Saturday, September 7, 2019

February 11, 1942: Tomforce Fails on Singapore

Wednesday 11 February 1942

Royal Navy MGB, 11 February 1942
"Gunners cleaning the 0.5" VMG guns aboard a C class MGB." Royal Naval Coastal Force, Dover, 11 February 1942. © IWM (A 7453).
Battle of the Pacific: At Singapore on 11 February 1942, things on the ground are only going from bad to worse for the Allies. The British command is confused and its troops overwhelmed as the Japanese advance into the center of Singapore Island. At 03:00, the Japanese 18th Division destroys the Australian "X" battalion west of Bukit Timah and continue through the village. The Japanese 5th Division also takes Bukit Panjang. The Australian 22nd Brigade, which has been fighting a harrowing rearguard action all the way from the beaches, now is virtually out of action due to massive losses.

Map of fighting on Singapore, 11 February 1942
Detail of a map of fighting on Singapore on 11 February 1942. It shows the fighting flowing from west to east along Jurong Road. There is a Japanese attack at 03:00 west of Bukhit Timah (red at left). Later, Tomforce digs in east of the town later in the day (at the right).
Bukit Timah is desperately important to the British because it controls the island's water supplies. "Tomforce" of the Australian 27th Brigade (Lt. Colonel L.C. Thomas) is ordered to retake Bukit Panjang as part of a phased counteroffensive to later retake Bukit Timah and the water reservoir. However, the 5th and 18th Japanese Imperial Infantry Divisions beat them back. Tomforce, shattered, then adopts a defensive posture on either side of the Bukit Timah Road. At this point, though, with the Japanese in control of the water, defending is not enough for the British to hold the island for long.

Map of fighting on Singapore, 11 February 1942
Overall map of fighting on Singapore during 11 February 1942. The fighting around Bukhit Timah is in the lower center. 
In the afternoon, Japanese commander General Tomoyuki Yamashita issues a surrender demand, asking the British to "give up this meaningless and desperate resistance." The British do not reply. General Archibald Wavell, commander of American-British-Dutch-Australian Command, orders Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival, Singapore's commander, to fight to the end and not surrender. Percival's strategy now becomes to form a line around Singapore City itself at the eastern end of the island. British 15-inch artillery at Changi, on the island's east coast, turn 180 degrees and begin firing at targets in the Bukit Timah area. However, their effectiveness is reduced because they are armor-piercing shells designed to fire at naval targets. For all intents and purposes, the battle for Singapore is lost on 11 February 1942.

San Bernardino, California, Sun, 11 February 1942
The San Bernardino, California, Daily Sun correctly predicts the future, 11 February 1942.
On the Bataan Peninsula, the Philippines, the US Army I Corps in the western half of the peninsula makes good progress against trapped Japanese forces south of the Main Line of Resistance (MLR). This is known as the "Big Pocket." Some Japanese troops escape through a gap in the lines to the north. Farther south, other trapped Japanese forces at Silaiim Point also lose ground.

Memorial to USS Shark, 11 February 1942
The USS Shark memorial in Muskogee, Muskogee County, Oklahoma.
United States Navy submarine USS Shark (SS-174) disappears around this date. It is likely but not positive that Japanese destroyer Yamakaze sinks the submarine using 5-inch (130mm) gunfire about 120 miles east of Manado, North Sulawesi, Netherlands East Indies. There are no survivors from the 58-man crew.

The Royal Australian Air Force sends three Hudsons to attack shipping at Gasmata, New Britain, Papua New Guinea. They sink two transport ships. Defending A6M4 Claudes of the Chitose Kokuta shoot down two of the Hudsons.

In Burma, Japanese troops in small groups have been quietly crossing the Salween River, which the British are using as their main defensive line. Today, some of these Japanese troops near Paan trap a battalion of the Indian 46th Brigade near Sittang, Monywa. They attack in darkness using only bayonets which have been covered in mud so as not to reflect light. The Japanese shoot the wounded British commanding officer, a Lieutenant Colonel, in his tent along with several other men with him after - Japanese soldier Captain Tadashi Suzuki (Gun Company, 215 Infantry Regiment, 33 Division) later claims - he asked to be shot. Suzuki notes that the Colonel "died in a serene frame of mind."

Eastern Front: Who exactly remains on the offensive on the Eastern Front remains murky. The Wehrmacht has been reestablishing communications to its trapped units in the east at the same time that the Red Army is still on the move to the west. Recognizing that things have stalled, the Stavka now orders the 3rd and 4th Shock Armies of the Kalinin Front to resume their advance south of Lake Ilmen on 12 February. The plan is to tighten the Red Army's grip on the Demyansk Pocket and, once it is further isolated, attack it directly.

