WWII Axis Military History Day-by-Day: May
May 1st, 1941: The Luftwaffe begins a series of 8 consecutive nightraids against Liverpool.
May 1st, 1942: In the East, the siege of the Crimean fortress ofSevastopol by 11.Armee (von Manstein) continues with a ceaselessbombardment by batteries of heavy guns (up to 800mm: Big Dora) andhundreds of bombers (up to 1,000 sorties a day) of Luftflotte 7 (vonRichthofen). Heavy fighting also continues on the front around besiegedLeningrad whose inhabitants are suffering from bombing, disease andstarvation.
May 1st, 1945: Cessation of hostilities and surrender of all Germanforces in Italy as a result of unauthorized secret negotiations with theAllies by the German C-in-C, General von Vietinghoff. and SS GeneralWolff. Grossadmiral Dönitz, following the death of Hitler, assumeshisduties as the new German head of state. He orders utmost resistance onall fronts, especially in the East where tens of thousands of Germancivilians are still trying to escape from the stampeding Red Army. Inthe battle of Berlin, the remaining pockets of German resistance in thecenter of the city are crumbling. General Krebs, head of the OKH afterGuderian’s dismissal on March 26, begins negotiations with GeneralChuikov, CO of Eighth Guards Army, about the Soviet terms for asurrender. Goebbels and his wife, after poisoning their six children,commit suicide in the Führerbunker.
May 2nd, 1945: General Chuikov, defender of Stalingrad, meets withGeneral Weidling and accepts the unconditional surrender of thesurviving defenders of Berlin. Some units refuse to quit and try tobreak out to the West, but are annihilated in the attempt. Stalinannounces the fall of Berlin in his Order of the Day No. 359.
May 3rd, 1942: Off the northern coast of Norway, German destroyers sinkthe British cruiser Edinburgh escorting Convoy PQ-15.
May 3rd, 1945: The British Second Army (Dempsey) occupies Hamburg.
May 4th, 1943: Hitler postpones Operation Zitadelle, the powerful Germancounter-attack against the large Soviet bulge between Kursk andBelgorod, 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 andDenmark surrender to the Allied 21st Army Group whose C-in-C, FMMontgomery, meets with a German delegation headed by Generaladmiral vonFriedeburg at his HQ on Luneburg Heath 30 miles S of Hamburg. TheBritish Second Army occupies Kiel. In the East, fierce fightingcontinues in Moravia, the Vistula delta and in Kurland.
May 5th, 1943: British forces break through the defenses of5.Panzerarmee (von Arnim) S of Tunis.
May 5th, 1945: Beginning of a civilian uprising in Prague which is aidedby defecting units of the anti-Bolshevist Vlasov Army. GrossadmiralDönitz orders all U-boats to cease offensive operations and return totheir bases: “You have fought like lions!”
May 6th, 1945: The US Third Army (Patton) occupies Pilsen in Bohemia andhalts all further advances. After an 82-day siege, the remainingdefenders of Breslau finally surrender to Soviet forces.
May 7th, 1941: The Luftwaffe launches the first of two consecutive nightraids 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-bomberraid against Berlin. In the East, the Red Army recaptures Sevastopol inthe Crimea.
May 7th, 1945: This day marks the end of hostilities between theWehrmacht and the Allied armies in Europe. At 2:41 a.m. CET,Generaloberst Jodl signs the instrument of unconditional surrender ofall German forces in a schoolroom at Rheims, France, to be effective atnoon the following day. Off the Firth of Forth, U-2336 sinks the lastAllied ships of the war, the coastal vessels Sneland and Avondale Park,while an RAF Catalina sinks U-320, the last German submarine destroyedin WWII, near Bergen off the coast of Norway.
May 8th, 1941: The German raider Pinguin is sunk by HMS Cornwall off theSeychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean.
