15 January – Today in German History


  • Cruiser Köln was commissioned into service with Fregattenkapitän Ludwig von Schröder at the helm.


  • Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein became a group leader (Kameradschaftsführer) in the Hitler Youth organization.


  • Hermann Göring met Benito Mussolini; when Göring brought up the topic of the German wish to annex Austria, Mussolini showed disapproval.


  • Kapitän zur See Ernst Kretzenberg took command of cruiser Köln.
  • German submarine U-44 torpedoed and sank Norwegian steamer Fagerheim in the Bay of Biscay at the early hours of the day, killing 15. The 5 survivors were taken to Vigo, Spain. At 0700 hours, U-44 fired shots at Dutch merchant freighter Arendskerk; realizing his ship could not outrun the German submarine, captain of the Arendskerk gave the abandon ship order. Arendskerk was subsequently torpedoed and sank, but all 65 of her crew members survived, rescued by Italian steamer Fedora.


  • Overnight, Wellington bombers of No. 57 Squadron RAF attacked Emden, Germany while 76 RAF bombers attacked Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
Erich Topp (r) on U-552 in St. Nazaire in October 1941.


  • The German Armeegruppe Mitte began to fall back from the Kaluga area, forming new defensive lines 20 miles to the west.
  • German submarine U-552 sank the ship Dayrose at 0138 hours with 38 dead and 4 survivors. To the south, German submarine U-123 sank British tanker Coimbra off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, United States at 0941 hours with 36 dead and 10 survivors. At 1134 hours, again off Newfound, U-203 sank Portuguese trawler, Catalina, killing all aboard. Near the end of the day at 2317 hours, U-553 blew the bow off of the tanker Diala with 57 dead and 8 survivors and the wreckage of Diala remained afloat.
  • British destroyer HMS Hesperus rammed German submarine U-93 while the submarine attempted to attack Allied convoy HG78 580 miles west of Gibraltar, followed by gunfire and depth charge attacks, leading to the submarine being abandoned with 6 dead and 40 survivors. HMS Hesperus would reverse course for Gibraltar to receive repairs.
  • A British Swordfish aircraft sank German submarine U-577 with depth charges 60 miles north of Sollum, Egypt, killing all 43 aboard.


  • German aircraft raided Telepte Airfield in Tunisia three times and Youks-les-Bains Airfield in Algeria once. A total of 15 German aircraft were shot down during these attacks.


  • Soviet forces launched a new offensive near Leningrad, Russia.
  • German XIV Panzer Corps abandoned Monte Trocchio, Italy and fell back across the Rapido River while the US II Corps would capture Monte Trocchio later on the same day. Meanwhile, General Juin’s French troops captured Monte Santa Croce.


  • Adolf Hitler ordered Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland to move from East Prussia, Germany to Poland to counter the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive. This counterattack would be repulsed by the Soviet 1st Byelorussian Front.
  • Adolf Hitler departed the Adlerhorst headquarters in Wetterau, Germany, and returning to Berlin.
  • German V-2 rocket hit Rainham, London, England, United Kingdom at about 2345, killing 14 and seriously injuring 4.


  • Hellmuth Felmy was released from imprisonment.









14 Jan 1942 – 31 Aug 1942 – Start of the Second Happy Time

In mid-1940, German submariners enjoyed a period nicknamed the Happy Time (Die Glückliche Zeit) during which they were able to sink 282 Allied ships in the Atlantic Ocean totaling 1,489,795 tons. As the British improved convoy techniques, the Happy Time in late 1940, but German submarines continued to pose a serious threat for Allied shipping in the Atlantic.

Long before the United States entered the war it had been violating its neutrality by sending supplies and surplus warships to the United Kingdom. American politicians claimed that transports of any nation docking at American ports could do trade without restriction, but they also knew that only British and French vessels made visits to the United States. With this policy in place, however, it was inevitable that attacks on American “neutral” shipping occurred. On 31 Oct 1941, while escorting a British convoy, the American destroyer USS Reuben James was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-562; 115 of the 160 aboard were killed as the result of the first American naval vessel sunk by the Germans before the war started for the United States. Isolationist sentiments still ran strong in the US, however, and President Roosevelt could not rally enough support based on this event to declare an alliance with Britain; all he could do was, as he had already ordered months prior, to continue US Navy patrols across the Atlantic Ocean, going as far as Iceland.

The position of the United States changed when it declared war on Germany on 11 Dec 1941, three days after the declaration of war on Japan. German Admiral Karl Dönitz immediately planned for his long-range submarines to strike the American coastal waters. Codenamed Operation Paukenschlag (Drumbeat or Timpani Beat), five Type IX submarines departed Lorient, France on 18 Dec 1941. The British Y service picked up signals from these submarines; Rodger Winn of the London Submarine Tracking Room suspected that these submarines might be heading to the Western Atlantic, and warned the Canadians and the Americans of a “heavy concentration of U-boats off the North American seaboard”. Rear Admiral Frank Leighton of the US Combined Operations and Intelligence Center received the message and passed it on to, among others, Rear Admiral Adolphus Andrews who was in charge of coastal defense along the Maine to North Carolina coast, but he could do little against attacks by modern German submarines as his fleet only consisted of 7 US Coast Guard cutters, four yachts, and several WW1-vintage vessels. While Andrews’ inaction was due to lack of resources under his command, the fact that little other actions were taken could only be blamed on personal failure; American coastal shipping continued to continue with lights on, and lighthouses continued to operate and provide navigational aid to the enemy. On 12 Jan 1942, Andrews received another warning, but he refused to group coastal shipping into convoys (a sentiment shared by US Navy Admiral Ernest King). Two days later, on 14 Jan, German submarine U-123 struck within sight of Long Island, New York, United States, sinking Norwegian tanker Norness; the Andrews did not dispatch any of his 13 destroyers in New York harbor to investigate. On the night of 15 Jan, seeing no ships came to pursue, U-123 sank British tanker Coimbra off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, United States. U-123’s crew was pleasantly surprised to still see no actions taken against these attacks, and continued to operate off New Jersey with impunity, sinking five more ships before heading back to France. U-123’s sister ships U-130, U-66, U-109, and U-125 collectively sank 16 ships, making the grand total 23. When all five of the Type IX submarines returned to France, Dönitz actually criticized U-125’s commanding officer Ulrich Folkers for his lack of aggressiveness, having destroyed only one Allied ship. Dönitz later wrote that on this first expedition to the American coast each commander “had such an abundance of opportunities for an attack that he could not by any means utilize them all: there were times when there were up to ten ships in sight, sailing with all lights burning on peacetime courses.”