USS Shark, sunk on 11 February 1942
This is a nice clean photo of the bow of USS Shark SS 174, sunk on 11 February 1942. This photo was taken on May 20, 1935. The Shark was launched the next day from Electric Boat in Groton, Conn. Photo provided by SN (SU) Alan A Palmer, USN  whose uncle was aboard when Shark was sunk (NavSource Online).
European Air Operations: The RAF sends 49 aircraft to bomb Mannheim, Germany. No planes are lost. Another 25 Wellington bombers and 6 Whitleys attack Le Havre. The RAF loses on Wellington in this raid. RAF Bomber Command sends 18 Wellington bombers over Brest around 19:00, losing one Wellington. While the Brest raid does not cause much damage due to cloudy conditions, it does cause a three-hour delay in the departure of the large German ships involved in the Channel Dash.

During the day, RAF Douglas Boston III bombers of RAF No. 88 Squadron attacks shipping. This is the first action by these planes. In other missions, five planes drop leaflets on Occupied France, and a Manchester bomber is sent on a minelaying operation in the Frisian Islands.

HMS Talisman, 11 February 1942
"HMS TALISMAN [is] seen arriving at port."  11 February 1942 at Holy Loch. © IWM (A 7823).
Battle of the Atlantic: At 22:45 on 11 February 1942, three large German warships escorted by six destroyers quietly leave Brest Harbor. These are heavy cruisers Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen. Their departure has been delayed from 19:30 by an RAF bombing raid, and this turns out to be a fortuitous delay for the Germans because submarine HMS Sea Lion, which has been positioned off Brest to watch for just such an occurrence, ended its watch at 21:35. The Germans also jam radio transmissions, which prevents a British spy in Brest from warning of the departure. It is a cloudy night with a new moon, and a nearby RAF spotter plane equipped with radar fails to spot the ships. Thus the German convoy evades detection and steams off into the night, heading for the English Channel. This is the beginning of Operation Cerberus, more commonly known as the Channel Dash.

Norwegian freighter Heina, sunk on 11 February 1942
Norwegian freighter Heina, sunk by U-136 on 11 February 1942.
U-136 (Kptlt. Heinrich Zimmermann), on its first patrol out of Bergen, has a big day in the North Atlantic south of Iceland. While shadowing Convoy SC-67, it fires four torpedoes between 01:33 and 01:35. They sink two ships: 4028-ton Norwegian freighter Heina and 925-ton Canadian corvette HMCS Spikenard (K 198). There are 57 deaths on the Spikenard and eight survivors. The search is hampered because nobody on other ships notices the Spikenard sinking, so her loss is not even noticed until after dawn. Everybody on the Heina survives.

A repair and salvage unit in the Western Desert, 11 February 1942
"Western Desert, Libya. 11 February 1942. Personnel of Repair and Salvage Units travel long distances to recover damaged Hurricane Mk II aircraft assessed as suitable for repair and load these onto 'Queen Mary' vehicle tenders for return to the unit workshop in the Cairo area with the return journey often taking several days. Off again! RAF vehicle, WD30670, is in the lead of the convoy of five vehicles. The desert surface combines jagged rocks, soft sand drifts, often churned to deep mud. Wear and tear on tyres and chassis is probably the world's worst." Australian War Memorial MED0347.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Before dawn, an Axis air attack hits destroyer HMS Maori in Grand Harbor, sinking it. There are only six deaths because most of the crew is sleeping ashore. After daylight, Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 bombers approach Grand Harbor on Malta just as several Royal Navy ships are entering. They hit cruiser HMS Cleopatra with a 500 kg bomb, causing 20 casualties in the bow area. Later in the day, Blenheims of RAF No. 21 Squadron, based at Luqa, are attacked by fighters as they return to base after an anti-shipping sweep and lose one plane.

Andre Bloch, executed on 11 February 1942
Lieutenant André Bloch, executed as a spy on 11 February 1942.
Spy Stuff: André Bloch, a French agent of the SOE, is executed at Mont Valerien. He will become the first victim honored from section F at the memorial Valençay.

USS Juneau, 11 February 1942
The USS Juneau In New York Harbor, 11 February 1942. Courtesy the U.S. National Archives.
US/Vichy French Relations: U.S. Ambassador to Vichy France Admiral William D. Leahy, USN (Retired), warns the Petain government not to use French ships to ferry Axis men or material to North Africa. He states that he will be recalled if Vichy French ships are used for such missions to Tunisia. Despite having entered the war in December 1941, the United States continues to play a very delicate game in Europe with both Vichy France and Finland. It is not at war with either of them, and both wish to remain at peace with the United States. However, both the French and the Finns remain under extraordinary pressure to provide support to Axis operations which the Americans feel are acts of aggression against the Western powers. So far, both Finland and France have resisted that German pressure, though it is increasing steadily.