May 8th, 1945: VE-DAY (Victory-in-Europe Day). – In deference to theSoviet victors, the surrender ceremony at Rheims of the previous day isrepeated before Marshall Zhukov and other Soviet generals at Karlshorst,a suburb of Berlin. The last convoys of German refugees from the Eastarrive in western Baltic ports, ending the largest rescue operation bysea in history. Since January 25, a total of 420,000 civilians andwounded soldiers have been evacuated – besides the U-boat campaign, itis the Kriegsmarine’s most memorable feat of WWII. The remnants of AOKOstpreussen have held their positions in the Vistula delta and theFrische Nehrung to the last. In recognition of their valor, theircommander, General der Panzertruppen von Saucken, is awarded theDiamonds to the Knight’s Cross by Grossadmiral Dönitz.
May 9th, 1940: Hitler orders Fall Gelb (Operation Yellow), the greatoffensive in the West, to begin at 5:35 a.m. CET the next day. TheFrench submarine Doris is sunk by U-9 (Oblt. Lüth) off the Dutchcoast.
May 9th, 1941: The Luftwaffe launches a massive night raid (507 bombers)against London which causes many fires and cripples the rail system inthe 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 whilebeing towed.
May 9th, 1942: In the East, the Red Army launches a counter-offensivetoward Charkov.
May 9th, 1944: Allied air forces begin a campaign of large scale raidsagainst German airfields and rail communications in France inpreparation for D-Day.
May 9th, 1945: German forces in Kurland, the Greek islands and the stillundefeated garrisons of St. Nazaire, La Rochelle, Lorient, La Palliceand the British Channel Islands surrender.
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) inreserve. The attacking forces comprise 10 armored, 5 motorized, and 75infantry divisions. The 3 Panzerkorps – XIX. (Guderian), XX. (Hoth) andXLI. (Reinhardt) – field 2,445 tanks, most of which are of the lightMarks I, II, 35(t) and 38(t) type, against 3,373 French and Britishtanks. In his Order of the Day, Hitler declares, “Soldiers of theWestern Front! The battle which is beginning today will decide the fateof the German nation for the next thousand years. Go forward now and doyour duty!” Airborne troops seize airfields and strategic bridges nearAmsterdam and Rotterdam in Holland. The Luftwaffe, using hundreds oflevel and dive bombers, attacks Allied airfields, troop assembly areasand rear communications. In Britain, Prime Minister (“Hitler missed thebus!” – in Norway, that is) resigns and is replaced by the First Lord ofthe Admiralty, Winston Churchill, who forms a coalition government withthe Labour and Liberal parties.
May 10th, 1941: Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy and former WWI fighterpilot, flies from Augsburg to Scotland to persuade anti-Churchillpoliticians that England should stop the war with Germany, adopt aneutral attitude and allow Germany to eliminate the Bolshevik menace andgain Lebensraum in the East. He is taken to a secret location,interrogated and then held incommunicado at various places until the endof the war, later to be charged and condemned as a major war criminal atNuremberg.
May 10th, 1945: The Red Army occupies Prague.
May 11th, 1940: In the West, German troops occupy the Duchy ofLuxemburg. A glider-borne parachute detachment of1.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 Greekislands in the Aegean Sea.
May 11th, 1944: In Italy, the US Fifth (Clark) and the British EighthArmies begin an offensive against the Gustav Line at Cassino.
May 11th, 1945: The Red Army launches a final assault against theremnants of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Schörner) still holding out inMoravia.
May 12th, 1940: In the West, French forces withdraw behind the Meuseriver between Dinant and Sedan.
May 12th, 1942: The first aircraft of the US 8th Air Force arrive inBritain.
May 12th, 1943: Surrender of all German and Italian forces in Tunisia(130,000 German and 120,000 Italian prisoners), marking the end of thethree-year North African campaign.
May 12th, 1944: In Italy, fierce German counter-attacks along the GustavLine at Cassino. The US 8th Air Force (800 bombers) carries out attacksagainst the synthetic fuel plants at Leuna-Merseburg, Lützkendorf,Zeitz and Brüx.
May 12th, 1945: General Vlasov, commander of the anti-Bolshevist RussianLiberation Army (ROA) is handed over by the Americans to the Soviets tobe tortured and executed for treason in August, 1946.
