Thursday, May 9, 2019

January 23, 1942: Japan Takes Rabaul

Friday 23 January 1942

Funeral of Field Marshal von Reichenau, 23 January 1942
The funeral of Field Marshal von Reichenau in Berlin on 23 January 1942. Visible (among others) are Reich Minister Dr. Frick, Reichsleiter Bouhler, Generaloberst Fromm, Reich Minister Goebbels, Grossadmiral Raeder (in black), and Field Marshal Milch (at far right). Notably absent are Adolf Hitler and Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering (Schwahn, Ernst, Federal Archive Figure 183-J00243).
Battle of the Pacific: Around 5,300 Japanese troops sail directly into Rabaul's Simpson Harbor on New Britain before dawn on 23 January 1942. They quickly evict defending Australian Lark Force troops from the vicinity and take the critical port of Rabaul. The Japanese 144th Infantry Regiment under Colonel Masao Kusunose brushes the Australians defending Vulcan Beach aside after a brief fight, but most of the landings are unopposed and the invaders quickly move inland. By nightfall, the Japanese have secured Lakunai airfield and Australian commander Lieutenant Colonel John Scanlan orders his civilians and soldiers alike to disperse into the nearby forests. The Australian troops lose two officers, 26 other men, and control of both New Britain and New Ireland Islands.

Japanese invasion of Rabaul, 23 January 1942
Japanese troops take Rabaul, 23 January 1942.
Many beaten Australian defenders of Rabaul remain at large in the interior of the two islands for weeks and some for months. There is no way to supply the men, so guerilla operations on any kind of large scale are impossible. The RAAF manages to get is people off New Britain at the last minute in flying boats and a Hudson, but the vast majority of Australians, around 1000, ultimately surrender after the Japanese make additional landings in the southern portion of New Britain. In any event, the Japanese are happy to just hold the northern portion of New Britain along the line of the Keravat River which contains the port and airfield. Northern New Britain turns into a virtually impregnable position due to the geography of the island - aside from a large-scale direct invasion such as that mounted by the Japanese. The invasion of New Ireland and New Britain is the beginning of the New Guinea Campaign.

Japanese occupation of Kavieng on New Ireland, 23 January 1942
"New Ireland. Japanese troops occupy Kavieng (formerly Kawieng) [New Ireland] on 23 January 1942." Australian War Memorial 127910.
In Burma, the 1st and 2d Fighter Squadrons, American Volunteer Group (the "Flying Tigers") have been giving a very good account of themselves since they began operation in late December 1941. Japanese pressure is increasing, however, and there are fierce air battles over Rangoon. The American pilots have a good day, shooting down five "Nate" fighters at 10:30. They also destroy five "Mary" light bombers and seven Ki-27 fighters after dark. The Japanese troops continue making slow but steady progress into Burma from Thailand.

USS Cassin, 23 January 1942
Capsized USS Cassin (DD-372) being salvaged at Pearl Harbor, 23 January 1942 (Navsource).
On the Malay Peninsula, the Commonwealth troops evacuate Yong Peng after dark and head south. Some elements of the Indian 45th Brigade which escaped after the lost battle of the Parit Sulong Bridge manage to make it there through the jungles and swamps in the intervening five kilometers. British troops, the 2nd Loyals (North Lancashire), fight a desperate rear-guard action at Yong Peng against seven Japanese tanks which holds the road open just long enough for the fleeing 45th Brigade men to make it to safety. The British plan is to form a shortened line in the south to protect central Johore State, which serves as a buffer zone protecting Singapore. This line is projected to run Batu Pahat-Ayer Hitam-Kluang- Jemaluang. Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, General Officer Commanding Malaya Command, is under no illusions, however. He now sets in motion the first stages of withdrawal from the mainland to Singapore Island, where the British still have not begun building defensive fortifications along the vulnerable north coast.

Balikpapan Oil refinery, captured on 23 January 1942
The Balikpapan Oil refinery, which the Japanese capture on 23 January 1942 (Collectie Stichting Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen).
Japanese invasion forces moving south through the Makassar Strait and Molucca Passage land at Balikpapan, Borneo, and Kendari, Celebes Island, respectively. The Japanese troops at Balikpapan are in Major General Sakaguchi’s 56th Mixed Infantry Group and the No. 2 Kure SNLF. They quickly occupy the critical oil refinery which the Japanese project can supply a full third of their oil needs. The Dutch send air strikes which accomplish little. Some Allied planes are based at Palembang, Sumatra, and RAF reinforcements begin arriving there today. However, the Japanese are moving quickly and bomb that airfield for the first time today. A Japanese landing force also heads out after dark and lands north of Kendari, Celebes Island, where they seize Kendari Airfield. The US Navy has four destroyers, USS Parrott, John D. Ford, Pope, and Paul Jones, in the vicinity of Balikpapan and they stage a daring raid on the unsuspecting Japanese invasion fleet lying at anchor offshore. In the first such night action of the war, the US destroyers use torpedoes to sink four (empty) enemy transport ships and a torpedo boat before slipping away undetected in the dark.

USS Cassin and Downes, 23 January 1942
"USS Cassin (DD-372), at left, and USS Downes (DD-375), Under salvage in Drydock Number One at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, 23 January 1942. They had been wrecked during the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid. Photographed from the foremast of USS Raleigh (CL-7), which was undergoing battle damage repairs in the drydock. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Photo #: NH 54562." Navsource.
In the Philippines, heavy fighting continues in the II Corps sector western flank on the Bataan Peninsula. The Japanese force II Corps to begin withdrawing after dark to the final prepared defensive line. In the I Corps sector in the western half of the peninsula, the Japanese blocking force on West Road continues to hold out despite desperate Allied attempts to dislodge them and free a line of communications to the U.S. troops north of them holding the front. The Japanese cause further problems when a battalion of the 16th Division makes small landings far behind the Allied lines at Longoskawayan Point and Quinauan Point. The local US forces are taken completely by surprise and, despite increasingly frantic attacks, are unable to dislodge them.

Zero taking off from Zuikaku, 23 January 1942
An A6M2 Zero taking off from Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku on 23 January 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel's "reconnaissance in force" is quickly developing into a full-scale offensive in Libya. The Afrika Korps panzers destroy 2 Armoured Brigade of 1 Armoured Division west of Saunnu on 23 January 1942. The British thus lose their only effective mobile formation. This opens the way for Rommel's forces to advance to Msus and thence on to Benghazi and Gazala.

