Saturday, April 20, 2019

January 14, 1942: Operation Drumbeat First Sinking

Wednesday 14 January 1942

U-123, 14 January 1942
U-123 readying its deck gun, January/February 1942 (Tölle, Alwin, Federal Archive Bild 101II-MW-4006-31).
Battle of the Atlantic: The Kriegsmarine has sent six U-boats (five of which actually make it across the Atlantic) to attack shipping along the east coast of the United States, and on 14 January 1942 they score their first victory there. This is the true beginning of Unternehmen Paukenschlag (Operation Drumbeat), which is intended to be a quick raid lasting only about a month. This is the beginning of the Second Happy Time for Admiral Doenitz's fleet, the first having begun in 1940 and lasted until March 1941.

Tanker Norness, sunk by U-123 on 14 January 1942
Panamanian tanker Norness, the first victim of U-boat Operation Drumbeat.
Shortly after midnight, the lookout on U-123 (Kptlt Reinhardt Hardegen) spots 9577-ton Panamanian tanker Norness southeast of Montauk, Long Island, and about 73 miles southwest of Nantucket Island. Hardegen pumps three torpedoes into the tanker, sinking it. The tanker crew is able to take to lifeboats, and later in the morning, a patrol blimp spots the survivors. There is one death, and US Coast Guard cutter Argo rescues six survivors and destroyer US Ellyson picks up 24 more. While U-123 already had sunk the freighter Cyclops on 11 January, that was on the voyage across the Atlantic and is not considered part of Operation Drumbeat. Following this attack, U-123 heads toward New York Harbor, where the 14 January 1942 morning newspapers have enough time to announce the sinking.

Japanese troops in Labuan, North Borneo, 14 January 1942
"Labuan, Borneo. 1942-01-14. Japanese troops march through the streets of Labuan Island, off the west coast of British North Borneo. Note the Japanese flags on the buildings." Australian War Memorial 127908.
Battle of the Pacific: On the Malay Peninsula, Japanese forces advancing toward Singapore reach Gemas on 14 January 1942, where they are ambushed by the Australian 8th Division (Major-General Gordon Bennett). This marks the first large battle between Australian and Japanese troops on the peninsula. The site of the ambush is a wooden bridge across the Sungei Gemencheh river. The Japanese tanks have had virtually no opposition since taking Kuala Lumpur and reach the bridge at 16:00 when "B" Company 2/30th Battalion under Captain Desmond Duffy opens fire and blows up the bridge. The engagement lasts for only about 20 minutes and causes roughly 600 Japanese casualties, but the Japanese recover quickly and send the Australian troops into a quick retreat toward Gemas. Japanese engineers repair the bridge within six hours. The Japanese wind up battling for Gemas for the next two days, attempting to outflank the Australians to the west in the Battle of Muar, and lose six of their eight tanks while continuing their advance. The most significant outcome of the Battle of Muar is that it gives the Allies more time to retreat into the State of Johore, the final stop on the mainland north of Singapore.

Australian troops after a tough battle on the Malay Peninsula, 14 January 1942
Australian troops disembarking from a lorry after the 14 January 1942 battle at Gemas.
Japanese forces at Truk Lagoon embark on transports which will take them to New Britain Island, where their goal is to capture the key Australian naval base at Rabaul. The naval task force is under the command of Vice-Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue and includes aircraft carriers Akagi and Kaga, seven cruisers, 14 destroyers, and many other vessels. The Australians know they are badly outnumbered and also know that they cannot expect reinforcement.

Japanese troops landing on Labuan Island, 14 January 1942
"Labuan, Borneo. 1942-01-14. Japanese troops land off the west coast of British North Borneo." Australian War Memorial 127907.
In the Philippines, the Japanese continue pressing against the western flank of II Corps, which defends the eastern half of the line across the neck of the Bataan Peninsula. Filipino 41st and 51st Divisions abandon the outpost line and retreat behind the Balantay River. In the I Corps sector on the western half of the line, the Japanese attack along the west coast toward Moron. Japanese naval vessels guard their sea flank and land some troops along the line of march. Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright recognizes the danger in the I Corps sector and quickly sends troops to Moron to block the Japanese advance.

