Sunday, August 25, 2019

February 4, 1942: Battle of Makassar Strait

Wednesday 4 February 1942

USS Marblehead after Battle of Makassar Strait, 4 February 1942
USS Marblehead. "At Tjilatjap, Java, after she had been damaged by Japanese high-level bombing attack in the Java Sea on 4 February 1942. This view shows the effect of an enemy bomb which struck her stern. Her after 6/53 gun turret is at left. Note the blanked off portholes on her hull side. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives." US Naval History and Heritage Command Catalog #: 80-G-237439.
Battle of the Pacific: The naval Battle of Makassar Strait takes place on 4 February 1942. Dutch Rear Admiral Karel Doorman, commander of the ABDA Combined Striking Force in the Netherlands East Indies, acts under orders from  U.S. Admiral Thomas C. Hart (who is in effective control of operations), Dutch Vice-Admiraal (Vice Admiral) Conrad Helfrich, U.S. Rear Admiral William A. Glassford and (Commodore) John Collins, RAN. Doorman has been at sea since 3 February, when Japanese aircraft spotted his fleet of four cruisers (flagship HNLMS De Ruyter, Tromp, and USS Houston, and Marblehead) escorted by seven destroyers (HNLMS Banckert, Piet Hein, Van Ghent, USS Barker, Bulmer, John D. Edwards, and Stewart). Doorman is taking his force, which is impressive on paper but composed of cast-offs from main forces, to the Makassar Strait in response to reports of a Japanese invasion fleet at sea to invade the cities of Makassar and Banjarmasin.

Royal Hellenic Air Force Hurricane in North Africa, 4 February 1942
"Western Desert, Libya. 4 February 1942. The colors of the Royal Hellenic Air Force embellish the propeller boss of one of the fighter aircraft of a Squadron operating in the Middle East. 'It is the only view the enemy will get of us' says this determined pilot." Australian War Memorial MED0332.
During the early morning hours, Doorman's fleet (which is coming from different ports) assembles off the northeast tip of Java. Around 10:00, Doorman sails for the Makassar Strait, where air patrols report seeing the invasion force. The Japanese send bombers against the fleet, badly damaging Marblehead, killing 15 of its crew, and leaving it dead in the water. Houston also is hit and loses 48 men and its rear guns but is still maneuverable. The Japanese also hit De Ruyter but cause only minor damage. After sailing about for a few hours in an unsuccessful search for the Japanese fleet, Doorman finally cancels the operation due to the continuing threat from the bombers. While the Japanese report sinking three cruisers, all of the ABDA ships make it back to port. Because there are no port facilities in the South Pacific large enough to handle Marblehead, it sails for repairs in the United States and is permanently lost to the ABDA Combined Striking Force.

Dutch freighter Van Lansberge, sunk on 4 February 1942
Dutch steamer Van Lansberge (1937grt), sunk after a torpedo attack by IJN I-55 in the Java Sea on 4 February 1942.
While the Battle of Makassar Strait is inconclusive in some respects, the Japanese are left in control of the Makassar Strait. Thus, it is a major strategic victory for the Japanese as well as being a tactical victory due to the numerous Allied sailors killed and the loss to future operations of one of the ABDA cruisers. The Japanese invasion can proceed and the Allies now begin to lose their grip on the western part of the Dutch East Indies.

The Evening Leader, 4 February 1942
The Evening Leader of 4 February 1942 almost gets it right - but the reality is Japanese guns shelling British troops in Singapore.
On Singapore Island, the Japanese shelling and bombing become so bad that the British abandon Tengah Airfield. In truth, this is not a major loss because there are few airplanes left in Singapore anyway. The Japanese issue a formal demand for surrender which the British summarily refuse. British Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival, who expects an attack in the northeast sector because that's where the causeway is, orders his Australian defenders in the northwest area of the island to go to the edge of the waterway. The defenders there are separated by the Kranji River and cannot support each other when positioned so far forward. The soldiers also are spread thin by covering a very long (11 mile, or 18 km) coastline. The Australians plan to send patrols over the Singapore Strait at night to Johor to gather intelligence on the gathering Japanese forces.

A C-47 which had a rough landing on 4 February 1942
A Douglas C-53B-DO, #41-20051 (C-47), of the 21st Troop Carrier Squadron, USAAF. During a flight from Java to Darwin on 4 February 1942, bad weather forces it to divert to an emergency airfield for light aircraft on Bathurst Island (60 miles north of Darwin). The plane cannot be moved and ultimately is destroyed in a Japanese air raid on 19 February 1942 before it can be repaired and removed. This picture was taken after the air raid that destroyed it. Australian War Memorial AWM Accession No. 152203. Note that the caption on the AWM page is inaccurate.
In the Philippines, the Allies continue trying to reduce several Japanese pockets behind the Main Line of Resistance (MLR). While the Japanese continue to hold out, they are under increasing pressure. Commanding Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma continues his sputtering offensive against the strong MLR but is growing increasingly concerned about his trapped men.

Soviet casualties in the Crimea, 4 February 1942
“Soviet Union, Kuban, Osereika Bay near Novorossiysk -- defeated Russian landing attempt in Osereika Bay, with a stranded special Soviet ship for the unloading of tanks, and in the foreground, soldiers lost in battle, 4 February 1942." (Langl, Federal Archive Bild 101I-031-2444-31).
Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht continues its painful attempt to restore its front, or at least communications to its most isolated units, on 4 February 1942. The Rollbahn between Yukhnov and Gzhatsk has been cleared, restoring access to the Fourth Army, but many other large units remain blocked from receiving supplies. In the most important movement today, Ninth Army's 46th Panzer Corps advances through blizzards from Sychevka toward Rzhev in order to establish another line of communications to Fourth Army. If it succeeds in this 30-mile advance, it will create a line in the northwest that will trap large Soviet forces west of the Rollbahn in its own pocket. The Germans optimistically hope to confine and eliminate Soviet 39th Army in this area southeast of Rzhev, but the German hold is weak everywhere and a focused Red Army effort in virtually any direction would at the very least enable the Soviet troops to break out. However, the Stavka is not interested in breakouts at this time and the Red Army local commanders hold a large swathe of territory in which they receive air supply and also supplies through the porous front. It is a peculiar situation in which both sides consider themselves, with some justification, to be on the offensive, only operating in different directions.

