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June 23rd, 1941 (MONDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Churchill states:
The Russian danger is our danger and the danger of the United States, just as the cause of any Russian fighting for his hearth and home is the cause of free men and free people in every country of the globe.

Destroyers HMS Eggesford, Melbreak and Tantaside laid down.

Minesweeping trawler HMS Nogi bombed and sunk off Cromer.

GERMANY: The Germans have unleashed a massive war machine on the USSR. The three million troops (including those held in reserve) have the support of 3,350 tanks, 7,184 guns and 2,815 aircraft. In addition, eight divisions have been deployed to Finland.

This leaves Hitler with just 61 divisions (amounting to 600,000 men) to cover the rest of Europe and North Africa, but divisions from Finland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, plus some Italian forces, should leave for the USSR in a the near future, as it seems likely that those countries will declare war on the USSR.

The USSR has about 132 divisions including 34 armoured divisions (2,500,000 men) in the border districts of the west, a further 20 facing Finland, and 133 divisions in the interior and Far East. This will more than double once mobilisation is complete. The Russian tank armoury has some 20,000 machines, although many are obsolete, with new, more powerful, types only just being introduced. First line fuel, ammunition and tank radios are in short supply. The Red Air Force has 18,000 aircraft, of which well over half are in the west. Most are obsolete, and over 3,500 have already been lost. Even more serious are Stalin's refusal to prepare for an invasion, his unfinished reorganisation of the Red Army, and his purge of many of his best commanders before the war.

Berlin: The German News Office announced:-

Early Sunday morning 9 Russian Glenn Martin bombers flew into East Prussia and 7 of them were shot down by German fighter planes. In another attempted raid on military installations in the General Government of Poland close behind the front lines, all but 2 out of 35 Russian bombers were destroyed by German fighter planes.

The Wehrmacht High Command announced:-

In the east the struggles of the German army and the Luftwaffe against the Red Army are proceeding successfully according to schedule. Very weak forces of the Red Air Force dropped bombs in East Prussia without notable effect. [German ace] Lt. Col. Molders won his 72nd air victory yesterday.

U-519 laid down.


Soviet destroyer Gnevny mined and sunk in Baltic.

Soviet submarine M-78 sunk by U-144 west of Widawa in Baltic Sea.

U.S.S.R.: Moscow: Communiqué No. 1 of the Red Army High Command stated:-

Early in the morning of June 22, the troops of the German-Fascist Wehrmacht attacked our border forces along the entire line extending from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The enemy Luftwaffe bombed a number of our airfields and villages, but everywhere it encountered energetic resistance from our fighter planes and ground defences, which inflicted heavy losses on the Hitlerite Fascists. Sixty-five German aircraft were shot down.

Moscow is attacked by 115 bombers

German attacks on the Eastern Front continue to make progress. In the north Fourth Panzergruppe has advanced almost 50 miles. The Russian defence in the south is somewhat stronger and the First Panzer Group is not making progress as well as those of the north. Luftwaffe attacks on the Red Airforce have been very effective.

The following Soviet submarines are lost:

M-78 Baltic Fleet Ventspils area (sunk by U-144)

S-1 Baltic Fleet Liepaja (scuttled at Libau)

Ronis Baltic Fleet Liepaja (scuttled at Libau)

Spidola Baltic Fleet Liepaja (scuttled at Libau)

M-71 Baltic Fleet Liepaja (scuttled at Libau)

M-80 Baltic Fleet Liepaja (scuttled at Libau)

(Mike Yared)(146 and 147)

LITHUANIA: Vilnius and Kaunas are liberated by Lithuanian freedom fighters, a declaration of the restoration of independence is broadcast on the radio. A national government will operate from June 24 to August 5 without German recognition. (Henrik Krog)

ROMANIA: In response to a formation of Soviet bombers approaching Constanta, Locotenent Aviator [lieutenant] Horia Agarici took off from nearby Mamaia Airfield in his Hurricane No. 3 which he ended up flying without its engine cowling which had been removed for servicing (three other aircraft of the escadrila were already grounded for maintenance or much-needed overhaul), and which was the only fighter to make contact with the incoming Soviet formation of seven (or nine, I've seen both numbers listed) SB-2 bombers.  Agarici pressed his attacks until running out of ammunition, shooting down three and driving off the remaining bombers -- one source reports two shot down over land with wreckage later identified and a third downed over the Black Sea, while another source reports all three crashed on land, but generally he's credited with three kills that, under the Romanian practice of counting twin-engined aircraft as "double points" made  him an ace in a day with six official victories to his score.


