World War II Today: May 20

19th Panzer Korps (Guderian) completes its advance to the Channel coast by capturing Abbeville and Noyelles, thus separating the British Expeditionary Force, French 1st Army and the Belgian Army from the rest of the French forces to the south of the river Somme. German reinforcements pour into this split between the allied troops in northern France.

First gathering of small craft for Dunkirk.

Prime Minister says he is still not prepared to make a statement on Hess.

Germany invades Crete by air. After initial air attacks by dive-bombers of the VIII Flieger Korps, German paratroops of the 7th Flieger Division carried in 490 Ju-52 transports of XI Fliegerkorps, land at Maleme, Canea, Retimo and Heraklion airfields. They suffer very heavy losses as the British and Commonwealth troops put up fierce resistance and by nightfall have only secured Maleme airfield, although it still remains under fire from the British. However, the capture of Maleme allows the Germans to begin sending reinforcements by sea during the night.

Churchill announces the end of Abyssinian campaign as the Duke of Aosta signs the formal Italian surrender. The British took just 94 days to win the East African campaign.

The Royal Navy Minesweeper Widnes is sunk by Luftwaffe planes near Suda Bay in Crete.

Mr. Justice Singleton’s report is published. This concluded that GEE was disappointing, but that more accurate bombing might result when a new aid, H2S, being developed, came in to service. provided that greater accuracy could be achieved, then bombing could prove a ‘turning-point’, but only after sustained effort.

The Crimea is finally cleared of the Red Army. 170,000 Russians taken prisoner. Manstein’s gaze now turns towards Sevastopol.

Japan completes the conquest of Burma. The rearguards of the 1st Burma Corps cross the border from Burma into India. Once this is complete, the 1st Burma Corps is disbanded.

Admiral Yamamoto issues his orders for Operation ‘Mi’. 2nd Carrier Striking Force under Admiral Hosogaya (2 small aircraft carriers, 2 cruisers and 3 destroyers) was to mount an air-strike on Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians on the 3rd June, this was designed to decoy part of the American force northwards. If this happened then they would be met by a Guard Force of 4 battleships, 2 cruisers and 12 destroyers, which would position themselves between Pearl Harbor and the Aleutians. Then on the 5th June, the transports carrying the Japanese assault force would land on Attu and Kiska Islands on the 5th June. Meanwhile the 1st Carrier Striking Force under Admiral Nagumo, which included the Carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, plus 2 battleships, 2 cruisers and 11 destroyers, would sail from Japan for Midway on the 4th June. Following this would be Transport Force which was commanded by Admiral Kondo with the invasion troops, additionally protected by 3 cruisers from Guam. Finally the Main Support force, commanded by Admiral Yamamoto onboard the super battleship Yamato and including a further 3 battleships, 4 cruisers and escorting destroyers would be ready to move up to engage the American Fleet if required. In order to be sure of the position of the American Fleet, 3 cordons of submarines were positioned north and west of Hawaii and 2 flying boats were stationed at French Frigate Shoal, about 500 miles north-west of Hawaii.

The U.S. Tenth Fleet is formed for anti-submarine operations in the Atlantic.

The Chinese launch a counter offensive on Yangtze River.

A record 5,000 bombers raid 12 railway targets and nine airfields in northern France and Belgium.

The first orders from Eisenhower are broadcast to European underground armies.

The U.S. Fifth Army captures Gaeta to the South of Rome.

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