RAF Spitfire in Scotland, 4 February 1942
Supermarine Spitfire of No. 603 Squadron RAF taxiing out at Dyce, Scotland, for a routine convoy patrol. 4 February 1942. © IWM (CH 4838).
European Air Operations: The mid-winter lull in operations continues on 4 February 1942. After dark, three RAF Manchester bombers set off on a mission to lay mines in the Frisian Island area but return to base without laying them due to weather conditions.

Luftwaffe planes sink HNLMS patrol boat Deneb off Zuid Broeder in the Doerian Strait, Riouw Archipelago. There are three deaths.

Dutch ship Deneb, sunk on 4 February 1942
HNLMS Deneb, sunk in the North Sea in an air raid on 4 February 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-103 (Kptlt. Werner Winter), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 3627-ton Panamanian banana boat San Gil about 50 nautical miles (93 km) southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Two men are killed in the initial engine room explosion, but the remaining 39 crewmen survive and are picked up by USS Nike later in the day. This incident is sometimes recording as having occurred on 3 February 1942. U-103 also torpedoes and sinks 8327-ton US tanker India Arrow in the same general location, but this incident is usually listed as having occurred on 5 February (sources are very undecided on this U-boat's actual dates for some reason).

SS Sliveray, sunk on 4 February 1942
SS Silveray, sunk on 4 February 1942. Photo from City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 447-2695
U-751 (Kptlt. Gerhard Bigalk), on its fifth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 4535-ton British freighter Silveray south of Halifax. Silveray is operating as an independent after being dispersed from Convoy ON-55. There are 41 survivors, including the master, and 8 deaths.

Canadian tanker Montrolite, sunk on 4 February 1942
Canadian 11,309-ton tanker MV Montrolite, stalked by U-109 on 4 February 1942 and later sunk.
U-109 (Kptlt. Heinrich Bleichrodt), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 11,309-ton Canadian tanker MV Montrolite northeast of Bermuda. This attack is sometimes given as happening on 5 February, but U-109 begins stalking Montrolite at 21:22 on 4 February 1942. The actual sinking takes place at 02:37 on 5 February. There are 20 survivors and 28 deaths.

HMS Beverley (H-64), formerly USS Branch (DD-197), which was transferred to the Royal Navy on 8 October 1940, sinks U-187 (Oblt. Ralph Münnich) east of Newfoundland. There are 45 survivors and nine dead. U-187, operating with Wolfpack Pfeil on the North Atlantic convoy route is lost on its first patrol and sinks or damages no ships during its career.

Greek pilots in the Western Desert, 4 February 1942
"Western Desert, North Africa. 4 February 1942. Greek pilots of a Royal Hellenic Air Force Squadron receive final instruction upon the course they will fly to their forward landing ground in Libya." Australian War Memorial MED0333.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Following a British withdrawal on orders of the commander of British Eighth Army, General Ritchie, German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps takes Derna. This solidifies the gains of Rommel's latest offensive beyond Benghazi and provides a foundation for a future advance on Tobruk. Rommel now contemplates his options and decides to consolidate his forces. British Eighth Army retreats in good order to the Gazala Line. This begins a lull in operations that lasts for many weeks.

Greek pilot with his dog in the Western Desert, 4 February 1942
"Western Desert, North Africa. 4 February 1942. This Greek flight commander made a 10-pound wager that he will bring down the first Hun for the Royal Hellenic Air Force. Previously flying night bombers and before that navy co-operation aircraft he is off to the battle zone with his dog on his shoulder." Australian War Memorial MED0313.
War Crimes: Following the surrender of Australian troops on Ambon Island in the Netherlands East Indies, the "Carnage at Laha" begins. This incident, also known as the Laha Massacre due to its taking place close to the town of Laha, leads to the deaths of perhaps 100 Australian POWs, including commanders. Some Australian POWs, who surrendered under a traditional white flag and after extended negotiations, are kept at prison camps for several days before being executed. The men are executed in traditional Japanese style, blindfolded and beheaded with Samurai swords. Those POWs not executed in this fashion are exterminated through mistreatment over the next two weeks. The Carnage at Laha leads to war crimes prosecutions after the war.

Harald Gelhaus, commander of U-107, which arrives off Cape Hatteras on 4 February 1942
Harald Gelhaus, commander of U-107. U-107 arrives off the coast of Cape Hatteras, United States, on 4 February 1942 during Operation Paukenschlag. The U-boat has headed south from the New England area, where pickings were slim.
British/Egyptian Relations: It is no secret that King Farouk has Axis sympathies. The British are concerned because he recently dismissed his entire Cabinet over disagreements about supporting the Allied war effort. British Ambassador to Egypt Sir Miles Lampson decides today to focus King Farouk's attention and create a sense of urgency by surrounding the royal palace with tanks.

US Military: The USAAF Far East Air Force (FEAF) begins transferring bombers of the 7th Bombardment Group, 9th Bombardment Squadron, and 88th Reconnaissance Squadron to Karachi, India. This implicitly is a vote of non-confidence in Australian defenses and a recognition of the growing danger in Burma.

Greek Hawker Hurricane in the Western Desert, 4 February 1942
"Western Desert, North Africa. 4 February 1942. Airborne with its Greek pilot at the controls this Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft of the Royal Hellenic Air Force sets forth to a Libyan landing ground." Australian War Memorial MED0334.
British Government: Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken) becomes Britain's Minister of Production. This is a newly created position places Beaverbrook in contact with Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour and National Services. The two men have a history of not getting along, and Bevin now refuses to work with Beaverbrook despite the latter's previous successes as Minister of Aircraft Production. This conflict will come to a head within two weeks.

American Homefront: The US Department of Justice under Attorney General Francis Biddle orders all enemy (Japanese, German, and Italian) aliens to leave 31 vulnerable sectors in the states of Oregon and Washington by 15 February 1942.

Major General Joseph Henry Pendleton (June 2, 1860 – February 4, 1942) passes away in Coronado, California. Following a 40-year career in the US Marine Corps, he served as mayor of Coronado from 1928-1930. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego County is named in his honor.

Damage to USS Marblehead after the Battle of Makassar Strait, 4 February 1942
USS Marblehead (CL-12): "In Netherlands East Indies, Tjilatjap, Java, after being damaged by Japanese air attack during the Battle of Java Sea, on 4 February 1942. Chinese cooks at work in the cruiser's bomb-wrecked wardroom pantry." Naval History and Heritage Command Catalog #: 80-G-237444.


