Saturday, July 25, 2020

March 27, 1942: The Battle of Suursaari

Friday 27 March 1942

U-123 in February 1942,
U-123, the victor of the Action of 27 March 1942, in port at Lorient (Lockpick, Federal Archives, Figure 101II-MW-3983-23).

Eastern Front: The Battle of Suursaari begins in earnest at 04:00 on 27 March 1942 when Finnish artillery opens fire on Soviet positions on Gogland. The Finns are able to attack across the ice between the mainland and the island, making for an unusual battle where the Soviets essentially are defending the island against a land attack. The Soviets block one entry point to Gogland but the Finns successfully enter via another route. Two Finnish battalions secure much of Gogland by nightfall, with some Soviet holdouts fleeing across the ice around midnight. There remain isolated pockets of Soviet troops that fight ferociously for two more days. Fierce air battles rage over the island throughout the battle, with Finnish Air Force Fokker D.XXI, Curtiss P-36 Hawk, and Brewster F2A Buffalo fighters reporting kills of a total of 27 Soviet Polikarpov I-153 and Polikarpov I-16 fighters.

Battle of the Pacific: US submarine USS Gudgeon (SS-211) torpedoes and sinks 6526-ton Japanese freighter Nissho Maru southeast of Kumun Island. The ship is later salvaged after the war and re-enters service.

Japanese 7952-ton ocean liner Kitano Maru hits a Japanese mine and sinks off Mabilao, Lingayen Gulf, Philippines. There are three dead soldiers among the 650 being transported.

Dutch planes based in Australia sink 4109-ton Japanese collier Ubari Maru off Koepang, Timor.

The Marion Star, 27 March 1942
The Marion Star, 27 March 1942, headlines the RAF attacks on Essen of the previous two nights. The attacks were the first major efforts in weeks but accomplished little.

European Air Operations: During the day, the RAF sends a dozen Boston bombers to attack the Ostend power station. However, the bombs are all dropped in fields short of the target. After two nights of attacks on Essen, RAF Bomber Command switches to St. Nazaire. It sends 35 Whitleys and 27 Wellington bombers to support Operation Chariot, the Commando raid on the dry-dock gates in the port. Due to poor weather conditions, only four bombers bomb the port, while six drop bombs on other targets. The RAF loses one Whitley. Secondary operations are 8 Blenheims sent to Holland (Schipol and Soesterburg) and 15 Hampdens laying mines (13 successfully) off the northwest German coast. The RAF loses one Blenheim and three Hampdens on these missions.

The Luftwaffe sinks 496-ton British collier Staghound off Torquay. The Staghound later is salved for use as a practice bombing target and eventually is sunk again off St. Thomas' Head while being used for that purpose.

German 482-ton coastal vessel Sperrbrecher 147 Koert (requisitioned Dutch vessel Raket) hits a mine and sinks after an explosion off the Dutch coast. 

USS Antik
USS Antik, sunk on 27 March 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: The Action of 27 March 1942 is fought. While patrolling 300 miles off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, 6610-ton Q-ship USS Atik is torpedoed by U-123 (Kapitänleutnant Reinhard Hardegen). U-123, on its eighth patrol out of Lorient, is in the midst of the most successful U-boat war patrols as part of Operation Paukenschlag. The Q-ship is damaged but does not sink immediately, so this begins an unusual surface action between U-123 and the Atik in which the US ship uses all of its many weapons against the surfaced U-boat. Captain Hardegan responds to the US salvos, which only slightly damage the U-boat's bridge, with his own deck gun. The Americans finally abandon ship after U-123 submerges and pumps another torpedo into the ship.

Hardegan then surfaces again and watches the ship explode, killing all 141 US sailors at the cost of one German midshipman killed. All that is found of the Atik is some wreckage and five empty lifeboats. This is another example of a lesson the Royal Navy learned long ago, that Q-ships simply become targets themselves.

The Allies "get one back" when British warships spot U-587 (Kptlt. Ulrich Borcherdt), on its second war patrol out of St. Nazaire. Royal Navy vessels HMS Grove, Aldenham, Volunteer, and Leamington (formerly USS Twiggs) are covering Convoy WS-17 when they use depth charges to sink U-587 a few hundred miles southwest of Ireland. There are no survivors. U-587 ends its patrol and career having sunk five ships of 23,389 tons.

U-105 (Korvettenkapitän Heinrich Schuch), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 7616-ton Norwegian tanker Svenør about 300 miles east of Cape Hatteras. Captain Schuch surfaces and uses his deck gun to fire 76 round when the tanker does not sink right away. There are eight dead and 29 survivors. As Schuch sails away, he spots another ship, the Portuguese (neutral) freighter Cunene. He stops the Portuguese ship and directs it to the location of the Svenør's lifeboats, where the survivors are picked up and taken to Philadelphia on 31 March.

Panamianian freighter Equipoise, sunk on 27 March 1942
Freighter Equipoise, sunk on 27 March 1942.

U-160 (Kptlt. Georg Lassen), on its first patrol out of Helgoland, torpedoes and sinks 6210-ton Panamanian-flagged SS Equipoise about 60 miles southeast of Cape Henry, Virginia. There are 13 survivors and 41 deaths. All 8 Americans on board perish. This is the first of 26 victories for U-160.

Rough weather in the North Atlantic is no joke, and the danger to all is proven once again. Rear Admiral John W. Wilcox, Jr., is the commander of a task force heading toward the Arctic Convoy routes aboard battleship USS Washington when disaster strikes. He falls or is swept overboard off Sable Island and spotted face down about 80 minutes later. His body is never recovered, and an SB2U-2 Vindicator crashes during the search, killing its two-man crew. A board of inquiry is convened the same day. Since nobody saw him fall overboard, rumors spread that the death was not entirely accidental. Nothing untoward is ever proven, and the death is ruled accidental. Wilcox becomes the first US admiral lost at sea. There is a cenotaph to Admiral Wilcox located at Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia.

The rough weather also claims 63-ton Canadian sailing vessel Tatagamouche off Nova Scotia.

Japanese farmer in California during World War II
A Japanese farmer transplanting tomatoes near Centerville, California, 27 March 1942 (Online Archives of California).

Battle of the Mediterranean: Fierce Axis air attacks on Malta continue. They finish off British 9776-ton ocean liner MV Breconshire, which was damaged during the Second Battle of Sirte and never repaired while anchored at Marsaxlokk.

Italian 2606-ton freighter Oreste hits a mine and sinks about 13 nautical miles off Cape Platamone (south of Cattaro/Kotor) in Montenegro.

Special Operations: The Royal Navy and Commando forces en route to St. Nazaire for Operation Chariot come upon two French fishing trawlers (La Slack and Nungesser et Coli). So as not to give away the operation's secrecy, the Royal Navy evacuates the crews and sinks the two trawlers. The crews of these ships are pro-Allies and eventually join the Free French.

