Saturday, September 14, 2019

February 15, 1942: Japan Takes Singapore

Sunday 15 February 1942

Surrender of Singapore 15 February 1942
In Singapore, British troops surrender to the Japanese, 15 February 1942 (Daily Mail).
Battle of the Pacific: At about 19:00 local time on 15 February 1942, the British in Singapore surrender to the Japanese 25th Army. Hostilities are agreed to cease at 20:30. Local commander General Arthur Percival cites shortages of water, food, oil, and ammunition. According to contemporaneous estimates in London, approximately 55,000-60,000 British and Imperial Troops (including many Indian and Australian formations) go into captivity (later estimates are higher, at about 85,000). Many small ships are lost in port, including 296-ton Siushan, 65-ton Mersing, and a requisitioned yacht, Silvia. The Japanese also come into possession of several ships, including 254-ton freighter Rhu. This begins a long and oppressive Japanese occupation of Singapore.

Surrender of Singapore 15 February 1942
Putting a brave face on events in Singapore, the media notes the "desperate attempt to break the stern spirit of the defenders." The People, Sunday 15 February 1942.
Many feel (on 15 February 1942 and later) that Percival mishandled the defense and surrendered without having upheld the honor of the British Army. The British Army never forgives Percival, and he is excluded from the final Japanese surrender ceremony aboard USS Missouri on 2 September 1945 (even though US General Wainwright, the loser at Bataan, the Philippines, pointedly is given a position of honor). ABDA Commander General Wavell, however, in a classified report (only released in 1992) blames poor discipline among the defending Australian troops - a view which is not widely shared after the fact but may influence future British decisions. Many observers place the true blame on poor British Army and Navy strategy that emanates from Whitehall.

Surrender of Singapore 15 February 1942
General Percival (right) leads the surrender parley on 15 February 1942 (Daily Mail).
In Burma, British Brigadier Sir John Smyth's 17th Infantry Division of the British Indian Army at Bilin River holds its ground against a determined Japanese attack. This is the first combat for the 17th, but the soldiers fight well. The Japanese 55th Division, however, sends units around the British strongpoints in an attempt to cut the British line of communications. The British 46th Brigade abandons Thaton. Brigadier Smyth is winning his defensive struggle but worries that his unit may be completely destroyed if his supply route is cut off. He resolves to hang on to his fortified position for another day.

Java Sea battle, 15 February 1942
"Java Sea. 15 February 1942. Bomb spray obscures the British cruiser HMS Exeter, as Exeter and the Australian cruiser, HMAS Hobart, manoeuver during a Japanese air attack. Exeter survived this attack to be later sunk in the Java Sea on 1 March 1942 by a torpedo from the Japanese destroyer, Inazuma. HMS Encounter and USS Pope were with the Exeter, and all three ships sunk off the southern coast of Borneo. (Donor J. King)" Australian War Memorial P02620.007.
Today is decisive in the defense of Sumatra. Early in the day, the ABDA naval force, composed of five cruisers HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java, HNLMS Tromp, HMS Exeter, HMAS Hobart) and ten destroyers under the command of Admiral Karel Doorman, attempt to disrupt a Japanese invasion force off Palembang. However, after Japanese land-based planes and bombers from aircraft carrier Ryujo attack his force, Doorman withdraws to the south of Sumatra. In the afternoon, the Allies begin withdrawing all air units from southern Sumatra to Java and other personnel by sea to Java and India. The Japanese invasion fleet, under fierce air attack from Palembang II airdrome, enters the mouth of the Musi River and lands its invasion force. The Japanese capture Palembang and its precious refinery, while the British and Dutch defenders withdraw to the west coast for eventual evacuation to Java.

Surrender of Singapore 15 February 1942
General Yamashita at the surrender of the British garrison of Singapore on 15 February 1942.
There are many shipping losses near Singapore and Palembang. The British and Dutch scuttle Dutch patrol boats 217-ton Jerantut and 207-ton Klias before they leave Palembang. Japanese ships sink 191-ton tug Yin Ping about 20 miles off Muntok, with 50 deaths and 25 survivors, as it flees Palembang. Also off Muntok, a Japanese cruiser captures Auxiliary patrol boat Dymas, which departed Singapore on the 13th, and everyone aboard becomes a prisoner. Off Banka, Japanese gunfire sinks auxiliary anti-submarine ship Mata Hari, with the crew taken prisoner.

Surrender of Singapore 15 February 1942
The Sunday Times notes the "stubbornly maintained" defense at Singapore. February 15, 1942 edition of The Sunday Times. Via NewspaperSG.
The Allies have not given up on the Netherlands East Indies. Australian Army 7th Division from the Middle East arrives aboard liner SS Orcades at Oosthaven in southern Sumatra. However, it is redirected to Batavia after urgent pleading to General Wavell by Lieutenant General John Lavarack, General Officer Commanding 1st Australian Army. A US Navy convoy sails today from Port Darwin for Koepang, Timor, Netherlands East Indies. Their mission is to defend the only military airfield on Timor, Penfoie airdrome, which serves as an important transit point to Java. Both sides are building up forces in the area, but the Japanese have the initiative and the naval and air power that is vital in this region.

In Bataan, the Philippines, Japanese troops withdraw out of a salient they have driven into the US Army I Corps lines in the western half of the Main Line of Resistance (MLR). There is a small Japanese attack on the eastern half of the Bataan Peninsula in the II Corps sector which is designed to distract the Allies and aid in this evacuation. The Allies have been extremely successful in recent days at eliminating Japanese pockets behind the MLR. This has allowed them to focus more forces on the MLR. However, the Japanese on the other side of the MLR are biding their time, building up their forces and waiting for the right moment to unleash a set-piece offensive.

Surrender of Singapore 15 February 1942
The British surrender Singapore on 15 February 1942. Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival the British commander, is the tall figure just behind the white flag surrounded by Japanese soldiers.
Martin Clemens, His Majesty's Commissioner for Guadalcanal and Coastwatcher for the Royal Australian Navy's Islands Coastwatching Service, takes up his post on Guadalcanal. His role is to report anything relevant to the war over his radio. Clemens becomes the unofficial British ruler of Guadalcanal for the time being, acting as a judge for tribal disputes and maintaining the British presence in an ostentatious way.

Japanese submarine HIJMS I-65 torpedoes and sinks 4681-ton Dutch freighter Johanne Justesen off southwest India. There are one death and 58 survivors.