HMCS Spikenard, sunk on 11 February 1942
HMCS Spikenard (K198), sunk by U-136 on 11 February 1942.
US Military: USAAF Fifth Air Force completes a transfer of nine P-40s from Darwin, Australia, to Blimbing Airdrome, Java, via Timor Island. Another eleven 5th Air Force A-24s depart today for a similar transfer from Darwin.

Admiral Hart steps down as the commander of Allied Naval Forces in the Southwest Pacific. He is succeeded by Vice-Admiral Helfrich, Dutch Naval Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific.

The 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), activated on 3 February 1942 at Pendleton Field, Oregon, assembles at Gowen Field, Idaho for training.

Australia: The government stages an unannounced blackout in Sydney and is displeased with the results. It counts 822 violations of the blackout. This compares unfavorably with a similar test on 14 January 1942 when 707 violations were spotted. This may be an indication that the panic associated with the beginning of the Japanese invasions is easing slightly.

Canada: There are riots in Montreal regarding conscription plans that involve sending soldiers overseas. The protesters believe that this violates previous government policy of not sending home defense troops overseas. The protesters adopt for themselves the term "Zombies," which has been used by the public in a disparaging fashion for these men who are considered to be of a lesser caliber than regular army troops.

USS Shark, sunk on 11 February 1942
USS Shark, sunk on 11 February 1942 (USN photo # 80-G-456140 via Navsource).


Friday, September 6, 2019

February 10, 1942: US Car Production Ends

Tuesday 10 February 1942

Der Adler, 10 February 1942
"Der Adler", Nr. 3, 10 February 1942.
American Homefront: Pursuant to an order issued by Donald M. Nelson, Chairman of the War Production Board, all remaining car production in the United States ceases on 9 February 1942. In a well-publicized event, the last civilian car is completed for the duration at the River Rouge Ford Plant. This order benefits the war effort in two ways. First, automobile production consumes a huge percentage of the United States' strategically important raw materials (for instance, 51% of malleable iron, 75% of plate glass, 68% of upholstery leather, 80% of rubber). This frees the materials up for war production. Second, the production lines are rapidly being converted to military goods.

Lincoln, 10 February 1942
A 1942 Lincoln. As an indication of how far World War II set the automotive industry back, consider that Ford offered an automatic transmission on 1942 Lincolns and Mercurys, the "Liquamatic," as an option. Ford quickly withdrew it for reasons unknown and did not offer another automatic transmission until 1951. 
Automotive production lines ultimately produce 50% of all aircraft engines, 33% of all machine guns, 80% of tanks and tank parts, 100% of all Army trucks, and 50% of all diesel engines used by the military. Perhaps the auto manufacturers' most vital contribution is the production of 27,000 complete aircraft, including most of the B-24s that enter service at the Willow Run plant. Other vital goods also flow from the auto production lines, including 20% of all munitions production.

Der Adler, 10 February 1942
An article in the 10 February 1942 Der Adler military magazine summarizes the war in the Pacific. On the right is a summary of Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross) winners. Medals were extremely important in the Wehrmacht and gave certain solders prestige and fame far beyond that usually accorded their rank.
Battle of the Pacific: With the Japanese holding a large swathe of northwestern Singapore, General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander in Chief ABDA, arrives by air to review the situation. He orders the island held, which the local generals do not consider very difficult, but also orders all remaining RAF personnel to fly to bases in the Netherlands East Indies. The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate for the British, with the Japanese now able to ferry across artillery and even armor to northwest Singapore. The 11th Indian Infantry Division (Major-General B. W. Key) makes a desperate counterattack against Japanese troops which have seized the heights to the south of the Causeway, but this fails. The overall commander of all Allied forces in Singapore, Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, orders a secondary defensive line behind the main defensive line around Jurong in the west, but subordinate commanders misinterpret this to mean a general withdrawal to the east. This leads to a collapse of the Kranji-Jurong Switch Line. General Wavell orders Percival to launch a quick counterattack to re-establish the line, but through muddled communications and lack of ready troops, this counterattack does not take place before the Japanese launch further attacks in the sector.

