World War II Axis Military History Day-by-Day: May

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May 1st

May 1st, 1941: The Luftwaffe begins a series of 8 consecutive night raids against Liverpool.

May 1st, 1942: In the East, the siege of the Crimean fortress of Sevastopol by 11.Armee (von Manstein) continues with a ceaseless bombardment by batteries of heavy guns (up to 800mm: Big Dora) and hundreds of bombers (up to 1,000 sorties a day) of Luftflotte 7 (von Richthofen). Heavy fighting also continues on the front around besieged Leningrad whose inhabitants are suffering from bombing, disease and starvation.

May 1st, 1945: Cessation of hostilities and surrender of all German forces in Italy as a result of unauthorized secret negotiations with the Allies by the German C-in-C, General von Vietinghoff. and SS General Wolff. Grossadmiral Dönitz, following the death of Hitler, assumes his duties as the new German head of state. He orders utmost resistance on all fronts, especially in the East where tens of thousands of German civilians are still trying to escape from the stampeding Red Army. In the battle of Berlin, the remaining pockets of German resistance in the center of the city are crumbling. General Krebs, head of the OKH after Guderian's dismissal on March 26, begins negotiations with General Chuikov, CO of Eighth Guards Army, about the Soviet terms for a surrender. Goebbels and his wife, after poisoning their six children, commit suicide in the Führerbunker.

May 2nd

May 2nd, 1945: General Chuikov, defender of Stalingrad, meets with General Weidling and accepts the unconditional surrender of the surviving defenders of Berlin. Some units refuse to quit and try to break out to the West, but are annihilated in the attempt. Stalin announces the fall of Berlin in his Order of the Day No. 359.

May 3rd

May 3rd, 1942: Off the northern coast of Norway, German destroyers sink the British cruiser Edinburgh escorting Convoy PQ-15.

May 3rd, 1945: The British Second Army (Dempsey) occupies Hamburg.

May 4th

May 4th, 1943: Hitler postpones Operation Zitadelle, the powerful German counter-attack against the large Soviet bulge between Kursk and Belgorod, from May 9 to mid-June.

May 4th, 1944: The RAF carries out a night raid against Budapest.

May 4th, 1945: The German forces in northwestern Germany, Holland and Denmark surrender to the Allied 21st Army Group whose C-in-C, FM Montgomery, meets with a German delegation headed by Generaladmiral von Friedeburg at his HQ on Luneburg Heath 30 miles S of Hamburg. The British Second Army occupies Kiel. In the East, fierce fighting continues in Moravia, the Vistula delta and in Kurland.

May 5th

May 5th, 1943: British forces break through the defenses of 5.Panzerarmee (von Arnim) S of Tunis.

May 5th, 1945: Beginning of a civilian uprising in Prague which is aided by defecting units of the anti-Bolshevist Vlasov Army. Grossadmiral Dönitz orders all U-boats to cease offensive operations and return to their bases: "You have fought like lions!"

May 6th

May 6th, 1945: The US Third Army (Patton) occupies Pilsen in Bohemia and halts all further advances. After an 82-day siege, the remaining defenders of Breslau finally surrender to Soviet forces.

May 7th

May 7th, 1941: The Luftwaffe launches the first of two consecutive night raids against the British port of Hull.

May 7th, 1943: 5.Panzerarmee evacuates Tunis and Bizerta.

May 7th, 1944: The US 8th Air Force (Doolittle) launches a 1,500-bomber raid against Berlin. In the East, the Red Army recaptures Sevastopol in the Crimea.

May 7th, 1945: This day marks the end of hostilities between the Wehrmacht and the Allied armies in Europe. At 2:41 a.m. CET, Generaloberst Jodl signs the instrument of unconditional surrender of all German forces in a schoolroom at Rheims, France, to be effective at noon the following day. Off the Firth of Forth, U-2336 sinks the last Allied ships of the war, the coastal vessels Sneland and Avondale Park, while an RAF Catalina sinks U-320, the last German submarine destroyed in WWII, near Bergen off the coast of Norway.

May 8th

May 8th, 1941: The German raider Pinguin is sunk by HMS Cornwall off the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean.