Captured Soviet T-50 tank used by Finns, 15 February 1942
A captured Soviet T-50 tank, very rare, in Finnish service, 15 February 1942 (SA-Kuva).
Eastern Front: The Red Army continues its push south of Lake Ilmen when II Guards Rifle Corps makes contact with elements of Third Shock Army northeast of Kholm. The Soviet forces have slid between the large German garrisons at Staraya Russa and Demyansk and between Demyansk and Kholm to meet between Demyansk and Kholm. These are all considered major strong points by the Wehrmacht and anchors of the line, but the Germans don't particularly care about surrounding forests and fields. These Red Army advances have resulted in two German pockets forming, one at Demyansk and the other at Kholm slightly to the southwest. This meeting is of little significance because both German pockets already are surrounded and the Germans are not interested in defending the ground in between them. German II Corps under Generalleutnant Graf Walter von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt at Demyansk has almost 100,000 with him and thus can hold out for some time as long as he is adequately supplied. A Luftwaffe airlift which began on 12 February is bringing the forces in the Demyansk Pocket just enough to keep from starving and being overrun, but not much more.

British Royal Navy ship HMS Mata Hari, sunk on 15 February 1942
British Royal Navy anti-submarine vessel HMS Mata Hari, sunk at Bangka, Netherlands East Indies on 15 February 1942.
European Air Operations: The British Air Ministry clarifies its Area Bombing Directive of 14 February 1942 after being requested to do so by Chief of the Air Staff Charles Portal. Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Vice Marshal Norman Bottomley who had drafted the Area Bombing Directive, states:
ref the new bombing directive: I suppose it is clear the aiming points will be the built-up areas, and not, for instance, the dockyards or aircraft factories where these are mentioned in Appendix A. This must be made quite clear if it is not already understood.
This clarification makes clear that bombing efforts henceforth are, in the absence of specified targets, to be directed at the hearts of civilian population centers.

The Luftwaffe continues its raids against British shipping, bombing and damaging 489-ton British coaster Empire Head about 11 nautical miles (20 km) east of Hartlepool. It proceeds to Middlesbrough for repairs.

RAF Bomber Command sends 20 Whitley and 6 Halifax bombers against the U-boat base of St. Nazaire. The conditions are cloudy, and only 9 of the bomber crews even attempt to bomb the target. There are no losses until the bombers return to England to land and three are lost due to the poor weather.

Greek freighter Meropi, sunk on 15 February 1942
Greek freighter Meropi, sunk on 15 February 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-432 (Kptlt. Heinz-Otto Schultze), on its fourth patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes and sinks 5152-ton Brazilian freighter Buarque about 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Cape Henry, Virginia. There are 84 survivors and one death when a Portuguese passenger dies of a heart attack. The survivors are picked up quickly by USCGC Calypso (WPC 104) and are in Norfolk by the 17th.

U-98 (Kptlt. Robert Gysae), on its sixth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 5298-ton freighter Biela southwest of Newfoundland. The freighter is part of Convoy ON-62. All 50 men on board perish.

U-566 (Kptlt. Dietrich Borchert), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 4181-ton Greek freighter Meropi south of Nova Scotia. Meropi is part of Convoy ON-62 but is a straggler. There are 24 dead and 15 survivors.

HMS Thrasher, returning to port on 15 February 1942
HMS Thrasher on its return to port after sustaining bomb damage in the Mediterranean. The letters indicate damage. 15 or 16 February 1942. © IWM (A 8711).
Battle of the Mediterranean: With both sides building up their forces in Libya, all of the action is at sea. U-81 reports attacking a Royal Navy light cruiser but missing. Royal Navy motor launch ML-169 catches fire and blows up at Gibraltar when the starts it, with four deaths.

Lieutenant Adnan Bin Saidi, KIA 15 February 1942
Lieutenant Adnan Bin Saidi, who perished at Singapore on 15 February 1942.
War Crimes: At Bukit Chandu ("Opium Hill") in Pasir Panjang, Second Lieutenant Adnan Bin Saidi, commander of C Company of the Malay Regiment of the 1st Malay Brigade, mounts a ferocious defense in the British last stand in front of Singapore City. He orders his troops to fight to the last man. During the fighting, he sees through a Japanese trick of disguising Japanese soldiers in British Indian uniforms in an attempt to infiltrate his positions. The reason he spots this is the Japanese march in the wrong style. Adnan has his men open fire at close range, killing many disguised Japanese soldiers. Finally, Adnan, wounded, is forced to surrender. The Japanese beat Adnan, tie him to a tree, and bayonet him to death. Adnan Saidi is considered a war hero in Singapore and Malaysia.

US/Canadian Relations: US President Franklin Roosevelt makes a
radio broadcast directed specifically to Canadians. In he, he praises the country, saying:
Yours are the achievements of a great nation. They require no praise from me-but they get that praise from me nevertheless. I understate the case when I say that we, in this country, contemplating what you have done, and the spirit in which you have done it, are proud to be your neighbors.
This is part of a very calculated United States wartime effort to establish and maintain the best possible relations with its neighbors in North and South America. It is an extension of FDR's "Good Neighbor" policy that he began upon his assumption of office in 1933.

General Percival, captured on 15 February 1942
Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, the British commander in Singapore (Daily Mail).
British Homefront: Prime Minister Winston Churchill broadcasts to Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of the British Commonwealth about the state of the war and the alliance with the United States and the Soviet Union. Speaking at night, he breaks the news of the fall of Singapore, which comes as a great shock to many people who have become accustomed to hearing good news out of "Fortress Singapore." Churchill notes that "Three-quarters of the human race are now moving with us," adding, "The whole future of mankind may depend upon our actions and upon our conduct."

American Homefront: The United States Department of Justice technically begins enforcing "Category A" areas. These are locations in Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington which now are prohibited to enemy aliens. Entire cities in Oregon and Washington are included, but only certain counties in California (including Los Angeles County). However, there remains great disagreement within the higher reaches of the United States government as to how to implement these bans, including who is covered by the bans and what personnel will enforce them. For the time being, the bans are not enforced. Everyone, however, expects a final decision shortly.

Lobby card from "To Be Or Not To Be," premiering in Los Angeles on 15 February 1942
Lobby card for "To Be Or Not To Be" (1942).
Carole Lombard's final film, "To Be or Not to Be," premieres in Los Angeles (it goes into general release in Los Angeles on 19 February and wide release on 6 March 1942). A United Artist film directed by Ernst Lubitsch and also starring Jack Benny, "To Be or Not to Be" revolves around actors in Occupied Europe who deceive the German occupiers. The film generally is considered to be a comedy classic and led to a popular remake by Mel Brooks. The film is somewhat controversial because it is a light-hearted look at people in Poland under German oppression, somewhat similar to the situation portrayed twenty years later in "Hogan's Heroes."

Future History: Sherry D. Jackson is born in Wendell, Gooding County, Idaho. She becomes an actress who appears as one of the children in the 1950s "Ma and Pa Kettle" movies. In 1953, she is cast as the oldest daughter in "The Danny Thomas Show" (aka "Make Room For Daddy"), which runs for five years. She becomes a guest star in numerous classic 1960s and 1970s television series, including "My Three Sons," "Star Trek," and "Batman." Sherry Jackson is retired as of 2019.