HMS Thunderbolt 27 March 1942
HMS Thunderbolt as seen from Submarine Depot Ship HMS Forth in Holy Loch, 27 March 1942 (© IWM A 8454).

The attack convoy heads in toward the target, with the Germans presumably distracted from its approach by a major RAF raid on the port. The Commando attack is planned for early on 28th March.

US Military: The US Army War Plans Division is busy mapping out future operations. Today, it issues "Plan for Operations in Northwest Europe," which provides for a limited cross-Channel operation in the summer of 1942 (Operation Sledgehammer). If Sledgehammer is not conducted, then a larger cross-Channel invasion is planned for early 1943 (Operation Roundup). The buildup of supplies for an eventual invasion is given the codename Operation Bolero.

A mysterious group of B-25 bombers is at Sacramento (California) Air Depot undergoing a flurry of modifications and training flights. Their special equipment has not been tested and many items such as practice bombs have to be tracked down on short notice from supply officers who have no idea that there is any urgency.  In fact, there is tremendous urgency because these are the bombers preparing for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo that is due to begin shortly.

Holocaust: The Germans begin the first of more than 65,000 deportations from Drancy, France, to Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

Australian Homefront: A state of emergency is declared in the northern territories.

U-123 in February 1942,
Louis vs. Simon II, 27 March 1942.

American Homefront: Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis technically knocks out Abe Simon in the sixth round at Madison Square Garden. This is Louis' first fight for the US Army and he receives no purse, as all proceeds go to the Army Relief Fund. Simon loses for the second time to Louis and later develops a successful acting career that includes roles in "On the Waterfront" and "Requiem for a Heavyweight." Simon passes away on 24 October 1969.

Future History: Michael Hugh Johnson is born in Fulmer, Buckinghamshire, England. After graduating from Oxford, embarks on a career in acting and changes his name. As Michael York, he first acts on stage and has his first film role as Lucentio in "The Taming of the Shrew" (1967). He goes on to a legendary career in the cinema that includes starring roles in "Romeo and Juliet" (1968), "Cabaret" (1972), and "Logan's Run" (1976), and the Austin Powers film (1997-2002), among many others. Michael York apparently is retired as of this writing in 2020.

The Detroit Jewish News 27 March 1942
Detroit Jewish News has its first issue on 27 March 1942.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

March 26, 1942: Win Or Die, Vows MacArthur

Thursday 26 March 1942

Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi, 26 March 1942
Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi departing from Starling Bay, Celebes Islands, on 26 March 1942. Note the line of ships stretching into the distance. The task force is heading for the Indian Ocean to defeat the British Eastern Fleet and destroy British airpower in the region in order to protect the flank of the invasion of Burma.
Battle of the Pacific: General Douglas MacArthur gives a rousing speech at a 26 March 1942 dinner in his honor (he receives the citation for his Medal of Honor) at the Australian Parliament House, Canberra, Australia. MacArthur notes, "Although this is my first trip to Australia," that he already feels at home. He calls the war a "great crusade of personal liberty" and further says:
There can be no compromise. We shall win or we shall die, and to this end, I pledge you the full resources of all the mighty power of my country and all the blood of my countrymen.
Privately, MacArthur meets with the Australian Advisory War Council and reassures them that the Japanese do not have the power to mount a large-scale invasion of Australia. However, MacArthur cautions that the Japanese still might attempt it "to demonstrate their superiority over the white races." The real danger, he says, is from small-scale invasions and raids in which the Japanese would attempt to set up air bases in Australia.

General Douglas MacArthur, 26 March 1942
General Douglas MacArthur in Canberra, 26 March 1942 (CREDIT:F.J. HALMARICK, The Sydney Morning Herald).
On the Bataan Peninsula, the large force that MacArthur was ordered to leave continues to be shelled throughout the day as the Japanese prepare for a major offensive. Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon and his family evacuate aboard three USAAF B-17s to Australia.

At the Battle of Toungoo in Burma, the Japanese 112th Regiment attacks in the northwest of the Chinese perimeter but makes no progress. Other attacks elsewhere take the western part of the city to the west of the railroad, but the Chinese retain the heart of the city to the east of the railroad. The two sides close to within 100 meters on either side of the railway, firing at each other across the tracks. Both sides take heavy casualties, and eventually, the Japanese withdraw about 200 yards to give their artillery and bombers room to operate. Late in the day, the New 223nd Division arrives to the north of Yedashe and forces the Japanese to dilute their attacking strength by sending the 2nd Battalion, 143rd Regiment in a blocking move. A temporary stalemate develops.

A Japanese task force including aircraft carriers departs from the naval base at Kendari on Celebes Island, Netherlands East Indies, for the Indian Ocean. This is the beginning of a major raid in the Indian Ocean by the Kido Butai force that conducted the raid on Pearl Harbor. The first target will be Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Napa Register, 26 March 1942
The Napa (California) Register of 26 March 1942 headlines MacArthur's "Win or Die" pledge below a disaster at Sandits Eddy Lehigh Cement in Pennsylvania.
Eastern Front: In the Crimea, Soviet General Kozlov opens his third offensive against the German line on the Parpach Narrows. The objective is the German strongpoint at Koi-Asan. The Soviet 390th Rifle Division and 143rd Rifle Brigade of the 51st Army lead the assault. They are supported by two T-26 companies, six KVs, and three T-34s from the 39th and 40th Tank Brigades and the 229th Separate Tank Battalion. The operation, much smaller than the previous two Soviet offensives, fails almost immediately.

Finnish forces begin a military operation (the Battle of Suursaari) in the frozen Gulf of Finland. The goal is to recover islands ceded to the Soviet Union after the Winter War in the Moscow Peace Treaty. These islands are Gogland and Bolshoy Tyuters. The islands already have changed hands twice since the peace treaty, as Soviet troops abandoned the islands, they were then occupied by the Finns, and then Soviet troops returned to recover them. The Finns have assembled three battalions in the nearby Haapasaaret Islands for this operation under the command of Major General Aaro Pajari. Today's preparations for the assault include opening two roads over the ice to the vicinity of the islands.

Berliner Illustrierter Zeitung, 26 March 1942
Berliner Ilustrierte Zeitung, 26 March 1942. Everything is sunny in the Reich, and the articles include an account of the destruction of a Soviet tank and ambitious plans in the United States that don't seem to be possible. Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, March 26, 1942, Howard Mowen NSDAP Collection, Western Michigan University.
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends 24 Boston bomber to Le Havre. One bomber is lost.

After dark, the RAF sends a follow-up raid to Essen. The raid on the night of the 25th was a failure, with few bombers even hitting the city. Tonight's raid of 104 Wellingtons and 11 Stirlings is not a surprise and is met by heavy opposition, including Flak and night fighters. However, while a much smaller raid, it is somewhat more successful. Unlike the previous night, hits are scored on the target, the Krupps works, and fires are started in the city. However, accuracy remains a huge problem for the RAF and only 22 high-explosive bombs are counted in the city. Six people are killed, 14 injured, and two houses are destroyed at a cost of 10 Wellingtons and one Stirling lost, a terrible 10% loss rate.