Wrecks in Benghazi Harbor, 14 January 1942
"Benghazi, Cyrenaica, Libya. 14 January 1942. The harbor is a mass of sunken Axis shipping in Benghazi harbor following a sustained Allied bombing campaign." Australian War Memorial MED0288.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel is planning a counterattack in North Africa, but the front is quiet today. However, there is a lot going on to the north over Malta, where there are 17 air raid alerts in 24 hours. There are 61 Axis aircraft spotted during the daylight raids. There also are attacks at night, when the planes drop flares to illuminate their targets. The British defense is hampered by the RAF's inability to use its airfields at Hal Far and Ta Qali due to the wet ground from recent rain.

Winnipeg Free Press, 14 January 1942
The western media - here the Winnipeg Free Press - is full of good news about the war on 14 January 1942.
Eastern Front: Both sides are sending reinforcements to the Parpach Narrows on the Crimea in order to end the stalemate there. The Soviets wish to relieve Sevastopol, their original objective for their invasion, while the Germans wish to eliminate the Red Army presence on the Crimea so they can conquer Sevastopol. Neither side has local superiority, but the Luftwaffe has control of the air under the command of General Robert Ritter von Greim while the Soviets have a slight advantage at sea. The real question is which side will attack first, and whichever side that is may lose so many men in the attack that it may badly dilute their defense.

The commander of Army Group South, Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau, suffers an incapacitating stroke while out for his daily jog. The army group makes plans to fly him back to Germany for treatment. Aside from Crimea, the army group has few active operations which require close attention and Hitler does not immediately make a formal command change. This may be in part due to growing talk both in the Reich and abroad about all of the command changes that have been taking place within the Wehrmacht recently. Hitler is extraordinarily sensitive about such impressions and often places political considerations that reflect upon his own prestige above strictly military ones.

Gunner I.R. Mackintosh in the Auckland Weekly News, 14 January 1942
Gunner I.R. Mackintosh, a New Zealand soldier, in the 14 January 1942 Auckland Weekly News (Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19420114-29-21.).
Field Marshal von Leeb, commander of Army Group North, returns to the front after a discussion with Adolf Hitler at Rautenberg. He finds that the Red Army is approaching a critical road between Demyansk and Kholm. Large garrisons at the two towns are determined to hold out, but there are few Wehrmacht forces in between them and almost none behind them. Hitler has told Leeb to his face to hold his positions, so Leeb must watch helplessly as it appears certain that both garrisons will be surrounded. Field Marshal Keitel telephones the army group to emphasize the "unconditional necessity" of holding the army group's right flank in the Kholm/Demyansk/Staraya Russa area south of Lake Ilmen. Of the three towns, Staraya Russa is the most critical because it forms the tie-in with Lake Ilmen, but the loss of Demyansk and Kholm would leave it vulnerable to encirclement and capture.

Borger Daily Herald, 14 January 1942
Borger Daily Herald (Borger, Tex.), Vol. 16, No. 46, Ed. 1 Wednesday, January 14, 1942.
Allied Relations: The Arcadia Conference which began on 22 December 1941 in Washington, D.C., concludes. While the United States and Great Britain had been coordinating strategy for at least a year, this was the first time that actual military strategy was discussed. A tentative decision is made to invade French North Africa during 1942 (this becomes Operation Gymnast) and not western Europe as greatly preferred by Joseph Stalin. The overall conclusions from the Arcadia Conference are the policy of defeating Germany first, the formation of a Combined Chiefs of Staff, the establishment of a single military command for each theater of operations (including the ABDA Command in the Far East and the European Theater of Operations on the Western Front), a joint policy for supporting China (which is not represented at the conference), and continued cooperation in all shipping matters. It is important to remember that only the United States and Great Britain are involved in these decisions, and many different conclusions may have been reached had other powers such as the Soviet Union been given a voice.