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

February 3, 1942: Japanese Shell and Bomb Singapore

Tuesday 3 February 1942

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942
"Singapore. Two women sit on the street among rubble and debris wailing and crying, showing their grief for the small child whose dead body lies nearby in front of a damaged rickshaw after a Japanese air attack." 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/22).
Eastern Front: The Germans achieve a major success on 3 February 1942 when they clear the vital supply road to Fourth Army that runs from Yukhnov to Gzhatsk. German XII Corps and the 20th Panzer Division blast their way through Red Army roadblocks and "bridge the gap," thereby allowing resupply to the beleaguered army. There are Soviet forces on either side of the road - Soviet Thirty-third Army to the west and Forty-third Army to the east - and the corridor (which includes the nearby railway line) is only a few miles wide in places. However, for the first time in over a week, General Heinrici's Fourth Army can get the supplies that it needs to survive. Now, the Soviets to the west of the corridor begin to worry that they may be the ones who are trapped. However, German strength along the Rollbahn (as the Germans call the road) is very weak, and supply convoys must have armed escorts to fight their way through at times.

In Finland, General Mannerheim sends a letter in response to a German request that Finnish forces resume an advance toward the Murmansk railway line. It says that Finnish troops would be unavailable to advance toward Belomorsk, the chosen point of attack, during the winter. The letter leaves few doubts in German minds that Mannerheim has become pessimistic about the course of the war and is unlikely to mount any offensive operations until the Red Army is basically defeated.

Fairey Fulmar flying off of HMS Victorioius, 3 February 1942
"A Fairey Fulmar making a low-level attack on the stern of HMS VICTORIOUS after completing a turn of fighter patrol duty." This photo was taken aboard HMS Victorious while refueling near Iceland ca. 3 February 1942. © IWM (A 7538).
Luftwaffe ace Rolf Kaldrack (24+ victories, 3 in Spain) is killed in his Messerschmitt Bf 110 E-1 "S9+IC" (Werksnummer 4057 (factory number)) south of Toropets when his plane collides with a Mig-1 that he or his gunner (Unteroffizier Enke, also killed) had just shot down. He posthumously is awarded the 70th Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

SS Pinna, sunk by Japanese aircraft south of Singapore on 3 February 1942
British freighter SS Pinna, bombed and destroyed by Japanese aircraft after leaving Singapore on 3 February 1942.
Battle of the Pacific: The British Commonwealth troops have withdrawn into their island fortress of Singapore. They have troops manning the coast and have blown the only causeway to the mainland. The Japanese, however, are just across the Singapore Strait and not ready to eliminate this last Allied presence on the Malay Peninsula. Today, they bring up their heavy artillery and begin shelling the island. The British counter-fire, but they are hampered by the lack of high explosive shells. The armor-piercing shells available, which would be ideal against a naval attack, are ill-suited for land targets. While the port of Singapore remains open, using it is proving increasingly hazardous. The Japanese continue bombing Singapore and sink 10,224-ton British cargo liner Talthybius (later salvaged by the Japanese and put in service as Taruyasu Maru). Another British freighter, 4958-ton Loch Ranza, is bombed by Japanese planes and sunk while en route from Singapore to Batavia. The captain beaches the ship, but there it blows up. The Loch Ranza crew escapes and is rescued by HMAS Toowoomba. British 6121-ton tanker Pinna is hit during the same raid, also is beached, and also is lost on 3 February 1942.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942
"Singapore. Smoke rises from a demolished building on Rochor Canal Road (note the fallen signpost) after the air attack by the Japanese. A burnt-out vehicle lies on its side in front of the ruins of the wrecked building." 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/31).  
An air battle begins over Port Moresby, Papua, New Guinea. The Imperial Japanese Army and Navy bombers attack while the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) defend. The Allies at this time are severely handicapped by lack of aircraft and other equipment, relying at the start of the battle solely on their Australian Army anti-aircraft batteries and other ground fire. Port Moresby is protected less by troops at this point than by its relative isolation, as it is extremely difficult to reach across mountain trails and any seaborne invasion must make a huge loop to the east that exposes the attacking ships to attacks from Allied naval forces and land-based bombers.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942
"Singapore. Neither the cattle nor their attendant seem in the least perturbed by smoke billowing from a nearby blaze, the result of a Japanese air raid." 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/30).
In the Netherlands East Indies, the last Allied holdouts on Ambon Island surrender. At Laha, the Japanese have captured the island's most important airfield and the defending Australians have been greatly reduced in numbers. The Australian commander at Laha, Lieutenant Commander Scott, surrenders in the morning, while a separate Allied force at Kudamati surrenders a few hours later. These surrenders lead to the Laha Massacre (see below). About 30 Australian soldiers manage to melt into the jungle and eventually find means of escaping. Among other strategic effects of the Japanese capture of Ambon, it places Japanese land-based bombers within range of Darwin, Australia (see 19 February 1942).

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942
Singapore. Singapore firefighters quelling a blaze with their water hoses after a bomb raid by the Japanese. 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/27).
In the Philippines, the US Army II Corps reestablishes its line on the Pilar River after the Japanese finish evacuating their bridgehead there. The Allies continue trying to reduce the handful of Japanese pockets behind the main front, with little success. The Japanese launch an air raid on Singosari Airdrome which destroys four fully loaded USAAF B-17 bombers, adding a fifth B-17 which they shoot down nearby. Another Japanese raid at Soerabaja destroys three Royal Netherlands Navy Catalina flying boats and a USAAF B-18 Bolo bomber. The B-18 also is shot down in flight, killing all aboard (including some badly needed radar technicians). USAAF P-40s based at Blimbing Airdrome manage to intercept the Japanese planes and shoot down two fighters and a bomber at a cost of one P-40 of their own.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942
"Singapore. Black smoke billows into the air from a timber yard ablaze after a Japanese air attack." 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/29).
In Burma, the American Volunteer Group (AVG) "Flying Tigers" continue their successful air operations against attacking Japanese aircraft. Pilots of the 2nd Squadron shoot down a Japanese Army bomber over Toungoo Airdrome at about 16:00. Off Palembang, Japanese aircraft sink 5424-ton Dutch freighter Sudabar.

European Air Operations: A lull in operations due to winter weather that began on 1 February continues today.

