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1943

Britain surprises German attacker in the Arctic

On this day, the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst is sunk by British warships in the Arctic after decoded German naval signals reveal that the Scharnhorst is on a mission to attack an Anglo-American convoy to Russia.

Hitler’s navy had posed serious threats to convoys shipping supplies to the Soviet Union since the fall of 1941. American, British, and Soviet merchant ships had suffered devastating attacks in the Arctic, mostly by German U-boats. Operation Rainbow was the German plan to attack two Anglo-American convoys as they sailed between Bear Island and the North Cape en route to the Eastern front. But Enigma, the British code-breaker, once again provided the Allies with the sensitive strategic information they needed to anticipate and prevent disaster. The Scharnhorst, Germany’s 31,000-ton battle cruiser, which had already sunk the British cruiser Rawalpindi, was surprised by the British battleship Duke of York, which sank it in what became known as the Battle of North Cape.

Approximately 2,000 German sailors and crew drowned and only 36 survived.

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