Sunday, August 25, 2019

February 5, 1942: Empress of Asia Sunk

Thursday 5 February 1942

Empress of Asia, 5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Empress of Asia on fire and sinking, port view, 5 February 1942 (Australian War Memorial P01604.001).
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese continue to tighten their grip on Singapore on 5 February 1942. The British retain access to the sea, but the Japanese control the air and that makes all sea transits extremely dangerous for them. Canadian 16,909-ton troopship RMS Empress of Asia is part of Convoy BM-12 and is approaching Singapore's western approaches when nine Japanese dive-bombers appear. They focus on the Empress of Asia, setting it afire. The ship makes it to Sultan Shoal, where it anchors. Australian sloop HMAS Yarra successfully executes an extremely dangerous maneuver and comes alongside, taking off 1804 survivors of the crew and 18th British Division. HMAS Bendigo picks up 78 men in the water, and HMAS Wollongong later rescues two more, the Empress of Asia's master and chief engineer. Only sixteen men perish, all in the initial attack. After everyone who survived is rescued, the Empress of Asia sinks near Sultan Shoal. More important than the loss of the ship itself (which could have taken off refugees from Singapore) is the loss of all the military equipment on board which is badly needed by the British and Chinese defenders on the island.

Empress of Asia, 5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Empress of Asia on fire and sinking, starboard view, 5 February 1942 (Australian War Memorial P01604.002).
On land, the situation is growing dire for the British. Japanese commander General Tomoyuki Yamashita ostentatiously moves into the former Imperial Palace of the Sultan of Johore on the northern side of the causeway. This gives him a panoramic view of the causeway and the north shore of Singapore Island. This creates an appearance that the Japanese invasion will come at the causeway, which British  Lieutenant-General Ernest Percival, General Officer Commanding Malaya Command, expects. Percival reinforces the area along the coast west of the causeway. General Yamashita plans his invasion for 9 February 1942 and refuses to leave the palace despite British artillery fire. He correctly surmises that the British will not shell the palace itself for fear of angering the native Johor population. British Major-General Gordon Bennett, in command of the artillery, is informed by Australian spotters of Yamashita's presence but does exactly as Yamashita expects - he does not shell the palace.

Empress of Asia, 5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"SS EMPRESS OF ASIA beached and burning. Most of the troops on board were rescued, but nearly all their weapons and equipment were lost. EMPRESS OF ASIA was the only vessel of the convoy reinforcing Malaya to be lost under the air attack. The vessel on the right is SS FELIX ROUSELL." IWM © HU 67641.  
Everyone in Singapore (but not overseas) knows that the British are in trouble, and that includes the locals. They do not want their island to become a battleground. and there are many spies for the Japanese (some or all being Japanese Army infiltrators). They previously have built fortifications for the British with an obvious lack of enthusiasm, and they take this passive-aggressive protest further today when local stevedores refuse to unload 16 tanks and 2000 tons of ammunition from freighter Empire Star. The ship's crew has to do the work themselves. Suspiciously, the lines holding the ship to the dock keep getting cast off without orders during Japanese air raids, causing it to drift off and delaying the unloading. Meanwhile, other ships depart as quickly as they can be unloaded and then embark refugees. HMS Danae, Sutlej, and HMAS Yarra, having escorted in Convoy BM-12, quickly turn around and escort departing Convoy EMU to India. This includes ships Devonshire and Felix Roussel heading for India and City of Canterbury heading for Batavia. At the end of the day, around midnight, HMAS Woolongong sails. It is the last Allied ship to leave Singapore.

British troops on maneuvers in Northern Ireland, 5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A patrol from 4th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, advance warily alongside a hedge during training at Omagh in Northern Ireland, 5 February 1942." © IWM (H 17112).
The pressure on British defenses along the Salween River in eastern Burma is growing. The Japanese are infiltrating around the Indian troops defending the river line and preparing to dislodge them. General Archibald Wavell, Commander in Chief ABDA Command, visits the area to the west of the river opposite Moulmein.

The Imperial Japanese Navy sends seven flying boats to bomb Port Moresby at 03:00. They hit an ammunition (aminol) dump and cause damage in town. Air attacks at 09:15 and 10:20 damage Lae, New Guinea.

Empress of Asia, 5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
RMS Empress of Asia during its service with Canadian Pacific Steamships.
Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht on 5 February 1942 achieves another important goal in its continuing recovery from the Red Army counteroffensive at Moscow. Following a six-day attack through blinding snowstorms and over icy roads, Ninth Army's 46th Panzer Corps makes contact with XXIII Corps near Rzhev. This restores another supply route to German forces trapped in the East and creates a pocket around Soviet Twenty-Ninth Army south of Rzhev. This large Red Army force is now trapped between very weak German lines which could easily be routed or simply bypassed in isolated places. However, the Stavka still (with some justification) believes that its troops remain on the offensive and at this time has no plans to retreat. Thus, both sides believe they hold the initiative and are operating almost with disregard for what the other side is doing.

European Air Operations: A winter lull in operations continues following an abortive RAF minelaying attempt on 4 February. The Luftwaffe launches various missions against shipping and sinks 3431-ton collier SS Corland in the Thames Estuary. All 27 men aboard survive.

HMS Arbutus (K 86), 5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HMS Arbutus (K 86), sunk by U-136 on 5 February 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic:  U-136 (Kptlt. Heinrich Zimmermann), on its first patrol out of Bergen, torpedoes and sinks 925-ton British corvette HMS Arbutus (K 86) in the North Atlantic about 340 miles northwest of Erris Head, Ireland. There are 42 deaths, including the commander, and 33 survivors (one of whom soon expires of exposure).

U-103, 5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U-103 in 1941/42, showing its 3.7 cm Flak gun (Weiß, Federal Archive Bild 101II-MW-3930-23A).
U-103 (Kptlt. Werner Winter), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes, shells, and sinks 8403-ton US tanker China Arrow about 170 miles (282 km) off the Delaware coast and northeast of Norfolk, Virginia. Everyone on board, all 37 men, survive after taking to the boats and being spotted by aircraft on 7 February. China Arrow takes 81,773 barrels of fuel oil to the bottom with it. The ship's master, Paul H. Browne, receives the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for staying with the radio operator on the ship and setting up an emergency radio transmitting to inform the Coast Guard of the incident and giving the position.