Black Mask magazine, February 1942
Black Mask Vol XXIV, No 10, February 1942 [Volume 24, Number X].


Friday, September 13, 2019

February 14, 1942: RAF Orders Terror Raids

Saturday 14 February 1942

USS Wahoo launching, 14 February 1942,
USS Wahoo (SS-238) at the Mare Island Navy Yard on the day of its launching, 14 February 1942. Also visible to the left is the USS Whale (SS-239). The photo is signed by Rear Admiral Richard O'Kane (US Navy).
European Air Operations: On 14 February 1942, the Royal Air Force issues the Area Bombing Directive (General Directive No.5 (S.46368/111. D.C.A.S) amendment to General Directive No.4 (S.46368 D.C.A.S). The Area Bombing Directive has as its core instruction:
To focus attacks on the morale of the enemy civil population and in particular the industrial workers. In the case of Berlin harassing attacks to maintain fear of raids and to impose A. R. P. measures."
By adopting this directive, the RAF essentially ratifies the strategy adopted by the Luftwaffe in September 1940 during the Battle of Britain. From now on, the goal of RAF bombing missions is to use its maximum power ("You are accordingly authorized to employ your forces without restriction") against the "built-up" parts of cities (as clarified by instructions issued on 15 February). The Area Bombing Directive marks a radical and controversial reorientation of the Allied bombing campaign which leads to the incineration of civilian areas of cities on the Continent. While the Area Bombing Directed at times is amended and eventually superseded, its underlying strategy remains in effect through the rest of World War II. It is not customary to call this strategy "terror raids" - that is reserved for Luftwaffe attacks - but the strategy employed by the RAF is virtually indistinguishable from that followed by the Luftwaffe. The only real distinction is that the Luftwaffe did it first.

In air operations, RAF Bomber Command sends 98 bombers to attack Mannheim. The weather is very poor, and the damage is minimal. While 67 bomber crews claim to have bombed the target, most almost certainly bombed somewhere else. There are no deaths in Mannheim, only one man wounded, and two buildings destroyed. The RAF loses a Hampden and a Whitley bomber. In a secondary mission, 15 bombers attack Le Havre without loss.

Patrol boat HMS Shu Kwang, sunk on 14 February 1942,
British 732-ton patrol boat HMS Shu Kwang, sunk by Japanese bombers as it fled from Singapore carrying 300 people on 14 February 1942. There were 11 killed and 40 wounded. The Japanese later raise the Shu Kwang and put it into service as Fukuan Maru. Also sunk today is the Shu Kwang's sister ship, Tien Kwang.
Battle of the Pacific: At 08:00, Japanese bombers attack Palembang airdrome on Sumatra. Shortly after, 34 Kawasaki Ki-56, Army Type 1 Freight Transports (export version of the Lockheed Model 14 later given the Allied Code Name "Thalia") drop 260 Japanese paratroopers over the airfield. Another 100 paratroopers drop on a nearby oil refinery. The airfield is only lightly defended by about 150 British anti-aircraft troops, 110 Dutch soldiers, and 60 RAF ground personnel. It is a classic mismatch between elite paratroopers and ordinary rear echelon troops. However, against all odds, the Allied defenders hold out throughout the day and inflict 80% casualties on the Japanese. The two sides battle throughout the day at the oil refiner, falling first into Japanese hands and then back into Dutch possession. Finally, realizing they cannot hold the refinery much longer, the Dutch set some oil storage tanks on fire and then withdraw.

The Allied ABDA Command (General Wavell) orders the ABDA task force to intervene in the waters off Palembang. Under the command of  Dutch Rear Admiral Karel Doorman, RNN, the force sets out with heavy cruiser HMS Exeter, light cruisers HMAS Hobart, HNMS De Ruyter, HNMS Java, HNMS Tromp, and ten destroyers. The operation gets off to a bad start when destroyer HNMS Van Ghent runs aground on a reef north of Banka Island and has to be scuttled.

Cartoon in Argus Supplement, 14 February 1942,
[Argus Supplement, 14 February 1942.]
At Singapore, the Japanese close up on the 28-mile line that the British have drawn around Singapore City in the east. The battle-hardened Japanese troops of the 5th Division put pressure on the northwest section of the line, while the 18th Division battles further to the south on the western portion of the perimeter. At 08:30, the Japanese attack against the sector held by the 1st Malay Brigade. The defenders hold, but a second attack at 16:00 succeeds in pushing back the British left flank. About 150 British soldiers make a futile last stand at Pasir Panjang Ridge and perish. At this point, the entire British line begins to crumble.

Vyner Brooke, sunk on 14 February 1942,
The Vyner Brooke, sunk by the Japanese with great loss of life on 14 February 1942.
The inhabitants of Singapore know that time is short, and many desperate people attempt to flee in overloaded small vessels. Basically, anything that can float is loaded up with refugees and sent into the night. However, the Japanese actively interdict these sailings with extreme prejudice. Japanese bombers sink 1670-ton SS Vyner Brooke off Banka Island, with only 65 of 300 aboard surviving. Many of those who perish are nurses and wounded servicemen. The 625-ton British river gunboat HMS Dragonfly (T11) is bombed and sunk off Singapore with 32 known crew deaths and an unknown number of passenger deaths. The Japanese take two crewmen as prisoners. There are many other small boats sunk in the area as well full of desperate people, such as converted whaler HMS Trang being used as a patrol boat and tug HMS St. Breock.

HMS Dragonfly, sunk on 14 February 1942,
HMS Dragonfly, sunk by Japanese aircraft near Singapore on 14 February 1942.
The British are quickly coming to grips with the deteriorating situation at Singapore. General Archibald Wavell, Commander in Chief ABDA Command, orders Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, General Officer Commanding Malaya Command, to fight on. However, for the first time, Wavell qualifies this a bit, writing that it is:
wrong to enforce needless slaughter... I give you discretion to cease resistance...Whatever happens, I thank you for gallant efforts of the last few days.
Regardless of what Percival wants to do, his hands are effectively tied by the fact that the Japanese have captured the city's reservoirs. Brigadier Ivan Simson reports that the city only has enough water left for 48 hours. Percival bravely responds, "While there's water, we fight on."

HMS Grasshopper, sunk on 14 February 1942,
HMS Grasshopper, sister ship of HMS Dragonfly, is also sunk on 14 February 1942. She is sunk south of Singapore by Japanese forces on 14 February 1942.
On the Bataan Peninsula, the Philippines, the Allies are making good progress in restoring their Main Line of Resistance (MLR) running from west to east across the peninsula. Today, US Army I Corps pushes back a large wedge that the Japanese have driven into the MLR. Further north, the Japanese have pulled back their main forces to regroup for a set-piece attack against the MLR.

