November 20th, 1942
UNITED KINGDOM: Essex: Mr. Wilson Charles Geoffrey Baldwin (b.1912), assistant works manager, helped put out a fire after a massive blast at a munitions factory, preventing further explosions and deaths. (Empire Medal)
Destroyer HMS Wager laid down.
Destroyer HMS Saumarez launched.
Minesweeping trawler HMS Gruinard launched.
FRANCE: Vichy: Pierre Laval, President of the Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Information, once again broadcasts in support of Germany. He states that the United States and England are now “tearing France limb from limb. . . . It is in the interests of France and in the interests of the peace to come that we are attempting reconciliation with Germany. . . . The entente with Germany is the sole guarantee of peace in Europe.” He also says the alternative to a German victory is rule by “Jews and Communists”.
During the night of 20/21 November, RAF Bomber Command aircraft fly two missions: four Stirlings lay mines in the River Gironde Estuary and eight drop leaflets over the country. (Jack McKillop)
GERMANY: U-538 launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
NORWAY: Operation Freshman.
U.S.S.R.: (Sergey Anisimov)(69)Baltic Fleet, Ladoga and Onega Flotillas: Shipping loss. MS “TSch-48” (ex-BP “N33”) - due to collision, in Kronshtadt (later raised)
The second half of the Soviet offensive designed to encircle the German 6th Army at Stalingrad is launched, this time striking the Romanian 4th Army, holding positions south and east of that city. Most of the blow falls on the depleted Romanian 1st and 2nd Divisions. The main Russian attacks target an 18-mile stretch of front held by five battalions of the 1st Division, and an 11-mile sector defended by four battalions of 2nd Division. The Soviets have almost 400 tanks available to support these efforts, while the Romanians have no tanks at all (the only Romanian armored division in existence was supporting the Romanian 3rd Army north and west of Stalingrad).
The Red Army’s assault achieves a stunning success almost at once (and much more easily than in the previous day’s attack on 3rd Army). More than two Soviet divisions overwhelm the four battalions of the Romanian 2nd Division, and that afternoon a full mechanized corps is pushed into the breech in the lines created. Part of this force then swings north and smashes into the right flank of the Romanian 20th Division. This unit’s 84th Infantry Regiment is virtually wiped out after resisting six Russian tank attacks, and its engineer battalion suffers a similar fate.
Nonetheless, the division commander, General Nicolae Tataranu, manages to retreat with the remnants of his unit into the Stalingrad pocket, where his men will be trapped along with the Germans (for this he was awarded the German Knight’s Cross). Tataranu himself, however, will later fly out of the pocket, feeling it his duty to report personally to the high command on the appalling conditions inside the Stalingrad perimeter, and on what he feels is the shabby treatment accorded to the Romanians there. Antonescu, the Romanian military dictator and commander-in-chief, sees it differently, and Tataranu narrowly escapes a court-martial and potential firing squad for deserting his post.
The Russians take 10,000 prisoners from 4th Army on the first day of the assault, and make a complete breakthrough. Probably their biggest setback during the day comes when the three tank brigades of the Soviet 4th Mechanized Corps run into one of the few Romanian minefields, leading to the disabling of 50 vehicles. The Romanian motorized 6th Rosiori (cavalry) Regiment is hurled into a counterattack, but quickly find themselves surrounded. They will eventually fight their way back to Axis lines, but only after losing 65% of their men, including the regimental commander Lt-Col Harconitza, killed while leading an attack with a rifle in his hands. The Soviet spearheads race toward Kalach in the German rear, where they will soon link up with the forces that broke through the Romanian 3rd Army front the previous day, thereby trapping more than a quarter million Germans in Stalingrad. Although the 18th Division will subsequently prove helpful in limited offensive operations to assist the Germans, the bulk of the Romanian 4th Army is virtually finished as a fighting force, its officers and men demoralized at all levels. The malaise includes the commanders of the 6th and 7th Corps, as well as the 4th Army commander General Constantinescu-Klaps. These two corps will virtually melt away before a renewed Soviet offensive against their new positions just before Christmas, and the Germans will find it necessary to withdraw what is left of the 4th Army from the front by the end of December. (Michael F. Yaklich)
ITALY: Turin is hit hard by an RAF raid.
During the night of 20/21 November, RAF Bomber Command dispatches 232 aircraft, 86 Lancasters, 54 Wellingtons, 47 Halifaxes and 45 Stirlings, to bomb Turin; 200 aircraft bomb the target, the largest raid to Italy during this period. Three aircraft, a Halifax, a Stirling and a Wellington, are lost. This is another successful attack, with large fires being started. Dense smoke prevents further observations of the effects of the bombing but the casualty roll in Turin, 117 dead and 120 injured, confirms that many bombs fall in the city. (Jack McKillop)
MALTA: The future of Malta was finally assured when British and American merchant ships began unloading at the quayside here today.