MV Amerikaland, sunk by U-106 on 3 February 1942
MV Amerikaland, sunk by U-106 on 3 February 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: It is another good day for the German U-boats operating off of the eastern United States coast as part of Operation Paukenschlag. U-106 (Kptlt. Hermann Rasch), on its fifth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 15,339-ton Swedish freighter Amerikaland about 90 miles east of Virginia Beach. The Amerikaland is an independent which is hit by the first torpedo at 03:23 on 3 February 1942. Everyone manages to take to the boats, but five crewmen later die of exposure due to a snowstorm and generally frigid weather. Fifteen men survive.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942
"Singapore. Soldiers and civilians co-operate in rescuing wounded from damaged buildings after bombing in Japanese air attacks." 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/18).
U-103 (Kptlt. Werner Winter), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and shells 3627-ton Panamanian banana boat San Gil about 15 miles south of Fenwick Island, Delaware, lighthouse. The ship goes down after the crew abandons it in two lifeboats which are picked up later in the day by USS Nike. There are two dead (killed when the torpedo hits the engine room) and 39 survivors. This sinking is sometimes dated on 4 February 1942, with the time of the attack variously reported as 23:50 on the 3rd and 06:43 on the 4th.

SS San Gil, sunk off the Delaware coast on 3 February 1942
SS San Gil, sunk off the Delaware coast on 3 (or 4) February 1942.
The battle of the small boats along the English Channel continues with great ferocity. British motor gunboats sink German freighters Hermann (a 114-ton schooner) and Schleswig-Holstein (174 tons) off the coast of Brittany. The sinking of the Schleswig-Holstein is sometimes erroneously dated to August 1942, but that apparently was another ship, perhaps of the same name.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942
Singapore. Smoke haze over the city after bomb attacks by Japanese. 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/07).
Battle of the Mediterranean: German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel presses forward on the advance from Benghazi. The Afrika Korps captures Timimi. The British follow orders from General Ritchie and fall back toward the Gazala Line, evacuating Derna. This leaves Derna in German hands again almost exactly a year after they captured it in early 1941.

Off Tunisia, HMS Umbra (Lt. S.L.C. Maydon) torpedoes and badly damages 6142-ton Italian freighter Napoli. The captain of the Napoli acts fast and beaches the ship about 30 miles east of Sousse, Tunisia. This maneuver is successful, but aircraft destroy the beached freighter on 11 February.

Soviet propaganda of February 1942
A Soviet propaganda leaflet dropped on German positions in February 1942. It begins: "News from the Front. German soldiers! The German army has suffered great losses. It is doomed. You can conceal this. Read the truth about the situation at the front." It continues on to describe how the Red Army is pushing back the Germany Army around Moscow.
War Crimes: The little-remembered battle of Ambon Island leads to one of the least-remembered massacres of the early months of the Pacific war. The Japanese spend the next fortnight murdering prisoners of war, including more than 300 Australian and Dutch soldiers near Laha Airfield. Among those executed are Commander Scott and Major Mark Newbury, both of whom led peace delegations and entered Japanese lines under flags of truce. The surviving Allied prisoners are horribly mistreated with 405 of 582 who remained in Japanese prisons perishing by 1945. This leads to a war crimes trial in 1946 which results in death sentences and imprisonment of those involved. This incident is recounted in the film "Blood Oath" (1990).

Soviet propaganda of 3 February 1942
The reverse side of a Soviet propaganda pamphlet dropped on German troops in February 1942. "“IT IS EASIER TO DIE, THAN TO BEAR SUCH AGONY."
Allied Relations: Following a difficult period in British-Chinese relations due to disputes about American lend-lease equipment, Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek agrees to send the Chinese 6th Army into Burma. This allows the British to consolidate their own dispositions in the theater, and today they send the Indian 48th Brigade to the sector controlled by the Indian 17th Division.

Plastic armor fencing on HMS Forte III, 3 February 1942
"The Watch House at HMS Forte III." This is plastic armor fencing, a type of vehicle armor designed by Edward Terrell of the British Admiralty in 1940. It was cast in situ for bunkers and gun shields on the decks of ships. The plastic was good at deflecting bullets. A patent court later awarded Terrell sole credit for this invention, which saved many lives after being fitted to about 10,000 ships. 3 February 1942 (© IWM (A 9985)).
US Military: The Far East Air Force shifts thirteen P-40s of the 20th Pursuit Squadron from Darwin, Australia, to Java.

Canadian Military: The Canadian Women's Auxiliary Air Force becomes the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division).

British Military: The British activate Port T, a top-secret naval base on Addu Atoll. This is a remote island southwest of the tip of India.

German Berlin police leaders, 3 February 1942
German Berlin police leaders General of Police Kurt Daluge, right, and SS-Gruppenführer Dr. Ernst Grawitz meet at the Kurmark Police Station, 3 February 1942.
British Homefront: The government sets maximum prices for certain types of clothing. For instance, the maximum price for a suit is set at £4 18s 8d.

American Homefront: Major League Baseball owners meet and decide to allow fourteen night games for each club (the Washington Senators get 21). They also schedule two All-Star games, one with a military all-star team. They set a curfew for all night games, with no inning to start after 00:50.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942
Singapore. Some of the city buildings with smoke rising from fires caused by bombing in Japanese air attacks, only days before the Japanese landed on the island. 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/01).


Monday, August 19, 2019

February 2, 1942: Germans Recovering in Russia

Monday 2 February 1942

British warships on 2 February 1942
"A British destroyer flotilla taking part in Mediterranean operations." Photo was taken on board HMS Jervis in the eastern Mediterranean, 2 February 1942 (© IWM (A 8576)).
Eastern Front: The winter has bent but not quite broken the Wehrmacht, and by 2 February 1942 it is fighting back to protect its most vital arteries. The Rollbahn, a major (for Russia) road from Yukhnov to Gzhatsk, is the lifeline to Fourth Army in the Moscow sector, and the Soviets have held it for a week. The Germans now are fighting furiously from either end of the road to open it up, with General Heinrici sending his Fourth Army troops south and General Ruoff advancing with his Fourth Panzer Army vehicles north toward him. They make good progress today, though they do not quite close the gap and reopen the road yet. There are supplies waiting behind Ruoff's forces to be sluiced through the moment the road is cleared. This is one of the most important operations of the winter because until the road is cleared, the Fourth Army must rely on air support. The Luftwaffe already is hard-pressed supplying surrounded garrisons at Kholm, Demyansk, and elsewhere, so clearing the road is a top priority.