May 13th, 1940: Supported by waves of Luftwaffe Stuka dive-bombers, thetwo German Panzerkorps of Heeresgruppe B emerge from the Ardennesforests, advance to the Meuse and establish bridgeheads across theriver, tearing a 50-mile gap in the French defenses between Dinant andSedan. 7.Pz.Div. (Rommel) is the first division across. In the House ofCommons, the new prime minister Churchill promises nothing but “blood,toil, tears and sweat.”
May 13th, 1941: German aircraft are reported operating over Iraq insupport of the rebellion by anti-British Iraqi forces.
May 13th, 1944: In the East, German troops of Heeresgruppe Ukrainebelatedly complete the evacuation of the Crimea, suffering heavycasualties and leaving behind large quantities of heavy equipment.
May 14th, 1940: In the West, 60 Luftwaffe He-111 bombers not havingreceived the countermanding order attack besieged Rotterdam, devastatingthe center of the city. British and French aircraft are unsuccessful indestroying the German-built bridges across the Meuse; 50 bombers areshot down by AA fire.
May 14th, 1942: The damaged British escort cruiser Trinidad returningfrom Murmansk is sunk by Luftwaffe dive-bombers off the northernNorwegian 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 inthe North Sea.
May 15th, 1940: In the West, the German XX.Panzerkorps (Hoth) repels acounter-attack by French armored forces, destroying 125 out of 175tanks. An attack by 6.Armee (von Reichenau) against the Dyle line inBelgium is repulsed. After the fall of Rotterdam the Dutch Armysurrenders (10,000 casualties). In Paris, panic breaks out over reportsof a German breakthrough at Sedan; thousands of civilians leave the cityfor the west and south of the country, clogging the roads for Alliedmilitary traffic which is attacked by Luftwaffe bombers and fighterbombers. RAF Bomber Command (Peirse) begins a strategic air offensiveagainst targets inside Germany by attacking industrial installations inthe Ruhr, but with minimal effect.
May 15th, 1941: In Libya, the British Eighth Army (Auchinleck) begins anoffensive against the German Afrikakorps, recapturing Halfaya Pass andSollum.
May 15th, 1942: In the East, the German 11.Armee (von Manstein) capturesKerch in the eastern Crimea, forcing the Soviet forces to withdrawacross the straits to the Taman peninsula. At Charkov, the German6.Armee (von Paulus) repulses heavy Soviet attacks.
May 15th, 1943: Stalin, to appease his Western allies, announces thedissolution of the Komintern, the Communist International working forworld revolution. German, Italian and Croatian forces begin an offensiveagainst Tito’s partisan army in Montenegro.
May 15th, 1944: In Italy, German troops begin withdrawing from theGustav Line to new positions, the Adolf Hitler or Dora Line, 30 miles Sof Rome.
May 15th, 1945: The Axis-allied Croation forces that surrendered toBritish troops in Austria are handed over to Tito’s partisans whowithout delay proceed to massacre them; they kill a total of 110,000,including women and children.
May 16th, 1940: Troops of the German 6.Armee break through the AlliedDyle line in Belgium.
May 16th, 1941: With a raid by 111 German aircraft on Birmingham, theNight Blitz campaign against England comes to an end. Most Luftwaffebomber formations in France and Belgium are being transferred toairfields in eastern Germany and occupied Poland.
May 16th, 1943: The RAF launches a night raid (19 aircraft) against theMöhne and Eder dams which causes severe flooding and loss of civilianlife in the Ruhr valley below them, but does little damage to industrialinstallations. The uprising in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw is brought toa bloody end by German police and SS units.
May 16th, 1944: Aircraft of RAF Coastal Command sink 5 U-boats off theNorwegian coast.
May 17th, 1940: In the West, troops of 6.Armee occupy Brussels. Frenchprime minister Pierre Laval is replaced by Paul Reynaud who forms a newgovernment.
May 17th, 1941: The German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiserPrinz Eugen leave Gotenhafen in the Baltic to begin operations againstBritish convoys in the Atlantic (Operation Rheinübung).