Type 97 Japanese tank in Singapore, 10 February 1942
Japanese troops during the Battle of Bukit Timah, 10 February 1942. That is a Type 97 'Chi-Ha' medium tank.
In London, Prime Minister Winston Churchill is dismayed at the reports that he is receiving from Singapore. He cables General Wavell:
I think you ought to realize the way we view the situation in Singapore. It was reported to Cabinet by the CIGS [Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Alan Brooke] that Percival has over 100,000 [sic] men, of whom 33,000 are British and 17,000 Australian. It is doubtful whether the Japanese have as many in the whole Malay Peninsula ... In these circumstances, the defenders must greatly outnumber Japanese forces who have crossed the straits, and in a well-contested battle, they should destroy them. There must at this stage be no thought of saving the troops or sparing the population. The battle must be fought to the bitter end at all costs. The 18th Division has a chance to make its name in history. Commanders and senior officers should die with their troops. The honor of the British Empire and of the British Army is at stake. I rely on you to show no mercy to weakness in any form. With the Russians fighting as they are and the Americans so stubborn at Luzon, the whole reputation of our country and our race is involved. It is expected that every unit will be brought into close contact with the enemy and fight it out.
While Churchill somewhat overstates the number of Allied troops in Singapore, he is generally correct that the British outnumber the Japanese. However, the Japanese have battle-hardened, disciplined troops who have a record of victories down the length of the Malay Peninsula. The British have many service troops, bureaucrats, and unarmed troops (thanks to Japanese sinkings of supply ships). They also are victims of poor leadership and an extremely difficult defensive posture with many areas of vulnerability and little air support.

Death notice from Pearl Harbor attack, 10 February 1942
The U.S. Navy only now has gotten around on 10 February 1942 to providing official notifications to next of kin of those who perished during the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1942. Here is a notice about Chicago resident and U.S. Marine Herbert A. Dreesbach. Private Dreesbach, born in 1917, enlisted on 8 October 1940 and was aboard the U.S.S. Arizona as a loader, 5" gun. As with many others who perished on USS Arizona, Private Dreesbach's body was not recovered and is believed to remain aboard the ship. This notice appeared in the Chicago Daily Tribune, 10 February 1942.
On the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines, the Allies continue attacking Japanese pockets behind the Main Line of Resistance (MLR). The main remaining pocket is on the western half of the peninsula in the I Corps sector. While these pockets do not represent true threats to the MLR, they are a major distraction for both sides. The Japanese troops under General Homma have pulled back in some areas to concentrate their forces for a final offensive.

Sister of Private killed during Pearl Harbor, 10 February 1942
 As noted above, Private Herbert Dreesbach perished aboard the USS Arizona. His sister, Elaine H. Dreesbach, enlists in the US Marines in 1944 and is stationed in Hawaii. Chicago Daily Tribune, 25 February 1945. Born in 1919, Elaine later marries, moves to Arkansas, has two sons and two daughters, and passes away in 2007.
The Japanese continue advancing on Borneo, taking Banjarmasin and a nearby airfield on the south coast. These are not vital areas for the Allies, but the Japanese are advancing in the direction of Java, the heart of their defenses in the Netherlands East Indies. The 5th Air Force sends some LB-30s (export B-24 Liberators) to attack Japanese shipping in the Makassar Strait. They find, bomb, and damage Japanese seaplane carrier HIJMS Chitose.

Michigan Daily, 10 February 1942
The Michigan Daily of 10 February 1942 has big news - the the Regents have adopted a three-Semester school year. Oh, and over on the left is news that the Japanese have invaded Singapore Island in a night assault.
About 2000 US Army troops arrive on Christmas Island, Line Islands. The large defensive forces on Christmas Island also includes P-39s of the USAAF 7th Air Force's 12th Pursuit Squadron, 50th Pursuit Group.

Japanese submarine HIJMS I-69 once again shells Midway Island. However, this time the defending Americans strike back, sending F2A Buffalo fighters of the Marine Fighting Squadron VMF-211 to bomb it. The fighters strafe I-69, lightly damaging it and forcing the submarine to return to Kwajalein for repairs.

The Japanese bomb and sink 5236-ton American tanker Mindanao. The Japanese will raise the Mindanao later in 1942, rename it Palembang Maru, and put it into service until it is sunk by air attack on 4 March 1945 off Saigon.

HMS Eagle, 10 February 1942
HMS Eagle on 10 February 1942 (Imperial War Museum).
Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht has suffered serious losses during the winter when they had planned on building up their forces during an inactive period. This is due to the successful Red Army counteroffensive which began around Moscow and spread both north and south. Army Group Center takes 110,000 casualties during February and receives 70,000 replacements. Since the Soviet counteroffensive began in early December, the Army Group is short 227,000 troops. About a quarter of the replacements are men returning from hospitals, while many of the others are untrained men who previously have been deferred.

Cypriot Mule Corps in North Africa, 10 February 1942
The Cypriot Mule Corps in the Western Desert, North Africa,10 February 1942 (Imperial War Museum).
European Air Operations: The RAF launches its major operation in February, sending 55 bombers to attack Bremen, three Whitleys to bomb Emden, and one bomber each to attack Borkum, Cuxhaven, and Wilhelmshaven. RAF Bomber Command also sends 20 bombers (12 Wellingtons and 8 Stirlings) to attack the German naval base at Brest, but the area is covered by heavy clouds and little is accomplished there. The RAF incurs no losses in these operations.