Dwight Eisenhower with War Plans Division, 23 January 1942
Officers of the U.S. War Department War Plans Division, 23 January 1942. Left to right: Col. W. K. Harrison, Col. Lee S. Gerow, Brig. Gen. Robert W. Crawford, Brig. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Brig. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, Chief, Col. Thomas T. Handy, Col. Stephen H. Sherrill.
Partisans: The Germans and Italians have been trying to recover territory lost to partisans in remote areas of Croatia since 15 January 1942. This is Operation Southeast Croatia (Unternehmen Südost Kroatien). It is part of a long-term battle against partisans throughout the Balkans. Operation Southeast Croatia concludes today due to the weather, but reduced operations continue into February 1942. The blizzards hamper operations and the operation "recovers" territory only temporarily. The partisans know the Germans are coming and simply melt away into the mountains or discard their weapons and "become locals." The Germans have suffered 25 dead, 131 wounded, one missing, and 300 cases of frostbite during Operation Southeast Croatia. The partisans lose 531 killed and about 1400 captured. The Yugoslavs come to call this the "Second Enemy Offensive" - the Germans being, of course, the enemy. Operation Southeast Croatia has an unintended long-term consequence for the partisans because Chetnik (royalist) troops in the region do not fight the Axis troops but instead quickly flee across the Drina River, while Josip Broz Tito's communist partisans do fight for a while. Technically, the Chetniks may have the right plan, but politically it is a disaster. Tito's men eventually slip through Italian formations in the south of the operation and form up again around Foča. This severs cooperation between the two partisan forces, which causes the partisan movement many more problems than anything the Axis troops do.

Polish troops on exercises in Great Britain, 23 January 1942
"Anti-aircraft Bren gun team stands guard as 4.5-inch howitzers of the 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment (1st Polish Corps), towed by Morris-Commercial 'Quad' artillery tractors, passing by in deep snow, Scotland." 23 January 1942. © IWM (H 16800).
The German security forces learn some valuable lessons during Operation Southeast Croatia, such as that their Croatian allies are of little help in the mountains due to poor equipment and training and the difficulty of operations in the mountains during winter. A more valuable lesson that could be learned but apparently is not is that encirclement tactics against partisans rarely work except against very large formations (such as those that have tanks and planes) because the partisans can act like locals and simply slip through almost any cordon. Surrounding a large area to "flush out" the partisans requires a vastly greater expenditure of troops and equipment than can ever be profitable for the small gains achieved. During Operation Southeast Croatia, for instance, the Germans use 20,000-30,000 troops, five panzer platoons, and an armored train. This is a vastly greater allocation of troops than the operation ever could have been worth even had it been entirely successful and cleared the target territory of its estimated 8000 partisans. Nothing of the sort results and partisans return as soon as the German security troops leave the vicinity - those that actually left in the first place, that is. The local German commanders can just point at a map and tell their commanders that they successfully cleared a large area - and who is to dispute them? They did - for a few weeks. So, the German authorities continue to believe that encirclement is a good tactic despite its ineffectiveness during Operation Southeast Croatia.

USS Curtiss Biplane, 23 January 1942
"A US Curtiss Biplane, used by the Royal Navy taking off for a patrol flight." On board HMS Victorious at Hvalfjord, Iceland, ca. 23 January 1942. © IWM (A 7311).
US Military: The Roberts Commission, formed following the attack on Pearl Harbor to study the circumstances surrounding the attack, concludes its investigation. The report assembles 2,173 pages of exhibits which form an invaluable resource for future students of the attack.

BBC Radio Times, 23 January 1942
BBC Radio Times, Issue 956, 23 January 1942, covering the schedules from 25 January 1942 to 31 January 1942.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

January 22, 1942: Parit Sulong Massacre

Thursday 22 January 1942

London bomb Damage, January 1942
"A view of St Paul's Cathedral through bomb damage and snow." January 1942. © IWM (D 6418).
Battle of the Pacific: In the Malay Peninsula, the day 22 January 1942 begins with Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson and his 45h Indian Brigade trapped on the wrong side of the Parit Sulong Bridge. As promised, the RAF sends two Fairey Albacores accompanied by three RAAF Brewster Buffaloes to drop supplies and then attack the Japanese holding the bridge. However, the Japanese have tanks and numerical superiority which resume their attack once the planes are gone. Major General Gordon Bennett, in overall command of the area, then sends Anderson an understated farewell message:
Sorry unable help after your heroic effort. Good luck.
After trying once more to force his way across the Parit Sulong Bridge, Anderson orders the troops to destroy all remaining guns and vehicles. At 09:00, everyone who can walk heads eastward into the swamps and jungles toward Yong Peng about 5 km to the east, which the British still hold. About 150 defenseless men are left behind to surrender. This concludes the battle of Muar, a brutal Japanese victory.

The Yuma Daily Sun, 22 January 1942
The United States media continues to take an inventive approach to their reporting on events overseas. The 22 January 1942 Yuma (Arizona) Daily Sun, for instance, trumpets, "British Open Offensive in Malaya" when, in fact, the Allies are running as fast as they can for refuge in Singapore.
About 500 Australians and 400 Indians eventually make it to safety, but there is no safety for those left behind. The Japanese mistreat and massacre virtually everyone they capture, with only two men surviving to tell the tale. The Japanese herd the men into a hut at Parit Sulong village and then refuse to give them food or water. With extreme brutality at every step of the process, the Japanese bayonet, shoot, and behead the prisoners, then burn the bodies of the living and the dead alike. Lieutenant Ben Hackney of the 2/29th Australian Battalion and Sergeant Ron Croft manage to slip away, Croft still soaked in the petrol used to burn the others. Hackney and Croft at first find refuge with some native Malays, but Croft eventually perishes and the natives carry Hackney out into the jungle and leave him. Eventually, after 36 days, the locals give Hackney to the Japanese, who mistreat him but allow him to live. Hackney survives the war to give evidence against Japanese commander General Takuma Nishimura, who is sentenced to death for the Parit Sulong Massacre.

Norwegian tanker Inneroy, sunk by U-553 on 22 January 1942
U-553 (Kptlt. Karl Thurmann) torpedoes and sinks 8260-ton Norwegian tanker Innerøy on 22 January 1942. Traveling as an independent, the Innerøy sinks just before midnight south of Nova Scotia. There are 36 deaths and five survivors.
The main Japanese objective in the Bismarck Sea is the large Australian naval base of Rabaul on New Britain, and on 22 January 1942, the Japanese begin their methodical plan to conquer it. Early in the morning, between 3,000 and 4,000 troops land near the main town of Kavieng on New Ireland, just to the north of Rabaul. The Australians have sent a few commandos of the 2/1st Independent Company to the area, but the Japanese quickly brush them aside and secure Kavieng and the nearby airfield. The Australians withdraw toward the Sook River but have no hope of holding the island. After dark, the Japanese send about 5500 troops of the 144th Infantry Regiment (Colonel Masao Kusunose) toward Simpson Harbour, where Rabaul itself is located on New Britain, for landings on the 23rd. During the day, Japanese aircraft carriers Akagi and Kaga send air strikes against Rabaul for the third straight day. The Japanese also land troops on Mussau Island in the Saint Matthias group about 113 miles northwest of Kavieng.

