World War II Chronicle: 24 December 1941

Too little, too late

There are plenty of reasons why Nazi Germany lost World War II, but near the top of the list would have to be horrible economic planning and logistics. The Germans fielded perhaps the best infantry units of the war, but a great soldier who freezes to death isn’t as effective as a good soldier that has food, warm clothes, and dependable weapons. Adolf Hitler predicted that the Red Army was no match for his forces and his invasion of the Soviet Union would be over before his troops would require winter clothing. But the former corporal learned the same lesson that Imperial Japan learned: the enemy you think you can beat in 1941 can turn into something you can’t beat once they mobilize.

While his troops could see Moscow on the horizon, that’s as close as they would get to capturing the Soviet capital. Temperatures at this point are far below zero and creating a nightmare scenario for the invaders that we can’t even imagine: hundreds of thousands suffering from frostbite, weapons and ammunition seized up from frozen grease, vehicles requiring hours to warm up, piles of snow making movement difficult… the Soviets faced the same challenges, but were better acclimated to the extreme temperatures of “General Winter.”

According to the AP, German radio broadcasts indicate that Germany’s clothing industry has only now been ordered to shut down whatever they had been producing and make the winter clothing that should have been sent to the front weeks ago. It doesn’t take long to make gloves and a stocking cap, but consider that it probably takes a considerable amount of time to a) switch over your operation, b) then having to order new textiles and c) waiting on its delivery, then d) packaging, and e) shipping your finished product 1,000 miles across frozen enemy territory.

Unlike German economic chiefs, who were often picked for politicals reasons, American industry leaders were highly competent. Plus, we didn’t rely on slave labor, and our supply chain was second-to-none. We did have unique challenges considering the dozens of Allied nations spoke different languages, used different calibers of ammunition, and so on, but we can dive into that later. Logistics and economics may not be as sexy as strategy and tactics, but once we entered the war our production and supply system became unstoppable, and that, in large part, is how we won the war.

Enemy Submarines Terrorize Shipping off California Coast

After hunting the aircraft carrier USS Lexington following the Pearl Harbor attacks and coming up empty-handed, several of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s submarines headed for the United States West Coast to prey on American shipping. By 23 December the threat of enemy submarines was so great that the captain of the oil tanker SS Montebello refuses to take a shipment of crude oil from Port San Luis to Vancouver, British Columbia and quits. At 0545 hours I-21 torpedoes Montebello (with the former chief mate now serving as skipper), which sinks just southwest of Piedras Blancas, Calif.. Although the sub surfaces to machine-gun the survivors, all 38 crew stay alive and reach the shore. A few hours later, I-21 shells another tanker (SS Idaho), which escapes with minimal damage.

Meanwhile, southwest of Cape Mendocino, I-17 attacks the tanker Larry Doheny. Four shells hit the vessel, starting a fire on the bridge. When a patrolling plane arrives, I-17 dives and fires a torpedo (which misses) before making its getaway. Another Japanese sub will sink the Larry Doheny off the Oregon coast in 1942.

On 22 December, the tanker H.M. Storey narrowly avoided torpedoes and shells fired by I-19 some 50 miles north of Santa Barbara, Calif.. The crew put out a smokescreen and managed to shake the enemy submarine.

MacDonnell’s paternal grandfather fought as a Loyalist during the American Revolution and War of 1812. His great-uncle fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run

On the bottom of page 1 there is one sentence mentioning the passing of Lt. Gen. Sir Archibald C. MacDonnell, of the Canadian Army. MacDonnell joined the North-West Mounted Police (which became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920) before volunteering for the Boer War in South Africa. “Fighting Mac,” known for joining his men on the front lines, commanded the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade before being appointed commander of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division during World War I. Following the war, he became commandant of Canada’s Royal Military College. He and Gen. Douglas MacArthur (superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy) established an annual hockey game between the two nations’ service academies in 1928.

The light cruiser USS Atlanta — the lead ship of her class — was commissioned on this day (see “Uncle Sam’s Christmas Gift” on front page). Following her shakedown on the East Coast, Atlanta will transit the Panama Canal and report to Pearl Harbor on 23 April. The anti-aircraft cruiser’s decks bristled with 16 5″/38-cal. turrets (which could fire anti-aircraft, high-explosive, or armor-piercing rounds), in addition to 20 other anti-aircraft guns. Lightly armored, she could make over 30 knots.

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Images courtesy of the Southeast Missourian

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Author: Documents

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