British Home Guard troops on 2 February 1942
"Major the Earl of Bradford (right) directs his company of the Home Guard during exercises with regular troops, 2 February 1942." © IWM (H 17543).
As the Germans regain their footing on the Eastern Front, their ambitions begin to expand again. General Dietl, commanding the Army of Lapland, is trying to convince the Finns to participate in an attack to cut the Soviet railway line to Murmansk at Belomorsk. Marshal Mannerheim, commanding all Finnish forces, is noncommital but indicates that he would be ready to participate in such an operation once the Germans capture Leningrad. Of course, the Germans have no hope of capturing Leningrad anytime soon due to their difficulties on the main front and pretty much everyone knows that. German General Waldemar Erfurth, who leads the German liaison team at Mannerheim's headquarters, reports back to OKW that Mannerheim has a pessimistic view of the war and is unwilling to stage any attacks that he has any chance of losing. Mannerheim prepares a letter to General Keitel today which basically expresses these views. The Germans have no alternatives in the northern sector of the front and are at Mannerheim's mercy.

A P-47 on the cover of Life magazine on 2 February 1942
Life Magazine for 2 February 1942 features a Republic P-48 Thunderbolt on the cover. The XP-47B prototype, designed by Alexander Kartveli, first flew on 6 May 1941. There are only the XP-47B and an engineering prototype in existence during February 1942, so this truly is a cutting edge photo and undoubtedly had to pass through military censors.
Battle of the Pacific: In the Philippines, the fighting along the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) on the Bataan Peninsula has died down while the Japanese reinforce their presence for a decisive attack. However, the Allies continue strenuously battling Japanese pockets and bridgeheads behind the MLR, some very close to the MLR and others many miles to the south. On the eastern half of the MLR, US II Corps eliminates a small Japanese bridgehead across the Pilar River when the last Japanese leave after dark. On the western half of the MLR, the Americans send tanks of the US 192d Tank Battalion supported by a platoon of the 1st Battalion, 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, against the "Big" Japanese pocket. However, the Japanese are dug in and hold their ground in the rough terrain. Much further south, the Americans try the same formula (tanks of the 192d and Filipino Scouts) against the Quinauan Point beachhead. However, the Japanese there have been cheered by ultimately unsuccessful Japanese attempts to resupply and reinforce them, so they also resist the Allies. Those reinforcements, which the Allies diverted to the Anyasan-Silaiim sector, also hold out against fierce attacks by the Scout battalions (2d Battalion of the 45th Infantry; 3d and 1st Battalions of the 57th Infantry. The day's events are discouraging for the Allies, but the MLR provides a growing sense of security and the hope that they can hold the Bataan Peninsula indefinitely.

An SB2U-2 Vindicator aboard USS Wasp on 2 February 1942
A snow-covered SB2U-2 Vindicator sits on the USS Wasp flight deck, February 1942 (Naval History and Heritage Command).
In the Netherlands East Indies, Japanese troops continue occupying Ambon Island, home to an important naval base. The Japanese take Laha Airdrome from Australian troops during the morning. Later in the day, the surviving Australian troops send a surrender parley under a white flag carried by Major Newberry, the commanding officer at Laha. The Japanese promptly imprison them in the local school for the night. Offshore, Dutch mines sink Japanese minesweeper W-9 and damage minesweepers W-11 and W-12.

Sailors in Singapore on 2 February 1942
"Kepper Harbour, Singapore. 2 February 1942. Men of HMAS Hobart returning electric sewing machines in wooden crates that they had found in a godown (storage shed where incoming merchant goods were stored after unloading), just before the fall of Singapore. Approximately fifty sailors were placed under guard on the quarterdeck by the gunnery officer before Captain H. Howden returned to the ship from the dockyard and ordered the sailors to return the machines to the godown. However, some machines were brought back to the ship with a lot of other selected material. The Captain returned to the ship with a car and the dockyard crest, both of which were shipped back to Australia. (Donor M. Williams)" Australian War Memorial P02497.026.
This is the last relatively quiet day in Singapore, as the Japanese have not yet brought up artillery. The British have blown the causeway to the mainland and organized their defenses into three sectors: Northern, Southern, and Western. The largest RAF airfield is at RAF Tengah in the Western Area, but the planes have almost all been withdrawn to the Netherlands East Indies. The most vulnerable area for an invasion is recognized as the northwest part of Singapore, where there are mangrove swamps, jungles, creeks, and rivers. The British are still able to receive reinforcements and leave by sea, and there really isn't much sense of urgency in the city.

Tamagawa Maru, sunk on 2 February 1942
Tamagawa Maru, sunk by USS Seadragon on 2 February 1942.
USS Seadragon (SS-194), on its first patrol out of Soerabaja, Netherland East Indies, sinks 6441-ton Japanese freighter Tamagawa Maru off Cape Bolinao, Luzon. Seadragon attacks a five-ship convoy off San Fernando and sinks the fourth ship in the line. This is of great aid to the Allies in Bataan, as the ship carried reinforcements and equipment for the coming Japanese offensive.

Following the successful Marshalls-Gilbert Raids of 1 February, Admiral Halsey retires with his task force from the area in bright moonlight. The US Navy ships are shadowed by Japanese planes and a submarine but escape unscathed at 25 knots. The ships encounter a sudden storm during the morning, which they use to screen themselves from the Japanese. Halsey proudly tells that the task force that it has "made history in the Marshalls."

FV Cape Spartel, sunk on 2 February 1942
FV Cape Spartel, one of the ships sunk by the Luftwaffe on 2 February 1942.
European Air Operations: There is a week-long lull in strategic air operations along the western front due to winter conditions. About twenty German aircraft do mount a raid on the Humber and bomb and sink 346-ton HMT Cape Spartel and also 324-ton HMT Cloughton Wyke at Yarmouth.

Admiral Doenitz on the cover of Time magazine on 2 February 1942
Admiral Doenitz graces the cover of Time Magazine, 2 February 1942 (cover credit: Vuk Vuchinich).
Battle of the Atlantic: British escort destroyer HMS Westcott (D47) sinks U-581 (Kptlt. Werner Pfeifer) off the south exit from Horta Harbor, Azores, Portugal. U-581 was caught on the surface after an unsuccessful torpedo attack on Westcott and accompanying destroyer Croome. Due to a mechanical issue, U-581 could not submerge, and Westcott succeeds in a second attempt to ram it. Almost the entire U-581 crew, 41 men, survive after being picked up by the destroyers, while four men perish. One German sailor, Oblt. Walter Sitek, survives by swimming six km (well over three miles) to shore (he is repatriated to Germany, becomes a U-boat commander, and survives the war). U-581 ends its career having sunk one ship, HMS Rosemonde on 19 January 1942, of 364 tons.