Now, as if being an "ace in a day" and on only the second day of the Barbarossa campaign to boot was enough, Agarici became an overnight sensation in the eyes of the Romanian public due to a grammatical happenstance of "Agarici" rhyming with "Bolshevici"  -- as in the refrain "Agarici has gone to hunt Bolshevici" in a little ditty quickly composed by his brother-in-law, an aspiring poet.  This song somehow became one of those pop hits that ended up being sung throughout the country, and Agarici became more of a household name than perhaps was warranted.  By war's end, Horia Agarici, now a Capitanul [captain] had succeeded in racking up a fairly modest total of eight kills -- six confirmed and two probable -- which even with the double-scoring bomber credits came to only thirteen overall victories, not enough to include him in even the upper half of Romania's roster of fighter aces.  On the other hand, his much promoted popularity backfired following Romania's defection from the Axis in August 1944 and the subsequent rise of communist power in the ensuing pro-Soviet regime.  Details are sketchy, but Agarici's postwar career was abruptly brief, a victim of Soviet vengeance. (Greg Kelley)(courtesy Denes Bernad's Rumanian Aces of World War 2 (Osprey, 2003) and Rumanian Air Force: The Prime Decade (Squadron/Signal, 1999) ; also his and Jean-Louis Roba's From Barbarossa to Odessa: The Luftwaffe and Axis Allies Strike South-East, June-October 1941 [volume 1] (Midland/Ian Allen 2007) as well as Mark Axworthy's Third Axis Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in the European War, 1941-1945 (Arms and Armour, 1995) and probably assorted other notes dredged from the filing cabinets of the fabled Archives...)

LIBYA: The Italian and German air forces bombard Tobruk.

SYRIA: The British forces from Iraq advance to Palmyra, Syria, with the Vichy garrison still holding.
RAF Blenheims of 11 Sqn. raid the Vichy French airbase at El Qusseif where French LeO 451 bombers are stationed.

2/33 Bn with strong artillery support captures Ibeles Saki, outflanking Merdjayoun. Patrols discover French withdrawn from Merdjayoun. A small Vichy French Foreign Legion force in Palmyra continues spirited resistance against attacks by four allied cavalry regiments (including the Arab Legion) and an infantry battalion. Despite numbering less than three companies, they will not surrender until 3 July, continuing the FFL’s tradition of defence against hopeless odds. On the coastal axis, Brig Stevens complains personally to Gen Wavell that he cannot get ammunition for his battalions’ 3-inch mortars. Next day 320 bombs arrive for each battalion. (Michael Alexander)

On this flank the 2/33rd had been patrolling and had discovered not only that the impetus of the enemy's drive had been exhausted but that he was abandoning some of his gains. On the night of the 20th a patrol found that Fort Khiam was unoccupied, and on the night of the 21st that the French had abandoned Khiam village and Bmeriq. On the eve of the planned attack on Ibeles Saki, Berryman ordered that a troop of horsed cavalry be formed by the 6th Cavalry to patrol the rugged hills of the Anti-Lebanon and protect his right. It will be recalled that, on the 16th, Captain Bennett's roving company of the 2/33rd had captured thirty-two good cavalry horses at Rachaya. In the ranks of the 6th Cavalry were many countrymen and some who had served at home in light horse regiments of the militia. From such men was formed a cavalry troop, at first of eighteen men but in a few days increased to forty, when saddles and packs arrived from Palestine; its unofficial title was the "Kelly Gang". On the night of the 22nd, a few hours after the horses had been taken over, Lieutenant Burt (a dairy farmer in civil life) led the force to Bmeriq and patrolled the area beyond; and, in the following days, the cavalrymen, then under Lieutenant Millard, rode through the country bounded by Bmeriq, Kafr Hammam, Kafr Chebaa and Mazraat Islamiye in the tangled mountains overlooking the Merdjayoun valley from the east. (Daniel Ross)(197)

CANADA: Corvette HMCS Snowberry arrived Halifax with convoy OB.332.

NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN: The Convoy HX-133, in the North Atlantic, begins a concentrated fight against a U-Boat wolfpack. During the next 6 days and nights, as the largest convoy to date crosses the Atlantic, the battle will rage. Ten U-boats will ultimately join the wolfpack. Initially there are 4 escorts assigned. The escort will be strengthen by nine additional escorts from other convoys. The convoy will lose five ships. As part of the loss from this battle the two merchants from other convoys must be included.


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