U-103 also torpedoes and sinks 8327-ton US tanker India Arrow in the same area. There are 12 survivors and 26 dead, and the ship takes 88,369 tons of diesel fuel with it. This sinking is sometimes listed as having occurred on 4 February 1942.

U-109 (Kptlt. Heinrich Bleichrodt), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, shells and sinks 3531-ton Panamanian collier SS Halcyon about 300 miles northeast of Bermuda. The date of this sinking is uncertain, some sources place it as taking place at 23:00 on 5 February 1942, others on the morning of 6 February 1942.  There are three deaths and 27 survivors.

GMC Jimmy of World War II, 5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
GMC CCKW 353 2½-ton 6x6 cargo truck, aka the "Jimmy" or the "Deuce and a Half." These and its variants were built in large numbers between 1941 and 1945 for the U.S. Army and its allies. The Afrika Korps captured many of these in North Africa.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Following the Afrika Corps' whirlwind advance past Benghazi, Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel calls a halt to the advance. He consolidates his forces by pulling back his most advanced units to Tmimi (At Tamimi) and focuses on stocking up on supplies. The British likewise consolidate their defenses at the Gazala Line. This begins a long period when both sides build up their forces and wait for the other side to make the next move. While the Germans have not reached some major objectives such as Tobruk or the Egyptian frontier, they have dramatically improved the Axis hold on the Mediterranean. Now, Allied convoys to Malta must pass close to Luftwaffe bases either in Crete or near Benghazi. The Afrika Korps also benefits from captured British vehicles (American lend-lease 2-1/2 ton trucks) and stores. In Benghazi, Rommel is delighted to find that the British never removed his own former ammunition stocks which he had been forced to leave behind during the December retreat. His troops badly need this ammunition and put it to good use.

SS Halcyon, sunk on  5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
About 23:00 on 5 February 1942, U-109 shells and sinks 3530-ton Panamanian collier SS Halcyon (shown) while en route from Halifax to Demerara.
Partisans: The partisan uprising in the Balkans has captured the imagination of the Allies. Today, in Operation Disclaim, a British Force 133 airborne mission by the Special Operations Executive begins. Two British and two Yugoslav soldiers, under the command of Major Cavan Elliot, drop into the countryside to the east of Sarajevo. Their mission is to link up with Colonel Draža Mihailovic’s Četnik royalist resistance. However, Croat forces allied with the Germans quickly catch the four men and hand them over to the Germans.

Iranian/Vichy French Relations: The Iranian government, now completely under the control of the Allies, severs relations with Vichy France.

Fifth Air Force shield, 5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Fifth Air Force is formed on 5 February 1942. Previously, it had been the Air Office of the Philippine Department, formed in March 1912, and later the Philippine Army Air Corps, established in 1935, and then the Philippine Department Air Force, activated on 20 September 1941, and then the Far East Air Force, established on 16 November 1941. The USAF Fifth Air Force continues in the 21st Century.
US Military: The USAAF Far East Air Force (FEAF) continues reorganizing its forces and renames itself Fifth Air Force. The newly designated USAAF 5th Air Force sends its 91st Bombardment Squadron (Light) and 27th Bombardment Group (Light) from Brisbane, Queensland, to Malang, Java. The ground echelon remains with General Douglas MacArthur on Bataan, Luzon, Philippine Islands. During the month, 37 B-17Es and 12 LB-30s of the 7th Bombardment Group assemble under the Fifth Air Force umbrella in Java.

The first meeting of the military leaders of the United Kingdom and the United States, the Combined Chief of Staff, takes place in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Navy designates certain areas as Naval Coastal Frontiers. This includes the Eastern, Gulf, Caribbean, Panama, Hawaiian, Northwest, Western, and Philippine Sea Frontiers.

The U.S. Navy activates US Naval Operating Base, Londonderry in County Derry, Ireland. This becomes a base for transatlantic convoys.

Alaskan Air Force is redesignated 11th Air Force and Hawaiian Air Force becomes 7th Air Force.

1942 Olds B-44 ends production on 5 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The 1942 Oldsmobile B-44. It includes Fuselage Fenders and Double-Duty Bumpers. The name is an homage to USAAF bomber designations.
American Homefront: "Woman of the Year," directed by George Stevens and starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. It goes into general release on 19 February. Michael Kanin and Ring Lardner, Jr. will win the award for Best Original Screenplay, and Katharine Hepburn will be nominated for Best Actress. This is an influential movie which will lead to a successful Broadway show in 1981 starring Lauren Bacall.

The last Oldsmobile rolls off the Lansing production line on February 5, 1942. These last automobiles are hampered by wartime shortages and include workarounds such as steel pistons and painted exterior trim. However, they are fully functional and include your choice of a 100- or 110-horsepower engine. "Big, broad-shouldered, commanding."

Future History: Roger Thomas Staubach is born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He enters the U.S. Naval Academy in 1960 and wins the Heisman Trophy as a football quarterback in 1963. After serving in the U.S. Navy from his graduation to 1969, including a year in Vietnam as a supply officer, Staubach joins the Dallas Cowboys. He leads his team to the Super Bowl five times, four times as the starting quarterback, including two victories. Roger Staubach later is named to both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In November 2018, President Donald Trump confers upon Roger Staubach the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Sport magazine featuring Joe DiMaggio, February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"True Sport Picture-Stories," February 1942, featuring "Joe DiMaggio - True Story of the Diamond's Greatest Hero."


