vans, headquarters baggage trains, and lorries. This must be a senior command. The motor-cyclists narrowly missed making a really big catch: the headquarters staff of the Soviet Fortieth Army, which had been stationed there, escaped at the last minute. But although they got away, their Army with the dispersal of its headquarters had lost its head. In this fashion 24th Panzer Division, in the scorching summer of 1942, revived once more those classic armored thrusts of the first few weeks of the war, and thereby demonstrated what a well-equipped, fresh, and vigorously led Panzer division was still capable of accomplishing against the Russians. Only a cloudburst stopped the confident formations for a while. They formed 'hedgehogs,' waited for the Grenadier regiments to follow up, and then the spearheads drove on under Colonel Riebel.
By 30th June the 24th Panzer Division had covered half the distance to Voronezh. It was facing a well-prepared Soviet position held by four rifle brigades. Behind them two armored brigades were identified. Things were getting serious. The Soviets employed three armored Corps in their attempt to encircle the German formations which had broken through, and to cover Voronezh. Lieutenant-General Fedorenko, Deputy Defense Commissar and Commander-in-Chief of Armored Troops, personally took charge of the operation. Clearly the Russians were aware of the significance of the German drive on Voronezh. But Fedorenko was unlucky. His grandly conceived armored thrust against the spearhead of Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army proved a failure. Superior German tactics, extensive reconnaissance, and a more elastic form of command ensured victory over the more powerful Soviet T-34 and KV tanks.
On 30th June, also, the day when 24th Panzer Division went into its first great tank battle, the German Sixth Army, 90 miles farther south, launched its drive towards the northeast, with Voronezh as its objective. The great pincers were being got ready to draw Stalin's first tooth. The operation was supported from the air by IV Air Corps, under Air Force General Pflugbeil.
The XL Panzer Corps burst forward from the Volchansk area, a powerful mailed fist of combat-tested unitsthe 3rd and 23rd Panzer Divisions, the 100th Jäger Division, and the 29th Motorized Infantry Division. Only the 23rd Panzer Division was still new in the East in 1942. Its tactical sign was the Eiffel Tower, indicating where it came from; until recently it had been stationed in France as an occupation unit. The Soviets exploited this circumstance for their psychological warfare. Over the sector of the 23rd they dropped leaflets saying: "Men of 23rd Panzer Division, we welcome you to the Soviet Union. The gay Parisian life is now over. Your comrades will have told you what things are like here, but you will soon find out for yourselves." The ruse worked. The men of 23rd Panzer Division were shaken to know that the Russians were so well informed about their presence.
Freiherr von Geyr's first instruction was: On reaching the Oskol the troops will wheel north in order to form a pocket in the Staryy Oskol area in co-operation with Kempf's XLVIII Panzer Corps. But something strange happened. The troops discovered that although enemy rearguards were fighting stubbornly in well prepared defensive positions, the bulk of the Soviets was withdrawing eastward in good order. For the first time the Russians were refusing large-scale battle. They were pulling out of the incipient pocket.
What did it mean?
Were they so accurately informed about German intentions?
"Because of the scarcity of raw materials in the ghettos, it became increasingly difficult for Jews to continue to perform their jobs.
Repeated conscriptions for forced labor only exacerbated the situation.
This shoemaker was one of the few permitted to continue his trade in the Warsaw Ghetto.
The Germans made exceptions of this sort in order to promote a feeling of normalcy in the ghetto and to convince the Jews that deportation to the East really meant resettlement."
"Heirs to a long tradition of antisemitism, many Poles collaborated with the Nazis, betraying their Jewish friends and neighbors.
Others feared the Nazi death sentence levied against any who hid Jews.
Antisemitic attitudes had taken on a new cast in 1918 to 1920, when Poland struggled for independence from Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and began to establish a capitalist economy.
The combination of nationalism and economic ambition cast Jews not merely as outsiders, but as competitors.
In the years leading up to World War II, then, Polish Jews grew increasingly marginalized.
Here, a Pole in the town of Swierze literally carries a Jewish woman to the Gestapo."
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