In Burma, the Battle of Bilin River begins when the Japanese 55th Division attacks the main British line along the Bilin River. The defending 17th Infantry Division of the British Indian Army holds out in a vicious hand-to-hand battle, but the Japanese just keep them occupied while they send troops through the jungle to cut off the Allied troops.

Japanese submarine HIJMS I-23 disappears south of Oahu, Hawaii, without a trace around this date. I-66 torpedoes and sinks 2076-ton British freighter Kamuning in the Indian Ocean, with three crewmen perishing.

Die Wehrmacht, 14 February 1942,
Die Wehrmacht military magazine, 14 February 1942.
Eastern Front: Herberts Bērtulsons is ordered to be liquidated in a Soviet prisoner of war camp on 14 February 1942 (it is unknown on what date this takes place). Bērtulsons is an Olympian for Latvia who participated in the 1936 Olympics in several Alpine Skiing categories.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-576 (Kptlt. Hans-Dieter Heinicke), on its third patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes 6946-ton British freighter Empire Spring south of Newfoundland and 50 miles southeast of Sable Island at 03:37. The ship takes 15 minutes to sink, so Captain Heinicke pumps another torpedo into it to hurry things along at 03:53. This does the trick, with the ship breaking in two and sinking quickly. There are 55 dead and no survivors.

British light tank in Sumatra, 14 February 1942,
"Oosthaven, Sumatra, Netherlands East Indies. 1942-02. A light tank MkV1B from a Light Tank Squadron of the 3rd Hussars, British Army, on the wharf. The unit had disembarked on 1942-02-14 at the port which faced the Sunda Strait on the southern tip of Sumatra. They were part of the force which was given the task of defending the area and covering the evacuation of the troops and civilians on 1942-02-17. (Navy Historical Collection) (Formerly Y047)." Australian War Memorial 306789.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Luftwaffe aircraft based on Crete bomb and sinks 7798-ton British freighter Rowallan Castle and 7262-ton Clan Chattan. They are part of Convoy MW 9A bound from Alexandria to Malta. Also damaged in the attack is Clan Campbell, which puts into Tobruk. All three ships hit in the attack are sister ships, and there are no deaths among the hundreds of passengers.

Panzer Army Africa commander Lt. General Erwin Rommel sends a proposal to the OKH (German Army high command) for a complete reorganization of his forces. Rommel asks to include a three-battalion Schutzen Regiment in every Panzer division and the creation of a second motorized infantry division. OKH eventually approves these changes and related changes but rejects some other proposals. The two Panzer Army Panzer divisions, the 15th and 21st Panzer divisions, each wind up with a two-battalion Panzer regiment and three-battalion Schutzen Regiment. The new groupings take effect on 1 April 1942 and become the classic form of the Afrika Korps remembered by history. A more immediate change takes place now when a fourth Beute (booty) Batterie composed of captured British 25-pdr guns is added to each division.

War Crimes: Japanese troops capture the Alexandria Hospital on the outskirts of Singapore City and execute many staff and patients with their bayonets. They then imprison 150 survivors into a nearby bungalow and execute them on 15 February. This war crime is very similar to atrocities the Japanese committed in Hong Kong during its capture.

Major Frank Capra, 14 February 1942,
Major Frank Capra at his desk in the War Department (AP).
US Military: Satisfied that the US Navy has satisfied his triskaidekaphobia, Vice Admiral "Bull" Halsey takes his renamed (from 13) Task Force 16 out of Hawaii on Saturday the 14th on a mission to bomb Wake Island. This mission is significant because it is the first time that aerial-photography reconnaissance is used prior to an attack. This reconnaissance is undertaken today by a B-17 of the USAAF 7th Air Force based in Hawaii. Task Force 16's mission is just one in a long series of US Navy air attacks against Wake which give US naval aviators useful practice with live ammunition against a real target which offers minimal resistance.

Famed Hollywood director Frank Capra, who enlisted within four days of Pearl Harbor despite being 44 years of age, takes over as wartime propaganda director for the Army Signal Corps of the War Department. Capra, with the rank of Major, eventually heads the 834th Signal Service Photographic Detachment, which produces orientation films. His most renowned documentary series during this period, "Why We Fight," becomes the most widely seen and influential of all wartime documentaries.

The 9th Pursuit Squadron, 49th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) of 5th Air Force relocates from Melbourne to Williamstown, Australia. At Fiji, the 22nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) begins operating its B-17s from Nandi Airport under the control of the United States Navy.

Today is the first flight of the Douglas C-54 Skymaster, the military version of the DC-4. The C-54 flies from Clover Field in Santa Monica, California.

DC-4E, the C-54 version first flew on 14 February 1942,
Inflight view of prototype Douglas DC-4E in 1938. The military version, C-54, first flies on 14 February 1942.
Soviet Homefront: The ethnic German inhabitants of the Autonomous Volga German Republic (abolished on 7 September 1941) have been ordered deported to Special Settlements created by the Soviet secret police (NKVD) in Siberia and Central Asia. Today, the Soviet government formally requires that all of these deported males aged 17 to 50 be separated from their families and transferred from the Special Settlements to NKVD Trudarmee camps. These camps are essentially forced labor camps in the Ural Mountains devoted to construction, harvesting timber, and building railways. Conditions are primitive and unhealthy, with inadequate housing and food, but a lot more unhealthy if you refuse to work.

Collier's, 14 February 1942,
Collier's, 14 February 1942 (cover art by Arthur Szyk).
American Homefront: "Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol Me)" recorded by Woody Herman and his Orchestra for MCA Records and written by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen, becomes No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart. It replaces Glenn Miller's "A String of Pearls," which will return to the No. 1 spot on 21 February.  This is the only week from 1 January to 9 May 1942 when Glenn Miller and his Orchestra does not hold the No. 1 spot on the Billboard chart. In fact, the record string of hits began on 29 November 1941 when Miller and his band hit No. 1 with "Chatanooga Choo Choo." Incidentally, "Blues in the Night" is featured in the motion picture "Pearl Harbor" (2001).

Radio series "This is War!" debuts on all four radio networks: the Blue Network (much later, ABC), CBS, Mutual, and NBC. Top Hollywood stars appear on the 30-minute broadcasts to support the war effort. "This is War!" continues for a 13-week run.

The War Plans Division prepares a formal recommendation that the Hawaiian commander:
be authorized to evacuate all enemy aliens and all citizens of Japanese extraction selected by him with their families, subject to the availability of shipping and facilities for their internment or surveillance on the mainland.
This is just a recommendation at this point and is being circulated within the Army for comment. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox asks President Roosevelt for his opinion, and the President responds:
Like you, I have long felt that most of the Japanese should be removed from Oahu to one of the other Islands. This involves much planning, much temporary construction and careful supervision of them when they get to the new location. I do not worry about the constitutional question-first, because of my recent order [Executive Order 9066] and, second, because Hawaii is under martial law. The whole matter is one of immediate and present war emergency. I think you and Stimson can agree and then go ahead and do it as a military project.
Ultimately, however, the War Plans Division concludes that it is impracticable to imprison the Japanese on another Hawaiian Island.