2019

February 4, 1942: Battle of Makassar Strait

Wednesday 4 February 1942

USS Marblehead after Battle of Makassar Strait, 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
USS Marblehead. "At Tjilatjap, Java, after she had been damaged by Japanese high-level bombing attack in the Java Sea on 4 February 1942. This view shows the effect of an enemy bomb which struck her stern. Her after 6/53 gun turret is at left. Note the blanked off portholes on her hull side. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives." US Naval History and Heritage Command Catalog #: 80-G-237439.
Battle of the Pacific: The naval Battle of Makassar Strait takes place on 4 February 1942. Dutch Rear Admiral Karel Doorman, commander of the ABDA Combined Striking Force in the Netherlands East Indies, acts under orders from  U.S. Admiral Thomas C. Hart (who is in effective control of operations), Dutch Vice-Admiraal (Vice Admiral) Conrad Helfrich, U.S. Rear Admiral William A. Glassford and (Commodore) John Collins, RAN. Doorman has been at sea since 3 February, when Japanese aircraft spotted his fleet of four cruisers (flagship HNLMS De Ruyter, Tromp, and USS Houston, and Marblehead) escorted by seven destroyers (HNLMS Banckert, Piet Hein, Van Ghent, USS Barker, Bulmer, John D. Edwards, and Stewart). Doorman is taking his force, which is impressive on paper but composed of cast-offs from main forces, to the Makassar Strait in response to reports of a Japanese invasion fleet at sea to invade the cities of Makassar and Banjarmasin.

This battle is different than the action on 24 January 1942, which you may read about here.

Royal Hellenic Air Force Hurricane in North Africa, 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Western Desert, Libya. 4 February 1942. The colors of the Royal Hellenic Air Force embellish the propeller boss of one of the fighter aircraft of a Squadron operating in the Middle East. 'It is the only view the enemy will get of us' says this determined pilot." Australian War Memorial MED0332.
During the early morning hours, Doorman's fleet (which is coming from different ports) assembles off the northeast tip of Java. Around 10:00, Doorman sails for the Makassar Strait, where air patrols report seeing the invasion force. The Japanese send bombers against the fleet, badly damaging Marblehead, killing 15 of its crew, and leaving it dead in the water. Houston also is hit and loses 48 men and its rear guns but is still maneuverable. The Japanese also hit De Ruyter but cause only minor damage. After sailing about for a few hours in an unsuccessful search for the Japanese fleet, Doorman finally cancels the operation due to the continuing threat from the bombers. While the Japanese report sinking three cruisers, all of the ABDA ships make it back to port. Because there are no port facilities in the South Pacific large enough to handle Marblehead, it sails for repairs in the United States and is permanently lost to the ABDA Combined Striking Force.

Dutch freighter Van Lansberge, sunk on 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Dutch steamer Van Lansberge (1937grt), sunk after a torpedo attack by IJN I-55 in the Java Sea on 4 February 1942.
While the Battle of Makassar Strait is inconclusive in some respects, the Japanese are left in control of the Makassar Strait. Thus, it is a major strategic victory for the Japanese as well as being a tactical victory due to the numerous Allied sailors killed and the loss to future operations of one of the ABDA cruisers. The Japanese invasion can proceed and the Allies now begin to lose their grip on the western part of the Dutch East Indies.

The Evening Leader, 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Evening Leader of 4 February 1942 almost gets it right - but the reality is Japanese guns shelling British troops in Singapore.
On Singapore Island, the Japanese shelling and bombing become so bad that the British abandon Tengah Airfield. In truth, this is not a major loss because there are few airplanes left in Singapore anyway. The Japanese issue a formal demand for surrender which the British summarily refuse. British Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival, who expects an attack in the northeast sector because that's where the causeway is, orders his Australian defenders in the northwest area of the island to go to the edge of the waterway. The defenders there are separated by the Kranji River and cannot support each other when positioned so far forward. The soldiers also are spread thin by covering a very long (11 mile, or 18 km) coastline. The Australians plan to send patrols over the Singapore Strait at night to Johor to gather intelligence on the gathering Japanese forces.

A C-47 which had a rough landing on 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Douglas C-53B-DO, #41-20051 (C-47), of the 21st Troop Carrier Squadron, USAAF. During a flight from Java to Darwin on 4 February 1942, bad weather forces it to divert to an emergency airfield for light aircraft on Bathurst Island (60 miles north of Darwin). The plane cannot be moved and ultimately is destroyed in a Japanese air raid on 19 February 1942 before it can be repaired and removed. This picture was taken after the air raid that destroyed it. Australian War Memorial AWM Accession No. 152203. Note that the caption on the AWM page is inaccurate.
In the Philippines, the Allies continue trying to reduce several Japanese pockets behind the Main Line of Resistance (MLR). While the Japanese continue to hold out, they are under increasing pressure. Commanding Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma continues his sputtering offensive against the strong MLR but is growing increasingly concerned about his trapped men.

Soviet casualties in the Crimea, 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
“Soviet Union, Kuban, Osereika Bay near Novorossiysk -- defeated Russian landing attempt in Osereika Bay, with a stranded special Soviet ship for the unloading of tanks, and in the foreground, soldiers lost in battle, 4 February 1942." (Langl, Federal Archive Bild 101I-031-2444-31).
Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht continues its painful attempt to restore its front, or at least communications to its most isolated units, on 4 February 1942. The Rollbahn between Yukhnov and Gzhatsk has been cleared, restoring access to the Fourth Army, but many other large units remain blocked from receiving supplies. In the most important movement today, Ninth Army's 46th Panzer Corps advances through blizzards from Sychevka toward Rzhev in order to establish another line of communications to Fourth Army. If it succeeds in this 30-mile advance, it will create a line in the northwest that will trap large Soviet forces west of the Rollbahn in its own pocket. The Germans optimistically hope to confine and eliminate Soviet 39th Army in this area southeast of Rzhev, but the German hold is weak everywhere and a focused Red Army effort in virtually any direction would at the very least enable the Soviet troops to break out. However, the Stavka is not interested in breakouts at this time and the Red Army local commanders hold a large swathe of territory in which they receive air supply and also supplies through the porous front. It is a peculiar situation in which both sides consider themselves, with some justification, to be on the offensive, only operating in different directions.