The navy was taking no chances with the convoy (MW-13 Egypt to Malta)- Operation STONE AGE - that sailed from Port Said three days ago. The four merchantmen were escorted by seven destroyers and the 15th Cruiser Squadron, HMS EURYALUS (42) and DIDO (37) - such was the desperate need of Malta for food and fresh supplies. At 1,500 calories per day, the Maltese population is close to starvation. Despite Allied victories in the desert, Malta remains vulnerable to Luftwaffe bombers in Sicily and strategically vital.
Everything depended on STONE AGE. Massive air and sea attacks could have been expected, but Axis attention is diverted elsewhere. The four merchantmen were unscathed when they sailed into the Grand Harbour at Valetta today with 35,000 metric tons (38,581 tons) of supplies.
Sadly, the cruiser HMS ARETHUSA was hit by an aerial torpedo. Burning fiercely, she is being towed stern-first into Malta by the destroyer HMS PETARD. 153 men were lost.
LIBYA: Benghazi falls to X Corps, British Eighth Army. (Jack McKillop)
USAAF Ninth Air Force P-40s patrol over the battle area near Bengasi. (Jack McKillop)
ALGERIA: During the night of 20/21 November, Axis aircraft bomb the harbour and Maison Blanche Airfield at Algiers, destroying several aircraft. (Jack McKillop)
TUNISIA: French XIX Corps units, together with British and attached U.S. forces, withdraw from Medjez el Bab to Oued Zarga, 10 miles (16 kilometers) west, where forward elements of Blade Force (former 17/21 Lancers Regimental Group), British First Army, are located. The main body of Blade Force is concentrated in the Souk el Arba area. The British 1st Parachute Battalion is holding BC)dja. (Jack McKillop)
BURMA: Eight USAAF Tenth Air Force India Air Task Force (IATF) B-24 Liberators bomb the marshalling yard at Mandalay as IATF bombers intensify their campaign against Burma and Thailand. (Jack McKillop)
NEW GUINEA: In Papua, advance elements of the Australian 25th Brigade, Maroubra Force, enter Gona but are driven out after nightfall. The 126th Infantry Regiment. U.S. 32d Infantry Division, upon reaching Popondetta, is sent on to Soputa to assist the Australian 16th Brigade, Maroubra Force. The Australian 16th Brigade clears the Japanese rear guard from Soputa and continues along the Sanananda track to its junction with the main trail to Cape Killerton but is halted at the Japanese forward defense line. Task Force Warren continues to meet heavy fire, which pins down the 3d Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, on the left; the 1st Battalion is halted after a 100-yard (91 meter) advance in the coastal area. Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Carrier’s detachment (elements of the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment) and the 2/6th Independent Company, Maroubra Force, arrive at the front and prepare to join in attack along coast. (Jack McKillop)
SOLOMON ISLANDS: On Guadalcanal, the Japanese attack the left flank of the 1st Battalion, 182d Infantry Regiment, early in the day and forces it back, but the battalion recovers lost ground with the assistance of air and artillery and drives forward until stopped by Japanese fire just west of Point Cruz. The Japanese retain Point Cruz itself. The 164th Infantry Regiment moves forward during the night of 20/21 November to bridge the gap between assault battalions of the 182d Infantry Regiment. (Jack McKillop)
TERRITORY OF ALASKA: ALEUTIAN ISLANDS: A USAAF Eleventh Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over Japanese-held Kiska Island draws heavy antiaircraft fire from Gertrude Cove. (Jack McKillop)
CANADA: Through trucks start rolling from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, toward Fairbanks, Territory of Alaska, along the 2 450 kilometer (1,323 mile) Alcan Military Highway, or Alaska Highway; built to supply the Pacific North West and Alaska in case of a Japanese invasion. An opening ceremony for the highway is held at Soldiers Summit, Yukon Territory, in -35F (-37C) degree weather.
U.S.A.: The USAAF Antisubmarine Command activates HQ 25th and 26th Antisubmarine Wings at New York, New York, and Miami, Florida, respectively. These two wings will have administrative and operational control of all USAAF antisubmarine squadrons based in the eastern U.S. (Jack McKillop)
Destroyer USS Twining laid down.
Destroyer USS Converse commissioned.
Destroyer escort USS Burden R Hastings launched.
After sinking SS Corinthiakos, U-181 rescued a survivor from the water and later transferred him to a lifeboat.
Convoy escorts dropped 119 depth charges on U-263, causing so much damage that the boat was forced to return to base.
U-264 was attacked by a British escort with gunfire and depth charges, and suffered heavy damage.
U-177 sank SS Pierce Butler.
U-263 sank SS Grangepark and Prins Harald in Convoy KMS-3. (Dave Shirlaw)
I note: “Benghazi falls...”