May 8th, 1945: VE-DAY (Victory-in-Europe Day). - In deference to the Soviet victors, the surrender ceremony at Rheims of the previous day is repeated before Marshall Zhukov and other Soviet generals at Karlshorst, a suburb of Berlin. The last convoys of German refugees from the East arrive in western Baltic ports, ending the largest rescue operation by sea in history. Since January 25, a total of 420,000 civilians and wounded soldiers have been evacuated - besides the U-boat campaign, it is the Kriegsmarine's most memorable feat of WWII. The remnants of AOK Ostpreussen have held their positions in the Vistula delta and the Frische Nehrung to the last. In recognition of their valor, their commander, General der Panzertruppen von Saucken, is awarded the Diamonds to the Knight's Cross by Grossadmiral Dönitz.

May 9th

May 9th, 1940: Hitler orders Fall Gelb (Operation Yellow), the great offensive in the West, to begin at 5:35 a.m. CET the next day. The French submarine Doris is sunk by U-9 (Oblt. Lüth) off the Dutch coast.

May 9th, 1941: The Luftwaffe launches a massive night raid (507 bombers) against London which causes many fires and cripples the rail system in the city, while the RAF attacks Hamburg with little effect. U-110 (Kptlt. Lemp) is forced to the surface by depth-charges of HMS Aubretia; a top-secret Enigma cipher machine is recovered before she sinks while being towed.

May 9th, 1942: In the East, the Red Army launches a counter-offensive toward Charkov.

May 9th, 1944: Allied air forces begin a campaign of large scale raids against German airfields and rail communications in France in preparation for D-Day.

May 9th, 1945: German forces in Kurland, the Greek islands and the still undefeated garrisons of St. Nazaire, La Rochelle, Lorient, La Pallice and the British Channel Islands surrender.

May 10th

May 10th. 1940: At 5:35 a.m. CET, the Wehrmacht begins Operation Yellow, the invasion of Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg, employing Heeresgruppe A (von Rundstedt) and B (von Bock), with Heeresgruppe C (von Leeb) in reserve. The attacking forces comprise 10 armored, 5 motorized, and 75 infantry divisions. The 3 Panzerkorps - XIX. (Guderian), XX. (Hoth) and XLI. (Reinhardt) - field 2,445 tanks, most of which are of the light Marks I, II, 35(t) and 38(t) type, against 3,373 French and British tanks. In his Order of the Day, Hitler declares, "Soldiers of the Western Front! The battle which is beginning today will decide the fate of the German nation for the next thousand years. Go forward now and do your duty!" Airborne troops seize airfields and strategic bridges near Amsterdam and Rotterdam in Holland. The Luftwaffe, using hundreds of level and dive bombers, attacks Allied airfields, troop assembly areas and rear communications. In Britain, Prime Minister ("Hitler missed the bus!" - in Norway, that is) resigns and is replaced by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, who forms a coalition government with the Labour and Liberal parties.

May 10th, 1941: Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy and former WWI fighter pilot, flies from Augsburg to Scotland to persuade anti-Churchill politicians that England should stop the war with Germany, adopt a neutral attitude and allow Germany to eliminate the Bolshevik menace and gain Lebensraum in the East. He is taken to a secret location, interrogated and then held incommunicado at various places until the end of the war, later to be charged and condemned as a major war criminal at Nuremberg.

May 10th, 1945: The Red Army occupies Prague.

May 11th

May 11th, 1940: In the West, German troops occupy the Duchy of Luxemburg. A glider-borne parachute detachment of 1.Fallschirmjäger-Rgt. led by Hptm. Koch and Lt. Witzig capture the "impregnable" Belgian border fortress of Eben-Emael.

May 11th, 1941: German troops complete the ocupation of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

May 11th, 1944: In Italy, the US Fifth (Clark) and the British Eighth Armies begin an offensive against the Gustav Line at Cassino.

May 11th, 1945: The Red Army launches a final assault against the remnants of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Schörner) still holding out in Moravia.

May 12th

May 12th, 1940: In the West, French forces withdraw behind the Meuse river between Dinant and Sedan.

May 12th, 1942: The first aircraft of the US 8th Air Force arrive in Britain.

May 12th, 1943: Surrender of all German and Italian forces in Tunisia (130,000 German and 120,000 Italian prisoners), marking the end of the three-year North African campaign.

May 12th, 1944: In Italy, fierce German counter-attacks along the Gustav Line at Cassino. The US 8th Air Force (800 bombers) carries out attacks against the synthetic fuel plants at Leuna-Merseburg, Lützkendorf, Zeitz and Brüx.

May 12th, 1945: General Vlasov, commander of the anti-Bolshevist Russian Liberation Army (ROA) is handed over by the Americans to the Soviets to be tortured and executed for treason in August, 1946.