U-103 (Kptlt. Werner Winter), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, is operating off the east coast of the United States as part of Operation Paukenschlag (Drumbeat). Winter gets his first sinking of the patrol when he torpedoes and then shells 6182-ton US tanker W. L. Steed about 85 nautical miles (160 km) east of the mouth of the Delaware River. The weather is horrendous, with snow and icy temperatures, so many of the 38 men who take to the boats perish from exposure. Ultimately, there are 34 dead and four survivors.

Captain Erns Kals of U-130 departs from the East Coast of the US on 2 February 1942
Ernst Kals, commander of U-130.
Operation Paukenschlag was never intended by the Germans to be a lengthy offensive. The original plan was to send one wave of five U-boats (U-66, U-109, U-123, U-125, and U-130) in early 1942 and then return focus to the convoy routes. However, the unexpected success of the U-boats along the east coast of the United States has led to a decision to continue the offensive with new waves of boats. The first wave of U-boats already is returning to Europe, with U-130 (Ernst Kals) exiting the area south of Cape Sable on 2 February. It heads back to Lorient, though it first has a rendezvous with U-109 (Heinrich Bleichdrodt), which also is leaving the area, in the mid-Atlantic in order to transfer some fuel.

W. L. Steed is sunk on 2 February 1942
W. L. Steed, sunk by U-103 on 2 February 1942.
The Royal Navy has been keeping a close eye on German heavy cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, which have been bottled up in Brest, France, for the better part of a year. They are within easy bombing range of the RAF, but winter conditions have not been suitable for a decisive air attack on them. Since that will soon change with the passing of seasons, the Germans have been busy readying the ships for action. The British Naval Staff, perhaps operating off of decoded German radio transmissions, begins planning to stop an expected breakout of the large German ships up the English Channel and back to Germany. This is considered extremely dangerous by both sides, as the ships would have to make much of the journey during daylight when the RAF could easily attack. However, Adolf Hitler believes that the risks are worthwhile because of Allied control of the air and sea in the Atlantic and the ships can be put to some use in northern Norway. Thus, the Germans have begun planning Operation Cerberus, also known as the Channel Dash.

Battle of the Mediterranean: German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel's troops continue their rapid march from Benghazi. The Afrika Korps is advancing in two columns. The coastal column captures Berta but is stopped a dozen miles west of Derna. The inland column advances further, stopping south of Derna. In Cairo, General Claude Auchinleck, Commander in Chief Middle East Command, can see what is coming and tells his Eighth Army commanders that he expects them to hold Tobruk.
ATC Gazette of February 1942
The Air Training Corps (ATC) Gazette Vol. II No. 2, February 1942.
US Military: VII Interceptor Command is activated at Ft Shafter in Hawaii.

Major General Joseph W. Stilwell becomes Chief of Staff to Supreme Commander, China Theater (Chiang Kai-shek). His portfolio is to:
increase the effectiveness of United States assistance to the Chinese Government for the prosecution of the war and to assist in improving the combat efficiency of the Chinese Army.
Stilwell cannot do much about the Chinese Army, but he helps to sort out the chaos of Lend-Lease shipments to China.

The Headquarters of the USAAF 49th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) arrives in Melbourne, Victoria. They are equipped with P-40s, the most plentiful USAAF fighter at this time. These are raw pilots just out of flight school and their first assignment is to help put their own planes together from the crates in which they were shipped.

Egypt: The entire British position in the Mediterranean hinges on keeping a tight grip on Egypt. However, that grip is shaken today when King Farouk, who is known to harbor Axis sympathies, forces his entire cabinet to resign.

Holocaust: The commandant at the Auschwitz camp institutes a new "reeducation" policy for some prisoners (Erziehungshäftlinge). This involves giving such prisoners a new series of numbers (beginning EH 1) that are distinct from the general series of numbers. A total of 1137 such numbers are issued. These reeducation prisoners live under the same conditions as other prisoners in the camp but are released after a limited period not to exceed eight weeks (though this time limit is not honored in actuality and many spend much longer in the camp). Ultimately, about 11,000 prisoners in this category pass through Auschwitz.

American Homefront: The Federal Bureau of Investigation is rounding up suspected Japanese spies, as evidenced by a headline in the 2 February 1942 Seattle Daily Times which reads, "FBI Ousts Nipponese in Island Raid."

USS Silversides on 2 February 1942
Bow view of the USS Silversides (SS-236) off Mare Island, California, 2 February 1942 (U.S. Navy).


Saturday, August 17, 2019

February 1, 1942: The US Navy Strikes Back

Sunday 1 February 1942

Marshalls-Gilberts Raids of 1 February 1942
An SBD-2 Dauntless dive bomber of either VB-6 or VS-6 on the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) prepares for takeoff during the 1 February 1942 Marshall Islands Raid (Barr, William, U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo No. 1996.253.599).
Battle of the Pacific: The American Volunteer Group (AVG) in Burma is continuing its dramatic successes today, claiming 16 more Japanese planes on 1 February 1942, but the Americans now are beginning to flex their muscles closer to Japan, too. Today, the US Navy launches the Marshalls-Gilberts Raids. Vice Admiral William F. Halsey stages one of the first U.S. counterattacks against the Japanese by sending multiple waves of carrier planes against the Marshall Islands. Planes from USS Enterprise focus on Wotje, Maloelap, and Kwajalein, while surface warships including heavy cruiser USS Chester shell the Taroa and Maloelap atolls (the bombardment force is under the command of Admiral Spruance). The Marshalls-Gilberts Raids are the first in a series of US Navy raids in early 1942, exemplified by the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, that are of little strategic consequence but help morale throughout the Allied world.

Marshalls-Gilberts Raids of 1 February 1942
Lt. Cdr. Bill Burch and Ensign Thomas Reeves flying SBD dive bombers from USS Yorktown over Makin, Gilbert Islands, 1 February 1942.
At the same time, Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's Task Force 17 also raids Makin in the Gilbert Islands. USS Yorktown's SBDs hit Jaluit, Makin, and Mili, sinking a gunboat at Makin and sinking two Kawanishi H6K, "Mavis" flying boats at anchor. Two F4F Wildcats of Squadron 42 down a Mavis flying boat of the Yokohama Kokutai near TF-17. Task Force 11, commanded by Vice Admiral Wilson Brown Jr., remains nearby in reserve near Christmas Island. Today's operations are the first example in the Pacific Theater of Operations of the tremendous resources of the US Navy being brought to bear in an offensive capacity and provides a clear warning to the Japanese as to the hard fight ahead of them.