RAF Spitfire in Scotland, 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Supermarine Spitfire of No. 603 Squadron RAF taxiing out at Dyce, Scotland, for a routine convoy patrol. 4 February 1942. © IWM (CH 4838).
European Air Operations: The mid-winter lull in operations continues on 4 February 1942. After dark, three RAF Manchester bombers set off on a mission to lay mines in the Frisian Island area but return to base without laying them due to weather conditions.

Luftwaffe planes sink HNLMS patrol boat Deneb off Zuid Broeder in the Doerian Strait, Riouw Archipelago. There are three deaths.

Dutch ship Deneb, sunk on 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HNLMS Deneb, sunk in the North Sea in an air raid on 4 February 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-103 (Kptlt. Werner Winter), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 3627-ton Panamanian banana boat San Gil about 50 nautical miles (93 km) southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Two men are killed in the initial engine room explosion, but the remaining 39 crewmen survive and are picked up by USS Nike later in the day. This incident is sometimes recording as having occurred on 3 February 1942. U-103 also torpedoes and sinks 8327-ton US tanker India Arrow in the same general location, but this incident is usually listed as having occurred on 5 February (sources are very undecided on this U-boat's actual dates for some reason).

SS Sliveray, sunk on 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
SS Silveray, sunk on 4 February 1942. Photo from City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 447-2695
U-751 (Kptlt. Gerhard Bigalk), on its fifth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 4535-ton British freighter Silveray south of Halifax. Silveray is operating as an independent after being dispersed from Convoy ON-55. There are 41 survivors, including the master, and 8 deaths.

Canadian tanker Montrolite, sunk on 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Canadian 11,309-ton tanker MV Montrolite, stalked by U-109 on 4 February 1942 and later sunk.
U-109 (Kptlt. Heinrich Bleichrodt), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 11,309-ton Canadian tanker MV Montrolite northeast of Bermuda. This attack is sometimes given as happening on 5 February, but U-109 begins stalking Montrolite at 21:22 on 4 February 1942. The actual sinking takes place at 02:37 on 5 February. There are 20 survivors and 28 deaths.

HMS Beverley (H-64), formerly USS Branch (DD-197), which was transferred to the Royal Navy on 8 October 1940, sinks U-187 (Oblt. Ralph Münnich) east of Newfoundland. There are 45 survivors and nine dead. U-187, operating with Wolfpack Pfeil on the North Atlantic convoy route is lost on its first patrol and sinks or damages no ships during its career.

Greek pilots in the Western Desert, 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Western Desert, North Africa. 4 February 1942. Greek pilots of a Royal Hellenic Air Force Squadron receive final instruction upon the course they will fly to their forward landing ground in Libya." Australian War Memorial MED0333.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Following a British withdrawal on orders of the commander of British Eighth Army, General Ritchie, German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps takes Derna. This solidifies the gains of Rommel's latest offensive beyond Benghazi and provides a foundation for a future advance on Tobruk. Rommel now contemplates his options and decides to consolidate his forces. British Eighth Army retreats in good order to the Gazala Line. This begins a lull in operations that lasts for many weeks.

Greek pilot with his dog in the Western Desert, 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Western Desert, North Africa. 4 February 1942. This Greek flight commander made a 10-pound wager that he will bring down the first Hun for the Royal Hellenic Air Force. Previously flying night bombers and before that navy co-operation aircraft he is off to the battle zone with his dog on his shoulder." Australian War Memorial MED0313.
War Crimes: Following the surrender of Australian troops on Ambon Island in the Netherlands East Indies, the "Carnage at Laha" begins. This incident, also known as the Laha Massacre due to its taking place close to the town of Laha, leads to the deaths of perhaps 100 Australian POWs, including commanders. Some Australian POWs, who surrendered under a traditional white flag and after extended negotiations, are kept at prison camps for several days before being executed. The men are executed in traditional Japanese style, blindfolded and beheaded with Samurai swords. Those POWs not executed in this fashion are exterminated through mistreatment over the next two weeks. The Carnage at Laha leads to war crimes prosecutions after the war.

Harald Gelhaus, commander of U-107, which arrives off Cape Hatteras on 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Harald Gelhaus, commander of U-107. U-107 arrives off the coast of Cape Hatteras, United States, on 4 February 1942 during Operation Paukenschlag. The U-boat has headed south from the New England area, where pickings were slim.
British/Egyptian Relations: It is no secret that King Farouk has Axis sympathies. The British are concerned because he recently dismissed his entire Cabinet over disagreements about supporting the Allied war effort. British Ambassador to Egypt Sir Miles Lampson decides today to focus King Farouk's attention and create a sense of urgency by surrounding the royal palace with tanks.

US Military: The USAAF Far East Air Force (FEAF) begins transferring bombers of the 7th Bombardment Group, 9th Bombardment Squadron, and 88th Reconnaissance Squadron to Karachi, India. This implicitly is a vote of non-confidence in Australian defenses and a recognition of the growing danger in Burma.


Greek Hawker Hurricane in the Western Desert, 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Western Desert, North Africa. 4 February 1942. Airborne with its Greek pilot at the controls this Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft of the Royal Hellenic Air Force sets forth to a Libyan landing ground." Australian War Memorial MED0334.
British Government: Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken) becomes Britain's Minister of Production. This is a newly created position places Beaverbrook in contact with Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour and National Services. The two men have a history of not getting along, and Bevin now refuses to work with Beaverbrook despite the latter's previous successes as Minister of Aircraft Production. This conflict will come to a head within two weeks.

American Homefront: The US Department of Justice under Attorney General Francis Biddle orders all enemy (Japanese, German, and Italian) aliens to leave 31 vulnerable sectors in the states of Oregon and Washington by 15 February 1942.

Major General Joseph Henry Pendleton (June 2, 1860 – February 4, 1942) passes away in Coronado, California. Following a 40-year career in the US Marine Corps, he served as mayor of Coronado from 1928-1930. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego County is named in his honor.