May 17th, 1942: In the East, Heeresgruppe Mitte (von Bock) begins acounter-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, 1940: In the West, XIX.Panzerkorps (Guderian) in its rapidadvance toward the Channel coast reaches Peronne. German troops occupyAntwerp.
May 18th, 1942: The RAF launches a major attack against Mannheim.
May 18th, 1944: In Italy, the US Fifth Army (Clark) captres Gaeta S ofRome.
May 19th, 1940: German troops of XX.Panzerkorps (Reinhardt) capture St.Quentin. General Gamelin, C-in-C of Allied Forces, is replaced byGeneral Weygand.
May 19th, 1944: In Italy, British troops capture Aquino airfield in theLiri valley SE of Rome.
May 20th, 1940: In the West, units of XIX. Panzerkorps (Guderian)capture Amiens and advance to the Channel coast at Abbeville, separatingthe British Expeditionary Force (Gort) and the Belgian Army from theFrench forces to the south.
May 20th, 1941: Taking off from airfields in Greece, German paraptroopsof the 7.Fliegerdivision (Süssmann) carried in 490 Ju-52 transportsofXI.Fliegerkorps (Trettner) and supported by Stuka dive-bombers ofVIII.Fliegerkorps (von Richthofen) begin Operation Mercury, the captureof the island of Crete in the Mediterranean. Encountering heavy groundfire from British Commonwealth troops (total of 30,000 men under NewZealand Gen. Freyberg) in prepared positions, casualties are high: of8,000 men landed nearly 6.000 are killed, and 151 Ju-52s destroyedbefore air and sea-borne mountain troops arrive to turn near disasterinto victory.
May 20th, 1943: The US Tenth Fleet is formed for anti-submarineoperations in the Atlantic.
May 20th, 1944: Nearly 5,000 Allied aircraft attack airfields and railcommunications in France and Belgium.
May 21st, 1940: In the West, an attack by a French armored brigade underGeneral de Gaulle against 7.Panzer-Division (Rommel) at Arras failsafter initial success. The French Ninth Army is surrounded anddestroyed, its commander, General Giraud, taken prisoner.
May 21st, 1941: In the battle for Crete, 80 Ju-52s crash-land a regimentof 5.Gebirgsjäger-Division (Ringel) to support the hard-pressedparatroopers at Maleme airfield. In the south Atlantic, against strictorders not to attack American vessels, the US merchant ship Robin Mooris sunk by U-69 (Kptlt. Metzler). This sinking of a neutral Americanvessel is publicly denounced by President Roosevelt and becomes yetanother argument for him in his secret desire for bringing the UnitedStates into war against Germany.
May 21st, 1943: The Luftwaffe carries out a raid by FW-190 fighterbombers against Malta.
May 22nd, 1940: In the West, XIX.Panzerkorps (Guderian) strikes fromAbbeville toward Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk along the Channel coast.British cipher experts at Bletchley Park break the Luftwaffe Enigmacode.
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) attackingtoward Charkov are stopped and destroyed by the German 6.Armee (vonPaulus); 241,000 prisoners are taken.
May 23rd, 1940: In the West, units of 6.Armee (von Reichenau) cross theScheldt river at Oudenarde in Belgium.
May 23rd, 1941: In waters off Crete, the Luftwaffe sinks the Britishdestroyers Cashmir and Kelly.
May 23rd, 1943: The RaF launches a heavy raid on Dortmund, dropping2,000 tons of bombs.
May 23rd, 1944: In Italy, the US Fifth Army (Clark) begins an offensivefrom 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 ofthe post-Hitler government of Grossadmiral Dönitz as well as of theOKW at Flensburg; they are flown to a secret American camp in Luxemburgand held there pending their indictment in an Allied war crimes trialscheduled to be held at Nuremberg.
May 24th, 1940: In the West, infantry units of XIX.Panzerkorps storm thecitadel of Boulogne and take 5,000 British and French prisoners. TheFrench fortress of Maubeuge surrenders, while 6.Armee captures Ghent andTournai in Belgium.
