December 12th, 1942
UNITED KINGDOM: Aircraft carrier HMS Warrior (ex-Brave) laid down Belfast NI.
Frigate HMS Inver launched.
Minesweeping trawler HMS Protest commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
FRANCE: Bordeaux: Four merchant ships, one tanker and a naval auxiliary moored in Bourdeaux, 60 miles from the sea, erupted this morning as limpet mines stuck to their hulls by British canoe commandos blew up. Royal Marine raiders had paddled 81 miles through Europe’s most dangerous estuary in icy conditions, for five nights, to reach their target. There is no plan to recover survivors. Initially five heavily-laden canoes carrying ten men were left submarine ten miles south of the Gironde estuary. They had to paddle north, round Pointe de Grave and then south down the Gironde, through tidal races. The first casualties were swept away in heavy seas offshore and taken prisoner. Near the Pointe, five-foot waves capsized a second two-man canoe. The men clung to other cockles, but had to be ordered to let go, a death sentence in such cold water. One whispered: “That’s all right sir, I understand.” In the river mouth a third canoe was swept off course.
Two cockles and four men survived to attack the fast merchant-men vital to Bordeaux’s supply line. The men were Major Hasler, aged 28, his partner, Marine Sparks, and Corporal Laver with Marine Mills. Hidden in riverside reeds by day, they moved with the floodtide by night. In conditions likely to cause hypothermia they slipped alongside their targets, with nine hours to escape. If captured on the way to neutral Spain they will be shot.
GERMANY: Berlin: The State Opera House, bombed by the British last year, reopens with a performance of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger.
U-738 launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
U.S.S.R.: Moscow: Stalin decides to defeat German attempts to supply Stalingrad before crushing Paulus’s trapped army.
Stalingrad: Field Marshal von Manstein has decided to make his relief attack for Stalingrad near Kotelnikovo, some 60 miles south-west of the city, even though he has a point near Nizhne Chirskaya that is closer to Stalingrad, but to attack from here would involve a crossing of the Don which von Manstein regards as too risky. The German code name for this operation is “Wintergewitter” (Winter Storm). General Hoth is in tactical command of the operation which starts today.
Hoth’s 4th Panzer Army, part of which is trapped in Stalingrad, is spearheading the attack from Kotelnikovo.
Von Manstein, ordered to “recapture the positions previously occupied by us”, describes his operation as a “race with death”, and there is no doubt that the Sixth Army is doomed if he loses. The Luftwaffe has failed the impossible task set it by Goering’s boast to Hitler that he could keep the trapped army supplied. Heinkel He-111 bombers have been pressed into service as transports, but Russian fighters are taking a heavy toll.
The Germans in the Stalingrad pocket are hungry and cold. They are eating their horses; some freeze to death, and it is doubtful if they have enough fuel to break out.
Yet the beleaguered General Paulus is making no effort to link up with Hoth’s advancing tanks, which are making good progress. He will not abandon the ruins of Stalingrad until Hitler gives him permission - and Hitler will never do that.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA: S class submarine HMS P.222 (the only one of her class not to be named) is located by Italian destroyer Fortunale which was escorting a convoy to Tunis and depth charged to destruction off Capri. There are no survivors (Alex Gordon)(108)
NORTH AFRICA: Italian midget submarines sink for ships in the harbour at Algiers.
Italian frogmen rode into Algiers harbour last night on their two-man underwater chariots, sank two merchantmen and damaged two others.
Despite the clear reluctance of many Italian soldiers to fight alongside the Germans - which led to world contempt in their 1940 desert campaign - the bravery of these frogmen, who have sunk or damaged ships in Gibraltar and Alexandria and during the Crete landings, is much admired by the Royal Navy which has had to take special precautions, including the use of concussion grenades.
The fighting at Medjez el Bab continues.
Beaten but not unbowed, the Afrika Korps, has not lost its ability to sting. The regrouped and replenished Eighth Army has met fierce resistance from the retreating Axis at Mersa Brega, with Rommel ducking a strong right hook by New Zealand tanks. The going has not been easy for the Allies. The road to Tripoli is carpeted with mines and booby traps. In the west, Free French forces and the British 1st Guards Brigade have driven off strong Axis counter-attacks at Medje el Bab, but German reinforcements are flooding into Tunis.
CANADA: Submarine HMS P-512 lost a man overboard off Pictou, Nova Scotia. (Dave Shirlaw)
U.S.A.: A secret memorandum by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General George C. Marshall contains instructions on how to handle Latin Americans of German descent. “There interned nationals are to be used for exchange with interned American civilian nationals.” (Mike Yared)
Ella Mae Morse’s hit song “Mr. Five By Five”with Freddie Slack’s Band was released today . (Jack McKillop)
Escort carrier USS Coral Sea laid down.
Destroyer USS Porterfield laid down.
Destroyer USS Bradford launched.
Minesweeper USS Pheasant commissioned.
Minesweeper USS Champion launched.
U-301 had a fire on board after a short circuit, forcing her to return to base.
U-453 sustained so much damage during a depth charge attack that she was forced to return to base in the Mediterranean.
U-161 sank SS Ripley.
U-177 sank SS Empire Gull. (Dave Shirlaw)
I think they mean made the Billboard Top 10 today.