Norwegian freighter William Hansen, sunk by U-754 on 22 January 1942
1344-ton Norwegian freighter SS William Hansen, shown, is transporting military stores from Hoboken, New Jersey, bound for Argenta, Newfoundland and thence St. John's when U-754 (Kptlt. Hans Oestermann), on its first patrol and operating with Wolfpack Ziethen, spots it. The U-boat torpedoes and sinks the William Hansen south of Newfoundland on 22 January 1942. There are eight survivors, but five of them die of their exposure on the rescue ship.
On the southeast coast of Borneo, west of Manggar and Sepiinggang, the Japanese at Sandakan, British North Borneo, plan an attack on the Balikpapan refining and oil center. These facilities are critical objectives of the Japanese war effort because they can supply about a third of Japanese oil needs.

In the Philippines, the Japanese begin an offensive in the eastern II Corps sector of the line. The Philippine Division falls back to a line east and south of Abucay Hacienda, relinquishing all gains during its recent counterattack. In the western I Corps sector, a determined Allied counterattack against Japanese behind the main front on West Road fails. The Allied 1st Division, further north at the front, remains cut off from supply and reinforcement but is not in immediate danger. After dark, the Japanese send an amphibious force from Moron (Morong) which heads toward Caibobo Point, near Bagac. US Navy torpedo boats attack the force and PT-34 (Lieutenant John D. Bulkeley) sinks two of the landing barges.

U.S. Navy destroyer USS Conyngham (DD-371), 22 January 1942
The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Conyngham (DD-371) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California (USA), 22 January 1942. Note that she still has her number three 5/38 gun (Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives 19-N-27127).
With Wake Island in Japanese hands, it becomes a favorite target for US Navy live fire exercises. The first such mission begins on 22 January 1942, when USS Lexington (Task Force 11, Admiral Wilson Brown, Jr.) departs from Pearl Harbor to attack the island. There are no plans now or later to recapture Wake Island, as it is of virtually of no use to anyone so long as the Americans keep an eye on it.

Kingston, Jamaica The Daily Gleaner, 22 January 1942
The Kingston, Jamaica Daily Gleaner has good news about the Eastern Front.
Eastern Front: Civilians are starving in Leningrad, which, despite the continuing Red Army counteroffensive, remains cut off from all land approaches. The only way in or out, aside from hazardous flights, is on the "ice road" across Lake Ladoga. The Soviet authorities begin evacuating the first of 440,000 residents over the next 50 days. Further south below Lake Ilmen, Second Shock Army under General Vlasov holds a small bridgehead of about three-by-five miles across the Volkhov River that has the potential to break the Leningrad siege. It makes good progress of several miles today to the west. However, the Red Army troops are still seventy miles south of Leningrad and are operating in the middle of forests with no strategic objectives nearby. The Soviet counteroffensive continues, but it is attenuating as it spreads out in all directions.

American Homefront: MGM releases (wide release, the premiere was 18 December 1941) "Kathleen," starring Shirley Temple and Laraine Day and directed by Harold S. Bucquet. It is Temple's only film for MGM and fails at the box office. This leads the parties to cancel her contract with the studio "by mutual consent." It is the beginning of a lengthy downturn in Shirley Temple's career as she approaches puberty.

Poster for "Kathleen" starring Shirley Temple, 22 January 1942
The poster for "Kathleen," an MGM film starring Shirley Temple that is released on 22 January 1942.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

January 21, 1942: Parit Sulong Bridge Battle

Wednesday 21 January 1942

Zero on Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku, 21 January 1942
A Japanese Zero (Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 Model 21) taking off from aircraft carrier Zuikaku for a raid against Lae, New Guinea on 21 January 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel unleashes an offensive from El Agheila on the startled British forces in West Cyrenaica, Libya on 21 January 1942. As is typical with desert offensives on both sides, it begins with a "reconnaissance in force" designed to probe for weakness and exploit it if found. The Afrika Korps advances in three columns centered on the main coastal road with powerful support from the Luftwaffe. British Eighth Army has not been alerted to any German plans to attack by the Ultra decryption service and thus has not prepared defensive positions. The British 13 Corps quickly withdraws back toward a line centered on Agedabra and El Haseiat. Indian 4th Division moves to block a German advance along the coast toward Benghazi. The British quickly begin looking over their shoulders to the old German line at Gazala, where they ultimately wind up.

Borger Daily Herald, 21 January 1942
The Borger (Texas) Daily Herald for 21 January 1942 trumpets Red Army successes outside Moscow.
Rommel also engineers a distraction for his attack. He sends a Heinkel He 111 of Sonderkommando Blaich (Captain Theo Blaich) to bomb the Free-French controlled Fort Lamy in French Equatorial Africa. Blaich has proposed the mission against the fort because it is an important waypoint along the Allied supply route from Takoradi, Ghana, to Egypt. The mission is successful, but the plane runs out of fuel and has to make an emergency landing in the middle of the desert. There, the crew waits until 27 January, when it is spotted by an Italian Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli reconnaissance plane. The next day, a Junkers Ju 52 bomber brings fuel and the original Heinkel is flown back to base. While the mission only causes minor damage to the fort but destroys a large number of badly needed Allied supplies. French general Philippe Leclerc takes the threat perhaps more seriously than it deserves and expends a great deal of effort to strengthen the air defenses at the fort and launch ground operations against remote Italian forces in the Fezzan region. It is a good example of inducing the enemy to waste more resources than you are using against him.