May 24th, 1941: The German battleship Bismarck, supported by the heavycruiser Prinz Eugen, sinks the British battle cruiser Hood after firingonly 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 afterthe loss of 56 boats in April and May.
May 25th, 1940: In the West, the British garrison of Calais rejects aGerman call for surrender.
May 25th, 1944: Yugoslav partisan leader Tito narrowly escapes captureby German paratroops supported by Stukas in his HQ in Bosnia.
May 26th, 1940: Employing hundreds of naval, commercial and privatevessels, the beaten British forces in France begin Operation Dynamo, theevacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk. Calais fall to the Germans, and theadvance toward Dunkirk, ordered stopped by Hitler 3 days previously, isresumed.
May 26th, 1941: In the Atlantic, British Swordfish torpedo planes fromthe 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 attackagainst the British Gazala line (Operation Theseus), but is held up atBir Hacheim which is defended by Free French forces.
May 26th, 1943: In the East, the Red Army begins an offensive againstthe German forces isolated in the Kuban bridgehead between the Sea ofAzov and the Black Sea.
May 27th, 1941: In the Atlantic, the crippled German battleship Bismarckis relentlessly bombarded by dozens of British warships, including thebattleships Rodney and King George V. After all her guns are silenced,she is sunk by torpedos from the cruiser Dorsetshire; there are only 14survivors out of a crew of 2,200. In Libya, the Afrikakorps recapturesHalfaya Pass.
May 27th, 1942: Off the northern coat of Norway, Luftwaffe bombers sink5 ships of Convoy PQ-16.
May 28th, 1940: In the West, the Belgian Army surrenders, King Leopoldbeing taken prisoner. In Norway, French mountain troops capture the portof Narvik, forcing the German defenders (Gebirgsjäger units and crewsof sunk destroyers) into the surrounding hills.
May 28th, 1941: On Crete, British and Commonwealth fores beginevacuating the island which by now is practically in German hands.
May 28th, 1943: In Italy, the US 15th Air Force attacks oil refineriesat Livorno.
May 28th, 1944: The US 8th Air Force attacks synthetic fuel-producingplants at Leuna-Meseburg.
May 29th, 1940: In the West, the German 6.Armee occupies Lille, Ypresand Ostend. Off the beaches at Dunkirk, the British Navy loses 5destroyers and 15 other vessels to Luftwaffe Stuka attacks.
May 29th, 1941: While evacuating British troops from Crete, the Britishdestroyers Imperial and Hereward are sunk by the Luftwaffe.
May 29th, 1943: The RAF launches a major raid (719 bombers) againstWuppertal, dropping 1,900 tons of bombs and killing 2,450 civilians.
May 29th, 1944: In the Atlantic, the US escort carrier Block Island issunk by U-549. Using its maximum range, the US 8th Air Force attacksaircraft production plants at Marienburg and Posen in eastern Germany.
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 making59,000 people homeless.
May 30th, 1944: German forces of Heeresgruppe Südukraine begin acounter-attack near Jassy on the lower Dnestr river.
May 31st, 1940: The evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk continues underheavy Luftwaffe attacks that sink two French destroyers; 68,000 men havebeen rescued thus far.
May 31st, 1942: Sine the start of Operation Paukenschlag (Drum Beat) inJanuary, German U-boats operating along the US eastern seaboard havesunk 111 vessels. The RAF launches another 1,000-bomber raid againstEssen, but with minimal results. In Libya, the attack by the Afrikakorpsagainst 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 inthe Atlantic due to greatly improved Allied anti-submarine techniquesand tactics (Hedgehog, greater-range patrol aircraft, better radar, moreescort vessels and carriers, plus the advantage of having broken theGerman Navy Enigma code). “Black May” effectively marks the end of asustained German U-boat campaign in WWII which did come very close tostarving out Britain and forcing her to make terms with Germany. InItaly, the US 15th Air Force bombs Axis airfields at Foggia, destroyingmany aircraft on the ground.