The success led to second and third waves of German submarines being sent to the American coast; around this time, the nickname Second Happy Time began to surface, with the initial 1940 success as the First Happy Time. In addition to the long-range Type IX submarines, shorter range submarines were being dispatched to North America as well, with all available space used for extra food, water, and fuel to extend the submarines’ range.

In Mar 1942, 24 British Royal Navy anti-submarine trawlers and 10 Corvettes were deployed on the east coast of the United States to help alleviate the situation. In the same month, Royal Canadian Navy expanded its area of operations so that it could escort convoys sailing between Boston, Massachusetts, the United States and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The first successful sinking of a German submarine would not occur until 14 Apr 1942 when the destroyer USS Roper sank U-85. In the same month, Andrews finally agreed to implement a limited convoy system and only allowing ships to travel in daylight. By mid-May 1942, full convoys were finally in operation and the number of Allied ships sunk off the American coast immediately decreased. Dönitz quickly noticed the change in American tactics and scaled-down submarine operations off the American coast. Starting in Jul 1942, the British RAF Coastal Command transferred No. 53 Squadron to various bases in North America to bolster anti-submarine defenses. Noting that the Americans and the Allies finally began to tighten defenses on the US coast, Dönitz called off this campaign. During the Second Happy Time which lasted more than seven months, the Germans sank 609 ships totaling 3,100,000 tons at the cost of only 22 submarines. This number would represent about 25% of all Allied shipping sunk by German submarines during this period.


10 January – Today in German History


  • The Versailles Treaty takes force.


Four years after the end of World War I, President Warren G. Harding orders U.S. occupation troops stationed in Germany to return home. In 1923, after four years in Germany, the occupation troops were ordered home after President Harding succeeded Wilson in 1921 and announced a desire to return to normalcy after the disruptions of wartime. Meanwhile, the bitterness of the German population, demoralized by defeat and what they saw as the unfairly harsh terms of peace of which the American occupation was a part grew ever stronger.


9 January – Today in German History


  • Birth of Friedrich von Esmarch, 1823-1908, in Tönning, Germany. Esmarch was a military surgeon and a professor of surgery at the University of Kiel. He wrote a handbook on first aid for civilians and military uses and introduced the first-aid bandage. Esmarch bandage is designed to act as a tourniquet to restrict the flow of blood into a limb in order to limit blood loss on the battlefield. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870, he was appointed surgeon-general to the army, and afterward consulting surgeon at the great military hospital near Berlin. In 1872, Esmarch married Princess Caroline Christiane Auguste Emilie Henriette Elisabeth of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, 1833–1917. In 1887 a patent of nobility was conferred on Esmarch.

5 January – Today in German History


  • Birth of Konrad Adenauer, 1876-1967 in Cologne, Germany. In 1917, he became Oberburgermeister of Cologne. An opponent of the Nazi regime, he was sent to a concentration camp in 1944. After the war, he worked in the founding and development of the CDU political party. In 1949, he became the first chancellor of the new Federal Republic of Germany, a post which he held until 1963. Adenauer, who was Chancellor until age 87, was dubbed Der Alte (the old man). British historian Roy Jenkins says he was “the oldest statesman ever to function in elected office.” He belied his age by his intense work habits and his uncanny political instinct. He displayed a strong dedication to a broad vision of market-based liberal democracy and anti-communism. A shrewd politician, Adenauer was deeply committed to a Western-oriented foreign policy and restoring the position of West Germany on the world stage. He worked to restore the West German economy from the destruction of World War II to a central position in Europe, presiding over the German Economic Miracle. He reestablished the German military (Bundeswehr) in 1955. He came to terms with France, which made the economic unification of Western Europe possible.


  • The insurrection of the communist Spartakus group in Berlin began on January 5 and lasted for seven days before it was put down. A few days later the leaders of the group, Karl Liebknecht, and Rosa Luxemburg were put to death.

Luftwaffe Veterans – Picture of the Day

Six Ritterkreuzträger (Knight’s Cross recipients) and former Luftwaffe fighter aces from Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) in front of the aircraft hangar in Ebern, Altenstein (Germany), 2002. From left to right: Günther Rall (275 victories. Ritterkreuz on 3 September 1942, Eichenlaub on 26 October 1942, and Schwerter on 12 September 1943), Friedrich “Fritz” Obleser (120 victories. Ritterkreuz on 23 March 1944), Peter “Bonifaz” Düttmann (152 victories. Ritterkreuz on 9 June 1944), Viktor Petermann (64 victories. Ritterkreuz on 29 February 1944), Walter Wolfrum (137 victories. Ritterkreuz on 27 July 1944), and Heinz “Esau” Ewald (84 victories. Ritterkreuz on 20 April 1945).

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