January 31st, 1943
UNITED KINGDOM: London: RAF bombers last night used a new navigation device on operations. Called H2S, but already known by the crews as “Home Sweet Home”, it is an airborne downward-looking radio-location system. The image of the terrain which the aircraft is overflying is reproduced on a cathode-ray tube, which the navigator can compare with his map. Unlike Gee it is not range-dependent. Aircraft of the newly-formed No. 8 (Pathfinder) Group used H2S in an attack on Hamburg, chosen because the nearby coast and river Elbe would show up well.
Escort carrier HMS Tracker commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
VICHY FRANCE: With the three colours of the tricouleur as a backdrop, French leaders met in a hot-springs hotel here today and pledged themselves to help in the fight against Gaullists, Jews, Freemasons and communists - anyone, in fact, who opposes collaboration with Germany.
The newly-founded Milice Français [French Militia] and its general secretary, Joseph Darnand, was meeting members of the Vichy government, notably Pierre Laval, the head of the government, his junior minister Admiral Platon, Abel Bonnard, the minister of education, and Paul Marion, the junior minister for information.
After the meeting had sung the anthem of the Milice, Le chant des cohortes, Darnand and Laval outlined the duties of the future militiamen: to support, by propaganda, the actions of the government, and to help in the fight agains the black market and in the maintaining of order. The law creating the Milice was passed yesterday by the Vichy head of state, Marshal Petain. The Milice will be run by the head of the government, assisted by the general secretary, who will be in effective control. Darnand, a man completely loyal to the marshal, Nazism and collaboration, thus becomes a key strongman in the Vichy regime.
GERMANY: Berlin: The first de Havilland Mosquitoes to reach Berlin, today bombed at a time designed to wreck a parade addresses by Reichsmarschall Göring. The aircraft of No. 105 Squadron were successful. Later on in the afternoon a second gathering addressed by Göbbels was attacked by the Mosquitoes of No.139 Squadron. (22)
USSR: German Field Marshall Paulus surrenders in Stalingrad.
Stalingrad: Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrendered to a Russian lieutenant in Stalingrad this evening. Yesterday, knowing that no German field marshal had ever surrendered, Hitler had promoted him to the highest rank in the army. Then the Fuhrer sent one last signal: “Each day the fortress of Stalingrad can continue to hold out is of importance.”
The implication was obvious: the new field marshal should die rather than surrender. But Paulus had no more fight left in him. Exhausted, his face twitching, he retreated to the Univermag, the department store in the city’s Red Square. The Russians captured the square and learnt from a prisoner that Paulus was in the building, which was being pounded by guns and mortars. A German officer waved a white flag at the Russians preparing to rush the store, and Lieutenant Fedor Yelchenko dashed across the square.
The young Russian found Paulus lying, fully dressed, on his camp bed in the cellar: “Well, that finishes it,” said the lieutenant, Paulus nodded. Yelchenko sent for a car which took Paulus to Rokossovsky’s headquarters. Paulus determined to put an end to his own struggle, but unwilling to sign a formal capitulation, has, in fact, only surrendered himself and his headquarters staff. Sector commanders are left to make their own arrangements, but as the news of his surrender spreads so the fighting fades away in the southern pocket.
The Germans continue to resist from strongpoints in the northern pocket. Here General Strecker, the commander of the XI Corps, is holding out round the tractor works and the Red October ordnance works where so much of the cruel hand-to-hand fighting which has been such a feature of this battle has raged. Hitler has radioed to him: “I expect the northern pocket of Stalingrad to hold out to the finish. Every day, every hour, thus gained decisively benefits the remainder of the front.
Such exhortations mean little to the hollow-eyed, freezing, disease-ridden men fighting to survive in the rubble of Stalingrad. Strecker can hardly hold out for more than a couple of days, and then he and his men will join the columns of prisoners trudging across the icy steppe to captivity.
Stalingrad: The defeat of the Wehrmacht at Stalingrad has two immediate strategic effects: colossal losses have been inflicted on the German army, and seven Soviet armies have been released to move against the German forces in the Caucasus. Important as these strategic effects are, the impact on the morale of the Wehrmacht is even more important. The Fuhrer’s Aryan supermen have been humiliated by the Russian soldiers whom they despised as Untermenschen [subhumans]. German generals have been out-thought, their men outfought, and the legend of the Blitzkrieg shattered.
Stalingrad: The human and material losses of the German army and Luftwaffe at Stalingrad are quite staggering. According to the Russians, 120,000 Germans have been killed and 91,000 taken prisoner, including no less than 24 generals. The Romanian Third and Fourth Armies and the Italian Eighth Army have also been destroyed.
The losses in guns and tanks are enormous, enough to equip 80 divisions. The Russians destroyed or captured 3,500 self-propelled guns and tanks, over 12,000 guns and mortars and 75,000 vehicles.
The Luftwaffe has lost 489 transport aircraft in its attempt to supply the trapped army, and 744 bombers and fighters during the battle. Another 542 aircraft, mostly damaged were captured by the Russians. The Luftwaffe suffered especially from the loss of instructors flying the transports. It is doubtful if either the army or air force will ever fully recover from Stalingrad.
ITALY: General Vittorio Ambrosio succeeds Marshal Ugo Cavallero, whom Mussolini has sacked, as chief of staff of the Italian army.
U.S.A.: Destroyer USS Walker launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
U-376 left Bergen, Norway her 6th patrol, but the next day at 0057 lost the third watch officer when he was washed overboard. U-376 then headed back to Bergen, took aboard a replacement and departed for patrol the same day. [Obersteuermann Heinz Richter].
U-519 reported missing in the Bay of Biscay. There is no explanation for its loss. 50 dead (all hands lost). (Dave Shirlaw)
Paulus was basically captured in his bunker, never really formally surrendered until after he was in Soviet captivity. Hitler’s promotion of him to Field Marshall that same day was like an order to commit suicide. For once Paulus refused to obey one of Hitler’s insane orders....but it was too late for most of the men in his army. Fewer than 6000 ever returned to Germany, many perishing in the freezing cold march to Siberian prison camps.