Der Adler, 10 February 1942
An article in the 10 February 1942 Der Adler about combat in Finnland.
The British still are completely unaware that the Kriegsmarine is planning its Channel Dash (Operation Cerberus) to begin from Brest after dark on 11 February. Adolf Galland, in overall command of the critical air portion of the operation, completes the last of eight rehearsals for the operation. His plan is to have a fighters circling around the ships as they dash up the channel, avoiding British radar until the ships are sighted and the RAF appears. Everything is meticulously planned, and the air portion of the Channel Dash has the codename Unternehmen Donnerkeil (Operation Thunderbolt).

The Luftwaffe continues its operations against British shipping, damaging 3176-ton British freighter Lieutenant Robert Mory about five miles west of Trevose Head.

Der Adler, 10 February 1942
A helpful article in the 10 February 1942 Der Adler which discusses the mascots of Luftwaffe units. These could be cartoon characters, animals, or abstract symbols. For instance, the man with the cane in the middle-right of the left page is the cartoon character Adamson, used in the 4th, then 8th Staffel of elite fighter squadron JG 26. JG 26 was perhaps the Luftwaffe unit best known to Allied fighter pilots, as it served on the Channel front throughout the war.
Battle of the Atlantic: A mine sinks 3648-ton German freighter off Borkum, west of Vlieland, the Netherlands. This sinking sometimes is attributed to a torpedo from an unknown source, but a mine seems more likely, especially considering that RAF recently has dropped numerous mines in the general vicinity.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The two sides have settled down to garrison duty after the Afrika Korps' rapid advance past Benghazi. Off the coast, U-652 (Oblt. Georg-Werner Fraatz), on its fifth patrol out of La Spezia, attacks a British tanker off Sidi Barrani but misses. After dark, a Luftwaffe attack on the village of Qormi, which is packed with refugees, kills 16 people and destroys 30 houses.

Adamson mascot on a JG 26 fighter, 10 February 1942
A good view of the Adamson character used on planes in 8/JG 26.
German/Romanian Relations: Romanian dictator (Conducător) Ion Antonescu arrives in Rastenburg, East Prussia, for a two-day visit with Adolf Hitler. Romania is the Reich's only source of natural oil and also has a well-respected army which incurred heavy casualties taking Odessa in 1941. Hitler already is thinking ahead to the summer campaign and presses Antonescu to provide large formations for a major offensive in the Army Group South sector. Antonescu agrees but asks for modern weaponry and the transfer of northern Transylvania from Hungary, which would reverse the Second Vienna Award of 30 October 1940. Hitler basically replies that he will think about both requests but he ultimately never grants them. This is a reminder to everyone that Romania and Hungary are almost more interested in fighting each other over their conflicting claims in Eastern Europe as they are in defeating the Soviet Union. Throughout the war, Romanian and Hungarian units are always separated by Wehrmacht formations.

Death notice from Pearl Harbor attack, 10 February 1942
Death notices are a fact of life... and death ... during wartime. Here is one from the 10 February 1942 LA Daily World regarding a US Marine, Russell John Durio, killed in action at Pearl Harbor. He was born in 1922, had enlisted on 12 October 1940, and was aboard the USS Arizona. His body is believed to be still aboard USS Arizona.
Finnish Military: The Finnish Army upgrades its Tank Battalion to an armored brigade.

US Military: The Fifth Air continues redeploying its forces. It sends the air echelon (B-17s) of the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy), 7th BG (Heavy) from Hickam Field, Hawaii, to Fiji.

British Homefront: Soap rationing begins in Great Britain.

Look magazine featuring Elyse Knox, 10 February 1942
Look magazine, 10 February 1942. "Why America Can't Lose" is a feature article. The lady pictured on the cover is actress Elyse Knox, future wife of football star Tom Harmon. Mrs. Harmon passed away in 2012.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

February 9, 1942: French Liner Normandie Capsizes

Monday 9 February 1942

SS Normandie after it capsized on 9 February 1942,
SS Normandie on its side after capsizing in New York Harbor on 9 February 1942.
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese in the early morning hours of 9 February 1942 win the Battle of Sarimbun Beach on Singapore Island, forcing the defending Australian soldiers of the 22nd Brigade to retreat. The three Australian battalions that had been defending this sector in northwest Singapore are overwhelmed as the Japanese continue pouring troops across the Strait and move back toward the center of the island. The Japanese advance out of their bridgehead and pursue the retreating Australians through several large estates. A fierce battle erupts around Tengah Airfield, with the defending Australian troops losing hundreds of men killed and hundreds more are wounded. After dark, the British send three British Fairmile B motor launches on a dangerous raid through the Straits of Johor to disrupt the Japanese communications to the troops at Sarim and succeed beyond all expectations, destroying some landing craft and returning intact to base.