Panamanian collier Nord, sunk by Japanese submarine I-66 on 21 January 1942
Japanese submarine I-66 sinks 3193-ton Panamanian collier Nord off Rangoon in Preparis North Channel, Andaman Sea, on 21 January 1942. Everyone survives.
Battle of the Pacific: A RAAF Consolidated PBY Catalina crew spots the approaching Japanese invasion fleet off Kavieng. The Crew gets off its position before the Japanese shoot the flying boat down. This causes the Australian defenders to deploy ground troops along the western shore of Blanche Bay, where they expect the Japanese to land. With only two Wirraways left at Rabaul, the RAAF withdraws them and a Hudson to Lae with as many wounded as they can carry. The Australians then destroy the airfield and dig in for what they know is bound to be a difficult battle. Japanese carrier-based air attacks continue, with bombers from carriers Akagi and Kaga bombing Rabaul on New Britain Island while Shokaku and Zuikaku bomb Kavieng on New Ireland Island. The US Navy sends Rear Admiral William A. Glassford aboard light cruiser USS Boise to attack the force with a small force that includes light cruiser USS Marblehead and four destroyers. However, both cruisers experience troubles (Boise runs aground and Marblehead has engine troubles), so the fairly unimposing force quickly is reduced to just the four destroyers.

In the Makassar Strait, US submarine USS S-36 is scuttled by its crew after running aground. All 42 men aboard are rescued by a Dutch flying boat and they scuttle the submarine.

Hong Kong News, 21 January 1942
The Hong Kong News of 21 January 1942 features war pictures. Naturally, they are from the Japanee perspective.
In the Philippines, the Japanese are preparing a major offensive in the eastern II Corps area, so things today are relatively quiet. The Japanese plan to attack the western half of the II Corps line on 22 January. The Allies continue attacking with the Philippine Division in this area to restore the original line, without success. In the western I Corps sector, a small Japanese force has gotten behind the main Allied line in the extreme west near the coast. The Japanese are on West Road about miles east of Mauban. This effectively cuts off the Ist Division which is defending the main line. The Allies attack this force from both north and south, but the Japanese hold firm.

Hong Kong News, 21 January 1942
The Hong Kong News for 21 January 1942 features war pictures. 
On the Malay Peninsula, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson leads his 45th Indian Infantry Brigade at dawn in a desperate attempt to take the Parit Sulong Bridge and continue their retreat south toward Singapore. The Japanese, however, have tanks, aircraft, and artillery in position to stop them. A Japanese machine gun nest on the bridge forces the Brigade back, where it hemmed into a length of roadway measuring only about 440 years (meters) long. The Brigade has a working radio and gets the news that troops at Yong Peng, about five miles to the east, are on to their way. Fierce fighting rages into the night, with the Allies knocking out several Japanese tanks approaching from the north. Anderson knows he cannot hold out much longer and calls in an airstrike for the morning of the 22nd while he tries to hold out throughout the night. He sends two ambulances with wounded men to try to cross the Parit Sulong Bridge under a flag of truce, but the Japanese refuse and order the ambulances to remain as roadblocks. However, the British drivers outwit the Japanese and escape back to the Brigade during the night.

MOMA Exhibit, 21 January 1942
A new exhibit entitled "Americans 1942: 18 Artists from 9 States" opens at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City on 21 January 1942.
Eastern Front: Soviet 4th Shock Army takes Toropets on the central front. The Soviet advance has created a wedge here into the German line that becomes known as the Toropets Bulge. The Red Army units in the area use supplies captured in Toropets to continue moving to the west. However, the Germans are stubbornly holding out at Kholm and Demyansk to the north. The Soviets never expected their counteroffensive to get this far and experience a little confusion about the best next step. Perhaps due to the strong German resistance at Kholm and Demyansk, they decide to turn south and move behind Army Group Center. The German generals actually prefer this, as it takes the pressure off the besieged German garrisons to the north and sends the Red Army units into an area they feel they have a better chance of holding.

Irene von Meyendorff in Filmwelt Magazine, 21 January 1942
Irene von Meyendorff in Filmwelt Magazine, 21 January 1942.
US/Chinese Relations: U.S. Major General Joseph W. Stilwell becomes chief of the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's Allied staff. Stilwell assumes command of Allied units. With relations improving, the Chinese agree to move the 49th Division of the 6th Army into Burma, where the Japanese have opened a new front in the east along the Thai border.

Future History: Morris Mac Davis is born in Lubbock, Texas. In the 1960s, Davis writes several successful country songs for Elvis Presley, including "Memories", "In the Ghetto," "Don't Cry Daddy," and "A Little Less Conversation." Mac Davis then embarks on a very successful solo career in 1970 which includes country music, Broadway plays, motion pictures ("North Dallas Forty"), and television.

Zarah Leander on the cover of Filmwelt Magazine, 21 January 1942
Filmwelt Magazine for 21 January 1942 features Zarah Leander on the cover.


Monday, May 6, 2019

January 20, 1942: The Wannsee Conference

Tuesday 20 January 1942

Malta bomb damage, 20 January 1942
Bomb damage on 20 January 1942 to the residence in Pieta, Malta, of the Army General Commanding Major-General D.M.W. Beak. General Beak can be seen on the second floor stranded by the unexploded bomb. The general eventually escapes and the bomb is disarmed. There are heavy air attacks throughout the day, with nine people buried alive at the clothing store at Marina Pinto and only one being rescued.
Holocaust: In the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, director of the Reich Main Security Office SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich presides over a meeting on 20 January 1942 that has long-term consequences for millions of people. The meeting lasts only about ninety minutes, and in that time Heydrich speaks for about an hour, with the remainder of the time devoted to questions and informal discussion. As is typical during such meetings within the Third Reich, the conclusions and directives of the meeting have been formulated previously, and the meeting itself is more for informational purposes than arriving at a conclusion. At the conclusion of the meeting, Heydrich instructs SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Adolf Eichmann to draft a summary (or protocol) of the meeting that would convey the gist of the meeting's conclusions without being too explicit about who said what or unnecessary details. There is unanimous approval among the fifteen participants on the programme set forth. The most general conclusion of the Wannsee Conference is that European Jewry must be exterminated and that this would be accomplished under the Third Reich primarily in extermination camps located in "the East."

Wannsee Conference site, 20 January 1942
The site of the Wannsee Conference held on 20 January 1942.
The Wannsee Conference occurs to begin implementing the "final solution of the Jewish question" ordered by Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering in a letter dated 31 July 1941. The protocol is only a little less vague than Goering's original order but does make clear that this "final solution" would involve millions of deaths. The exact procedure is left open to future refinements, but able-bodied Jews are to be used for their labor before eventually eliminating them. The intentional vagueness of the protocol is common within the Third Reich in situations where everyone tacitly understands that horrible consequences for many fellow human beings are not only intended but to be embraced. The top leaders such as Goering, Reichsführer-SS (Reich Leader SS) Heinrich Himmler, and Reich Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop do not attend in person. Instead, they send representatives to "protect their interests," which is a common practice in staff meetings which may impinge on Third Reich fiefdoms. There is a heavy representation by the Schutzstaffel (SS), which is to be responsible for carrying out the exterminations. As is also typical, only a limited number of copies (30) of the protocol are prepared and almost all copies are destroyed before the end of the war. However, at least one copy (that of Martin Luther) survives to be discovered in 1947. Some people date the beginning of the Holocaust in its most virulent form from the Wannsee Conference.