Marshalls-Gilberts Raids of 1 February 1942
A quad-1.1"/75 cal Mk 1 anti-aircraft gun mount on Enterprise (CV-6), in early 1942.
The Japanese, however, do not sit idly by during this attack. They launch five Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" land-based bombers and other planes and damage both the Enterprise (near-miss) and Chester (bombed). The Enterprise planes sink a transport and damage light cruiser HIJMS Katori (I-23), a minelayer, an auxiliary net-layer, an auxiliary submarine chaser, a submarine depot ship, an oiler, a tanker, and an army cargo ship. There are other American successes against Japanese shipping, too. Rear Admiral Sukeyoshi Yatsushiro (Commander Sixth Base Force) perishes in the attacks, the first Japanese flag officer to die in combat during World War I.

The Anniston Star of Alabama of 1 February 1942
The Anniston (Alabama) Star correctly notes as its main headline "Siege of Singapore Gets Underway As Britain's Troops Quit Mainland."
At Singapore, the Japanese mount fierce air raids against the isolated Commonwealth forces on the island. There are so many corpses that the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) unit has to collect them in special daily truck collections and dump them in mass graves. Civilian laborers who have been half-heartedly building fortification along the water's edge have disappeared. Because the British always have assumed that Singapore would be defended on the mainland, very little planning has been done for defending the island itself and the defenses are ad hoc. Still, with the causeway cut, the Japanese will have to stage a major invasion to get across the Singapore Strait and claim final victory. The British do get good news when Convoy MS-1, composed of British freighters City of Manchester, Derrymore, and Gordon Peisander, and Norwegian freighter Pan Europe and tanks War Sirdar, arrive in Singapore escorted by light cruiser HMAS Hobart and destroyers Tenedos and Stronghold.

The Sunday News of 1 February 1942
The 1 February 1942 Sunday News in New York shows the situation in Singapore, which has captured world attention.
In the Philippines, the situation has developed into a status quo. The US Army has only four USAAF P-40s left, which are able to help in critical situations but helpless against the incessant air raids. The Allies continue trying to reduce Japanese pockets behind the Main Line of Resistance (MLR), while the Japanese withdraw from an exposed position across the Pilar River on the eastern half of the Bataan Peninsula and prepare for a major offensive. A Japanese attempt to reinforce the Quinauan Point bridgehead by sea after dark is prevented and the Japanese are forced to land near Anyasan-Silaiim instead - creating yet another pocket which the Allies must confine and ultimately reduce.

Official Canadian War Summary of 1 February 1942
The Canadian government publishes a pamphlet "Revised to February 1, 1942" which sets forth the official government position on such topics as "Aid to Britain" and "Canada, the United States, and War." The University of Toledo
The Dutch retain a huge naval presence in the Netherlands East Indies which is one of the few things keeping the Japanese at bay. Today, the ABDA Combined Striking Force under Dutch Rear Admiral Karel Doorman becomes operational. It is composed of two heavy cruisers, six light cruisers, and 24 destroyers, though almost all of the ships are culls from the main Allied European navies.

Marshalls-Gilberts Raids of 1 February 1942
A damaged U.S. Navy Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless of bombing squadron VB-6 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6), 1 February 1942 (U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo No. 1996.253.624). 
Eastern Front: On 1 February 1942, the Wehrmacht is beginning to recover its equilibrium after the successful Soviet counteroffensive around Moscow in December 1941. The Red Army remains on the offensive, but the rough weather all along the front and the long distances they must cover to achieve truly strategic victories has prevented Stalin's troops from truly decisive victories.

In the Army Group South sector, Field Marsh Fedor von Bock's troops (the von Mackensen Group) have stopped a dangerous Soviet attempt to encircle 17th Army and 1st Panzer Army. Following General von Mackensen's success in stopping Soviet 1st and 5th Cavalry Corps on 31 January, von Bock has ordered a concentric attack on the dying Red Army spearhead from the south, west, and north against the German strongpoints to the east "with the aim of destroying the enemy." The von Mackensen Group pushes forward from the south toward Barvenkovo, while XI Corps moves in from the west and the "Dostler" and "Friedrich" Groups of regimental size drive from the north. The Germans do not destroy the Soviet spearhead, but they compress it and prevent its escape.

Marshalls-Gilberts Raids of 1 February 1942
A flight deck scene aboard USS Enterprise, 1 February 1942, during the raids against the Japanese-held Marshall Islands. Note the belts of .50 caliber ammunition being carried around by the crewman in the foreground. The aircraft in the background are Douglass SBD-3 Dauntlesses.
Further north around Moscow, the Germans also are taking steps to restore order by accepting the new reality. The Soviets remain on the move, but, aside from encirclements at Demyansk and Kholm, have not put major German formations in true peril. Today, Headquarters, Third Panzer Army is shifted west by air to take command a threatened sector between Velikiey Luki and Belyy. There, the Soviet Fourth Shock Army has occupied a huge swathe of forests and fields without defeating the German forces staying in their strong points. Operating on the Yukhnov-Gzhatsk road, aka the Rollbahn, General Heinrici's Fourth Army and General Ruoff's Fourth Panzer Army attempt to clear the Rollbahn which is desperately needed to supply Fourth Army. This is making slow but steady progress. On the Soviet side, the need to refresh the general offensive is becoming clear. The Stavka reactivates the Headquarters, Western Theater. General Zhukov is put in command, giving him control of all operations against the German Army Group Center. This is significant because Zhukov is the only Red Army general who has freedom of action because Stalin trusts him, though Stalin still gives him direct orders when he gets the urge which must be obeyed without question.

Marshalls-Gilberts Raids of 1 February 1942
An action shot of the USS Enterprise (CV-6) firing its .50 caliber anti-aircraft guns against attacking Japanese planes during the raid on the Japanese-held Marshall Islands, 1 February 1942. The wing seen in the background is from one of the Douglass SBD-3 Dauntless aircraft in the carrier’s air group.
European Air Operations: There is a lull in air operations on the Western Front for several days beginning on 1 February 1942 due to weather conditions.