There also are smaller attacks sent against Le Havre (8 bombers), Holland (11 Blenheims), minelaying off Wilhelmshaven (36 bombers), and 15 bombers on leaflet operations over France. In the Holland raid, hits are scored on Schipol Airport and the port area of Rotterdam, along with Leeuwarden and Soesterburg Airfield. Two Blenheims (from the attack on Schipol) and two Hampdens (minelayers) fail to return.

Officers aboard HMS Adamant, 26 March 1942
Captain R S Warne, RN, (left) Captain of HMS ADAMANT, and his First Lieutenant, Lieut Cdr W H Hills on the bridge of Royal Navy submarine depot ship HMS Adamant in the North Atlantic, 26 March 1942. © IWM A 8431.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-71 (Kptlt. Walter Flachsenberg), on its fifth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 8046-ton US tanker Dixie Arrow about a dozen miles off Diamond Shoal Light Buoy (Cape Hatteras). With the break of day, Flachsenberg was about to submerge for the day when he spotted the masts of the Dixie Arrow approaching. He hits the tanker with three torpedoes at 08:58. There are 11 deaths and 14 survivors who are picked up about two hours later.

In a small-boats action in the North Sea, Royal Navy motor torpedo boats torpedo and sink 229-ton Dutch fishing trawler FV Corrie near Texel.

British freighter Pampas burning at Malta, 26 March 1942
British freighter Pampas burning at Malta on 26 March 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: This is the beginning of the worst period of the war for the British in the Mediterranean. Malta is isolated and ships are being sunk left and right. With the weather improving, attacks on land in North Africa can be expected to resume soon, too.

Incessant Axis air raids on Malta following the Second Battle of Sirte claim two more victims, 5415-ton British freighter MV Pampas and 6798-ton Norwegian freighter SS Talabot. Both ships from Convoy MW10 are sunk at their docks where they are being unloaded in between air attacks. Both ships remain where they sink until after the war (Talabot is not completely removed until 1985). In addition, Royal Navy submarine P-39 nearby is seriously damaged and ultimately written off, then scrapped at Kalkara.

With these attacks, Convoy MW 10, the one attacked during the Second Battle of Sirte, turned out to be a massive failure. While 26,000 tons (23 587 metric tonnes) were shipped, only about 5000 tons (4536-metric tons) actually make it off the ships to Malta. In addition, several ships were lost at minimal cost to the Axis.

U-652 (Oblt. Georg-Werner Fraatz), on its eighth patrol out of Salamis, sinks two ships. They are Royal Navy destroyer HMS Jaguar (F 34, 193 men lost, 53 survivors) and 2623-ton British fleet oiler Slavol (36 dead, 26 survivors). The attacks are made about 25 miles north of Sidi Barrani, Egypt. Jaguar was escorting the Slavol and other ships to Tobruk, and Fraatz first picked it off and then attacked Slavol in the resulting confusion.

SS Talabot was sunk at Malta on 26 March 1942
SS Talabot, sunk in Malta's Grand Harbor on 26 March 1942.
Partisans: German security forces begin Operation Bamberg. This is an anti-partisan sweep through Hlusk District, Babruysk, Polesia, Byelorussia. This operation has been planned since 26 February 1942 to clear the area of partisans. The three objectives are: 1) annihilate partisan bands, 2) pacify the forested region, and 3) collect grain, livestock, and other supplies. This is the second major anti-partisan operation in the region, which has many Soviet army officers helping to organize resistance. The main strategy is to encircle an area with a diameter of 25-30 km (16-19 miles) and then gradually move inward to trap the partisans.

Special Operations: Royal Navy ships (three destroyers, a gunboat, motorboats, and motor torpedo boats) set out from Falmouth Bay, Cornwall England carrying special forces. Their target is the French port of St. Nazaire located at the mouth of the Loire Estuary. This is the beginning of Operation Chariot.

Spy Stuff: Police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, announce that they have broken up a spy ring and arrested 200 suspects. This is one in a series of such operations by local authorities in South America.

US Military: Admiral Ernest J. King takes over as Chief of Naval Operations from Admiral Harold R. Stark. This makes King Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations. His primary assistants are Vice Admiral Frederick J. Horne (Vice Chief of Naval Operations) and Vice Admiral Russell Willson (COMINCH Chief of Staff). Stark heads to England to become Commander of United States Naval Forces Europe. While this undoubtedly is a demotion for Stark due to fallout from the Pearl Harbor attack, he does good work preparing for and supervising the buildup of US forces for the D-Day landings.

Stark will be the beneficiary of a greatly increased US Navy presence in the European Theater of Operations. Today, Rear Admiral John Wilcox sails his Task Force 39, led by the battleship USS 'Washington' (BB-56), the aircraft carrier USS 'Wasp' (CV-7), the heavy cruisers USS 'Wichita' (CA-45) and 'Tuscaloosa' (CA-37) and six destroyers, from Portland, Maine, for Scapa Flow. This large force will supplement the British Home Fleet during the pendency of Operation Ironclad, the projected invasion of Vichy French Madagascar.

Egyptian Government: The ruling Wafd Party wins 240 of 264 seats in elections. This is partly due to a boycott of the election by the opposition.

Orli Wald, an inmate registered at Auschwitz on 26 March 1942
Orli Wald (original name Aurelia Torgau) registers at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, 26 March 1942. Wald has been in prison since 1936 when she was charged with high treason for being a communist and engaging in political resistance. She serves in the infirmary at Auschwitz-Birkenau and survives the war, dying in 1962.
Holocaust: Near Riga, Latvia, German occupation forces and their local auxiliaries begin the Second Dünamünde Action (Aktion Dünamünde). This operation results in about 1840 deaths of Jews who have been deported from Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia. The technique used is to lure the victims of Jungfernhof concentration camp to a supposed new resettlement facility in an area called Daugavgrīva (Dünamünde) with promises that things will be better. These victims are all older people, with younger people prohibited from accompanying them. Once aboard the transport trucks, the victims are taken to the Biķernieki woods north of Riga. The victims are forced to lie in trenches above previous victims in a pattern called "sardine packing" which the Germans consider to be the most effective use of space. They are then shot and more victims ordered to lie above them until the trenches are full.

The first trainload of female prisoners arrives at Auschwitz from Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and Slovakia via Poprad transit camp.

Judy Garland and Gene Kelly rehearsing, 26 March 1942
Judy Garland rehearses with Gene Kelly (his first film for MGM) for the upcoming musical "For Me and My Gal." Kelly later said, "I learned a great deal about making movies doing this first one, and much of it was due to Judy." (Photo credit: Kim Lundgreen via
American Homefront: The leaders of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) promise to aid the war effort for the duration of the conflict by curbing strikes.