US submarine USS S-36, sunk on 20 January 1942
USS S-36, which runs aground on 20 January 1942 and ultimately is lost, moored next to tender USS Canopus (AS-9) circa 1930. You can tell that it is peacetime due to the clothing hung out to dry on the submarine.
Battle of the Pacific: US Navy submarine USS S-36 (SS-141) runs aground on the Taka Bakang Reef in the Makassar Strait at 04:04. The forward battery generates chlorine gas which makes recovery attempts impossible. The crew sends out a plain-language distress call which is heard by nearby US submarine USS Sargo (SS-188). This message ultimately causes the Dutch at Makassar City to send out a launch which rescues the 42 officers and crew.

Battle of Parit Sulong, 20 January 1942
The Yoshida Battalion ambushing the retreating British troops in Parit Sulong on 20 January 1942. Credit: Takao Fusayama.
The fierce battle west of Yong Peng on the Malay Peninsula to hold open a line of retreat for Commonwealth troops further north continues on 20 January 1942. At dawn, the 3/16th Punjab Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Moorhead, launches a desperate attempt to retake a critical bridge at Parit Salong which the British had been forced to surrender on the 19th. However, there is utter confusion in the area, and by the time they reach the bridge, Moorhead's troops come under friendly fire by nearby British troops of the 53rd Brigade. The Japanese then attack. Moorhead is killed and the counterattack, leaving the bridge in Japanese hands. Meanwhile, Muar Force (primarily 45th Indian Brigade) under Australian Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Anderson approaches the bridge from the north during a very costly retreat in men and equipment without any idea that it is now held by the Japanese. Anderson and his men fight desperately throughout the day, and Anderson personally leads a bayonet charge to get through a Japanese roadblock. Muar Force plans to cross the Parit Salong bridge at daybreak on the 21st.

Aircraft on deck of Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi, 20 January 1942
Japanese planes preparing for attacks on Rabaul on 20 January 1942. This is Akagi's flight deck. The photo shows Vals, Kates, and Zeros. Credit: Famous Aircraft of the World # 55 (Bunrindo Co, Ltd.,1995).
The Japanese continue pressing the Commonwealth troops all across the Malay Peninsula. The RAAF attacks Japanese troops landing at Endau with Vildebeest bombers without success. The Commonwealth troops have barely had time to establish a defensive line in Johore, but already the Japanese are attacking it. The British have built no fortifications on the Batu Pahat–Kluang–Mersing line and many troops, such as the 45th Indian Brigade, are still struggling just to reach it. The rapid Japanese advance also is causing the Allied air commands in the area problems. Major General George H. Brett, Commanding General US Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA), makes the extremely difficult decision to halt all ferry flights of aircraft from India via Java in the Netherlands East Indies due to increasing losses to Japanese fighters based in southern Burma and the Malay Peninsula. The only route left for such flights now is across the southern Pacific from the United States.

A Japanese Kate bomber flying over Rabaul on 20 January 1942
A B5N2 "Kate" from the carrier Akagi over Rabaul on 20 January 1942. The Kate carries an 800-kg bomb. CREDIT: "SAMOURAI SUR PORTE-AVIONS - Les groupes embarqués japonais et leurs porte-avions (1922-1944)," by Michel Ledet.
In Burma, the Japanese to date have made relatively small incursions. However, today they send larger forces across the Thai border and attack north Tenasserim. The defending 16th Brigade, Indian 17th Division fights a delaying battle along the Myawadi-Kawkareik road, near the Thai border east of Moulmein.

The fierce battles on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines continue primarily in the center of the line. The main Japanese attacks are on the western flank of II Corps, which defends the eastern half of the defensive line along the neck of the peninsula. In the I Corps sector to the west, the most intense fighting dies down as the Japanese pull back and prepare for a coordinated attack. However, the Japanese continue to attempt to infiltrate troops in the central Mount Silanganan area.

A Japanese bomber taking off from Japanese carrier Zuikaku 20 January 1942
A Japanese D3A1 EII-206 takes off from Zuikaku on 20 January 1942 to attack Rabaul.
A large Japanese invasion fleet led by two aircraft carriers - Akagi and Kaga - under the command of Vice Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue approaches New Ireland and New Britain in the Australian Territory of New Guinea. There are other Japanese ships already in place off the coast which have been launching constant attacks. The Japanese objective is the naval base at Rabaul. The Japanese have been attacking the port with multiple waves of aircraft every day and plan on invading on the 21st. Today, ninety Japanese planes attack, and RAAF No. 24 Squadron loses six of eight obsolete Wirraway fighters in a futile attempt to stop them.

The Japanese issue a demand for surrender to the Dutch Balikpapan, Borneo, Garrison Commander. They require that the Dutch surrender the oil refinery installation there intact. The Dutch refuse. Allied aerial reconnaissance spots a Japanese convoy in the Makassar Strait apparently heading toward Balikpapan.

Halfaya, Libya on 20 January 1942
"Western Desert, Egypt. 20 January 1942. Flying over Halfaya soon after the surrender of the garrison on 17 January 1942, an Air Ministry photographer took this aerial photograph which shows knocked out tanks, armored vehicles, and emplacements. To the right can be seen the graves of members of the garrison." Australian War Memorial MED0306.
Eastern Front: In the Crimea, the German 30th and 42nd Corps reach the Parpach Narrows after a brisk advance that already has recovered the port of Feodosia. The narrow front enables the Red Army troops under General Kozlov to hold here, and both sides quickly begin constructing fortifications. This ends the immediate sequence of events put into motion by the Red Army landings near Kerch in late December 1941. Both sides can claim a victory of sorts, but neither side has accomplished its main objectives (the Red Army to relieve Sevastopol, the Wehrmacht to clear the entire Crimea). Both intend to resume offensive operations after rebuilding their strength. Overall, over the last five days of the German counterstroke, the Red Army's 44th Army has lost about 6700 troops killed, lost 85 tanks, and lost about 10,000 prisoners and 177 guns. The Germans have lost 223 men killed or missing and 995 casualties overall. The recent battles have reinforced the general summer trend of the Germans winning limited objectives at a relatively small cost, but with the Red Army preventing far greater defeats at a very heavy cost. However, farther north around Moscow, the Red Army has completely turned the tables on the Germans and continues its counteroffensive.

