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Friday, April 12, 2019

January 7, 1942: Soviet General Offensive Opens

Wednesday 7 January 1942

Japanese troops marching to Bataan, January 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese soldiers marching to Bataan ca. 7 January 1942.
Eastern Front: The Soviet General Offensive begins as scheduled on 7 January 1942. North of Lake Ilmen, Soviet 4th and 52nd Armies and 2nd Shock Arm (now under the command of Lieutenant General Andrei A. Vlasov) of Volkhov Front attack southwest of Leningrad. On the southern part of Lake Ilmen, ski troops and motor convoys of Soviet 11th Army cross the frozen lake while German outposts watch from the opposite shore. The Red Army attacks are not strong, but the defending German 16th Army does not have a continuous line but instead a chain of isolated strongpoints. The German generals quickly decide that the 11th Army thrust is the most dangerous because it threatens Staraya Rusa, the main German supply depot for the entire region. Nothing appears too dangerous to them at the moment, but there are wide gaps in the German lines with no troops behind them for dozens of miles. Things could get difficult for the Germans, but it all depends on where the Red Army units head and how far they decide to go. The Battle of Moscow is generally defined to end on 7 January 1942 due to the Soviet offensive.

Zelenograd monument to the end of the Battle of Moscow on 7 January 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The monument to the victory in the Battle of Moscow (2 October 1941 - 7 January 1942) is located in Zelenograd, located within Moscow Oblast 37 km northwest of central Moscow at the approximate location of the closest German advance to the city in 1941 and the site of the first mass grave of Russian soldiers. The 42-meter monument symbolizes bayonets carried by Red Army rifle, tank, and cavalry divisions. It is located on the "Hill of Glory" which itself rises 27 meters. An inscription reads, 1941 "Here the defenders of Moscow, fallen in battle for the Motherland, remain forever immortal."
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese attack on the main British defensive line at Slim River on the Malay Peninsula features some of the most daring and fluid attacks of the entire campaign. The Japanese have brought up powerful tank forces on the western end of the British defensive line near Trolak. At 03:30 on 7 January 1942, in heavy rain, the Japanese artillery begins firing at the positions of the Indian 11th Division defending the main raid south toward the Slim River rail bridge. Major Toyosaku Shimada of the 5th Division then sends his roughly 17 Type 97 medium tanks and 3 Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tanks down the road, maneuvering past defensive obstacles. The Indian 4/19th Hyderabad Regiment under the command of Major Alan Davidson Brown quickly call in artillery counterfire that destroys one Japanese tank. The Japanese keep coming, however, and soon drive a wedge into the Allied line. The defensive line breaks up into small groups, and by 04:00 the Japanese tanks had scored a clean breakthrough.

HMS Victorious 7 January 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Striking down an aircraft. The Parking Officer in the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS flagging a Fairey Fulmar to the lift before being struck down." 7 January 1942. © IWM (A 7006).
Major Shimada's tanks then encounter the 5/2nd Punjab Regiment. After losing two tanks to land mines and Boys anti-tank rifles and a third to Molotov cocktails, the Japanese advance stops because the road is blocked and there are dense forests on either side. The Japanese quickly find a loop road that enables them to bypass the blocked main road. By 06:00, the Japanese tanks have destroyed the 5/2nd Punjab Regiment and advanced further south to the town of Trolak, where they face the 2nd Bn, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders under Lt. Col. Lindsay Robertson. The British troops are surprised by the speed of the Japanese advance and four of Shimada's tanks get through their line before the British open fire. The British, with tanks both in front of them and behind them, lose control of the road, and the four Japanese tanks in the lead head straight for the railway bridge. By 07:30, the Japenese have complete control of Trolak and the British are fleeing into the jungle, some remaining there for weeks. The British then destroy the rail bridge, leaving the Japanese in complete control of the north bank but unable to quickly cross the river.

First flight of Supermarine Seafire on 7 January 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Supermarine Seafire, Spitfire fighters converted for use aboard aircraft carriers, makes its first flight on 7 January 1942. There are a total of 2646 built. The first batch of 48 is composed of Spitfire Mk Vb fighters that have been converted to carrier duty by adding an arrestor hook and strengthening the lower longerons. In addition, reinforcing strips are riveted around hatch openings and along the main fuselage longerons to provide strength.
The Japanese now send a small task force under Lieutenant Sadanobu Watanabe toward a road bridge that is still intact six miles away. The British service troops (artillery, medical, food supply, etc.) in this direction are taken by complete surprise, with two British artillery colonels surprised while driving on the road and killed. By 08:30, Watanabe is at the road bridge, where he personally cuts the demolition wires with his ceremonial sword. Watanabe then sends three tanks under the command of Ensign Toichero Sato across the bridge, and Sato advances 3 miles (4 km) before running into two 4.5-inch Howitzers of the British 155th Field Artillery Regiment. Sato's tank destroys one gun, then he himself is killed in his tank by the second gun. The remaining two Japanese tanks then quickly return to the road bridge and await reinforcements.

USS Downes (DD-375) on 7 January 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
USS Downes (DD-375) on 7 January 1942. Downes was badly damaged during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This photo shows the aft deckhouse as seen from off the starboard side. USS Cassin (DD-372) has capsized against Downes' port side (U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph).
All in all, the Japanese advance over the Slim River during the morning hours of 7 January 1942 covers 16 miles (25 km), effectively destroys the 11th Indian Division, and blows a hole in the main Allied defensive line. The British realize the danger and withdraw Indian III Corps - or what is left of it - from the southern bank of the Slim River southward to Tanjong Malim, a village between the village of Slim and a road junction at Kuala Kubu.