Football star Tom Harmon, the winner of the 1940 Heisman Trophy and the first pick in the 1941 NFL draft, enlists in the US Army Air Corps. As a pilot, Harmon will win the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. After four years in the service, he returns to play for the Los Angeles Rams in 1947 and 1948, then enters broadcasting.

An explosion due to a premature detonation at Sandits Eddy Lehigh Cement five miles outside of Easton, Pennsylvania, kills dozens of men. The explosion is felt 50 miles away.

Future History: Erica Mann is born in New York City, New York. Under her married name, Erica Jong, she becomes famous as a fiction writer due to her 1973 novel "Fear of Flying," which explores female sexuality and sells 20 million copies.

Football star Tom Harmon enlisted in the USAAF on 26 March 1942
Football star Tom Harmon enlists on 26 March 1942.


Monday, July 20, 2020

March 25, 1942: Chinese Under Pressure in Burma

Wednesday 25 March 1942

Bainbridge Island 25 March 1942
A US Army soldier hands out copies of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1 to Bainbridge Island, Washington, residents. All 227 Japanese-Americans on the island are required to vacate the island by the end of the month. The Seattle Daily Times, March 30, 1942, page 2. 
Battle of the Pacific: Heavy fighting continues in Toungoo, Burma, on 25 March 1942 as the Allied defenses crumble save for desperate Chinese resistance. The Japanese attack the Chinese defensive perimeter at Toungoo on the north, west, and south, trying to overrun what has become a pocket. Behind the Chinese is the Sittang River, and trying to retreat across it while being attacked would be suicidal. The Chinese 200th Division at Toungoo, however, holds its ground for much of the day. Nighttime brings a different result. Around 22:00, Japanese infiltrators gain access through the carefully constructed defenses in the northwestern sector of the perimeter and a ferocious battle begins. A Chinese counterattack fails and they are forced to cede the lost ground, compressing the Chinese bridgehead even further. The Japanese airforce and artillery also manage to destroy a critical bridge over the Sittang, further reducing Chinese chances of retreat.

Men relaxing on USS Enterprise, 25 March 1942
This photograph was taken 25 March 1942 on the foretop of USS Enterprise (CV-6). The three men (two reporters and an officer, center) are awaiting news of a strike against Marcus Island (US Navy History and Heritage Command).
It is a busy day in the Pacific for US submarines. They score three successes:
  • USS Drum sinks a freighter about 120 miles southwest of Japan;
  • USS Pompano sinks a tanker about 70 miles northwest of Okinawa;
  • USS Tautog sinks a transport about 460 miles southeast of Ulithi.
The Japanese bombardment of the Allied position on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines continues. Lieutenant General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV's United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) is hit with salvoes from 190 artillery pieces. These include some of the biggest guns of the war, including 150 mm cannons and even Type 42 240 mm howitzers. Japanese commanding General Homma, however, is not yet ready for a full-scale attack.

Joplin Globe 25 March 1942
March 25, 1942, front page of the Joplin Globe, Joplin, Missouri is sunny and bright about the war situation - until you look a little closer. Aside from the tales of vanquishing hordes of Japanese, it also announces the loss of USS Edsall DD-219 and USS Pillsbury DD-227. While the paper "fears" the ships are lost, the US Navy knows full well the Edsall sank on 1 March 1942 and the Pillsbury sank on 2 March 1942. The Navy quickly names new destroyers after these two sunken ships.
The US 162nd Infantry Regiment of the 41st Infantry Division arrives at Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Companies C and D of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion disembark from light cruiser USS St. Louis at Midway. They bring a 37 mm gun battery for the 3rd Defense Battalion.

Japanese submarine HIJMS I-9 launches an E14Y1 reconnaissance "Glen" aircraft to reconnoiter Kiska and Amchitka Islands.

Eastern Front: In the Crimea, Soviet General Kozlov readies his third offensive against the German 11th Army line on the Parpach Narrows for the morning of the 26th. This drive will be aimed at the German strongpoint at Koi-Asan. This will be a much smaller operation than the previous offensives due to the large losses Kozlov's 51st Army has suffered.

German coast batteries sink Soviet patrol boat CKA-121 off Musketeers Bay, Sevastopol.

Royal Navy ships on maneuvers, 25 March 1942
Royal Navy ships performing high-speed maneuvers off Fort William, 25 March 1942. © IWM A 9340.
European Air Operations: During the day, nine Boston bombers with a fighter escort attack the Le Trait, France, shipyard. There are no losses.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command launches its first major attack in about two weeks. Things do not go particularly well. The RAF sends 254 aircraft (192 Wellingtons, 26 Stirlings, 20 Manchesters, 9 Hampdens, and 7 Lancasters) in a full-strength attack against Essen. Nine aircraft (5 Manchesters, 3 Wellingtons, and 1 Hampden) are lost. The attack is intended to hit the Essen Krupps works, but savvy German deception efforts lure most of the bombers to a phony site at Rheinburg some 18 miles to the west. Damage is extremely light in Essen itself, and the Germans exactly 1627 propaganda leaflets dropped on the town along with 9 bombs and 700 incendiaries. Only one house is destroyed, with five people killed and 11 injured. The Krupp works are undamaged. One bomber on this mission bombs Airfield Haamstede near the town of Haamstede on the island of Schouwen-Duiveland in the southwest of the Netherlands

In secondary operations, 27 bombers attack St. Nazaire, 38 lay mines off Lorient, and 30 bombers drop leaflets over France. A single bomber hits Lannion airport in Brittany. Two bombers, a Wellington and a Hampden, are lost on these secondary raids. Overall for the night, 11 out of 349 aircraft are lost, a 3.2% loss rate.

The day is notable for a "first" when US Army pilot Major Cecil P. Lessig becomes the first US Army Air Force pilot to fly a mission over France during World War II. He flies a Spitfire with RAF no. 64 Squadron out of Hornchurch, England. Lessig is part of an abortive sweep of 34 fighters that is recalled when 50 Luftwaffe fighters appear on the scene.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-105 (KrvKpt. Heinrich Schuch), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 10,389-ton British tanker Narragansett about 400 miles east of Hampton Roads, Virginia. The ship sinks at 06:18, taking all 49 men with it. Schuch had a difficult time with the tanker, missing with two separate salvoes totaling five torpedoes in the early morning hours before finally getting the tanker with two torpedoes.

HMT Sulla, a minesweeper in the service of the Soviet Navy, sinks in the Arctic due to foul weather.

New Greek Navy recruits on parade in Alexandria, 25 March 1942
Some 500 new recruits in the Greek Free Navy marching in Alexandria after being sworn in, Egypt, 25 March 1942. © IWM A 8848.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Axis airforces have been pounding Malta ever since the Second Battle of Sirte a few days ago. Today, they score two victories, sinking Royal Navy destroyer Legion and submarine P39 in the Grand Harbor, Valletta. Attempts to repair P39 are considered, but later bomb damage seals her fate. She is finally scrapped in 1954. Legion, already damaged by previous bomb damage, also is considered for repair but the damage is too great. She is completely scrapped by 1946.