Future History: Michael Rubens Bloomberg is born in Brighton, Massachusetts. After matriculating at Johns Hopkins University and the Harvard Business School, Bloomberg eventually becomes a general partner at investment firm Salomon Brothers and then, after many business twists and turns, the founder of Innovative Market Systems. His Bloomberg terminals become necessary equipment throughout the financial industry around the world. Eventually, Bloomberg enters politics and serves two terms as the 108th Mayor of New York City. Michael Bloomberg remains active in business and politics as of this writing in 2019.

The New Yorker, 14 February 1942,
The New Yorker, 14 February 1942 (painting by Julian De Miskey).


Monday, September 9, 2019

February 13, 1942: Japanese Paratroopers In Action

Friday 13 February 1942

Japanese paratroopers landing near Palembang, 13 February 1942
Imperial Japanese Army paratrooper landing to start the battle of Palembang, February 13, 1942.
Battle of the Pacific: The situation at Singapore becomes critical on 13 February 1942. The British have pulled back into a 28-mile perimeter around Singapore City in the eastern portion of Singapore Island, but to date, the Allies have not been able to do more than slow the Japanese down. At around 14:00, the Japanese 18th Division attacks the part of this line held by the Malay Regiment. This attack begins the Battle of Pasir Panjang. The Japanese have tank and artillery support and immediately push part of the regiment, B Company, back. This develops into hand-to-hand combat.

Japanese paratroopers landing near Palembang, 13 February 1942
Japanese paratroopers landing in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies, 13 Feb 1942 (Japanese Navy photo).
The Malay unit is destroyed, the Japanese capture or kill most of the men, and nearby sections of the line held by the 44th Indian Brigade and the 1st Malay Brigade also are forced to retreat after dark. The new line is anchored at Mount Echo and Depot Road (Buona Vista). Meanwhile, the Japanese re-establish the road over the causeway, dramatically improving their supply situation.

Santa Cruz Sentinel-News, 13 February 1942
The Santa Cruz (California) Sentinel-News, 13 February 1942, puts "Singapore Holds" as its main headline.
While it is no longer safe for large vessels to enter or exit Singapore Harbor, many people are fleeing the island on small watercraft. Japanese ships move into position north of Bangka Island in an effort to block their exit. Among these is a launch carrying Rear-Admiral Spooner, Rear Admiral, Malaya, and Air Vice-Marshal Pulford, Air Officer Commanding, Far East. The Japanese ships force their launch to go ashore on a tiny island north of Bangka Island. The crew eventually surrender, but the two flag officers disappear and are never seen again.

Malay Regiment practicing in October 1941
The Malay Regiment at bayonet practice, October 1941. They are a key part of British defenses around the city of Singapore on 13 February 1942. © IWM (FE 414).
Allied planes spot Japanese ships approaching Sumatra, which is the site of major Allied bases, and send planes to attack them. HMS Li Wo, a riverboat commandeered by the British Royal Navy that has been ferrying personnel between Singapore and the East Indies, blunders into the Japanese fleet. In a desperate action which concludes with the Li Wo trying to ram the nearest transport, the crew of the Li Wo damages several of the Japanese transports before the Japanese destroy their ship. Royal Navy Lieutenant Thomas Wilkinson, commander of the Li Wo, posthumously receives the only Victoria Cross awarded in the East Indies campaign.

HMS Tempest as it sinks on 13 February 1942
HMS Tempest broaches the surface while being sunk by Italian gunboat Circe on 13 February 1942 (Difesa Online).
While these actions are taking place offshore, the Japanese use Kawasaki Ki-56 transport planes of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Chutai, Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (IJAAF) to drop Teishin Shudan (Raiding Group) paratroopers over Pangkalan Benteng airfield. Along with them come Mitsubishi Ki-21 bombers from the 98th Sentai to drop supplies for the paratroopers. The Japanese quickly seize the Pladjoe oil refinery complex undamaged. Seizing oil resources is a major Japanese war objective. Dutch troops quickly counterattack and retake the oil complex while suffering heavy losses. They manage to destroy part of the complex before being forced to withdraw with the arrival of 60 more Japanese paratroopers. This is considered the beginning of the Battle of Palembang.

British crewmen being rescued by men of Italian gunboat Circe, 13 February 1942
Italian sailors on board the Circe rescue a British sailor from HMS Tempest on 13 February 1942. Note the Davis breathing apparatus that the man is wearing.
Unlike elsewhere in both the European and Pacific Theater of Operations, it is a very good day for the Allies in the Philippines. The Allies eliminate the Japanese "Big Pocket" in the 1 Corps sector in the western half of the Bataan Peninsula. The remaining Japanese melt away into the jungle through a gap in the northern portion of the line. The Allies now are free to turn their full attention to the "Upper Pocket," which is a Japanese salient into the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) across the Pilar River. In addition, further south in the South Sector, the Allies eliminate another pocket of Japanese troops in the Silaiim area. These are the first major successes by the United States and allied forces in the Philippines and, at least on the ground in the Pacific Theater, in the war.

SS President Taylor after running aground, 13 February 1942
SS President Taylor, shown after her loss on 13 February 1942.
In the Phoenix Islands, cargo liner 21,000-ton SS President Taylor, requisitioned for war service in December 1941, is carrying about 1100 soldiers and their artillery to the Canton (Kanton) Island garrison when it runs aground. The ship is landing its passengers when it drifts onto a well-known coral reef. This apparently happens because the ship either loses its anchor or it fails to hold. The ship is unloaded and tugs are sent to pull the Taylor off the reef. Great effort is expended to save the ship over the course of several months. These efforts ultimately are unsuccessful and the ship eventually is declared a total loss on 2 May 1942.

The USAAF Fifth Air Force sends 11 B-17 Flying Fortresses based on Java against Japanese shipping in the Makassar Strait. Ten bombers complete the mission, but the weather is cloudy and they claim a hit on only one ship.

SS President Taylor after running aground, 13 February 1942
SS President Taylor is visible in the background after her grounding on 13 February 1942.
The Allied high command in the Pacific is beginning to realize the dangers in the region, which is leading to an abundance of caution. Australian Lieutenant General John Lavarack, General Officer Commanding 1st Australian Army, informs General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander in Chief ABDA Command, that it would be unwise to land the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in the Netherlands East Indies due to the danger to the Allies' position there. Wavell basically agrees and recommends to his superiors, the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the British and Australian War Offices, that there are "advantages in diverting one or both divisions of the AIF to Burma or Australia."