May 13th

May 13th, 1940: Supported by waves of Luftwaffe Stuka dive-bombers, the two German Panzerkorps of Heeresgruppe B emerge from the Ardennes forests, advance to the Meuse and establish bridgeheads across the river, tearing a 50-mile gap in the French defenses between Dinant and Sedan. 7.Pz.Div. (Rommel) is the first division across. In the House of Commons, the new prime minister Churchill promises nothing but "blood, toil, tears and sweat."

May 13th, 1941: German aircraft are reported operating over Iraq in support of the rebellion by anti-British Iraqi forces.

May 13th, 1944: In the East, German troops of Heeresgruppe Ukraine belatedly complete the evacuation of the Crimea, suffering heavy casualties and leaving behind large quantities of heavy equipment.

May 14th

May 14th, 1940: In the West, 60 Luftwaffe He-111 bombers not having received the countermanding order attack besieged Rotterdam, devastating the center of the city. British and French aircraft are unsuccessful in destroying the German-built bridges across the Meuse; 50 bombers are shot down by AA fire.

May 14th, 1942: The damaged British escort cruiser Trinidad returning from Murmansk is sunk by Luftwaffe dive-bombers off the northern Norwegian coast.

May 14th, 1943: The US 8th Air Force attacks Kiel with 125 aircraft, destroying 3 U-boats in the harbor.

May 14th, 1944: The Red Army recaptures Tarnopol in the Ukraine.

May 14th, 1945: British troops ocupy the German island of Heligoland in the North Sea.

May 15th

May 15th, 1940: In the West, the German XX.Panzerkorps (Hoth) repels a counter-attack by French armored forces, destroying 125 out of 175 tanks. An attack by 6.Armee (von Reichenau) against the Dyle line in Belgium is repulsed. After the fall of Rotterdam the Dutch Army surrenders (10,000 casualties). In Paris, panic breaks out over reports of a German breakthrough at Sedan; thousands of civilians leave the city for the west and south of the country, clogging the roads for Allied military traffic which is attacked by Luftwaffe bombers and fighter bombers. RAF Bomber Command (Peirse) begins a strategic air offensive against targets inside Germany by attacking industrial installations in the Ruhr, but with minimal effect.

May 15th, 1941: In Libya, the British Eighth Army (Auchinleck) begins an offensive against the German Afrikakorps, recapturing Halfaya Pass and Sollum.

May 15th, 1942: In the East, the German 11.Armee (von Manstein) captures Kerch in the eastern Crimea, forcing the Soviet forces to withdraw across the straits to the Taman peninsula. At Charkov, the German 6.Armee (von Paulus) repulses heavy Soviet attacks.

May 15th, 1943: Stalin, to appease his Western allies, announces the dissolution of the Komintern, the Communist International working for world revolution. German, Italian and Croatian forces begin an offensive against Tito's partisan army in Montenegro.

May 15th, 1944: In Italy, German troops begin withdrawing from the Gustav Line to new positions, the Adolf Hitler or Dora Line, 30 miles S of Rome.

May 15th, 1945: The Axis-allied Croation forces that surrendered to British troops in Austria are handed over to Tito's partisans who without delay proceed to massacre them; they kill a total of 110,000, including women and children.

May 16th

May 16th, 1940: Troops of the German 6.Armee break through the Allied Dyle line in Belgium.

May 16th, 1941: With a raid by 111 German aircraft on Birmingham, the Night Blitz campaign against England comes to an end. Most Luftwaffe bomber formations in France and Belgium are being transferred to airfields in eastern Germany and occupied Poland.

May 16th, 1943: The RAF launches a night raid (19 aircraft) against the Möhne and Eder dams which causes severe flooding and loss of civilian life in the Ruhr valley below them, but does little damage to industrial installations. The uprising in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw is brought to a bloody end by German police and SS units.

May 16th, 1944: Aircraft of RAF Coastal Command sink 5 U-boats off the Norwegian coast.

May 17th

May 17th, 1940: In the West, troops of 6.Armee occupy Brussels. French prime minister Pierre Laval is replaced by Paul Reynaud who forms a new government.

May 17th, 1941: The German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen leave Gotenhafen in the Baltic to begin operations against British convoys in the Atlantic (Operation Rheinübung).

May 17th, 1942: In the East, Heeresgruppe Mitte (von Bock) begins a counter-offensive against Soviet attacks toward Charkov and the Donbas.

May 17th, 1943: The Luftwaffe carries out a night raid (89 aircraft) against Cardiff in Wales.

May 18th

May 18th, 1940: In the West, XIX.Panzerkorps (Guderian) in its rapid advance toward the Channel coast reaches Peronne. German troops occupy Antwerp.

