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.

The Allied line is centered around Mersing, which the Japanese bomb today. The Australian 2/18th Battalion sets up its headquarters at the Nittsdale Estate. The Japanese attempt to bypass the British there to the west.

About 1900 new Australian reinforcements are now ready for deployment in Singapore after 11 weeks at sea. They have had only seven days of serious training and many have never fired a rifle. Supplies are in short supply and the new troops do not even have tropical clothing.

In Singapore, General Percival creates "Westforce" to hold northwest Johore. It is commanded by Brigadier H.C. Duncan and is composed of the Australian 27th Brigade, 9th Indian Division, and the newly arrived 45th Indian Brigade. "Eastforce" is to hold the rest of the peninsula all the way to the east coast of Malaya. The 18th British Division (just arrived) is held in reserve as a counterattack force.

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 airstrikes 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 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.


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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