Malta change of command on 20 January 1942
"Vice Admiral Sir Ralph Leatham, KCB, the new Vice Admiral for Malta, saying goodbye to Admiral Sir Wilbraham Ford, KCB, KBE (right) who is leaving Malta." 20 January 1942. © IWM (A 7230).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Having just received a large number of supplies at Tripoli on the 20th, which he has had unloaded and put into the line with his usual extreme speed, Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel now is ready to launch the counteroffensive that he has been planning in Libya. As is his usual practice, Rommel does not request permission from Rome for his attack. This prevents Allied "Ultra" codebreakers at Bletchley Park from learning of his plans. The British troops at the front do not expect a counterattack so soon after the successful Operation Crusader and are not in good defensive positions. Rommel plans to launch his attack from El Agheila early on the 21st.

HMS Queen Elizabeth on 20 January 1942
"The ensign of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet, lowered to half mast for the funeral of HRH The Duke of Connaught." 20 January 1942. © IWM (A 8016).
US Military: United States Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson notes in his diary that Pearl Harbor was "no longer a safe advance base for the Navy under the conditions of modern air and sea warfare." This reflects pessimism within the US Navy ever since Pearl Harbor about holding the Hawaiian Islands against a determined Japanese attack. Others within the US military, however, remain determined to hold Hawaii because it is the only base capable of sustaining an offensive against the Japanese. The War Department also is concerned about how to feed the 250,000 civilians on the island in addition to military personnel. Emergency food shipments have begun from San Francisco and are making headway in relieving that issue, but it remains a concern.

A Japanese dive-bomber over Rabaul on 20 January 1942
Shokaku's dive-bomber group leader Lt.Cmdr. Kakuichi Takahashi D3A1's EI-238 flying over Rabaul, January 20, 1942. Credit: "Famous Aircraft of the World" type 99 carrier dive-bomber #33 (Bunrindo Co, Ltd., 1992).
American Homefront: Rogers Hornsby is elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. He is the last inductee until 1946. Hornsby retired with a lifetime batting average of .358, second only to Ty Cobb's career average .367, and is considered one of the top hitters and second basemen to play the game.

President Roosevelt signs an Executive Order establishing Daylight Savings Time to go into effect on 9 February and remain in effect for the remainder of the war.

HMS Victorious, 20 January 1942
"Gun crews of the port gun turrets sponging out the barrels of the 4.5 guns. Two battleships are in line astern" Aboard HMS Victorious off Hvalfjord, Iceland on 20 January 1942. The Royal Navy is in the middle of a search for German battleship Tirpitz, which is believed to be at sea. © IWM (A 7277).

Attendees at the Wannsee Conference of 20 January 1942:

  • SS-Obergruppenführer (Lieutenant-General) Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the RSHA, Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, Presiding
  • SS-Gruppenführer (Major-General) Otto Hofmann, Head of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office (RuSHA)
  • SS-Gruppenführer (Major-General) Heinrich Müller aka "Gestapo Müller," Chief of Amt IV (Gestapo), Reich Main Security Office (RSHA)
  • SS-Oberführer (Senior Colonel) Dr. Karl Eberhard Schöngarth, Commander of the SiPo and the SD in the General Government (Polish Occupation Authority)
  • SS-Oberführer (Senior Colonel) Dr. Gerhard Klopfer, Permanent Secretary, NSDAP Party Chancellery
  • SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Adolf Eichmann, Head of Referat IV B4 of the Gestapo, Recording Secretary
  • SS-Sturmbannführer (Major) Dr. Rudolf Lange, Commander of the SiPo and the SD for Latvia; Deputy Commander of the SiPo and the SD for the RKO, Head of Einsatzkommando 2
  • Dr. Georg Leibbrandt, Reichsamtleiter (Reich Head Office), Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories
  • Dr. Alfred Meyer, Gauleiter (Regional Party Leader), State Secretary, and Deputy Reich Minister, Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories
  • Dr. Josef Bühler, State Secretary, General Government (Polish Occupation Authority)
  • Dr. Roland Freisler, State Secretary, Reich Ministry of Justice
  • SS-Brigadeführer (Brigadier General) Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart, State Secretary, Reich Interior Ministry
  • SS-Oberführer (Senior Colonel) Erich Neumann, State Secretary, Office of the Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger, Permanent Secretary, Reich Chancellery
  • Martin Luther, Under-Secretary, Reich Foreign Ministry
Norwegian freighter Herstein, sunk on 20 January 1942
Norwegian freighter Herstein, bombed and sunk at Rabaul on 20 January 1942 by dive bombers flying from Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

January 19, 1942: FDR Approves Atomic Bomb

Monday 19 January 1942

Latvian freighter Ciltvaira, sunk by U-123 on 19 January 1942
Latvian freighter Ciltvaira after being torpedoed by German U-boat U-123 off Cape Hatteras, NC, 19 January 1942.
Battle of the Pacific: The battles on the Malay Peninsula in the Muar/Yong Peng area continue on 19 January 1942, but it is developing into a Japanese rout. The British order 45th Brigade and two attached Australian battalions, which together have been operating as Muar Force, to withdraw south, but this is easier said than done. Japanese planes bomb the headquarters of Indian 45th Brigade and kill its senior officers, leading to massive confusion and the brigade being taken over by an Australian officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Anderson. Anderson orders the retreat, and the defeated and dispirited Commonwealth troops embark on a desperate trek south toward Johore.

Corporal Ernest Brown, KIA 19 January 1942
"Studio portrait of NX60119 Corporal (Cpl) Ernest Brown, 2/19th Battalion of Molong, NSW. The husband of Eleanor Mary Brown, Cpl Brown was killed in action in Malaya on 19 January 1942, aged 38. His son and namesake, NX60115 Ernest Godfrey Brown enlisted in July 1940 and served with the 2/19 Australian Infantry Battalion. Another son, NX178149 Lance Corporal Leslie Arthur Brown, enlisted March 1944 and served in both the Second World War and with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan." Australian War Memorial P07939.001.
The 45th Brigade's line of retreat further south, though, is under attack by the Japanese 4th Guards Regiment, further scrambling the British plans. The 45th Brigade must pass through Parit Sulong about 5 miles (8 km) west of Yong Peng, but the Japanese are there already. The Indian 11th Division and British 18th Division (the 6th Norfolk Battalion of the 53rd British Brigade) are trying to hold open the line of retreat but are forced out of a key defensive position on the north ridge of the valley near Parit Sulong during the afternoon. The defending troops struggle through the thick jungle in the valley, cross the only bridge in the area, and set up their next position on the southern ridge of the valley. This, unfortunately, leaves the bridge the 45th Brigade must also cross in Japanese hands. Without any communications equipment, the British troops are operating independently and headquarters has no idea of their situation. Thus, the retreating 45th Brigade continues heading blindly toward the bridge and assumes that its line of retreat remains open. During the night, the local British commanders make plans to recapture the bridge and reopen the line of retreat before the 45th Brigade arrives, but the Allied position is rife with confusion and cases of mistaken identity and nobody has a complete picture of the situation.