British tanker HMS Breconshire, badly damaged during the Second Battle of Sirte, finally is towed into Marsaxlokk Harbour, Malta. The ship carries 5000 tons of oil that are badly needed by the island garrison. The ship has been stranded offshore due to continual Axis air raids ever since the battle. Destroyer HMS Southwold had been protecting her, but it blundered into a British minefield and sank, leaving the tanker defenseless until today.

UK Government: The ruling Tories lose a by-election in Grantham. This is their first loss since September 1939.

US Government: The Department of War forms the White Hosue Communications Agency. This office is intended to create secure communications for the President wherever he is.

Finnish Government: President Risto Ryti writes a letter to Field Marshal Mannerheim at his headquarters at Mikkeli about a proposed offensive toward the Murmansk railway line that the Germans badly want. Ryti notes that "from an operative point of view" the offensive "can be carried out." While Ryti tells Mannerheim to "use your own discretion," he very strongly hints that it would be a better idea to not attack in order to husband Finland's resources. In addition, he mentions the possibility that "the Germans are forced to retreat on the St. Petersburg front," which would "cause us great difficulties and hazards." Among other considerations is the fear that the United States might declare war on Finland due to such an attack. Ultimately, Mannerheim decides to postpone the attack and, in fact, the attack is never made.

B-25B in Florida, on or about 25 March 1942
North American Aviation B-25B Mitchell 40-2291 at Eglin Field, Florida, March 1942. (U.S. Air Force).
German Military: An Me 262 fighter prototype is fitted with BMW 003 turbojet engines and flown at Rechlin Airfield north of Berlin. This is the plane's first test flight with its intended jet engines, and it does not go well. Shortly after takeoff, the compressor blades in the jet engine shatter, leaving the Me 262 powerless. However, fortunately for test pilot Fritz Wendel, the prototype still is equipped with a traditional propeller Junkers Jumo 210 G engine in the nose. He switches that on and lands safely. This mishap effectively ends the BMW engine as the one to be used on the plane. The engineers, fortunately, have another jet engine in development, the Junkers Jumo 004 A. They switch to that. Although this sets the program back a few months, that is what testing and test flights are for.

US Military: The US Army activates the 77th Infantry Division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Some B-26s of the 22nd Bomber Group (Medium) arrive from the United States at Archerfield Aerodrome, Brisbane. This is part of the standard ferry operation from the States to Australia via the South Pacific.

General Douglas MacArthur visits Lt. General George Brett, the man he replaced in charge of Allied forces in Australia. Brett, who still commands all air units in the Theater, recalls that MacArthur expressed "contempt" for the air units. Brett also recalls MacArthur saying that the Philippines were lost, but not due to anything MacArthur had done. Specifically, Brett recalls MacArthur saying about the air units, "They lack discipline, organization, purposeful intent." MacArthur has a reputation of preferring to deal only with his personal cronies, and Brett is not counted among them.

USS California, a battleship sunk during the 7 December 1941 Pearl Harbor raid, is re-floated today and dry-docked for repairs. Restoring her to service will take until 31 January 1944, after which she earns a total of seven battle stars during the war.

Twenty-two North American Aviation B-25B Mitchell twin-engine medium bombers of the 34th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 17th Bombardment Group (Medium), U.S. Army Air Force, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Harold Doolittle, begin a two-day, low-level, transcontinental flight to the Sacramento Air Depot, McClellan Field, California. These bombers will participate in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.

Holocaust: A train carrying 997 young women departs from Poprad railway station in the Slovak Republic bound for Auschwitz. This is the first mass transport by trains of Jews to the extermination camp.

Greek Independence Day parade in Athens, Greece, 25 March 1942
Greeks march in the streets of Athens to celebrate National Independence Day on 25 March 1942. They carry a large Greek flag and sing patriotic songs (National Museum of the US Navy).
Greece: Greeks defiantly march in the streets of Athens to celebrate National Independence Day. This is very dangerous due to the occupation and the parade is quickly dispersed.

Future History: Aretha Louise Franklin is born in Memphis, Tennessee. After singing gospel in her local church in Detroit, Michigan, Aretha becomes a recording artist at first Columbia Records and then Atlantic Records. She has a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, including "Respect," "Think," and "I Say a Little Prayer." Aretha Franklin passes away on 16 August 2018.

Sailing vessels in Boston Harbor, 25 March 1942
Sailing ships apparently in Boston Harbor, 25 March 1942. Boston Public Library.


Saturday, July 18, 2020

March 24, 1942: Bataan Bombarded

Tuesday 24 March 1942

Japanese soldiers 24 March 1942
Japanese soldiers setting out on a mission, Nippon News, Number 094, Nippon News, No. 094, March 24, 1942.
Battle of the Pacific: Chinese infantry in Burma is falling back on 24 March 1942 as Allied defenses continue to crumble. A determined Japanese attack by the 55th Division along the Yunnan-Burma Road north of the Kan River takes the Toungoo airfield and a nearby railroad station. This compels the Chinese 200th Division to evacuate fortified positions at Oktwin and fall back on Toungoo. The 112th Japanese Regiment follows close behind in the jungle and wooded area. The Chinese take advantage of the city walls of Toungoo but have a tenuous supply line to the east. The Burma 1st Division, meanwhile, was helping the defense of Toungoo but is forced to withdraw to the Irrawaddy River. The Japanese plan an assault on Toungoo for the morning of the 25th.

The Japanese are eager to set their final conquest of the Philippines in motion, and General Masaharu Homma is under heavy pressure to move fast. Today, the Japanese begin a concentrated air and artillery bombardment of the Allied positions on Bataan and Corregidor. Japanese bombers also attack at night for the first time. All is not bad for the Allies, however. Fortuitously, a Filipino patrol captures orders from a dead Japanese officer. They spell out a plan to take Mount Samac on 26 March. This geographical feature divides the 1st and 2nd US Corps sectors and is a potential weak spot in the line. Having this warning enables the US Army to prepare its defenses in the area.

Los Angeles Examiner 24 March 1942
The Los Angeles Examiner of 24 March 1942 trumpets the relocation scheme for Japanese-Americans which is just starting to gear up.
Ten P-40s of the 1st Fighter Squadron of the Flying Tigers (AVG) conduct a long-range mission from Kunming Aerodrome, China, against Chiengmai Aerodrome in Thailand. This requires staging through Loiwing and Namsang, Burma. The Japanese are taken completely by surprise by the air raid, which is from 07:10 to 07:25. The AVG fighters strafe the airfield and destroy fifteen Japanese bombers on the ground at a cost of two P-40s lost to ground fire. One of the AVG pilots perishes and the other eventually is taken prisoner after eluding capture for four weeks.

In the Solomon Islands, Australian coastwatchers Don McFarland, Martin Clemens, and Ken Hay set up a post on the isolated west coast of Guadalcanal at the town of Lavor.