Damage to USS Marblehead after the Battle of Makassar Strait, 4 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
USS Marblehead (CL-12): "In Netherlands East Indies, Tjilatjap, Java, after being damaged by Japanese air attack during the Battle of Java Sea, on 4 February 1942. Chinese cooks at work in the cruiser's bomb-wrecked wardroom pantry." Naval History and Heritage Command Catalog #: 80-G-237444.

2019

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

February 3, 1942: Japanese Shell and Bomb Singapore

Tuesday 3 February 1942

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Singapore. Two women sit on the street among rubble and debris wailing and crying, showing their grief for the small child whose dead body lies nearby in front of a damaged rickshaw after a Japanese air attack." 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/22).
Eastern Front: The Germans achieve a major success on 3 February 1942 when they clear the vital supply road to Fourth Army that runs from Yukhnov to Gzhatsk. German XII Corps and the 20th Panzer Division blast their way through Red Army roadblocks and "bridge the gap," thereby allowing resupply to the beleaguered army. There are Soviet forces on either side of the road - Soviet Thirty-third Army to the west and Forty-third Army to the east - and the corridor (which includes the nearby railway line) is only a few miles wide in places. However, for the first time in over a week, General Heinrici's Fourth Army can get the supplies that it needs to survive. Now, the Soviets to the west of the corridor begin to worry that they may be the ones who are trapped. However, German strength along the Rollbahn (as the Germans call the road) is very weak, and supply convoys must have armed escorts to fight their way through at times.

In Finland, General Mannerheim sends a letter in response to a German request that Finnish forces resume an advance toward the Murmansk railway line. It says that Finnish troops would be unavailable to advance toward Belomorsk, the chosen point of attack, during the winter. The letter leaves few doubts in German minds that Mannerheim has become pessimistic about the course of the war and is unlikely to mount any offensive operations until the Red Army is basically defeated.

Fairey Fulmar flying off of HMS Victorioius, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A Fairey Fulmar making a low-level attack on the stern of HMS VICTORIOUS after completing a turn of fighter patrol duty." This photo was taken aboard HMS Victorious while refueling near Iceland ca. 3 February 1942. © IWM (A 7538).
Luftwaffe ace Rolf Kaldrack (24+ victories, 3 in Spain) is killed in his Messerschmitt Bf 110 E-1 "S9+IC" (Werksnummer 4057 (factory number)) south of Toropets when his plane collides with a Mig-1 that he or his gunner (Unteroffizier Enke, also killed) had just shot down. He posthumously is awarded the 70th Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

SS Pinna, sunk by Japanese aircraft south of Singapore on 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British freighter SS Pinna, bombed and destroyed by Japanese aircraft after leaving Singapore on 3 February 1942.
Battle of the Pacific: The British Commonwealth troops have withdrawn into their island fortress of Singapore. They have troops manning the coast and have blown the only causeway to the mainland. The Japanese, however, are just across the Singapore Strait and not ready to eliminate this last Allied presence on the Malay Peninsula. Today, they bring up their heavy artillery and begin shelling the island. The British counter-fire, but they are hampered by the lack of high explosive shells. The armor-piercing shells available, which would be ideal against a naval attack, are ill-suited for land targets. While the port of Singapore remains open, using it is proving increasingly hazardous. The Japanese continue bombing Singapore and sink 10,224-ton British cargo liner Talthybius (later salvaged by the Japanese and put in service as Taruyasu Maru). Another British freighter, 4958-ton Loch Ranza, is bombed by Japanese planes and sunk while en route from Singapore to Batavia. The captain beaches the ship, but there it blows up. The Loch Ranza crew escapes and is rescued by HMAS Toowoomba. British 6121-ton tanker Pinna is hit during the same raid, also is beached, and also is lost on 3 February 1942.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Singapore. Smoke rises from a demolished building on Rochor Canal Road (note the fallen signpost) after the air attack by the Japanese. A burnt-out vehicle lies on its side in front of the ruins of the wrecked building." 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/31).  
An air battle begins over Port Moresby, Papua, New Guinea. The Imperial Japanese Army and Navy bombers attack while the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) defend. The Allies at this time are severely handicapped by lack of aircraft and other equipment, relying at the start of the battle solely on their Australian Army anti-aircraft batteries and other ground fire. Port Moresby is protected less by troops at this point than by its relative isolation, as it is extremely difficult to reach across mountain trails and any seaborne invasion must make a huge loop to the east that exposes the attacking ships to attacks from Allied naval forces and land-based bombers.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Singapore. Neither the cattle nor their attendant seem in the least perturbed by smoke billowing from a nearby blaze, the result of a Japanese air raid." 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/30).
In the Netherlands East Indies, the last Allied holdouts on Ambon Island surrender. At Laha, the Japanese have captured the island's most important airfield and the defending Australians have been greatly reduced in numbers. The Australian commander at Laha, Lieutenant Commander Scott, surrenders in the morning, while a separate Allied force at Kudamati surrenders a few hours later. These surrenders lead to the Laha Massacre (see below). About 30 Australian soldiers manage to melt into the jungle and eventually find means of escaping. Among other strategic effects of the Japanese capture of Ambon, it places Japanese land-based bombers within range of Darwin, Australia (see 19 February 1942).

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Singapore. Singapore firefighters quelling a blaze with their water hoses after a bomb raid by the Japanese. 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/27).
In the Philippines, the US Army II Corps reestablishes its line on the Pilar River after the Japanese finish evacuating their bridgehead there. The Allies continue trying to reduce the handful of Japanese pockets behind the main front, with little success. The Japanese launch an air raid on Singosari Airdrome which destroys four fully loaded USAAF B-17 bombers, adding a fifth B-17 which they shoot down nearby. Another Japanese raid at Soerabaja destroys three Royal Netherlands Navy Catalina flying boats and a USAAF B-18 Bolo bomber. The B-18 also is shot down in flight, killing all aboard (including some badly needed radar technicians). USAAF P-40s based at Blimbing Airdrome manage to intercept the Japanese planes and shoot down two fighters and a bomber at a cost of one P-40 of their own.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Singapore. Black smoke billows into the air from a timber yard ablaze after a Japanese air attack." 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/29).
In Burma, the American Volunteer Group (AVG) "Flying Tigers" continue their successful air operations against attacking Japanese aircraft. Pilots of the 2nd Squadron shoot down a Japanese Army bomber over Toungoo Airdrome at about 16:00. Off Palembang, Japanese aircraft sink 5424-ton Dutch freighter Sudabar.

