Friday, March 8, 2019

December 12, 1941: Japanese in Burma

Friday 12 December 1941

Kate bombers over Mayon Volcano, 12 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Type 97 (B5N1) "Kate" Carrier Attack Bombers flying from aircraft carrier Ryujo are shown flying near Mayon Volcano on their way to attack Legaspi, southeast of Luzon, Philippines. Captain Masayuki Yamagami is in command. 12 December 1941 ("Album of a Navy Captain" via Egoo.net).
Battle of the Pacific: For the first time, the Japanese Army broadens the war into Burma on 12 December 1941 when a small force enters the British colony from Thailand unobserved. The Japanese hope that widespread desire in Burma, led by former Prime Minister and Premier Ba Maw, will make the country's conquest easy. However, the British also have strong support within the country, particularly from ethnic minorities, and a major power base in neighboring India. The Third American Volunteer Group (AVG) squadron moves to Rangoon today to join the RAF in the defense of Burma.

Washington, D.C. Evening Star, 12 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Washington, D.C. Evening Star headline on 12 December 1941 has a better grasp on actual events in the Pacific Theater than some other media outlets. Captain Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr. becomes a war hero after he perishes during a bombing run shortly after Pearl Harbor. However, valorous as Kelly's activities are, he did not sink a battleship on 9 or 10 December 1941 as the newspapers insist. Instead, his plane based at Clark Field only lightly damages heavy cruiser Natori during a raid. Kelly is a real hero, however, because he orders his crew to bail out but is unable to do so himself. The US Navy awards Kelly a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism" and "selfless bravery."
In the Philippines, the American military situation is deteriorating rapidly. Japanese bombers attack Clark Field, Batangas, and Olongapo on Luzon Island. At Legazpi in southern Luzon, about 2500 Japanese soldiers of the 16th Division from Palau in the Caroline Islands land in an undefended area, supported by aircraft flying from aircraft carrier Ryujo. They are about 150 miles (240 km) from the nearest military base and the Japanese force is free to consolidate its position and expand. At Aparri in northern Luzon, other Japanese troops take Tuguegarao airfield. The Japanese have created the foundation for a massive pincer movement on Manila, though that will take quite some time to realize.

SS Normandie is seized on 12 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The United States Navy seizes France's cruise liner SS Normandie on 12 December 1941. It has been berthed in New York Harbor since 1940. The Normandie is the largest ocean liner in the world (1029 feet long and 119 feet wide, displacing 85,000 tons) and has a fast top speed of 32 knots, and the US Navy intends to convert it into a troop carrier.
At Hong Kong, The British continue withdrawing all troops (including elements of the Indian Army) to Hong Kong Island. They use all available vessels to evacuate Kowloon, and as they depart, Royal Engineers engage in demolitions of all facilities on the north side.

Lt. César Fernando Basa, KIA 12 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
César Fernando Basa, a pioneer fighter pilot of the Philippine Air Force, perishes during aerial combat over Batangas on 12 December 1941. On a routine aerial reconnaissance mission, Basa attempts to intervene in a dogfight in his P-26 but is shot down. Basa manages to bail out but is strafed and killed by Japanese fighter pilots in his parachute. Lieutenant Basa was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
Lieutenant General Arthur Percival decides to pull his forces on the Malay Peninsula back after the loss of the Kelantan airfield on the 11th. Indian III Corps begins heading south, taking as many supplies with it as possible. Indian 11th Division falls back to the Kedah River, and a separate force on the Kroh-Patani Road also pulls back. There is a lack of transport, meaning a lot of equipment will have to be left behind.

NY Times, 12 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The NY Times of 12 December 1941, showing President Roosevelt signing the declaration of war with Germany.
A Japanese submarine surfaces near Johnston and Palmyra Atoll and fires star shell clusters over the US Marine base on Johnson. These do not cause appreciable damage. The Marines, under the command of Major Francis B. Loomis Jr., return fire with their 5-inch coastal guns, causing the submarine to depart. There are numerous civilian contractors on the island who rapidly are fortifying it and hope to be evacuated soon.