Battle of the Atlantic: It is a quiet day in the Atlantic due to weather conditions. Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Trinidad arrives in the Clyde from Scapa Flow carrying Polish soldiers who embarked at Murmansk and now disembark.

U-109 (Kptlt. Heinrich Bleichrodt) torpedoes and sinks 7924-ton British refrigerated cargo ship Tacoma Star about 387 miles north of Bermuda (see 31 January 1942). Despite being seen to take to five lifeboats, all 97 men aboard the Tacoma Star perish because their radioed distress signal gave the wrong position.

Convoy HX-173 departs from Halifax bound for Liverpool.

SS Walter Ohlrogge, sunk by a mine on 1 February 1942
German 1912-ton freighter SS Walter Ohlrogge, formerly the French Chateau Palmer, hits a mine and sinks off the west coast of Norway on 1 February 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps continues advancing out of Benghazi, chasing the British back toward Tobruk in two columns. The coastal column advancing along the Via Balbia takes Berta, but the British temporarily stop it welve miles west of Derna. The inland column, however, continues advancing and ends the day south of Derna but still west of Martuba. The Germans are threatening to encircle Derna if the British don't abandon it, so General Neil Ritchie, General Officer Commanding Eighth Army, orders a general withdrawal of 13 Corps to the Gazala Line. Indian 4th Division completes its withdrawal into Derna after dark but must quickly continue heading toward Tobruk to escape.

Offshore, Royal Navy submarine HMS Thunderbolt torpedoes and sinks 4170-ton Italian freighter Absirtea about six miles (4.4 nautical miles) from Cape Dukato, Greece. The Absirtea is part of an Axis convoy from Brindisi to Corfu and Patras. The other ships in the convoy escape and some survivors of the Absirtea are picked up by Italian destroyers Turbine and Euro. The Italian destroyers also launch a 21-salvo depth charge attack on Thunderbolt which causes minor damage.

National Geographic of February 1942
The February 1942 issue of National Geographic includes helpful maps of the Pacific and the Philippines (Volume 81, Number 2).
War Crimes: As the Japanese continue advancing on Ambon Island in the Netherlands East Indies, site of a major naval base,  they commit atrocities out of sight of prying eyes. This is becoming a familiar pattern when the Japanese achieve complete control in a former Allied territory. The Japanese commander orders ten Australian POWs bayoneted to death because they would constitute "a drag" on further operations.

Spy Stuff: The Germans upgrade their naval codes from the Hydra system (which the British call Dolphin) to Triton (which the British call the Shark code). This is accomplished by the addition of a fourth rotor. It takes the Enigma codebreakers at Bletchley Park almost a year, until December 1942, to crack Triton. Fortunately for the British, the change is not as effective as it might be because a lot of traffic continues on the old machine for some time. German intelligence breaks the British merchant ship code, further aiding the U-boats.

Camp Darley near Melbourne, Australia ca. 1 February 1942
The 49th Fighter Group of the 5th Air Force arrived in Melbourne, Australia, on the USAT Mariposa on 1 February 1942. They are destined for Camp Darley, shown (7th Fighter Squadron Reunion Organization).
US Military: VIII Bomber Command is activated by the USAAF at Langley Field, Virginia, while VIII Interceptor is activated at Selfridge Field, Michigan; and the IX Interceptor Command at New Orleans AAB, Louisiana.

Chile:  Juan Antonio Ríos of the Radical Party wins the Presidency.

Norwegian Homefront: Vidkun Quisling, who is a German puppet heartily disliked by his countrymen, takes office as the Minister President of Norway. Hitler likes Quisling, a minor figure in pre-war Norwegian politics, but is about the only person who does.

French Homefront: French collaborator Jacques Doriot speaks to tens of thousands of supporters of the ultra-nationalist Parti Populaire Français (PPF) at the Velodrome d'Hiver in Paris.

German Homefront: The government begins rationing tobacco, which becomes a prized object of looting from defeated Allied soldiers.

American Homefront: It is the first annual National Freedom Day, commemorating  Abraham Lincoln's signing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on February 1, 1865.

Esquire Magazine of February 1942
Dodge ads are still appearing in the February 1942 Esquire magazine despite the fact that all passenger car production is being shut down for war work. 
Future History:  Terry Jones is born in Colwyn Bay, Wales. He becomes an actor, comedian, writer, and a founding member of the Monty Python comedy troupe. His most famous achievement with Monty Python is directing their first film, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Terry Jones has retired as of 2019 due to health issues.

Bibiana Maria Köchert is born in Vienna, Austria. As Bibi Besch, she becomes a famous Hollywood actress whose most famous films include "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982) and "Steel Magnolias" (1989). Bibi Besch passes away on 7 September 1996 in Los Angeles.

Master Comics of February 1942
Master Comics Vol. 1 No. 23, February 1942, featuring Captain Marvel, Jr.


January 1942

January 1, 1942: Declaration By United Nations
January 2, 1941: Manila Falls to Japan
January 3, 1942: ABDA Command Announced
January 4, 1942: MacArthur on His Own in the Philippines
January 5, 1942: Soviets Plan General Offensive
January 6, 1942: US Army in Europe
January 7, 1942: Soviet General Offensive Opens
January 8, 1942: Hitler Sacks Hoepner
January 9, 1942: Battle of Dražgoše
January 10, 1942: Building the Jeep
January 11, 1942: Japan Takes Kuala Lumpur
January 12, 1941: Rommel Plans Counterattack
January 13, 1942: First Ejection Seat Use
January 14, 1942: Operation Drumbeat First Sinking
January 15, 1942: U-Boat Off NYC
January 16, 1942: Carole Lombard Crash
January 17, 1942: British Take Halfaya Pass
January 18, 1942: Soviet Paratroopers in Action
January 19, 1942: FDR Approves Atomic Bomb
January 20, 1942: The Wannsee Conference
January 21, 1942: Parit Sulong Bridge Battle
January 22, 1942: Parit Sulong Massacre
January 23, 1942: Japan Takes Rabaul
January 24, 1942: Battle of Makassar Strait
January 25, 1942: Kholm Surrounded
January 26, 1942: GIs Land in Europe
January 27, 1942: Battle of Endau
January 28, 1942: Rommel Takes Benghazi
January 29, 1942: First US Coast Guard Ship Sunk
January 30, 1942: Singapore Isolated
January 31, 1942: Army Group South Averts Disaster