SS Subador, sunk by the Japanese on 13 February 194
The 5424-ton British freighter SS Subadar, sunk by Japanese bombers off the Southern entrance to the Banka Strait on 13 February 1942. There are 65 survivors and 13 deaths.
Eastern Front: A renewed Soviet offensive south of Lake Ilmen makes little progress. However, to some extent, this tightens the Red Army grip on the Demyansk Pocket. The Luftwaffe airlift to the pocket by Luftflotte 1 is hampered by poor weather, but that is beginning to improve. Luftflotte 1 is able to supply about half of the Demyansk Pocket's daily needs by using all of its transport capability and some bomber units. German troops in the pocket are fighting desperately to hold their perimeter and also hold open the "Ramushevo corridor," a hazardous route north to Staraya Russa.

On the Crimea, both sides are building up their forces for attempts to evict the other side. Joseph Stalin and Stavka representative Lev Mekhlis wished to launch an attack today from the Red Army line at the Parpach Narrows, but the buildup of troops and supplies has been inadequate. The offensive is postponed to later in February.

Future Australian PM John Gorton being rescues at sea, 13 February 1942
"Flying Officer John G. Gorton (indicated by the arrow), later Prime Minister of Australia, among survivors from the torpedoed Merchant Ship SS Derrymore (4,799 tons) who are being taken aboard HMAS Ballarat. The survivors, numbering 215, included 189 British Airmen." Derrymore was a 4799-ton ammunition ship which was torpedoed by HIJMS I-55 on 13 February 1942 (some sources say 12 February). Australian War Memorial 126196.
European Air Operations: The RAF sends 85 bombers on missions after dark, but they achieve little. RAF Bomber Command sends 39 bombers to attack Cologne, 18 to bomb Aachen, and 28 to bomb Le Havre. Cloudy weather and icing force most of the force to return without bombing the targets. There are no losses.

Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Young Cliff, 13 February 1942
Minesweeper HMS Young Cliff "About to drop the gate part of the sweeping gears," Granton, Scotland, 13 February 1942 (© IWM (A 7392)).
Battle of the Atlantic: At 07:00, German heavy cruisers Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen reach Wilhelmshaven, followed at 10:00 by heavy cruiser Scharnhorst. This successfully completes Operation Cerberus, the famous Channel Dash. Gneisenau has been damaged by one magnetic mine which caused relatively minor damage, but Scharnhorst has been seriously damaged by two mines and barely makes it to port on one engine. A triumphant Admiral Otto Ciliax, in charge of the operation, sends a victory signal to Admiral Saalwächter in Paris:
It is my duty to inform you that Operation Cerberus has been successfully completed.
There are many ways to view the Channel Dash, and it is possible to say that the British "won" because the large ships no longer threatened Allied shipping in the Atlantic.

The Springfield Union, 13 February 1942
The Channel Dash is front-page news around the world. Here it is the main topic in The Springfield (Massachusetts) Union, 13 February 1942.
However, just as Hitler has hoped, the Channel Dash operation is a major propaganda victory for the Reich. It also accomplishes his objective of getting the ships through the English Channel and back to Germany, though which side that may benefit in the long run is a little less clear. The British myth of invincibility in the Channel has been shattered for the time being. The fate of the ships themselves, which now no longer pose a serious threat to the outcome of the war at sea, is secondary to the Reich's proven ability to accomplish a difficult objective literally under the gaze of the British Royal Navy. The Luftwaffe, too, shares in the honors, having proven that it still can control disputed airspace over the Channel (the RAF loses 35 aircraft, including 16 fighters, and the Luftwaffe loses 22 fighters). The Channel Dash is a welcome tonic to German public opinion during a difficult winter.

Dummy tanks being taken to the front by the British in North Africa, 13 February 1942
Dummy tanks, mounted on trucks, being taken by the British to the front in North Africa, 13 February 1942 (© IWM (E 8361)).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Italian torpedo boat Circe attacks and sinks British submarine HMS Tempest in the Gulf of Taranto after sighting it on the surface. The Italian attack begins with depth charges, which force the submarine to surface. The Circe then uses its 4-inch guns to finish the attack. There are 24 survivors (one later dies of wounds) picked up by the Circe, and 38 men perish.

US/Canadian Relations: The United States and Canada agree to the construction of a U.S. military highway through Canada to Alaska. This is to be completed as soon as possible and will become known as the ALCAN Highway. The road idea has been kicking around within the United States government since the 1920s, but the Canadian government has refused to agree to any joint funding. The war situation, however, has produced a positive change in attitude in Ottawa. Both countries have proposed routes, but the route chosen is a third option, "Route C," aka the Prairie option, that has been developed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Construction is scheduled to begin on 8 March 1942 and be completed before winter.

Sailors aboard HMS Young Cliff, 13 February 1942
Aboard minesweeper HMS Young Cliff, "Gunner Jim Crow keeping a sharp look-out for enemy aircraft." 13 February 1942. © IWM (A 7382). 
Chinese/British Relations: Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek visits the Khyber Pass.

Norwegian/German Relations: Norwegian puppet leader Vidkun Quisling visits his patron, Adolf Hitler, in Berlin, along with Reich Commissioner in Norway Terboven.

Australian Military: The 39th Battalion completes the laying of about 40 km of telephone lines around Port Moresby because the high command believes that it will soon be attacked by the Japanese.

A British informational poster, 13 February 1942
British Picture Sheet No. 29. Issued by Information Officer P.O. Box 384, Salisbury, 13 February 1942 (© IWM (Art.IWM PST 15679)).
US Military: Vice Admiral William "Bull" Halsey Jr.'s naval task force, centered around aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, is ordered to sortie out of Pearl Harbor today for an attack on remote Wake Island. This is not a particularly dangerous mission and is more important for pilot training than anything else. However, Halsey has a problem with this order, refuses to follow it as written, and demands that it be changed. The legend, which appears to be true, states that Halsey demands this change because of Triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13. First, Halsey does not like that his task force is now Task Force 13. Second, Halsey refuses to leave port today, a Friday the 13th, especially in Task Force No. 13. Halsey demands that the task force be renumbered to Task Force No. 16 and that its departure for Wake Island be delayed. Halsey is perhaps the only United States hero of the war so far, and his slogan, "Hit hard, hit fast, hit often" has spread throughout the entire US Navy. So, Halsey's concerns are not to be trifled with. The change in the task force number is immediately approved by Soc McMorris, Admiral Nimitz's war plans officer, and the task force's departure is delayed until Saturday the 14th.

The 5th Air Force continues reorganizing its forces to meet the new realities in the Pacific Theater of Operations. The air echelon of the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron, 7th BG (Heavy), flies its B-17 Flying Fortresses into Nandi Airport on Fiji from Hawaii.