European Air Operations: A lull in operations due to winter weather that began on 1 February continues today.

MV Amerikaland, sunk by U-106 on 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
MV Amerikaland, sunk by U-106 on 3 February 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: It is another good day for the German U-boats operating off of the eastern United States coast as part of Operation Paukenschlag. U-106 (Kptlt. Hermann Rasch), on its fifth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 15,339-ton Swedish freighter Amerikaland about 90 miles east of Virginia Beach. The Amerikaland is an independent which is hit by the first torpedo at 03:23 on 3 February 1942. Everyone manages to take to the boats, but five crewmen later die of exposure due to a snowstorm and generally frigid weather. Fifteen men survive.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Singapore. Soldiers and civilians co-operate in rescuing wounded from damaged buildings after bombing in Japanese air attacks." 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/18).
U-103 (Kptlt. Werner Winter), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and shells 3627-ton Panamanian banana boat San Gil about 15 miles south of Fenwick Island, Delaware, lighthouse. The ship goes down after the crew abandons it in two lifeboats which are picked up later in the day by USS Nike. There are two dead (killed when the torpedo hits the engine room) and 39 survivors. This sinking is sometimes dated on 4 February 1942, with the time of the attack variously reported as 23:50 on the 3rd and 06:43 on the 4th.

SS San Gil, sunk off the Delaware coast on 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
SS San Gil, sunk off the Delaware coast on 3 (or 4) February 1942.
The battle of the small boats along the English Channel continues with great ferocity. British motor gunboats sink German freighters Hermann (a 114-ton schooner) and Schleswig-Holstein (174 tons) off the coast of Brittany. The sinking of the Schleswig-Holstein is sometimes erroneously dated to August 1942, but that apparently was another ship, perhaps of the same name.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Singapore. Smoke haze over the city after bomb attacks by Japanese. 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/07).
Battle of the Mediterranean: German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel presses forward on the advance from Benghazi. The Afrika Korps captures Timimi. The British follow orders from General Ritchie and fall back toward the Gazala Line, evacuating Derna. This leaves Derna in German hands again almost exactly a year after they captured it in early 1941.

Off Tunisia, HMS Umbra (Lt. S.L.C. Maydon) torpedoes and badly damages 6142-ton Italian freighter Napoli. The captain of the Napoli acts fast and beaches the ship about 30 miles east of Sousse, Tunisia. This maneuver is successful, but aircraft destroy the beached freighter on 11 February.

Soviet propaganda of February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Soviet propaganda leaflet dropped on German positions in February 1942. It begins: "News from the Front. German soldiers! The German army has suffered great losses. It is doomed. You can conceal this. Read the truth about the situation at the front." It continues on to describe how the Red Army is pushing back the Germany Army around Moscow.
War Crimes: The little-remembered battle of Ambon Island leads to one of the least-remembered massacres of the early months of the Pacific war. The Japanese spend the next fortnight murdering prisoners of war, including more than 300 Australian and Dutch soldiers near Laha Airfield. Among those executed are Commander Scott and Major Mark Newbury, both of whom led peace delegations and entered Japanese lines under flags of truce. The surviving Allied prisoners are horribly mistreated with 405 of 582 who remained in Japanese prisons perishing by 1945. This leads to a war crimes trial in 1946 which results in death sentences and imprisonment of those involved. This incident is recounted in the film "Blood Oath" (1990).

Soviet propaganda of 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The reverse side of a Soviet propaganda pamphlet dropped on German troops in February 1942. "“IT IS EASIER TO DIE, THAN TO BEAR SUCH AGONY."
Allied Relations: Following a difficult period in British-Chinese relations due to disputes about American lend-lease equipment, Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek agrees to send the Chinese 6th Army into Burma. This allows the British to consolidate their own dispositions in the theater, and today they send the Indian 48th Brigade to the sector controlled by the Indian 17th Division.

Plastic armor fencing on HMS Forte III, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"The Watch House at HMS Forte III." This is plastic armor fencing, a type of vehicle armor designed by Edward Terrell of the British Admiralty in 1940. It was cast in situ for bunkers and gun shields on the decks of ships. The plastic was good at deflecting bullets. A patent court later awarded Terrell sole credit for this invention, which saved many lives after being fitted to about 10,000 ships. 3 February 1942 (© IWM (A 9985)).
US Military: The Far East Air Force shifts thirteen P-40s of the 20th Pursuit Squadron from Darwin, Australia, to Java.

Canadian Military: The Canadian Women's Auxiliary Air Force becomes the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division).

British Military: The British activate Port T, a top-secret naval base on Addu Atoll. This is a remote island southwest of the tip of India.

German Berlin police leaders, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German Berlin police leaders General of Police Kurt Daluge, right, and SS-Gruppenführer Dr. Ernst Grawitz meet at the Kurmark Police Station, 3 February 1942.
British Homefront: The government sets maximum prices for certain types of clothing. For instance, the maximum price for a suit is set at £4 18s 8d.

American Homefront: Major League Baseball owners meet and decide to allow fourteen night games for each club (the Washington Senators get 21). They also schedule two All-Star games, one with a military all-star team. They set a curfew for all night games, with no inning to start after 00:50.

Singapore bombing, 3 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Singapore. Some of the city buildings with smoke rising from fires caused by bombing in Japanese air attacks, only days before the Japanese landed on the island. 3 February 1942 (Bottomley, Clifford, Australian War Memorial 011529/01).