With the British defenses further north being savaged, the British in Singapore know they are in trouble. General Archibald Wavell, commander of the entire British-held region centered in India, arrives in Singapore on an inspection tour. He tours the north side of the island with chief engineer Brigadier Ivan Simpson and learns that no island defenses have been prepared. When he queries local commander Lieutenant General Arthur Percival about this, Percival responds that he thinks building defenses would be bad for morale. Wavell immediately orders Percival to begin building defenses on the north side of the island and to prepare to destroy the causeway connecting it to the mainland. Percival pays lip service to Wavell's order but after this meeting does virtually nothing to prepare for a Japanese attack on the island.

HMS Victorious 7 January 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Commander (F) H C Ranald testing the running up of fighter planes with a stopwatch in hand on the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS." 7 January 1942 © IWM (A 7008).
In the Philippines, the Battle of Bataan begins. United States Army and Filipino Army forces in Luzon abandon their switch position at Layac Junction on 7 January 1942. They now withdraw into the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) which is about 20 miles (32 km) long. The MLR extends from Mauban on the west to Mabatang on the east. There is an Outpost Line (OPL) is being maintained forward of the MLR. North Luzon Force now becomes 1 Corps (22,500 men of 1st, 31st, 71st, and 91st Divisions, all Philippine Army (PA), 26th Cavalry Philippine Scouts (PS), miscellaneous troops, and supporting weapons) and defends the western half of the MLR. The Bataan Defense Force becomes II Corps (25,000 men of the 11st, 21st, 41st, and 51st Divisions (all PA), the 57th Infantry (PS) of the Philippine Division, and supporting weapons.) and takes the right half of the MLR.

Sailors aboard FFS Indo Chinois, 7 January 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Members of the crew giving the "V" for Victory sign." FFS Indo Chinois, 7 January 1942. © IWM (A 7015).
The Allies rely on a defense in depth. Behind the MLR is another defensive line composed of U.S. Army Forces, the Far East (USAFFE) reserve, i.e., the U.S. Philippine Division, less the 57th Infantry Regiment; a tank group; and a self-propelled mount group. This completes the Allied retreat into the Bataan Peninsula. There is a Service Command Area located at the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula below the Mariveles Mountains. This rear area is the responsibility of Brigadier General A. C. McBride and is policed by the newly formed 2d Division Philippine Constabulary.

HMS Victorious 7 January 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Commander (F) H C Ranald testing the running up of fighter planes with a stopwatch in hand on the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS." 7 January 1942. © IWM (A 7008).
Battle of the Mediterranean: British patrols find that the Germans have abandoned Agedabia. The first Royal Navy convoy from Alexandria to Benghazi arrives safely despite high seas.

Western Front: RAF Bomber Command continues its attacks on German warships at anchor in harbors along the French coast. While they have attacked Cherbourg Harbor during the past two nights, today the British switch to Wellington bomber attacks on warships at Brest and St. Nazaire. Neither attack causes much damage, but the Germans are on notice that the British are determined to eliminate the Kriegsmarine surface ships parked on the French Atlantic coast.

The Orange Leader of Orange, Texas, 7 January 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Orange Leader of Orange, Texas headlines President Roosevelt's budget request for fiscal 1943.
US Government: Having previewed his plans during his State of the Union address on 6 January 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt submits his budget for fiscal 1943 (the fiscal year begins on 1 October 1942). This budget requests the expenditure of $77 billion over the next 18 months, $56 billion of which is for the war effort. The budget plan calls for the production of 125,000 aircraft, 75,000 tanks, 35,000 guns and 8 million tons of shipping by the end of 1943. These are all outlandish amounts that have never been contemplated, let alone requested, by any administration in the past. However, Roosevelt's party controls Congress and is certain to pass the budget, and everyone is united in a determination to spend whatever it takes to win the war.

Future History: Vasily Alekseyev, the strongest man in the world during the 1970s, is born in Pokrovo-Shishkino, Ryazan Oblast, Russia. He begins practicing weightlifting at the age of 18 and does everything necessary to increase his weightlifting prowess, including gaining weight. Alekseyev sets his first world record in January 1970, encouraged by bonus funds granted by the Soviet government. He goes on to win Gold Medals at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Alekseyev retires after performing poorly at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and later goes into politics. Vasily Alekseyev passes away on 25 November 2011 at a German clinic from heart problems after having become one of the great international sports celebrities of the Soviet era.

"Babes on Broadway" tops the United States film box office on 7 January 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Babes on Broadway" (1941) starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland is the number one grossing film in the United States for the week of 7 January 1942. It comes in ahead of Bob Hope's "Louisiana Purchase."
German Homefront: Although the "Winter Relief Drive" got off to a very late start, the German newsreel "Die Deutsche Wochenschau" for 7 January 1942 is devoted largely to scenes of collecting and distributing winter clothing. There are many happy scenes of happy citizens donating clothing and happy men receiving it. The newsreel announcer notes that "Gifts for soldiers in the East show the unique solidarity between the homeland and the front." It further points out that "only the best wardrobe is good enough for the troops." There are also happy scenes of soldiers at the front building toy airplanes, happily learning to ski, and returning happily from Luftwaffe reconnaissance missions. While much clothing is being collected, little is making its way to the front because of lack of train space, and few soldiers at the front are smiling as they are attacked by the Red Army and losing digits and limbs to frostbite. Still, the battle is going well: "Whoever [on the other side] is not taken dead is taken alive," the announcer proudly states.


2019

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