Project 60 - "The First Fight Against Fascism" - Archives

July, 1941

July 1, 1941

Elements of Army Group North capture Riga, Latvia

The Axis nations of Japan, Germany and Italy recognize the pro-Japanese government of  Henry P'u Yi (remember the movie "The Last Emperor"). They would be the only ones who would.

The U.S. Army strength reaches 1.4 million men, up from 250,000 just one year before. 

July 2, 1941

German Einsatzgruppen units in Lvov murder 7000 Jews in the city.

RAF planes attack Brest, France. In the raid the German cruiser Printz Eugen is severely damaged.

July 3, 1941

Stalin, after not being seen or heard in public since the beginning of the German invasion, makes an address to his nation. He calls for patriotic fervor and fanatic resistance to the Nazi invaders. He also reiterates the "Scorched Earth" policy announced on June 29.

German General Franz Halder, echoing the opinion of most German commanders writes in his diary, "... I assert that the Russian campaign will be won within 14 days." German intelligence reports indicate the the Soviets are down to 30 effective divisions. The euphoria of victory infects the German high command.

Soviet strength continues to build after the disasters on the frontier. Despite loosing scores of divisions and tons of supplies and equipment, the Russians have 180 divisions at or in the immediate vicinity of the front. I guess the Germans were a tad overconfident.

Allied forces occupy Palmyra in Syria after the Vichy defenders withdraw.

July 4, 1941

Josip Broz, better known as Tito, general secretary of the Yugoslav Communist Party announces that he would lead a resistance movement in his country.

Ostrov falls to the panzer forces of Army Group North. The Germans are now less than 200 miles from their goal of Leningrad as they advance across the 1939 Polish-USSR border.

July 5, 1941

The Soviets launch a major counter attack between Ostrov and Pskov on the approach to Leningrad. The attacking force is heavily reinforced with heavy KV-I and KV-II tanks. The defending Germans of the 1st and 6th Panzer Divisions are hard pressed. 

3rd Panzer Group (Army Group Center) establishes a bridgehead over the Dvina River.

July 6, 1941

RAF Bomber Command starts a three day terror bombing of Munster, Germany. In the end, a quarter of the city would be gutted.

Soviet forces counter-attack the 3rd Panzer Group bridgehead over the Dvina. The attacks would end in three days, with heavy losses to both sides.

July 7, 1941

U.S. Marines occupy Iceland, Trinidad and British Guiana. This action by the U.S. was intended to safeguard these important naval and air staging areas to prevent "the occupation by Germany ... for eventual attack against the Western Hemisphere" . It also just happened to free up British troops for use in defense of England and in the Middle East.

Churchill sends his first personal note to Stalin offering to forge an alliance between Britain and Russia.

In Army Group South, 11 Panzer Division takes Berdichev. The Germans are now less than 100 miles from Kiev.

July 8, 1941

Jews in the recently occupied Baltic States were ordered to wear the Star of David.

July 9, 1941

The Minsk and Vitebsk pockets were declared officially eliminated today. Although some 300,000 men were trapped in these pockets, some 100,000 escaped. However, the loss of tanks, trucks and artillery was severe.

In Army Group North, Pskov falls to the 36 Motorized Infantry Division. The Germans are 150 miles from Leningrad. 

Soviet attacks against Army Group Center's 3rd Panzer Group collapse, but the heavy losses taken by the Germans force a temporary halt to their advance.

July 10, 1941

In Army Group south, Zhitomir falls and elements of the 13th Panzer Division, racing for Kiev, reach the Iprev River. The Germans are now 10 miles from the capital of the Ukraine. 

Elements of the 20th Panzer Division take Vitebsk and are now only 250 miles from Moscow.

Stalin relieves Timoshenko as commander of the Red Army, taking the job for himself. Timoshenko is placed in command of the forces opposing the German drives on the Moscow axis. 

The Soviets launch heavy counter-attacks in the Korosten-Malin area against the advancing forces of Army Group South.

Relations between the Germans and Japanese become strained as, after many requests by the Germans to attack Russia from their positions in China, the Japanese inform their allies that they will not be attacking the Soviet Union.

July 11, 1941

Guederian's 2nd Panzer Group reaches the Dniepr River in the Smolensk area.

The Russian 3rd Mechanized Corp joins in the strong counterattacks on the approaches to Kiev. The Red Army uses a large body of its new T-34 main battle tank for the first time. The Germans are stunned by the effectiveness of the new tank and tactics.

July 12, 1941

A treaty of mutual assistance is signed between the British and Russians in Moscow. Britain no longer stands alone against Nazi Germany.