2019

Monday, August 19, 2019

February 2, 1942: Germans Recovering in Russia

Monday 2 February 1942

British warships on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A British destroyer flotilla taking part in Mediterranean operations." Photo was taken on board HMS Jervis in the eastern Mediterranean, 2 February 1942 (© IWM (A 8576)).
Eastern Front: The winter has bent but not quite broken the Wehrmacht, and by 2 February 1942 it is fighting back to protect its most vital arteries. The Rollbahn, a major (for Russia) road from Yukhnov to Gzhatsk, is the lifeline to Fourth Army in the Moscow sector, and the Soviets have held it for a week. The Germans now are fighting furiously from either end of the road to open it up, with General Heinrici sending his Fourth Army troops south and General Ruoff advancing with his Fourth Panzer Army vehicles north toward him. They make good progress today, though they do not quite close the gap and reopen the road yet. There are supplies waiting behind Ruoff's forces to be sluiced through the moment the road is cleared. This is one of the most important operations of the winter because until the road is cleared, the Fourth Army must rely on air support. The Luftwaffe already is hard-pressed supplying surrounded garrisons at Kholm, Demyansk, and elsewhere, so clearing the road is a top priority.

British Home Guard troops on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Major the Earl of Bradford (right) directs his company of the Home Guard during exercises with regular troops, 2 February 1942." © IWM (H 17543).
As the Germans regain their footing on the Eastern Front, their ambitions begin to expand again. General Dietl, commanding the Army of Lapland, is trying to convince the Finns to participate in an attack to cut the Soviet railway line to Murmansk at Belomorsk. Marshal Mannerheim, commanding all Finnish forces, is noncommital but indicates that he would be ready to participate in such an operation once the Germans capture Leningrad. Of course, the Germans have no hope of capturing Leningrad anytime soon due to their difficulties on the main front and pretty much everyone knows that. German General Waldemar Erfurth, who leads the German liaison team at Mannerheim's headquarters, reports back to OKW that Mannerheim has a pessimistic view of the war and is unwilling to stage any attacks that he has any chance of losing. Mannerheim prepares a letter to General Keitel today which basically expresses these views. The Germans have no alternatives in the northern sector of the front and are at Mannerheim's mercy.

A P-47 on the cover of Life magazine on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Life Magazine for 2 February 1942 features a Republic P-48 Thunderbolt on the cover. The XP-47B prototype, designed by Alexander Kartveli, first flew on 6 May 1941. There are only the XP-47B and an engineering prototype in existence during February 1942, so this truly is a cutting edge photo and undoubtedly had to pass through military censors.
Battle of the Pacific: In the Philippines, the fighting along the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) on the Bataan Peninsula has died down while the Japanese reinforce their presence for a decisive attack. However, the Allies continue strenuously battling Japanese pockets and bridgeheads behind the MLR, some very close to the MLR and others many miles to the south. On the eastern half of the MLR, US II Corps eliminates a small Japanese bridgehead across the Pilar River when the last Japanese leave after dark. On the western half of the MLR, the Americans send tanks of the US 192d Tank Battalion supported by a platoon of the 1st Battalion, 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, against the "Big" Japanese pocket. However, the Japanese are dug in and hold their ground in the rough terrain. Much further south, the Americans try the same formula (tanks of the 192d and Filipino Scouts) against the Quinauan Point beachhead. However, the Japanese there have been cheered by ultimately unsuccessful Japanese attempts to resupply and reinforce them, so they also resist the Allies. Those reinforcements, which the Allies diverted to the Anyasan-Silaiim sector, also hold out against fierce attacks by the Scout battalions (2d Battalion of the 45th Infantry; 3d and 1st Battalions of the 57th Infantry. The day's events are discouraging for the Allies, but the MLR provides a growing sense of security and the hope that they can hold the Bataan Peninsula indefinitely.

An SB2U-2 Vindicator aboard USS Wasp on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A snow-covered SB2U-2 Vindicator sits on the USS Wasp flight deck, February 1942 (Naval History and Heritage Command).
In the Netherlands East Indies, Japanese troops continue occupying Ambon Island, home to an important naval base. The Japanese take Laha Airdrome from Australian troops during the morning. Later in the day, the surviving Australian troops send a surrender parley under a white flag carried by Major Newberry, the commanding officer at Laha. The Japanese promptly imprison them in the local school for the night. Offshore, Dutch mines sink Japanese minesweeper W-9 and damage minesweepers W-11 and W-12.

Sailors in Singapore on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Kepper Harbour, Singapore. 2 February 1942. Men of HMAS Hobart returning electric sewing machines in wooden crates that they had found in a godown (storage shed where incoming merchant goods were stored after unloading), just before the fall of Singapore. Approximately fifty sailors were placed under guard on the quarterdeck by the gunnery officer before Captain H. Howden returned to the ship from the dockyard and ordered the sailors to return the machines to the godown. However, some machines were brought back to the ship with a lot of other selected material. The Captain returned to the ship with a car and the dockyard crest, both of which were shipped back to Australia. (Donor M. Williams)" Australian War Memorial P02497.026.
This is the last relatively quiet day in Singapore, as the Japanese have not yet brought up artillery. The British have blown the causeway to the mainland and organized their defenses into three sectors: Northern, Southern, and Western. The largest RAF airfield is at RAF Tengah in the Western Area, but the planes have almost all been withdrawn to the Netherlands East Indies. The most vulnerable area for an invasion is recognized as the northwest part of Singapore, where there are mangrove swamps, jungles, creeks, and rivers. The British are still able to receive reinforcements and leave by sea, and there really isn't much sense of urgency in the city.

Tamagawa Maru, sunk on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Tamagawa Maru, sunk by USS Seadragon on 2 February 1942.
USS Seadragon (SS-194), on its first patrol out of Soerabaja, Netherland East Indies, sinks 6441-ton Japanese freighter Tamagawa Maru off Cape Bolinao, Luzon. Seadragon attacks a five-ship convoy off San Fernando and sinks the fourth ship in the line. This is of great aid to the Allies in Bataan, as the ship carried reinforcements and equipment for the coming Japanese offensive.

