Eighty years ago Roosevelt's forward policy in the Atlantic starts to bear fruit.


After some weeks of pursuing a forward policy in the North Atlantic, President Roosevelt was finally rewarded with a German attack on a US warship that could be presented as an act of aggression and challenge to the freedom of the seas. The U-652 fired a torpedo at the USS Greer. The torpedo missed and the American ship responded with depth-charges. The US communique stated blandly that the Greer was carrying mail to Iceland. The Germans claimed the Greer had attacked first. In fact the Greer was in practice hunting the German submarine, vectored towards its target by a British aircraft, but this was not immediately disclosed.

The British, too, enjoyed a success in the war with submarines when the U-570 was severely damaged by depth-charges from an RAF Hudson. She surrendered after diving briefly and prominently displayed a white sheet from her conning tower. RAF aircraft shadowed her until British warships could reach the scene. A grimly farcical episode then saw the British refusing to rescue the German sailors unless the submarine was prevented from sinking. Eventually the submarine was taken intact and put into Royal Navy service as HMS Graph. It was a small gain; the crew had been able to destroy the code-equipment at an early stage.

A force of Canadian infantry took over the Norwegian but German occupied island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic ocean without facing serious opposition. They seized German ships, destroyed a radio station that was broadcasting weather reports and repatriated 800 civilians, many of whom joined the Norwegian armed forces in exile. The Germans were never able to replace the weather station.

The Anglo-Soviet occupation of Iran forced Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, to go once more onto his travels. He was an Arab nationalist and opposed Zionism; he was probably anti Jewish as well. He had first  fled Palestine to escape British arrest for his activities in opposing their mandate to Syria. The British invasion of Syria saw him flee to Iraq until the Golden Square nationalist revolt against the British collapse. He sought refuge in the Japanese legation in Tehran.


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