Showing some factory workers a Bren gun on 19 January 1942
A soldier explains the workings of a Bren gun on an anti-aircraft mounting to two factory workers at a weapons demonstration at Bellevue, Manchester, 19 January 1942.
The Commonwealth troops have fought well but throughout the campaign are hobbled by numerical inferiority, insufficient equipment, and ineffective leadership. The Allies only extricate about 850 out of 4500 troops to defend Johore Province directly to the north of Singapore. The British form East Force, composed of the Australian 22nd Brigade, 2/17th Dogra Battalion, and the Jat Battalion. The Japanese are now only 30 miles (48 km) from Singapore Island itself.

Winnipeg Free Press, 19 January 1942
"Threat to Singapore Growing" is the main headline in the 19 January 1942 Winnipeg Free Press.
Winston Churchill is following the developments in Singapore quite closely. He cables General Archibald Lord Wavell, General Officer Commanding Australian-British- Dutch-American (ABDA) Command, South West Pacific, to find out what is going to happen when the Japanese reach Singapore itself. Wavell, who is far from being one of Churchill's favorite generals, responds:
There are neither plans nor fortifications to defend the north side of this impregnable fortress.
It is difficult to determine whether Wavell is being sarcastic. Churchill sends back orders to create defenses, which Wavell already has instructed local commander Lieutenant General Arthur Percival, General Officer Commanding Malaya, to do. Percival thinks that building defensive fortifications is bad for morale and tells his subordinates to hire local laborers. However, the locals refuse to work until their salary demands are met - which doesn't happen for five more days.

Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, 19 January 1942
The Norfolk (Virginia) Ledger-Dispatch of 19 January 1942 is full of news about the recent spate of U-boat attacks just off the east coast of the United States.
In the Philippines, the battles along the neck of the Bataan Peninsula are going a little bit better for the Allies than in Malaya, but only by a little bit. The Japanese have mounted a major push in the center of the overall line which threatens the entire US position on the peninsula, and most of the day's events concern Allied attempts to stop this threat. In the II Corps sector on the eastern half of the front, the 45th Infantry Division of the Philippine Scouts advances along the Balantay River in the western half of the sector (the middle of the overall line). They fill a gap in the line between the Philippine Army 41st Division (of II Corps) and the US 31st Infantry Division (of I Corps). This Japanese attempt to sidestep the Allied defensive forces as in Malaya thus is blocked, but Japanese pressure continues everywhere. In the I Corps sector on the western half of the front, a Japanese column advances through the Abo-Abo River valley and runs into the 31st Division near the center of the overall line. Fierce fighting rages throughout the day, but ultimately the 31st Division is forced to withdraw after nightfall. The Japanese are attempting their infiltration techniques in this sector as well, and the Filipino 92nd Infantry Division sends troops to Mount Silanganan on the corps' eastern flank (also near the center of the overall line) to block them.

Captain J. Dodge, master of a tanker attacked by U-123 who managed to make port on 19 January 1942
Captain J. Dodge, master of US tanker S.S. Malaya, attacked on 19 January 1942 off North Carolina by U-123. Dodge manages to get his damaged tanker to port. He is much luckier than some other ships' masters who perish in attacks today. (Naval History and Heritage Command NH 44608).
Singosari Airdrome on Java, Netherlands East Indies (East Java), has become a center for the Allied air effort. The RAAF forces based in Singapore have relocated there, and today the US Army Air Force sends from Australia the ground echelon to two B-17 Flying Fortress squadrons. Nine B-17s of the Far East Air Force already at Singosari attack Japanese shipping off Jolo Island in the Philippines. The bombers (less three that have to turn back for mechanical reasons) bomb the shipping and then land at Del Monte Field on Mindanao. This is an early example of "shuttle bombing." The war at sea off the Philippines is in full swing, and today PT-31 runs aground on a reef north of Mayagao Point, Bataan after its engines fail. This raises dark suspicions among the Allies of local sabotage.

Life magazine of 19 January 1942
"North Atlantic Patrol" is the cover story of Life magazine on 19 January 1942.
In Borneo, the Japanese at 07:00 land troops from ships in Sandakan Harbor. The local British authorities quickly surrender British North Borneo, leaving local European residents unprotected.

U-67 in Lorient, France on 19 January 1942
U-67 in port at Lorient, France on 19 January 1942 as it prepares to depart on its third war patrol. That may be Kptlt. Günther Müller-Stöckheim in the conning tower (Meisinger, Rudolf, Federal Archive Bild 101II-MW-4368-36).
Battle of the Atlantic: As part of Operation Drumbeat, U-123 (Kptlt. Reinhardt Hardegen) continues its reign of terror on U.S. shipping off the east coast of the United States. U-123 hits four ships today:

  • sinks 5269-ton US freighter City of Atlanta about 32.5 miles (52 km) northeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina (44 deaths, three survivors);
  • sinks 4497-ton US freighter Brazos
  • damages (it later sinks while under tow) 3779-ton Latvian freighter Ciltvaira (two dead, 29 survivors);
  • damages 8206-ton US tanker Malay (the tanker makes it to Hampton Roads).

So far, pickings are easy on the US side of the Atlantic because shipping has not been organized into convoys, blackout conditions are not in effect, and Allied patrols are few and far between.

Postcard showing liner Lady Hawkins, sunk by U-66 on 19 January 1942
A postcard dedicated to the "five ladies" of the British West Indies services: Lady Hawkins, Lady Nelson, Lady Drake, Lady Rodney, and Lady Somers. It becomes four ladies on 19 January 1942 when U-66 torpedoes and sinks Lady Hawkins.
These are not the only Kriegsmarine successes near North America today, however. In addition, U-66 (Kptlt. Richard Zapp), operating east of Wilmington, North Carolina,  torpedoes and sinks 7988-ton Canadian freighter Lady Hawkins (250 dead including Captain H. Griffin, 71 survivors). Lady Hawkins was on its regular run to Bermuda. Far to the north, 6082-ton British freighter Empire Kingfisher hits a rock and sinks about 4 miles south of Clark's Harbor on Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia (this sinking is sometimes credited to U-109 (Kptlt. Heinrich Bleichrodt), and the date of loss is sometimes given as 18 January 1942).