SS Normandie after it capsized on 9 February 1942,
SS Normandie after burning and capsizing in New York Harbor on 9 February 1942. Note the car traffic passing by, getting a good view.
Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival, the island commander, remains convinced throughout the night that the Japanese invasion in the northwest is just a feint. He waits until mid-morning to send reinforcements, and these consist of only two half-strength battalions of the 12th Indian Infantry Brigade. Major-General Gordon Bennett, in command of the Australian troops, attempts to consolidate his forces at the Kranji-Jurong Switch Line east of Tengah Airfield - effectively ceding the airfield to the Japanese. The Japanese under General Tomoyuki Yamashita press on despite heavy casualties themselves and the Australian defensive line holds for only a few hours. This stage of the invasion is called the Battle of Kranji. At 23:00, the Japanese land troops just to the west of the causeway, and the Australian defenders quickly retreat in an effort to defend the critical southern part of Singapore. As the day ends, the Japanese are in possession of the northwestern half of the island, including the island's high ground, and the Allies' situation is chaotic but not yet completely lost.

Lowell Sun of 9 February 1942,
The Lowell, Massachusetts, Sun reports in its 9 February 1942 that the "Singapore Situation Is Well In Hand." To be fair, it is only relaying the reports being sent from Singapore by Australian commander General Gordon Bennett. Of course, the map just underneath the headline shows a Japanese invasion in progress, but that is just a pesky detail everything is well in hand.
With the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) on the Bataan Peninsula holding firm, the Allies' attacks on the Japanese pockets behind it continue to have success. In the western I Corps sector, 1st Division, Philippine Army, eliminated the smaller of two pockets (the "Little Pocket") and joins the battle against the nearby "Big Pocket." The Japanese in the Big Pocket know they are in trouble, but their attempted breakouts fail. Far to the south, the 2d Battalion, 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, takes over the fight in the center of the line at the Anyasan-Silaiim pocket and makes some progress.

In the Netherlands East Indies, the Japanese land about 8000 troops near Makassar City and south of Makassar at Jeneponto on Celebes Island. They make good progress toward Makassar, taking a key bridge into the city.

St. Louis Dispatch on 9 February 1942,
The St. Louis, Missouri, Post-Dispatch notes the passing over the British Isles of "Poet Flyer" fighter pilot John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Magee, an Anglo-American volunteer with the Royal Canadian Air Force, perished on 11 December 1941 during an accidental mid-air collision.
The USAAF Fifth Air Force is redeploying its forces over long distances, and this is not easily accomplished. A flight of planes (three 5th Air Force A-24 Dauntlesses, nine P-40s, and an LB-30 Liberator guide) from Australia to a waypoint at Koepang Airdrome on Timor encounters bad weather at the airfield. Forced to land anyway due to fuel exhaustion, all nine P-40s crash. To compound the tragedy, Dutch anti-aircraft gunners at the airfield mistake the planes for Japanese attackers and shoot three A-24s down. They also damage two of the remaining three A-24s, which later are forced to return to Australia for repairs along with the LB-30. This leaves exactly one plane out of the large flight, an A-24, to continue on to the final destination on Java.

Syracuse Herald-Journal, 9 February 1942
The 9 February 1942 Syracuse (N.Y.) Herald-Journal correctly and quickly reports that the Japanese have invaded Singapore Island.
US Navy submarine USS Trout (Lt.Cdr. F.W. Fenno), on its second war patrol out of Pearl Harbor, is on a secret mission to evacuate 20 tons of gold bars and silver pesos, one officer, and mail from the Philippines when she spots a Japanese gunboat about 55 nautical miles from Keelung, Formosa. Commander Fenno firest a torpedo at the gunboat and sinks it, then returns to Pearl Harbor with the gold.

USS Maryland in Puget Sound on 9 February 1942,
USS Maryland (BB-46) on 9 February 1942 off the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington (Naval History and Heritage Command).
Eastern Front: The Luftwaffe airlift to the encircled German garrison at Demyansk and Kholm is underway. The German troops in the larger pocket at Demyansk, II Corps, have reported that they require 300 tons of supplies every day to survive. This is a lot of supplies to ferry, considering that every Junkers Ju-52 could only carry about one ton of supplies. The transports are slow and very vulnerable to Red Air Force fighter attack, so they have to fly in "convoys" of 20 to 40 planes with fighter cover. The airfields within the Demyansk pocket are under sustained bombing attack, which makes landings difficult at best and sometimes impossible. In the latter situation, the cargo containers are dropped through the bomb bay doors with parachutes and sometimes drift into enemy territory. Early indications are that the airlift will never reach its goal of 300 tons of supplies, but may barely carry enough to keep the soldiers fighting until they can be relieved.