Brooklyn Eagle, 12 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The US media continues to grasp for real war news, and even the authorities feeding them information are hazy on real details. Brooklyn Eagle, 12 December 1941. 
Battle of the Mediterranean: Axis forces under General Erwin Rommel have withdrawn in good order into a line centered around Gazala. The 5th New Zealand Infantry Brigade closes up on this new Gazala line. One veteran in the unit writes:
… So steady was the advance that the gunners could not range quickly enough with the result that the shells were bursting behind our line, though to me it seemed that several direct hits were made on the right flank but the boys came out of the smoke and dust still in line, never faltering. It was a magnificent sight to see that thin line moving steadily forward into a hail of lead, with shells of all sizes … bursting all around…. the fact that the ground was sandy saved more casualties…. One more dash brought us to within bayonet reach. We crossed the ground swiftly, some of the boys shouting encouragement to each other. From my position on the left flank, I could see our line, straight enough to bring joy to any bayonet instructor, stretching away to the right flank. Roaring “Forward!”, I came up ready for the final dash. It made the blood sing to see the boys leap forward, a steady line of gleaming steel backed by grim faces. Nothing short of death could stop them now.
The New Zealand troops prepare to attack the new German line on the 13th.

SS Struma, 12 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Struma, an old cargo barge chartered by the New Zionist Organization and the Irgun, departs from Constanza, Romania on 12 December 1941. It is the last refugee ship to leave Occupied Europe during the war. It is headed toward Istanbul, and then Palestine. It holds 769 passengers. The British do not want the Struma coming to Palestine, which turns the voyage into an eventual tragedy.
Holocaust: A day following his declaration of war against the United States, Adolf Hitler convenes a meeting at the Reich Chancellery with top NSDAP officials (and nobody else, such as Hermann Goering, who held no party office). This is an important step in the escalation of the Holocaust. No transcripts were made, but Joseph Goebbels summarizes the meeting in his diary later in the day:
Regarding the Jewish Question, the Führer has decided to make a clean sweep. He prophesied to the Jews that, if they yet again brought about a world war, they would experience their own annihilation. That was not just a phrase. The world war is here, and the annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence.
Hans Frank, who is present, later recalls that "in Berlin" he had been told to "liquidate" undesirable groups. The timing of this meeting suggests that the official entry into the war of the United States led directly to this meeting. This may mean that Hitler either viewed the war declaration as freeing him from having to maintain appearances of not mistreating people, or knew that he was running out of time to implement his "final solution" and needed to shift the Holocaust into a higher gear.

Captain Marvel No. 5, 12 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Captain Marvel Adventures," No. 5, 12 December 1941.
The pace of transfers to extermination camps in the East already is picking up steam. Today, the first persons, 150 men who had been taken during a manhunt in the Lublin Ghetto, are sent to Majdanek, a camp on the outskirts of Lublin, Poland. This becomes a classic prison camp complete with high-tension electrified double barbed-wire fencing and 18 watchtowers, though it is not in its final form at this time. The camp includes workshops, warehouses, a laundry, and other facilities.

USS Utah, 12 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
USS Utah AG-16 capsized at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. USS Raleigh CL-7 is seen in the background. 12 December 1941 (USS Arizona Memorial).
American Homefront: Various restrictions are being placed upon Japanese-American citizens throughout the United States, particularly on the West Coast. In addition, many Asian businesses (including some Chinese ones) have been attacked. In a diary entry made on 12 December 1941 in Seattle Washington, Toku Shimomura makes the following diary entry:
It was fair and clear weather today. I spent all day at home. Starting today we were permitted to withdraw up to $100 from the bank. This was for our sustenance of life, we who are enemy to them. I deeply appreciated American's large-heartedness in dealing with us.
The Shimomura family eventually is heading to Camp Minidoka in Hunt, Idaho.

University of Wisconsin, 12 December 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
At the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a capacity crowd fills the Field House in a war rally (UW ARCHIVES S07306).


2019

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