Uncle Sam Brass Knuckles cartoon, 14 January 1942
An editorial cartoon from the 14 January 1942 Berkeley Gazette. It depicts Uncle Sam with "brass knuckles" that show budget projections for US military production in fiscal 1942 and 1943 (Berkeley Historical Society). 
Special Operations: The British Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) and the Special Operations Executive (SOE) conduct Operation Postmaster. This is a mission to steal British and Italian ships in the harbor of the Spanish island of Fernando Po (Bioko) off West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea. The British believe that the Italian ship is feeding military intelligence to the Axis, so its capture is the top priority. The Commandos aboard Brixham trawler Maid Honour, enter the harbor aboard two tugs, secure two vessels (8500-ton Italian freighter Duchessa d'Aosta and German tug Likomba), and take them out to be "captured" by the Royal Navy. The British tug towing the Likomba has engine trouble and thus that vessel does not make it out to the rendezvous, but the Italian ship is successfully taken. Operation Postmaster is a successful mission in the sense that a large freighter is captured, but it damages relations between Great Britain and neutral Spain (and those relations then remain poor for decades) and is used by the Germans for propaganda purposes. The British feel the mission was worth it to "act tough" and impress (or perhaps intimidate) other neutrals.

Vought-Sikorsky VS-316A aka USAAF R-4, 14 January 1942
The first flight of the Vought-Sikorsky VS-316A, US Army Air Force designation R-4, on 14 January 1942 at Stratford, Connecticut. Chief Test Pilot Charles Lester "Les" Morris is at the controls.
US Military: The United States Army Air Force has designated Igor Sikorsky's experimental VS-316 helicopter the XR-4 under its "Rotorcraft" designation. On 13 January 1942, the XR-4 makes its first flight, which lasts for about three minutes. Test pilot Les Morris makes five more flights during the day for a total of 25 minutes. The Army still has not accepted the XR-4 for production and use, but this is a major step. The Germans are far ahead in helicopter research but have had difficulties finding military uses for them. The other major powers also have placed great emphasis on autogyro development, but the United States military has not. Thus, the USAAF has a lot of catching up to do in rotorcraft development.

Sikorsky XR-4C 41-18874 that flew on 14 January 1942
The Sikorsky XR-4C 41-18874 that flew on 14 January 1942 is preserved at the National Air and Space Museum. (NASM).
Holocaust: The Voćin massacre takes place in Voćin, Independent State of Croatia. The Ustaše Croatian fascist organization executes about 350 Serb civilians. This occurs on the Serbian New Year. The casualties are not limited to just one location but include virtually all of the male inhabitants of the villages Jorgići, Zubovići, Dobrići, Kometnik, and Sekulinci. The victims are buried in a mass grave east of Voćin, along the Voćinka river. There is a memorial to this massacre that was erected in 2007.

American Homefront: All enemy aliens are required to register with local authorities. The bulk of these people are on the west coast of the United States in California, Oregon, Washington, and the territory of Hawaii.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette (California) reports that:
After a holiday vacation of nearly six weeks, the University of California campus was thronged today with students and faculty in preparation for the opening of registration for the spring semester. Students returned with the knowledge that this may be the longest vacation they will have for ‘the duration’ since University officials are furthering plans to add another semester to the academic year to meet the demands of the war emergency.
Berkeley did add another semester.

Actress Lynn Bari, 14 January 1942
"The Hays-Approved Sweater." This refers to the motion picture industry's Hays Code, which mandated that everything films be innocent and pure. The caption reads, "Lynn Bari, always a gratifying subject, was snapped like this by a candid photographer on the outdoor set of Fox's "Ten Gentlemen from West Point." This promotional shot is from the 14 January 1942 Hollywood Star PM Daily. Lynn Bari was a top movie star during World War II. In 1941, she filmed "Sun Valley Serenade," which is considered a classic musical and is still played daily at the Sun Valley Lodge and Inn in Idaho. Incidentally, Bari was not in the final version of "Ten Gentlemen from West Point."


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


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