Daily Gleaner 24 March 1942
Western media remains quite positive about the war situation despite a very grim actual situation. Kingston (Jamaica) Gleaner, 24 March 1942.
Eastern Front: The German relief attempt, Operation Brueckenschlag, to rescue the almost 100,000 troops trapped at Demyansk makes more progress today. General Seydlitz's men reach the Redya River, halfway to the Lovat. The weather has warmed up sufficiently for the ground to turn to slush. The Soviets are bringing in major reinforcements from the north and south in the valleys of both the Redya and the Lovat. In addition, a Soviet parachute brigade has landed within the pocket itself, though it is accomplishing little. This has been the easiest part of the advance for the Germans, however, as the forests between the Redya and Lovat are extremely dense and roadless.

The German 11th Army is still locked in a tight stalemate with General Kozlov's 51st Army on the Kerch Peninsula of the Crimea. The weather has improved enough for the Luftwaffe to build up its forces after replenishment back in the Reich. Today, KG 51 attacks Tuapse again to try to isolate Kozlov's troops. The Junkers Ju 88s sink transports Yalta and Neva. Despite this, Kozlov is preparing a third offensive to break through the Parpach Narrows. This is planned for 26 March 1942.

Pravda 24 March 1942
Pravda, 24 March 1942.
European Air Operations: A winter lull is still in effect, but things are slowly starting to pick up. During the day, a dozen Bostons attack the Comines power station and another half-dozen attack the Abbeville railway station. The Abbeville raid is probably designed to entice up JG-26, which is stationed there, for combat, but it doesn't result in any action. After dark, RAF Bomber Command sends 35 bombers to lay mines off the submarine pens at Lorient. A Hampden and a Lancaster (RAF No. 44 Squadron) are lost, the first RAF losses in 11 days and nights. This is the first Lancaster lost on an operation.

Training and routine patrols often lead to losses for a variety of reasons: fatigue, poor maintenance, bad weather, inexperience, etc. Today, an RAF No. 820 Squadron Albacore crashes on takeoff at Habston in the Orkneys. The three crewmen are lost.

SEC headquarters 24 March 1942
Staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission headquarters in Philadelphia, March 24, 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: In the Barents Sea, Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Sharpshooter spots a U-boat southeast of Bear Island and rams it. It is U-655 (KrvKpt. Adolf Dumrese), on its first patrol out of Helgoland. U-655 does not sink or damage any ships during its brief career. All 45 men aboard perish.

U-123 (Kptlt. Reinhard Hardegen), on its 8th patrol out of Lorient, continues a very successful patrol. At 03:01, U-123 torpedoes and sinks 8138-ton British tanker Empire Steel northeast of Bermuda (east of Delaware). This follows a 5-hour pursuit of the tanker. Hardegen gets impatient when the tanker refuses to sinks and surfaces to fire nine rounds from his deck gun. There are 39 deaths and eight survivors, who are picked up by the US tug Edmund J. Moran, which spots them while towing another vessel, 5184-ton passenger vessel Robert E. Lee.

German minesweeper M-3615 hits a mine and sinks just outside the port of Ostend. There are 15 deaths. The wreck was salvaged and scrapped in 1950.

Nassau Daily Review-Star 24 March 1942
Everything is okay on that pesky war front, with the Japanese already losing according to the 24 March 1942 Nassau (Long Island, NY) Daily Review-Star.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy destroyer Southwold (Cdr C T Jellicoe), returning from the Second Battle of Sirte, sinks just under two miles off Malta due to an accident involving a British mine. There are five deaths. The wreck is still visible but is too deep for sport diving at 70 meters (230 feet).

Anglo/Sino Relations: Relations between the British and Chinese remain tense due to the Tulsa Incident, but British General Harold Alexander, General Officer Commanding Burma Army, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek meet to talk things over.

Vito Gurino 24 March 1942
Here is the real front-page hot story from the Long Island newspaper: "Vito Gurino, formerly of Brooklyn's famous Murder, Inc., is seen on the left as he appeared when he was brought to Nassau county court yesterday to plead guilty to second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of John Bagdonowiz in Albertson in 1933. He is shown handcuffed to Detective Sergeant Charles Snyder of the Nassau County warrant squad." (Page 1, Nassau Daily Review-Star, 24 March 1942).
US Military: The Combined Joint Chiefs of Staff institutionalize a decision made previously between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill and formally give control of the Pacific Theater of Operations to the United States.

The 23rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) of the 7th Air Force transfers within Hawaii from Hickam Field to Mokuleia. The B-17s will fly patrols from there.

The 91st Bombardment Squadron, 27 Bomber Group begins moving its A-24s from Brisbane, Australia, to Charters Towers. The ground echelon for this unit remains trapped in Bataan.

American Homefront: In San Diego, 20th Century Fox premieres "To the Shores of Tripoli" directed by H. Bruce Humberstone and starring John Payne, Maureen O'Hara, and Randolph Scott. The film is notable for being shot in Technicolor and having portions of the film shot at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. The film is a success and greatly aids Marine recruiting during World War II.

Look magazine 24 March 1942
Look magazine, 24 March 1942.


Monday, July 13, 2020

March 23, 1942: Hitler's Insecurity Builds

Monday 23 March 1942

Andaman Islands invasion, 23 March 1942
Japanese troops land on the Andaman Islands, 23 March 1942.
German Military: While to all appearances the western borders of the Greater Reich are peaceful and secure on 23 March 1942, Hitler does not believe what everyone else is seeing. Instead, Hitler views the Atlantic coastline as being wide open to an imminent invasion by enemy forces. Accordingly, Fuhrer headquarters issues Fuhrer Directive No. 40, "Competence Of Commands In Coastal Areas." The intent behind the Directive is made clear in the opening lines:
The coastline of Europe will, in the coming months, be exposed to the danger of an enemy landing in force. The time and place of the landing operations will not be dictated to the enemy by operational considerations alone. Failure in other theatres of war, obligations to allies, and political considerations may persuade him to take decisions that appear unlikely from a purely military point of view.
This is Hitler's first concrete admission that the Reich has gone over to the defensive in a major theater of operations. It comes barely a month after the 13 February 1942 cancellation of projected Operation Sealion, showing just how subtly but quickly the tides shift during World War II.

While not one of Hitler's better-known Directives, it is early evidence of operational tendencies that will become dominant themes within the command of the Reich for the remainder of the war. One of these is the priority of political over military considerations, a typical Hitler trait which he here projects upon his adversaries. Another is his command that "Enemy forces which have landed must be destroyed or thrown back into the sea by immediate counterattack" - an all-or-none philosophy that simply assumes sufficient superiority to ward off any attacks and does not require skill or strategy.