HMS Sikh entering Malta's Grand Harbour on 19 January 1942
"The destroyer HMS SIKH escorting a merchantman into the Grand Harbour." This is the arrival of a small convoy at Malta on 19 January 1942 consisting of cruiser HMS Penelope, five destroyers, and three freighters. © IWM (A 7347).
Battle of the Mediterranean: One of the oddities of World War II is that the war in the desert ebbs and flows based on events at sea. On 19 January 1942, an Axis supply convoy gets through to Tripoli bringing the Afrika Korps an abundance of supplies. These include 55 new panzers, 20 armored cars, and a large quantity of fuel, food, and ammunition. The British, meanwhile, have had to draw several large units from the Middle East due to the Japanese threats to Singapore and Burma. Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel has plenty of ideas for offensives as commander of Panzer Group Afrika, and he now has the tools to reverse the British gains during Operation Crusader and even dream of bigger victories at Cairo and toward Syria. Meanwhile, on the British side, General Claude E. Auchinleck, General Officer Commanding Middle East Command, issues orders reiterating the priority of continuing the recent advance to the German headquarters in Tripoli.

Watching a convoy enter Malta's Grand Harbour on 19 January 1942
"Watching the convoy arrive in Grand Harbour." Malta, 19 January 1942. Convoys are important because they bring supplies, reinforcements, and also treasured letters from home. © IWM (A 7355). 
Eastern Front: The Soviet counteroffensive around Moscow continues unabated, with the Red Army capturing Mozhaisk about 100 km west of Moscow. This had been a key Red Army position during Operation Typhoon. In addition, Soviet paratroopers continue landing south of Smolensk in the Vyazam area. Their goal is to distract enough German troop strength from the front to help Red Army attacks further east and also to organize partisan forces.

Freighter Clan Ferguson entering Malta's Grand Harbour on 19 January 1942
"The merchant ship CLAN FERGUSON entering Grand Harbour, the rest of the convoy is outside the breakwater waiting to enter." Malta, 19 January 1942. © IWM (A 7353).
In the Crimea, the German 30 Corps' attack toward the Parpach Narrows continues with growing confidence. The German troops pursue two divisions of Soviet 44th Army east along the Black Sea Coast in the Feodosia area, undermining the Red Army defensive line just to the north. The main Soviet advantage is that the Parpach Narrows offers a shortened defensive line where the Red Army may be able to stop the advancing Germans.

Studio portrait of Arthur H. Compton on 19 January 1942
Arthur H. Compton on 19 January 1942. Compton is working at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, Illinois. (Photograph of Compton courtesy of the University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-01862, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library, via Atomic Heritage Foundation).
Manhattan Project: President Roosevelt, who has been placing a high priority on atomic research ever since receiving Albert Einstein's famous letter of August 1939, approves the findings of the British MAUD Report. Those findings included the projection that an atomic bomb of devastating impact could be developed. FDR today sends Vannevar Bush, who basically is the Atomic Bomb Czar, a handwritten note after reviewing the report. The note reads:
V.B. OK - returned [his copy of the MAUD Report] - I think you had best keep this in your own safe. FDR.
Bush has not been waiting for Roosevelt's explicit approval because he knows the President's overall agreement with accelerated atomic research. Under the overall direction of Standard Oil Company engineer Eger V. Murphree, Bush has appointed as program chiefs Harold Urey (diffusion and centrifuge methods and heavy-water studies), Ernest Lawrence (electromagnetic and plutonium), and Arthur Compton (fission chain reaction and weapon theory programs). The entire effort is run by the Top Policy Group, composed of Bush, James Conant, Vice President of the United States Henry Wallace, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall. The effort is not yet called the "Manhattan Project," that name comes about later in 1942. At this time, funding is still relatively small and confined to financing basic electromagnetic experiments being performed by Lawrence and J. Robert Oppenheimer at the University of California at Berkeley. The focus remains on the theoretical possibilities and determining what path the program should follow rather than actually building a weapon. FDR's note, though, essentially approves the general goal of turning the science into a bomb.

The Royal Navy commander of the Western Approaches inspecting the troops at Liverpool on 19 January 1942
"The C in C, Admiral Sir Percy Noble, KCB, CVO, inspecting the guard of Honour composed of sailors under instruction at HMS WELLESLEY. With him is the Lord Mayor of Liverpool." The two men are inspecting and welcoming the Royal Marine Band in Liverpool on 19 January 1942. © IWM (A 7168).
US Military: The Eighth Air Force was formed on 2 January 1942 at Savannah Army Air Base, Georgia. Today, it begins organizing its command by establishing VIII Bomber Command and VIII Fighter Command. The former is to be a strategic bombardment unit using 4-engined bombers, and the latter is to provide fighter escort for those bombers. These two units under VIII Air Service Command are still in the embryonic stages, but the overall plan is for them to operate against Axis targets as part of the U.S. Air Forces in the British Isles (USAFBI), which was announced on 8 January.

Time magazine features Brazilian minister Osvaldo Aranha on 19 January 1942
"Brazil's Aranha" is the cover story in the 19 January 1942 Time magazine. Osvaldo Aranha is Brazil's Minister of External Relations in 1942. He is instrumental in lining up Latin American support for the Allied war effort.
German Homefront: Robert Ley, the leader of the German Work Front, tells Reich munitions firms to increase their number of foreign workers and POWs and ramp up production. The work week is increased from 47 to 49.2 hours. The German authorities are told to use a "carrot and stick" approach. Workers are to be offered bonuses in the form of scarce luxury goods such as tobacco and brandy, but "slackers" are to be disciplined and sent to concentration camps if necessary. The Security Service of the Ss is keeping close tabs on the homefront and acts quickly on reports of "idleness" and "insubordination." Hitler had hoped to be able to decrease production and shift it to other areas such as building planes and ships, but all notions of a quick and cheap victory over the Soviet Union are now gone. However, the continuing mirage of Final Victory still clouds everyone's judgment, and the factory owners are only told to increase production by 10%.

American Homefront: Loew's releases "Woman of the Year," starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. It features the two stars as reporters at the same newspaper who fall in love but face difficulties due to their careers.

Wrens in training on 19 January 1942
Wrens in training at Donibristle, Fife, to be photographers' assistants. "Showing the aerial film and the correct density required. Angle shot of Wren pupil being shown a film by bluejacket photographer." © IWM (A 7121).