Monday, April 29, 2019

January 17, 1942: British Take Halfaya Pass

Saturday 17 January 1942

Oerlikon gun on HMS Dido, 17 January 1942
"Oerlikon gunner in HMS DIDO getting a light from a pal between bombing attacks." Eastern Mediterranean, 17 to 19 January 1942. © IWM (A 9576).
Battle of the Mediterranean: The final result of British Operation Crusader occurs on 17 January 1942 when an Italian garrison at Halfaya Pass finally surrenders to British 30 Corps. Despite being heavily fortified, the Halfaya Pass position has had no sources of supply other than occasional airdrops since the Axis garrison at Sollum fell on 12 January. About 5500 Axis troops, mostly men from the 55th Savona Infantry Division under the command of General Fedele de Giorgis, go into captivity. General Erwin Rommel, who already is preparing a counterattack 500 miles to the west at El Agheila, comments that "Superb leadership was shown by the Italian General de Giorgis, who commanded this German-Italian force in its two months’ struggle." With the loss of Halfaya Pass, the Afrika has lost about a third of its troop strength that it had on hand at the start of Operation Crusader in November 1941. However, Axis convoys recently have been getting through from Naples to Tripoli again while British forces have been diverted to the Far East. In a sign of renewed Axis vigor at sea, U-133 (Oblt. Hermann Hesse), on its third patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks Royal Navy destroyer HMS Gurkha (9 casualties) off Sidi Barrani today. This is beginning to alter the balance of power in North Africa once again.

Japanese submarine I-60, sunk on 17 January 1942
I-60, shown, is sunk on 17 January 1942 by HMS Jupiter. I-60 is a KD3A/B type submarine. The wreck is found many years later about 25 miles northwest of Krakatoa, Java.
Battle of the Pacific: On the Malay Peninsula, the British shift two battalions, one from West Force at Segamat and the other from East Force at Jemaluang, to block the new Japanese bridgehead at Muar. They, along with the remnants of the shattered 45th Indian Brigade, set up a camp at Bakri. The Allies plan an attack toward Muar on the 18th, but the Japanese are planning an attack of their own toward Bakri. The Japanese continue their daily bombing of Singapore, with 27 bombers wrecking Sembawang Airfield in the extreme north of the island. This increases pressure on the RAAF to transfer its planes from Singapore across the Malacca Strait to Sumatra.

Daily Express, 17 January 1942
The Daily Express, 17 January 1942, is full of news about the battles in the Philippines.
In the Philippines, the Allies on Bataan Peninsula counterattack in the eastern II Corps sector to restore their line previously held by the 51st Filipino Division. The US 31st Infantry Division moves north from its base near Abucay Hacienda to the Balantay River area and manages some progress on its left. To the west in the I Corps sector, Japanese troops advance south along the Abo-Abo River toward Orion. The Allies, having temporarily taken it on the 16th with the last cavalry charge in US military history, give up the town of Moron (Morong) on the west coast and form a new line along a ridgeline southeast of the town.

Kapitänleutnant Heinrich "Ajax" Bleichrodt, 17 January 1942
Kapitänleutnant Heinrich "Ajax" Bleichrodt.
Battle of the Atlantic: Admiral Karl Doenitz has expanded his U-boats' operations to the Atlantic coast of the United States and also the Arctic. As part of Operation Drumbeat, U-109 (Kptlt Heinrich "Ajax" Bleichrodt) arrives off Cape Sable, Nova Scotia and heads south toward the Gulf of Maine. As part of new German efforts to interrupt the Lend-Lease shipments to Stalin, Wolfpack Ulan is in place off the northern coast of Norway. The Kriegsmarine hopes to block Allied convoys to the Soviet Union, and today U-454 (Kptlt Burckhard Hackländer), on its first patrol out of Kirkenes, attacks Convoy PQ-8. Hackländer sinks two ships, 557-ton Soviet patrol boat RT-68 Enisej and 1870-ton Royal Navy destroyer HMS Matabele, and damages a third, 5395-ton British freighter Harmatris. The British destroyer remains afloat for a few hours, at which point Hackländer tires of waiting and pumps another torpedo into it, causing it to explode. There are only three survivors. This is the first successful Kriegsmarine attack on an Arctic convoy.

Norwegian tanker Nyholt, sunk by U-87 on 17 January 1942
U-87 (Kptlt. Joachim Berger) torpedoes and sinks independent Norwegian tanker Nyholt (shown) about 180 miles south of Cape Race after a wild chase. The U-boat, part of wolfpack Ziethen, hits the tanker with one torpedo at 03:59, but it continues sailing for port while pursuing a zig-zagging course. U-87 fires and misses with four more torpedoes. The tanker then tries to ram the U-boat but misses. U-87 then fires two more torpedoes, one of which hits. The tanker finally is sunk with 120 shells from the deck gun. The men take to two lifeboats, one of which disappears. There are 22 survivors out of about 40 people on board. 
Eastern Front: Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau, commander of Army Group South, perishes after having suffered a stroke on the 14th. Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, already chosen as his successor, boards a train to Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia to receive his command and confer with the Fuehrer. After he arrives on the 18th, Von Bock later complains to Hitler about the decrepit state of the train, a problem which is getting worse due to lack of maintenance due to the war.

The New Yorker, 17 January 1942
The New Yorker, 17 January 1942.
In the Crimea, the German offensive at the Parpach Narrows continues. The German 32nd Infantry Division attacks the port city of Feodosia, supported by heavy Stuka attacks. The Soviets attempt to evacuate the Soviet 236th Rifle Division in the port using the Black Sea Fleet, but they are too late. The Germans take the port and 5300 prisoners. The Soviet officer in command of the division manages to escape but is later convicted of cowardice and executed.

Japanese Type 97 tank, 17 January 1942
A camouflaged Type 97 Te-Ke in the Battle of Muar, 17 January 1942.
Future History: Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. is born in Louisville, Kentucky. He takes up boxing at the age of 12 after being advised to by a Louisville police officer and boxing coach, Joe. E. Martin. Clay makes his amateur boxing debut in 1954 and quickly becomes a top boxer, earning the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He goes on to win the World Heavyweight Title on 25 February 1964. After that, Clay changes his name to Muhammad Ali for religious reasons and goes on to remain Heavyweight Champion off-and-on until his retirement from boxing on 27 July 1979. Muhammad Ali passes away on 3 June 2016 at age 74.

Liberty magazine featuring Mickey Rooney, 17 January 1942
Mickey Rooney on the cover of Liberty magazine, 17 January 1942. He is riding high at the box office right now and just married Ava Gardner.


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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