Following the successful Marshalls-Gilbert Raids of 1 February, Admiral Halsey retires with his task force from the area in bright moonlight. The US Navy ships are shadowed by Japanese planes and a submarine but escape unscathed at 25 knots. The ships encounter a sudden storm during the morning, which they use to screen themselves from the Japanese. Halsey proudly tells that the task force that it has "made history in the Marshalls."

FV Cape Spartel, sunk on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
FV Cape Spartel, one of the ships sunk by the Luftwaffe on 2 February 1942.
European Air Operations: There is a week-long lull in strategic air operations along the western front due to winter conditions. About twenty German aircraft do mount a raid on the Humber and bomb and sink 346-ton HMT Cape Spartel and also 324-ton HMT Cloughton Wyke at Yarmouth.

Admiral Doenitz on the cover of Time magazine on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Admiral Doenitz graces the cover of Time Magazine, 2 February 1942 (cover credit: Vuk Vuchinich).
Battle of the Atlantic: British escort destroyer HMS Westcott (D47) sinks U-581 (Kptlt. Werner Pfeifer) off the south exit from Horta Harbor, Azores, Portugal. U-581 was caught on the surface after an unsuccessful torpedo attack on Westcott and accompanying destroyer Croome. Due to a mechanical issue, U-581 could not submerge, and Westcott succeeds in a second attempt to ram it. Almost the entire U-581 crew, 41 men, survive after being picked up by the destroyers, while four men perish. One German sailor, Oblt. Walter Sitek, survives by swimming six km (well over three miles) to shore (he is repatriated to Germany, becomes a U-boat commander, and survives the war). U-581 ends its career having sunk one ship, HMS Rosemonde on 19 January 1942, of 364 tons.

U-103 (Kptlt. Werner Winter), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, is operating off the east coast of the United States as part of Operation Paukenschlag (Drumbeat). Winter gets his first sinking of the patrol when he torpedoes and then shells 6182-ton US tanker W. L. Steed about 85 nautical miles (160 km) east of the mouth of the Delaware River. The weather is horrendous, with snow and icy temperatures, so many of the 38 men who take to the boats perish from exposure. Ultimately, there are 34 dead and four survivors.

Captain Erns Kals of U-130 departs from the East Coast of the US on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ernst Kals, commander of U-130.
Operation Paukenschlag was never intended by the Germans to be a lengthy offensive. The original plan was to send one wave of five U-boats (U-66, U-109, U-123, U-125, and U-130) in early 1942 and then return focus to the convoy routes. However, the unexpected success of the U-boats along the east coast of the United States has led to a decision to continue the offensive with new waves of boats. The first wave of U-boats already is returning to Europe, with U-130 (Ernst Kals) exiting the area south of Cape Sable on 2 February. It heads back to Lorient, though it first has a rendezvous with U-109 (Heinrich Bleichdrodt), which also is leaving the area, in the mid-Atlantic in order to transfer some fuel.

W. L. Steed is sunk on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
W. L. Steed, sunk by U-103 on 2 February 1942.
The Royal Navy has been keeping a close eye on German heavy cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, which have been bottled up in Brest, France, for the better part of a year. They are within easy bombing range of the RAF, but winter conditions have not been suitable for a decisive air attack on them. Since that will soon change with the passing of seasons, the Germans have been busy readying the ships for action. The British Naval Staff, perhaps operating off of decoded German radio transmissions, begins planning to stop an expected breakout of the large German ships up the English Channel and back to Germany. This is considered extremely dangerous by both sides, as the ships would have to make much of the journey during daylight when the RAF could easily attack. However, Adolf Hitler believes that the risks are worthwhile because of Allied control of the air and sea in the Atlantic and the ships can be put to some use in northern Norway. Thus, the Germans have begun planning Operation Cerberus, also known as the Channel Dash.

Battle of the Mediterranean: German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel's troops continue their rapid march from Benghazi. The Afrika Korps is advancing in two columns. The coastal column captures Berta but is stopped a dozen miles west of Derna. The inland column advances further, stopping south of Derna. In Cairo, General Claude Auchinleck, Commander in Chief Middle East Command, can see what is coming and tells his Eighth Army commanders that he expects them to hold Tobruk.
ATC Gazette of February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Air Training Corps (ATC) Gazette Vol. II No. 2, February 1942.
US Military: VII Interceptor Command is activated at Ft Shafter in Hawaii.

Major General Joseph W. Stilwell becomes Chief of Staff to Supreme Commander, China Theater (Chiang Kai-shek). His portfolio is to:
increase the effectiveness of United States assistance to the Chinese Government for the prosecution of the war and to assist in improving the combat efficiency of the Chinese Army.
Stilwell cannot do much about the Chinese Army, but he helps to sort out the chaos of Lend-Lease shipments to China.

The Headquarters of the USAAF 49th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) arrives in Melbourne, Victoria. They are equipped with P-40s, the most plentiful USAAF fighter at this time. These are raw pilots just out of flight school and their first assignment is to help put their own planes together from the crates in which they were shipped.

Egypt: The entire British position in the Mediterranean hinges on keeping a tight grip on Egypt. However, that grip is shaken today when King Farouk, who is known to harbor Axis sympathies, forces his entire cabinet to resign.

Holocaust: The commandant at the Auschwitz camp institutes a new "reeducation" policy for some prisoners (Erziehungshäftlinge). This involves giving such prisoners a new series of numbers (beginning EH 1) that are distinct from the general series of numbers. A total of 1137 such numbers are issued. These reeducation prisoners live under the same conditions as other prisoners in the camp but are released after a limited period not to exceed eight weeks (though this time limit is not honored in actuality and many spend much longer in the camp). Ultimately, about 11,000 prisoners in this category pass through Auschwitz.

American Homefront: The Federal Bureau of Investigation is rounding up suspected Japanese spies, as evidenced by a headline in the 2 February 1942 Seattle Daily Times which reads, "FBI Ousts Nipponese in Island Raid."

USS Silversides on 2 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Bow view of the USS Silversides (SS-236) off Mare Island, California, 2 February 1942 (U.S. Navy).

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