 The Vichy French government fails to gain Turkish permission to send military supports to their forces in Syria.  With this last hope gone, the forces still in Syria seek a truce with the Allied forces.

Fourth Panzer Group, attempting to advance beyond Pskov toward Leningrad, calls a halt to their advance to allow the infantry to catch up. Since taking Pskov three days ago, the German tankers have made less than 10 miles of advance into the dismal swamp land of northern Russia against an ever strengthening Red Army.

July 13, 1941

RAF Bomber Command continues its raids on German ports. Over 100 bombers attempted to hit Bremen.

July 14, 1941

The Nazi government seized the property of all Christian Science churches in Germany.

German forces reach the Luga River, less than 100 miles from Leningrad.

Vichy forces in Syria and Lebanon surrender leaving the two Arab states occupied by British and Free French forces. Most of the Vichy forces were allowed to leave as part of the armistice agreement.

July 15, 1941

The Red Army uses the Katyusha Rocket launcher for the first time in combat in a counter-attack at Orsha. This turned out to be a remarkable effective weapon in delivering 320 132mm rockets on target in 25 seconds. The weapon became known as "Stalin's Organ". The modern day equivalent of this system is the US Army MLRS.

Heavy city fighting erupts in Smolensk as German infantry attempt to storm the city. 

The Red Army officially gave the responsibility for "preventing panic, and dealing with cowardice and treachery" to the political commissars. This gave these Communist party apparatchik the power to summarily execute anyone in their command. 

July 16, 1941

Smolensk falls to the Germans. The Germans are now 200 miles from Moscow. However, Soviet resistance is becoming more fierce and supplies of fuel and ammunition for the far flung panzer divisions are becoming scarce.

Stalin's son, fighting as a lieutenant in the Red Army is captured by the Germans in the fighting around Smolensk.

The Japanese government falls as hard-liners insist on not dealing with Washington. 

The peculiar pre-war practice by the Red Army of "dual command" was reestablished. This scheme placed political commissars and field commanders on an equal command level, in effect each formation had two leaders - military and political. Red Army officers now not only had to deal with Germans to his front but the Commissar to his back.

July 17, 1941

Panzer forces from 2nd and 3rd Panzer Groups meet east of the city, surrounding nearly 300,000 men from in several small pockets. However, the ring around the surrounded troops was so full of holes that the bulk of the troops were able to escape in reasonably good order.

July 18, 1941

A new Japanese government is formed, which is nearly identical to the last hard-line government.

The counter-attack near Sotsy by the Russians against Manstein's 56 Panzer Corp (Army Group North) ends. Although the Germans did escape from a small encirclement, their 8th Panzer Division did take serious losses in the four-day battle.

July 19, 1941

The US Navy is ordered to escort any nation's shipping to and from Iceland.

Stalin makes his first (of many) requests to open up a second front against the Germans. In this case he asks for a combined operation (naval and ground forces) to be used in the Artic and an immediate invasion of northern France. Either action is, of course, pure fantasy, but Churchill does dispatch a sizable naval force from Scapa Flow to harass the Germans in Norway.

July 20, 1941

Stalin orders all units to "purge unreliable elements". Part of this order was to detain any officers and men who escaped German encirclements so that they could be interrogated by the NKVD (early version of the KGB) to weed out "German spies". So after defying death at the hands of the Germans, these lucky few would be turned over to the no so tender mercies of their own countrymen. 

July 21, 1941

The Vichy government, completely unable to do anything about it, gives the Japanese permission to occupy military bases in French Indochina. The Japanese now have air bases capable of staging bombers in range of Singapore. 

German bombers hit Moscow for the first time in the war. The attack is a fiasco as Moscow had one of the most extensive anti-aircraft defense systems of any city in the world at that time. The raid also showed a severe weakness in the German arsenal - they had no long range, heavy, four engine strategic bomber. They were completely unable to stage the kind of mass destruction the British and, later the Americans could with their massive bombers.

US authorities temporarily stopped shipping through the Panama Canal today as "maintenance work"  was needed. Interestingly enough, several Japanese ships were forced to divert around South America because of the action. Coincidence, I'm sure.

July 22, 1941

For the first time in a month, the exhausted Germans temporarily halt offensive operations having driven over 400 miles into Russia in many areas during the last month. They stand at the  gates of Kiev and are fighting along the last defense line before Leningrad. To date, the Germans have captured over 720,000 square miles of territory. 