Fuhrer Directive 40 might be viewed as simply a belt-and-suspenders safety precaution. However, diving deeper into the Directive shows real concern, almost fear. Most significant are admonitions that "Fortified areas and strongpoints will be defended to the last man" and "No Headquarters or formation is to initiate withdrawal in such circumstances." Concerns about fighting to the last cartridge are not the mark of a commander secure in the overwhelming power of his forces. These two rules - no retreat and fighting to the last man - will become the basic Wehrmacht policy in virtually every situation before long.

Newsweek 23 March 1942
Newsweek Magazine, 23 March 1942 features "Chinese Army: Key to Far East Strategy."
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese occupy the undefended Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean. The landing by a battalion of the 18th Division at Ross And Chatham Island is supported by aircraft carrier Ryujo. The invading force quickly takes the naval installation at Port Blair. The tiny British garrison (most were evacuated in January) is sent to Singapore for imprisonment, while local officials such as Chief Commissioner Waterfall and Deputy Commissioner Major A. G. Bird are imprisoned locally.

The purpose of taking the Andaman Islands is to protect the sea route from Singapore to Burma. An airbase is operational by the end of March. This is the farthest point of Japanese expansion into the Indian Ocean aside from the occupation of Burmese territory to the northwest. It also is the only part of India that is occupied more than temporarily and remains in Axis possession until 1945. As in Singapore, the Japanese quickly enroll Indian soldiers in the Andaman Islands into Subash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army. Civilians are soon forced into sexual servitude and forced labor.

Since General MacArthur escaped to Australia about ten days ago, world attention has drifted away from the embattled Allied forces in the Philippines. In fact, both sides are having issues, the Americans low on supplies because of the Japanese blockade and the Japanese with 13,000 troops in the hospital and daily rations in the 14th Army cut from 62 to 23 ounces. General Gomma Masaharu is under heavy pressure from Tokyo to wrap up the campaign, so he plans an attack through the center of the Allied line to Mount Samat and then around the base of the mountain. General Wainwright ignores repeated Japanese demands that he surrender, relying on 32,000 troops in the I Corps area in the west and 28,000 troops in the II Corps on the eastern half of the Bataan defensive line (the Main Defensive Line).

Decatur Daily, 23 March 1942
US newspapers remain very positive about the war, with optimistic headlines such as this one in the Decatur (Alabama) Daily of 23 March 1942.
Eastern Front: The German relief effort aimed at the Demyansk pocket continues to make steady progress in weather that hovers around the freezing mark. Several regiments approach the Redya River, a key landmark in the wilderness, but they remain less than halfway to their real objective. Meanwhile, the Soviets are busy shipping in reinforcements from both the north and south, and the battle is becoming a race between the Germans heading east and the Soviets trying to cut them off. Two Soviet parachute brigades also are dropped into the Demyansk pocket itself but accomplish little.

Battle of the Black Sea: A Luftwaffe raid on Tuapse, on the Black Sea coast south of Rostov, sinks a motor torpedo boat and 2121-ton minelayer Ostrovskiy (some sources indicate 611-ton transport Yalta also is sunk today). The planes also damage two Soviet submarines, S-33 and D-5. Another German aircraft sinks 2690-ton Soviet transport Vasiliy Chapaev near Kherson (Ukraine) lighthouse. These attacks by Junkers Ju 88s of KG 51 are intended to provide indirect relief to the Germans in the Crimea.

Bainbridge Island, 23 March 1942
"A Japanese farmer and his daughter view the strawberry farm they must leave on Bainbridge Island, in Washington, on March 23, 1942." (Library of Congress).
European Air Operations: A fairly quiet period in the air war continues on 23 March 1942. A dozen Hampdens, three Stirlings, and two Manchester bombers conduct minelaying operations off the submarine base of Lorient in southwest France. The Stirlings engage in the minelaying campaign for the first time.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-754 (Kptlt. Hans Oestermann), on its second patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and sinks 8620-ton British tanker British Prudence northeast of Halifax. British Prudence is a straggler from Convoy HX-181. There are 47 survivors and three deaths.

U-553 (Kptlt. Karl Thurmann), on its sixth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 8106-ton British tanker MV Diala about 300 miles southeast of Cape Race, but today's action that actually sinks the tanker is the conclusion of a long story. The Diala was initially torpedoed on 15 January 1942 by U-553, which burned but did not sink. Its crew quickly abandoned the tanker, which had had its bow blown off, but another sunken ship's crew (from the Athelcrown, sunk by U-82 on 22 January 1942) later spotted the drifting vessel and boarded it. The Athelcrown crew was rescued from the Diala after another eight days. The Diala itself thereafter continued to drift after attempts to tow it proved unsuccessful. Today, 23 March 1942, over two months later, it finally receives the coup de grace from U-587 (Kptlt. Ulrich Borcherdt). This is one of those bizarre sequences that add to the mystery and lore of the North Atlantic convoys.

PBY Catalinas over Iceland, 23 March 1942
Consolidated PBY Catalinas of the VP-73 (US Navy patrol squadron) over Reykjavik, Iceland, March 23, 1942.
U-124 (Kptlt. Johann Mohr), on its eighth patrol out of Lorient,  torpedoes and sinks 5373-ton US freighter Naeco about 65 miles southeast of Cape Lookout, North Carolina. There are 24 dead and 14 survivors. This concludes a very successful patrol for Captain Mohr, whose U-124 has sunk seven ships (42,048 tons) and damaged three others (26,167 tons) since 14 March 1942. It appears Mohr only broke off the patrol so soon because he ran out of torpedoes.

Italian submarine Morosini (C.C. Fraternale) torpedoes and sinks 9741-ton British tanker Peder Bogen about 680 miles southeast of Bermuda. The submarine surfaces and uses its deck gun when the tanker does not sink right away. All 53 men on board the Peder Bogen survive.

In the far South Atlantic northeast of Tristan da Cunha, German auxiliary cruiser Thor captures and scuttles 3942-ton Greek collier Pagasitikos.

Convoy WS 17 departs from Oversay bound for Freetown. This is a major convoy whose escort includes aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. Many of the ships will take a full month to reach Durban and almost two months to reach Bombay, India.

The founding of Daheshism, 23 March 1942
Dr. Dahesh (a pen name for Salim Moussa Achi) proclaims Daheshism in this Lebanon dwelling on 23 March 1942. Daheshism focuses on the immortality of the spirit and reincarnation. Daheshism retains popularity in the Arabic world.  
Battle of the Mediterranean: The Second Battle of Sirte that began on 22 March 1942 continues today. Unlike yesterday, however, the main threat to the British is air attack, as the Italian fleet has withdrawn. The Axis planes sink one freighter, 7255-ton MS Clan Campbell, about 50 miles (80 km) from its destination in Malta and badly damage oil tanker Breconshire. Two other freighters, however, make port in Valletta, where they are subjected to intense aerial attacks in the coming days. While Breconshire is towed into port, it will succumb to these attacks and capsize on 27 March 1942.

Italian destroyer Lanciere, heading from Messina, Sicily, toward the Second Battle of Sirte, sinks due to the weather after seawater contaminates its fuel in rough seas. Italian destroyer Scirocco also sinks in the same storm, with only two survivors.