European Air Operations: There are no major operations today due to winter weather conditions.

SS Normandie after it capsized on 9 February 1942,
SS Normandie after catching fire and capsizing on 9 February 1942 (US Navy).
Battle of the Atlantic: The 83,423-ton French ocean liner SS Normandie, which has been seized by US authorities and renamed USS Lafayette, suddenly catches fire while being converted to a troopship at her berth in upper Manhattan. After a long fight by local firefighters, Normandie capsizes in the shallow water next to the dock. After salvaging her, the US Navy decides that the ship is too costly to restore. SS Normandie, having sat idle throughout the war, is sold as scrap on 3 October 1946. The scrapping is completed by 31 December 1948. The Normandie, launched in 1932, is 1029-feet long and the first vessel laid in compliance with the 1929 SOLAS Convention (Safety of Life at Sea).

U-654 (Oblt. Ludwig Forster), on its second patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and sinks Free French corvette Alysse in the western Atlantic. There are 34 deaths.

U-586 (Oblt. Dietrich von der Esch), on its first patrol out of Kiel, torpedoes and damages 9057-ton Norwegian tanker Anna Knudsen north of Scotland. The tanker makes it to port with the assistance of a tug.

British freighter SS Empire Fusilier, sunk on 9 February 1942,
British freighter SS Empire Fusilier, sunk by U-85 on 9 February 1942.
U-85 (Oblt. Eberhard Greger), on its third patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5408-ton British freighter Empire Fusilier southeast of St. John's, Newfoundland. The freighter was part of Convoy ON-60 but has been dispersed. There are nine deaths and 38 survivors.

U-108 (KrvKpt. Klaus Scholtz), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 1974-ton Norwegian freighter Tolosa off the North Carolina coast. All 22 crew perish.

SS Tolosa, sunk on 9 February 1942,
SS Tolosa, sunk by U-108 on 9 February 1942 with no survivors.
At Brest, Occupied France, the ships that are scheduled to participate in the Channel Dash, Operation Cerberus, complete their sea trials after being inactive for a year. With everything now ready for the breakout through the English Channel, the date for departure is confirmed for the evening of 11 February 1942. The Germans know that there are many spies in town, so they practice a disinformation campaign by loading the ships with oil barrels marked "For use in the Tropics" and tropical helmets. This deception works exceedingly well, and while locals can easily surmise that the ships are departing, the local spies never alert the British Admiralty that the ships will be heading north.

Free French corvette Alysse, sunk on 9 February 1942,
Free French corvette Alysse, sunk by U-654 on 9 February 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: The two sides have settled down to garrison duty in Libya, but fighting continues off the coast. Luftwaffe planes attack convoy AT-27 near Mersa Matruh and damage Royal Navy escort destroyer HMS Farndale. The Farndale makes it back to Alexandria under tow.

War Crimes: At Makassar City, a company of native soldiers takes a Japanese unit by surprise at a bridge they have captured and inflict numerous casualties. In reprisal, the Japanese take the Dutch prisoners they have taken at the bridge, tie them together in groups of three, and throw them off the bridge to drown. This is the Makassar Massacre.

A Matilda tank coming ashore on 9 February 1942,
A12 infantry tank Mk II "Matilda" II comes ashore from a landing craft during combined operations training involving 5th New Zealand Infantry Brigade at Ras Sudr in Egypt, 9 February 1942.
Chinese/British Relations: Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Madame Chiang, make a somewhat hazardous trip to India for a 13-day visit. This visit helps to mend some of the bad feelings between the two Allies that have arisen from their conflicting claims on U.S. lend-lease supplies in Burma.

Allied Relations: The Pacific War Council, composed of representatives from the U.K., Australia, Netherlands East Indies, and New Zealand, is formed in London. This complements the American-British-Dutch-Australian military command (ABDACOM). The United States is not yet a member but will become one on 1 April 1942.

Time Magazine on 9 February 1942,
Time magazine of 9 February 1942, featuring Robert A. Lovett on the cover (Ernest Hamlin Baker). Lovett is assistant secretary of war for air and oversees the massive expansion of the US Army Air Forces.
US Military: The 78th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) and its three subordinate units, the 82d, 83d and 84th Pursuit Squadrons (Interceptor), USAAF, are activated at Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Indiana. This will become the 78th Fighter Group later in 1942 and eventually serve in the European Theater of Operations.

The 30th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 28th Composite Group, transfers its B-18 Bolo bombers from Elmendorf Field to Ft Greeley, Kodiak. These 1936 bombers are considered almost obsolete and soon are relegated to antisubmarine, transport duty, and training.