Port construction at Loch Ryan, Scotland, 13 February 1942
Port construction at Loch Ryan, Scotland, 13 February 1942 (© IWM (H 17198)).
German Military: Using the brilliant success of the Channel Dash as cover, the Germans formally cancel Operation Sealion, the projected invasion of Great Britain. Planning for this operation has been dormant since September 1940.

Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, whose "peripheral strategy" in the Mediterranean has produced positive results, meets with Adolf Hitler to discuss new proposals in the region. Raeder seeks to mount a major offensive in North Africa. This would entail eliminating the British position in Egypt and continuing on to the east. This, Raeder argues, would secure major oil supplies for the Reich and eventually lead to a junction of German and Japanese forces in India. As a preliminary to this massive operation, Hitler agrees to order Luftflotte 2 in the Mediterranean to subdue Malta. When informed of this proposed operation, Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel agrees that it is feasible.

A Dr. Seuss cartoon, 13 February 1942
Dr. Seuss cartoon, "Waiting for the signal from home," 13 February 1942 (Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego).
US Government: The Pacific Coast Congressional subcommittee on aliens and sabotage adopts the following recommendations:
We recommend the immediate evacuation of all persons of Japanese lineage and all others, aliens and citizens alike, whose presence shall be deemed dangerous or inimical to the defense of the United States from all strategic areas.
In defining said strategic areas we recommend that such areas include all military installations, war industries, water and power installations, oil fields, and refineries, transportation, and other essential facilities as well as adequate protective areas adjacent thereto. 
We further recommend that such areas be enlarged as expeditiously possible until they shall encompass the entire strategic area of the states of California, Oregon and Washington, and Territory of Alaska.
This is a key step in the internment of Japanese-Americans. The treatment of "all persons of Japanese lineage" is a hot topic throughout the United States government and in the public, too.

Camp Strickland document, 13 February 1942
Camp Strickland, a California State Guard Camp, receives its name on 27 July 1942 from California State Guard Sergeant Hugh Boyton Strickland, KIA on 13 February 1942.
American Homefront: General John DeWitt, commander of the Fourth Army as well as the Western Defense Command of the United States Army, completes a memorandum for the Secretary of War, which he promptly forwards with a covering memorandum via airmail. He recommends the enforced evacuation by federal authority of the American-born Japanese. This begins a very contentious review of how to treat American-born Japanese.

"Ride 'Em Cowboy" is released by Universal Pictures. It stars Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as peanut vendors who head West after getting into some trouble and get jobs as cowboys on a dude ranch. The film is notable for being filmed on two actual dude ranches, the B-Bar A and the Rancho Chihuahua. It also marks the film debut of Ella Fitzgerald. The film, directed by Arthur Lubin, is a smash hit at the box office. "Ride 'Em Cowboy" was actually shot in 1941, but Universal delayed its release because Abbott and Costello's other film "Keep 'Em Flying" was still doing well at the box office.

Future History: Peter Halsten Thorkelson is born in Washington, D.C. After growing up in Connecticut, Peter develops an interest in music and spends time playing the guitar and other stringed instruments in Greenwich Village. At some point, he changes his professional name to Peter Tork. While in New York, Tork meets Stephen Stills, a fellow fledgling musician. Stills auditions for a new television series about four young musicians, but fails to pass the audition. He recommends his friend Peter, and Tork gets the job. The new show is called "The Monkees" and is a smash hit, succeeding in both the television and pop music realms. Tork goes on to his own musical career in later years, though The Monkees reform several times over the years and even record new material in the 1980s. Peter Tork passes away on 21 February 2019 in Mansfield, Connecticut.

Carole Ann Jones is born in Manhattan, New York. She becomes a successful actress under the name Carol Lynley, appearing in numerous television series and making a big splash in "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) as Nonnie Parry. Carol Lynley passes away on 3 September 2019 in Pacific Palisades, California.

A British minesweeper lost on 13 February 1942
British Royal Navy minesweeper MMS-180, sunk after a collision at the mouth of the River Tyne on 13 February 1942. Everyone survives.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

February 12, 1942: The Channel Dash

Thursday 12 February 1942

Channel Dash, 12 February 1942
Gneisenau and Scharnhorst during the Channel Dash of 12 February 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: Having left Brest late on Wednesday, the ships of Operation Cerberus, better known as the Channel Dash, reach Barfleur, France, by dawn on 12 February 1942. This means that Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen are due south of the Isle of Wight, some 300 miles (500 km) up the English Channel. The British remain blissfully unaware that the German operation is in progress, due to chance, clever German planning, and foul winter weather. Finally, an RAF patrol plane flies directly over the flotilla, but its pilot is under strict orders to not break radio silence. So, he waits until he returns to base to report his observation. By this point, the German ships are passing by Beachy Head in Sussex.

Channel Dash, 12 February 1942
Scharnhorst during the Channel Dash, 12 February 1942 (Schlemmer, Federal Archive, Bild 101II-MW-3695-21).
As the ships pass Dover, the British Army's long-range artillery attempts to engage them. However, the cloudy weather forces the gunners to guess the ships' location, and the shells all fall short. Royal Navy torpedo boats then approach, but the MTBs are kept at bay by the half-dozen destroyers accompanying the three capital ships. They launch their torpedoes, but the two-mile range is too great and they score no hits. Then, the Royal Navy sends half a dozen Swordfish planes to launch torpedoes, escorted by 10 Spitfires. Adolf Galland's Luftwaffe fighter cover (Unternehmen Donnerkeil) shoots all of the slow Swordfish down. Overall, the RAF loses 20 bombers and 16 fighters while the Luftwaffe loses 18 fighters.

Channel Dash, 12 February 1942
Scharnhorst during the Channel Dash, 12 February 1942 (Schlemmer, Federal Archive, Bild 101II-MW-3695-21).
Sporadic British attacks continue throughout the day, without effect. The RAF sends 242 bomber sorties in all, but only 39 of them can even drop their bombs due to the fighter defenses and poor visibility. They score no hits. When the Royal Navy sends destroyers based at Harwich to intercept the flotilla, they are attacked by RAF planes who have not been informed of their presence. When the five remaining destroyers approach, the German ships open fire and damage HMS Worcester. They score no hits. However, the German ships do not escape unscathed, as Scharnhorst hits a mine at 19:55 and Gneisenau hits one off Terschelling a bit later, but they continue sailing. Scharnhorst hits a second mine on the port side at 21:34, and this one causes the engines to stop. At 22:23, though, the Scharnhorst's crew gets the starboard engine operating again. Under the cover of darkness, the ships continue on their way, Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau about three hours ahead of Scharnhorst.

Channel Dash, 12 February 1942
Scharnhorst during the Channel Dash, 12 February 1942 (Schlemmer, Federal Archive, Bild 101II-MW-3695-21).
Battle of the Pacific: With the counterattack in central Singapore by Tomforce having failed on 11 February, the British on 12 February 1942 begin establishing a last-ditch perimeter around Singapore City in the eastern end of the island. This requires withdrawals of forces at Changi and from along the north shore. The defeated Australian 22nd Brigade temporarily holds its position west of the Holland Road, but after dark, it pulls back to Holland Village.