Manzanar Internment camp, 23 March 1942
Japanese-Americans relocated from Los Angeles to their new home at Manzanar take their first meal there on 23 March 1942 (AP Photo).
US Military: The Army begins construction of Otter Point Airfield on Umnak Island. This base will cover Dutch Harbor on nearby Unalaska Island and the main US base in the Aleutian Island chain. The ground is soft, so Marston matting is used for the 5000-foot runway.

American Homefront: Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, the Western Defense Commander, issues his first Civilian Exclusion Order. This compels residents of Japanese ancestry to leave Bainbridge Island, Washington, before 30 March 1942. The entire West Coast of the United States has been declared a "Theater of War" since shortly after the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

James Sakamoto writes a letter on behalf of "American Citizens of Japanese parentage" to President Roosevelt. He comments that "We shall obey willingly" relocation orders and "shall continue to trust you and to give our allegiance to the ideals you enunciate." He asks that the US provide "some refuge in the heart of the country far removed from even the suspicion or possibility to do harm. We have helped to feed the nation in the past." Sakamoto also acknowledges that "there have been dissident elements among us, often unknown to ourselves" but that the government can "Restore our good name to us" by removing those of Japanese ancestry from sensitive areas.

Life magazine, 23 March 1942
Life magazine, 23 March 1942.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

March 22, 1942: Second Battle of Sirte

Sunday 22 March 1942

ATS Recruitment 22 March 1942
An ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) recruiting parade in Rishon le-Zion (Rishon LeTsiyon) on March 22, 1942 (Esther Herlitz, Jewish Women's Archive).
Battle of the Pacific: In Burma (Myanmar), the British Burma Corps under Lieutenant General William Slim gives up its biggest remaining foothold when they abandon the airfield at Magwe (Magway) on 22 March 1942. This opens up the Irrawaddy River valley, where the Japanese are eager to occupy the Yenangyaung oil fields. It will take the Japanese a few weeks to bring the 33rd Division into position for a set-piece attack on the oil field. The British are short of supplies, especially water, and are counting on newly arrived Chinese troops to help hold the oil.

Time magazine cover of General Yamashita 22 March 1942
Japanese General Yamashita, leader in the Philippines, on the cover of the 22 March 1942 Time magazine.
Eastern Front: The stalemate on the Kerch Peninsula in the Crimea continues. Two Soviet attacks to break it have failed, while the most recent attempt by the German 22nd Panzer Division also has failed. Soviet General Kozlov is preparing for a third attack on the German strongpoint at Koi-Asan which is scheduled to begin on 26 March. Both sides have taken heavy casualties during these battles, but the unsuccessful Soviet attacks have been particularly hard on their own forces. However, Stalin is insistent that the attacks continue because he sees this as a continuation of the successful winter counteroffensives even though winter is rapidly turning into spring this far south.

The temperature rises above freezing on the front north of Moscow, where the German Operation Brueckenschlag enters its second day toward the pocket at Demyansk. The Germans make good progress against spotty Soviet resistance. The first objective, the Redyat River, is coming within sight, but the snow is turning to slush, which favors the defense. The Soviets are determined to take the pocket before it is relieved and are sending in reinforcements from both the north and south. They also are preparing two paratrooper brigades to land in the Demyansk pocket and take it from within.

European Air Operations: It is a quiet day on the Channel front, with no major operations.

Greenville SC News, 22 March 1942
"Navy Asks For More Men For Production" is a headline in the 22 March 1942 Greenville (South Carolina) News.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-123 (Kptlt. Reinhard Hardegen), on its eighth patrol out of Lorient, gets its first success of a highly successful cruise off the east coast of the United States. Hardegen puts one torpedo into 7034-ton U.S. tanker Muskogee about 335 miles north-northeast of Bermuda. The torpedo hits the engine room and the tanker sinks quickly. While ten survivors make it onto rafts and are questioned by Hardegen, all 34 men aboard the Muskogee disappear and never see land again.

U-373 (Oblt. Paul-Karl Loeser), on its fourth patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes and sinks 5575-ton British freighter Thursobank about 200 miles southeast of Nantucket. There are 30 dead and 34 survivors. This incident has a peculiar case of mutiny after the sinking when Chinese crewmen, who outnumber the British survivors, refuse to share their food with the British. The Chinese crewmen are arrested when rescued after three days by passing tanker Havsten.

Seas are rough along the North Atlantic convoy routes. One ship, 5786-ton Norwegian tanker Nueva Andalucia, runs aground off Mars Rock, Halifax Harbor. It is ultimately is towed to port but not repaired until 1947. All 39 men aboard survive.

Bomb damage in Malta, 22 March 1942
Bomb damage in Malta on or about 22 March 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: As a Royal Navy convoy approaches Malta, it is attacked by sustained Axis air power and also aggressive moves by the Italian Navy. The Italian battleship Littorio and several Italian cruisers keep the British on the defensive. Littorio damages Royal Navy destroyer HMS Havock with a near-miss. Destroyer Kingston also is badly damaged. Three of four freighters ultimately make it to Valletta but the port itself comes under heavy air attack. The Italians, though having the advantage, break off the attack at nightfall and head back to port. The battle is considered an Italian tactical victory but a Royal Navy strategic victory because the Italians fail at their objective of destroying or turning back the convoy.

Propaganda/Partisans: The BBC begins sending news in Morse Code to resistance fighters on the Continent.

British/Indian Relations: Sir Stafford Cripps is in India (the "Cripps Mission") attempting to arrange a settlement with Indian nationalists. Cripps is friends with Jawaharlal Nehru, but he has an unclear mandate from the British government. The British viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, is hostile to the Cripps Mission, and with good reason - one of Cripps' proposals is to remove Linlithgow. Cripps is only able to promise what the Indian Nationalists want - Dominion Status and ultimately full independence - after the war. Ultimately, the Cripps Mission fails. Mahatma Gandhi comments sarcastically that Cripps' promise of Dominion Status after the war was a "post-dated cheque drawn on a failing bank."

Article on solar power, 22 March 1942
Dr. Frank Thone poses an interesting question about solar power in the 22 March 1942 Galveston (Texas) Daily News.
American Homefront: The Japanese-American internment camp at Manzanar officially opens pursuant to Executive Order 9066 of 19 February 1942 signed by President Franklin Roosevelt. This is the first internment camp to open. At first, Manzanar is known euphemistically as the "Owens Valley Reception Center." It will acquire its better-known name of the Manzanar War Relocation Center on 1 June 1942. The first Japanese-Americans that arrive help to build the camp under the auspices of the US Army's Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA).

Chevrolet ad, 22 March 1942
All production of automobiles has been halted due to the war situation. So, with no 1942 models to sell, dealerships are selling whatever they can find. In this case, it is  1940 Chevrolet with "lovely mohair upholstery". Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune, March 22, 1942.