The Soviets, badly mauled in the attack, still field a massive army and despite losing a great deal of territory and cities has been successful in moving (literally picking up factories, putting them on rail cars) most of its industrial might into the Urals, outside the reach of German bombers and ground troops.

July 23, 1941

The US declares its intent to break talks with Japan over the occupation of Indochina, declaring that talks would be fruitless since the "Japanese government intended to pursue the policy of force and of conquest."

July 24, 1941

RAF Bombers hit the German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and cruiser Prinz Eugen. Scharnhorst is damaged and forced to return to Brest for repairs. Seventeen bombers are lost in the raid.

July 25, 1941

Japanese Foreign Minister Toyoda informed Ambassador Grew that Japan felt that it was being surrounded by hostile forces and its occupation of Indochina was simply a defensive action similar to that of the British in the occupation of Syria. 

July 26, 1941

Roosevelt seizes Japanese assets in the United States in retaliation for the Japanese strong arming the Vichy government to allow IJA forces to occupy formerly French military bases in Indochina. Roosevelt also announces an oil embargo. These actions are quickly followed up by Britain and the Netherlands. Suddenly, Japan has been denied 90% of their oil imports. 

The Italians launch an attack against the port of Valetta, in Malta, using small craft in a daring raid. All attackers are sunk or captured before they can inflict any damage.

Three days of rioting begin in Lvov as locals murder 2000 Jews. in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 120 civilians (mostly Jews), are rounded up and executed in retaliation for an attack on a military truck convoy.

Mogilev falls to the Germans after 5 days of heavy fighting. Upon entering the industrial area of the city, the Germans noted a brownish frothing liquid running down the streets and into the Dniepr River. Upon further examination it was found that the mean spirited Soviet defenders of the city had destroyed the vats at the local brewery and thousands of gallons of beer were destroyed. Now that is Scorched Earth. 

July 27, 1941

Propaganda minister Ari Fliesher, errr, pardon me, just a bit confused, Joseph Goebbels declares the "Kremlin is a heap of ruin" from the "devastating" air raids over Moscow.  In reality, the only bomb to come close put a hole in the street outside the building.

A notation in the German War Diary says, "The mass of the operationally effective Russian Army has been destroyed." Seems the Germans were a tad over optimistic. 

After ten weeks of calm, German bombers started nightly raids against London again.

July 28, 1941

Kingisepp is abandoned as German Panzers drive in the Leningrad defenses west of the Luga River (which is still holding firm for the Russians).

Japanese troops begin landing in Indochina.

Japan freezes all US, British and Dutch assets.

July 29, 1941

Japan and the Vichy French government sign an agreement which, in essence transfers responsibility for the defense of Indochina over to the Japanese.

Japanese troops take ownership of the naval base at Camranh Bay.

Washington denounces the occupation of Indochina saying the occupation of bases was "for the purpose of further and more obvious movements of conquest in adjacent areas." and these actions "jeopardize the procurement by the United States of essential materials ... for the normal economy of this country ..."

Forces of Army Group South, unable to make a direct assault on Kiev, veer to the south. Resistance is stiff as the Soviet 6 and 12th Armies give ground toward Uman.

July 30, 1941

The Germans pocket a small group Soviet troops east of Smolensk. The encirclement was not tight and the troops inside were shattered remnants of formations ground up in the German advance. Many escaped.

Hitler decides to suspend the drive on Moscow in favor of clearing the flanks at Leningrad and Kiev. Once jump off positions for the final attack on Moscow were secured, the Panzer forces would be diverted north and south of the Moscow axis. Editors Note: Many popular historians view this as a flawed decision. This is primarily based on testimony of the surviving German generals (the losers in the war) who blamed a dead guy (Hitler) for every mistake in the war. In more recent times, serious military historians have concluded that the move on Kiev was necessary as the Soviets had nearly a million men on that flank ready to drive into the Germans rear. This had to be eliminated. The diversion of resources to Leningrad had less justification.

The Japanese bomb Chungking and manage to hit the US Navy Gunboat Tutuila. The Japanese said it was an accident (kind of like when we bombed the French embassy during the raid on Lybia).

July 31, 1941

In written instructions to Reinhard Heydrich, Goering at the behest of Hitler orders the creation of "... a general plan showing the measures for and organization for action necessary to carry out the desired final solution of the Jewish question." (emphasis added). This was the first time the term endlosung or "final solution" was used as a written state policy of Nazi Germany.

Two weeks of rioting in Kishinev ends with the death of 10,000 Jews.

Guderian's tankers (Panzer Group 2, Army Group Center), open their attacks south of Smolensk. Initially they met minimal resistance.

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