In the Philippines, I Corps continues to make progress against the Japanese pocket behind the Main Line of Resistance (MLR). It recovers a trail jungle in the jungle as the Japanese pull back. Further south, the Japanese break out of their pocket near Silaiim Point and flee northward. However, the Allies are right behind them and divert them toward the western coast.

The USAAF Fifth Air Force continues its anti-shipping sweeps in the Makassar Strait. They damage a freighter and Japanese navy transport.

HMS Godeia II, transferred from the Royal Navy to the Belgian forces in exile, 12 February 1942
HMS Godetia II. It is transferred on 12 February 1942 by the Royal Navy to the newly formed naval branch of the Belgian forces in exile, the Royal Navy, Section Belge (RNSB). It is returned to the Royal Navy on 16 December 1944. © IWM (FL 6058).
Eastern Front: Pursuant to Stavka orders, the 3rd and 4th Shock Armies of the Kalinin Front launch a renewed offensive south of Lake Ilmen. The Soviet aim is to further isolate the large German forces trapped in the Demyansk Pocket and then turn on them. With Soviet 34th Army pressing in from the east and these new forces coming from the west, the Red Army hopes to eliminate the pocket completely. However, the Wehrmacht has large forces in the pocket which are being sustained with a Luftwaffe airlift. The Soviets also hope to eliminate a much smaller pocket at Kholm, but it is further west and in a strategically better position than the men at Demyansk. The new Soviet attack is directed into largely open space and lightly defended areas and is hampered more by the terrain and weather. The Germans are happy to divert the Red Army effort into non-vital areas and otherwise let them march around aimlessly through the countryside.

European Air Operations: After dark, RAF Bomber Command sends 12 Hampden and 9 Manchester bombers to lay mines near the Frisian Islands. The weather is so poor that only 8 aircraft are able to drop their mines. There is one loss when a Hampden crashes in England. For most of the day, the RAF's main focus is the Channel Dash.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Maori, sunk at Malta on 12 February 1942
"HMS MAORI half-submerged after being bombed in the early hours of 12 February 1942 in the Grand Harbour, Malta. She sank a few hours after the picture was taken." © IWM (A 9512).
Battle of the Mediterranean: The Luftwaffe attacks Malta Grand Harbor and sinks destroyer HMS Maori (F24). The destroyer sinks at its moorings. There is only one death because the crew is sleeping ashore. The wreck is later raised and moved to a convenient spot off Fort Saint Elmo, where the Maori is scuttled. Left only a few hundred meters offshore and with her bow in only 14 meters (46 feet) of water, the Maori becomes a popular dive site. This sinking is sometimes dated to 11 February 1942.

Spanish/Portuguese Relations: Spanish leader Francisco Franco meets with his Portuguese counterpart, Dr. Salazare, at Seville.

Auschwitz intake picture, 12 February 1942
 Tadeusz Balcerowski's intake picture at Auschwitz on 12 February 1942. Balcerowski is a locksmith born in Miłosna on 28 September 1916. He becomes Auschwitz No. 21350. Balcerowski perishes in Auschwitz on 11 March 1943 (Auschwitz Museum).
US Military: The US Navy refloats battleship USS Nevada, which was beached at Hospital Point after being hit with a torpedo and several bombs. The repairs are only temporary and Nevada must sail to Puget Sound, Washington, for permanent repairs and a return to service.

The USAAF activates the 10th Air Force at Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio. The 10th is destined for the China-Burma-India sector to operate over "the Hump" and bring supplies to China.

The USAAF, in desperate need for night fighters, places an order for 410 Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighters. These are intended for the European Theater. However, the prototype XP-61 still has not been built, and Northrop is having a great deal of trouble with the design. At some point this month, subcontractor Curtiss informs Northrop that it will not be able to supply the C5424-A10 four-bladed, automatic, full-feathering propeller any time soon. So, Northrop must build the prototype with Hamilton Standard propellers until the preferred ones become available.

Auschwitz intake picture, 12 February 1942
Bronisław Galiński's intake picture at Auschwitz, 12 February 1942. Galinski is a mason born in Warsaw. He becomes No. 21359. Bronisław Galiński perishes at Auschwitz on 13 April 1942 (Auschwitz Museum).
Lieutenant General Henry H "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General USAAF, begins plans to send 16 heavy bomber groups, three pursuit groups, and eight photographic reconnaissance squadrons to the United Kingdom before the year is out. Other USAAF air forces also request reinforcement, so Arnold must prioritize his resources.

USAAF Fifth Air Force completes the transfer of the air echelon of the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) and 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy) from Hickam Field to Nandi Airport, Fiji. This force has a heavy complement of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers.

Auschwitz intake picture, 12 February 1942
Zygmunt Kondracki's intake picture at Auschwitz, 12 February 1942. A cooper born in Warsaw, Kondracki becomes No. 21400. Kondracki perishes at Auschwitz on 17 July 1942 (Auschwitz Museum).
Australian/New Zealand Military: The United States, Australia, and New Zealand combine naval forces by forming the Anzac Squadron at Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji. This includes heavy cruisers HMAS Australia and USS Chicago, the light cruisers HMNZS Achilles and HMNZS Leander, and the destroyers USS Lamson and USS Perkins.

German Government: Adolf Hitler speaks at the state funeral for Fritz Todt in Berlin. He creates a new award, the German Order, and confers it on Todt posthumously.

Holocaust: Sixty Poles, twelve of whom are Jewish, are deported from the Pawiak Prison in Warsaw to Auschwitz. Only 8 of them survive the war.

Walter Lippmann column about interning Japanese-Americans, 12 February 1942
Walter Lippmann's column of 12 February 1942, as it appeared that day in the Washington Post.
American Homefront: Influential newspaper columnist Walter Lippmann pens a column, "Today and Tomorrow: The Fifth Column on the Coast," in which he advocates the internment of Japanese-Americans and enemy alien citizens from Japan, Germany, and Italy from the West Coast because they represent a national security threat. This column is in newspapers across the country. The US Army basically is in agreement with Lippmann's reasoning but worries about the impact this will have on supplying the troops.

Future History: Ehud Barak is born in Mandatory Palestine. He becomes the tenth Prime Minister of Israel from 1999 to 2001. He resigns after losing an election to Likud leader Ariel Sharon. In June 2019, he forms new political party Israel Democratic Party.

Auschwitz intake picture, 12 February 1942
Aleksander Gutarowski's intake picture at Auschwitz, 12 February 1942. Gutarowski is a shoemaker born in Warsaw, Poland. He is received as No. 21363. Aleksander Gutarowski perishes at Auschwitz on 19 April 1942 (Auschwitz Museum).