May 18th, 1942: The RAF launches a major attack against Mannheim.

May 18th, 1944: In Italy, the US Fifth Army (Clark) captres Gaeta S of Rome.

May 19th

May 19th, 1940: German troops of XX.Panzerkorps (Reinhardt) capture St. Quentin. General Gamelin, C-in-C of Allied Forces, is replaced by General Weygand.

May 19th, 1944: In Italy, British troops capture Aquino airfield in the Liri valley SE of Rome.

May 20th

May 20th, 1940: In the West, units of XIX. Panzerkorps (Guderian) capture Amiens and advance to the Channel coast at Abbeville, separating the British Expeditionary Force (Gort) and the Belgian Army from the French forces to the south.

May 20th, 1941: Taking off from airfields in Greece, German paraptroops of the 7.Fliegerdivision (Süssmann) carried in 490 Ju-52 transports of XI.Fliegerkorps (Trettner) and supported by Stuka dive-bombers of VIII.Fliegerkorps (von Richthofen) begin Operation Mercury, the capture of the island of Crete in the Mediterranean. Encountering heavy ground fire from British Commonwealth troops (total of 30,000 men under New Zealand Gen. Freyberg) in prepared positions, casualties are high: of 8,000 men landed nearly 6.000 are killed, and 151 Ju-52s destroyed before air and sea-borne mountain troops arrive to turn near disaster into victory.

May 20th, 1943: The US Tenth Fleet is formed for anti-submarine operations in the Atlantic.

May 20th, 1944: Nearly 5,000 Allied aircraft attack airfields and rail communications in France and Belgium.

May 21st

May 21st, 1940: In the West, an attack by a French armored brigade under General de Gaulle against 7.Panzer-Division (Rommel) at Arras fails after initial success. The French Ninth Army is surrounded and destroyed, its commander, General Giraud, taken prisoner.

May 21st, 1941: In the battle for Crete, 80 Ju-52s crash-land a regiment of 5.Gebirgsjäger-Division (Ringel) to support the hard-pressed paratroopers at Maleme airfield. In the south Atlantic, against strict orders not to attack American vessels, the US merchant ship Robin Moor is sunk by U-69 (Kptlt. Metzler). This sinking of a neutral American vessel is publicly denounced by President Roosevelt and becomes yet another argument for him in his secret desire for bringing the United States into war against Germany.

May 21st, 1943: The Luftwaffe carries out a raid by FW-190 fighter bombers against Malta.

May 22nd

May 22nd, 1940: In the West, XIX.Panzerkorps (Guderian) strikes from Abbeville toward Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk along the Channel coast. British cipher experts at Bletchley Park break the Luftwaffe Enigma code.

May 22nd, 1941: Off Crete, Stuka dive-bombers of Luftflotte 4 (Lühr) sink the British cruiser Gloucester and the destroyer Greyhound, damaging the battleship Warspite and the cruiser Fiji. On the island, fierce fighting continues for Maleme airfield.

MAy 22nd, 1942: In the East, the Soviet forces (two armies) attacking toward Charkov are stopped and destroyed by the German 6.Armee (von Paulus); 241,000 prisoners are taken.

May 23rd

May 23rd, 1940: In the West, units of 6.Armee (von Reichenau) cross the Scheldt river at Oudenarde in Belgium.

May 23rd, 1941: In waters off Crete, the Luftwaffe sinks the British destroyers Cashmir and Kelly.

May 23rd, 1943: The RaF launches a heavy raid on Dortmund, dropping 2,000 tons of bombs.

May 23rd, 1944: In Italy, the US Fifth Army (Clark) begins an offensive from the Anzio bridgehead toward Rome, while the British Eighth Army (Alexander) attacks the Dora Line further East.

May 23rd, 1945: By order of SHAEF, British troops arrest the members of the post-Hitler government of Grossadmiral Dönitz as well as of the OKW at Flensburg; they are flown to a secret American camp in Luxemburg and held there pending their indictment in an Allied war crimes trial scheduled to be held at Nuremberg.

May 24th

May 24th, 1940: In the West, infantry units of XIX.Panzerkorps storm the citadel of Boulogne and take 5,000 British and French prisoners. The French fortress of Maubeuge surrenders, while 6.Armee captures Ghent and Tournai in Belgium.

May 24th, 1941: The German battleship Bismarck, supported by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, sinks the British battle cruiser Hood after firing only three salvoes; there are only 3 survivors out of a crew of 1,419.

May 24th, 1943: Grossadmiral Dönitz, C-in-C of the Kriegsmarine, orders suspension of all U-boat operations against Allied convoys after the loss of 56 boats in April and May.

May 25th

May 25th, 1940: In the West, the British garrison of Calais rejects a German call for surrender.

May 25th, 1944: Yugoslav partisan leader Tito narrowly escapes capture by German paratroops supported by Stukas in his HQ in Bosnia.

May 26th

May 26th, 1940: Employing hundreds of naval, commercial and private vessels, the beaten British forces in France begin Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk. Calais fall to the Germans, and the advance toward Dunkirk, ordered stopped by Hitler 3 days previously, is resumed.

May 26th, 1941: In the Atlantic, British Swordfish torpedo planes from the carrier Ark Royal score hits on the German battleship Bismarck, disabling her steering gear and rendering her unmaneuvreable. On Crete, German paratroopers capture Canea.

May 26th, 1942: In Libya, the German Afrikakorps begins an attack against the British Gazala line (Operation Theseus), but is held up at Bir Hacheim which is defended by Free French forces.

May 26th, 1943: In the East, the Red Army begins an offensive against the German forces isolated in the Kuban bridgehead between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

May 27th

May 27th, 1941: In the Atlantic, the crippled German battleship Bismarck is relentlessly bombarded by dozens of British warships, including the battleships Rodney and King George V. After all her guns are silenced, she is sunk by torpedos from the cruiser Dorsetshire; there are only 14 survivors out of a crew of 2,200. In Libya, the Afrikakorps recaptures Halfaya Pass.

May 27th, 1942: Off the northern coat of Norway, Luftwaffe bombers sink 5 ships of Convoy PQ-16.

May 28th

May 28th, 1940: In the West, the Belgian Army surrenders, King Leopold being taken prisoner. In Norway, French mountain troops capture the port of Narvik, forcing the German defenders (Gebirgsjäger units and crews of sunk destroyers) into the surrounding hills.

May 28th, 1941: On Crete, British and Commonwealth fores begin evacuating the island which by now is practically in German hands.

May 28th, 1943: In Italy, the US 15th Air Force attacks oil refineries at Livorno.

May 28th, 1944: The US 8th Air Force attacks synthetic fuel-producing plants at Leuna-Meseburg.

May 29th

May 29th, 1940: In the West, the German 6.Armee occupies Lille, Ypres and Ostend. Off the beaches at Dunkirk, the British Navy loses 5 destroyers and 15 other vessels to Luftwaffe Stuka attacks.

May 29th, 1941: While evacuating British troops from Crete, the British destroyers Imperial and Hereward are sunk by the Luftwaffe.

May 29th, 1943: The RAF launches a major raid (719 bombers) against Wuppertal, dropping 1,900 tons of bombs and killing 2,450 civilians.

May 29th, 1944: In the Atlantic, the US escort carrier Block Island is sunk by U-549. Using its maximum range, the US 8th Air Force attacks aircraft production plants at Marienburg and Posen in eastern Germany.

May 30th

May 30th, 1941: Collapse of the anti-British revolt in Iraq.

May 30th, 1942: The RAF launches its first "Thousand Bomber Raid" against Cologne: 1,046 heavy bombers drop 1,455 tons of bombs, destroying 600 acres of built-up area, killing 486 civilians and making 59,000 people homeless.

May 30th, 1944: German forces of Heeresgruppe Südukraine begin a counter-attack near Jassy on the lower Dnestr river.

May 31st

May 31st, 1940: The evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk continues under heavy Luftwaffe attacks that sink two French destroyers; 68,000 men have been rescued thus far.

May 31st, 1942: Sine the start of Operation Paukenschlag (Drum Beat) in January, German U-boats operating along the US eastern seaboard have sunk 111 vessels. The RAF launches another 1,000-bomber raid against Essen, but with minimal results. In Libya, the attack by the Afrikakorps against the British Gazala line is still stalled at Bir Hacheim.

May 31st, 1943: By the end of the month, 41 U-boats have been sunk in the Atlantic due to greatly improved Allied anti-submarine techniques and tactics (Hedgehog, greater-range patrol aircraft, better radar, more escort vessels and carriers, plus the advantage of having broken the German Navy Enigma code). "Black May" effectively marks the end of a sustained German U-boat campaign in WWII which did come very close to starving out Britain and forcing her to make terms with Germany. In Italy, the US 15th Air Force bombs Axis airfields at Foggia, destroying many aircraft on the ground.