THe Donner Lab at Berkeley on 9 February 1942,
Medical Physics Building (Donner Lab) at Berkeley Lab, taken February 9, 1942. (US National Archives).
Finland: Lauri Kristian Relander, the 2nd President of Finland 1925-1931, passes away from heart failure at the age of 58.

Canada: In four by-elections, candidates opposed to conscription are defeated.

American Homefront: Congress imposes daylight saving time by pushing ahead standard time by one hour in each time zone. This is known as "war time." The idea originated in New Zealand in the 19th Century, was used by both sides during World War I, and is based on a theory that more daylight in the morning aids efficiency and saves on energy costs. In addition, Congress also standardizes timekeeping throughout the United States by establishing five time zones. This law standardizing time remains in effect throughout World War II but is repealed shortly afterward. It is resuscitated in 1966 with the Uniform Time Act, which establishes daylight saving time from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.

Newsweek on 9 February 1942,
Newsweek magazine, 9 February 1942.
Future History: Carol Joan Klein is born in New York City, New York. Carol begins taking music lessons at the age of four, then forms a band at James Madison High School called the Co-Sines. At this time she changes her name to Carole King. Her first recording, "The Right Girl," is in 1958. At Queens College, Carol meets and marries Gerry Goffin, and together they form a songwriting partnership. Carole's friend Neil Sedaka writes a song about her called "Oh! Carol" which becomes a minor hit, and not long after that Carole King and Gerry Goffin write "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," which becomes a No. 1 hit for the Shirelles. After this, the duo writes a string of classic hits, including "One Fine Day" for the Chiffons, "Up on the Roof" by the Drifters, and "Pleasant Valley Sunday" for the Monkees. After getting divorced, Carole King goes on to a legendary solo composing and singing career with her No. 1 album "Tapestry" winning four Grammy awards and becoming one of the rock era's classic recordings. Carole King goes on to a long and successful musical career and remains active as of this writing in the 21st Century.

Life magazine on 9 February 1942,
Life magazine, 9 February 1942, featuring the Versailles Chorus (from a feature on nightclubs) on the cover.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

February 8, 1942: Japan Invades Singapore

Sunday 8 February 1942

Battle of Singapore, 8 February 1942,
Firefighters in Singapore battle a fire set by Japanese bombs on 8 February 1942.
Battle of the Pacific: After hours of preliminary bombardment by Japanese artillery, on 8 February 1942 the invasion of Singapore Island at Lim Chu Kang begins at 20:30 when Japanese boats carrying troops approach northwest Singapore. The Japanese troops of the 5th and 18th Divisions land at Sarimbun Beach, which is defended by just three battalions Australian 22nd Brigade. The Japanese gradually expand their foothold throughout the night, eventually landing 4000 troops. By midnight, the Japanese invaders have local ascendancy and the overwhelmed Australian troops have lost communication with each other and are in full retreat.

Battle of Singapore, 8 February 1942,
A map of the Battle of Sarimbun, the invasion of Singapore Island. Shown as blue circles are troops of the Australian 22nd Brigade, with the red arrows indicating Japanese landings. The Australian troops are positioned at the shoreline but are overwhelmed and in retreat before 8 February 1942 is done.
In the Philippines, Lieutenant General Homma Masaharu, the Commander of the Japanese 14th Army, is alarmed by reports that the Allies are exerting massive pressure on several pockets of Japanese Army troops behind the Main Line of Resistance (MLR). Homma suspends all offensive operations and orders withdrawal of his most exposed forces for rest and reinforcement. On the Allied side, US I Corps on the western half of the MLR makes good progress against two pockets, completely cutting off the Japanese. After dark, one of the Japanese forces, the one in the "Little Pocket," escapes through the jungle back to Japanese lines, thus ending resistance there. Further south, the Allies achieve a major victory when they eliminate a small Japanese pocket at Quinauan Point. This attack is assisted by men from US Navy submarine tender USS Canopus, who land on the beach in a motor launch and hem in the Japanese. The Japanese are squeezed between these men and units of the Philippine Army Scouts and 57th Infantry Regiment. All but 34 Japanese, who escape by sea, are killed or captured.

Battle of Singapore, 8 February 1942,
Japanese troops crossing the Singapore Strait to invade Singapore ca. 8 February 1942 (Australian War Memorial 129751).
The Japanese continue their gradual occupation of Borneo today when they land at Bandjermasin in southeast Borneo. US Army Force Fifth Air Force bombers based at Singosari Aerodrome, Java, mounts a raid on  Kendari II Airdrome on Celebes. The defending dozen Japanese fighters spot the force early and shoot down two of nine B-17 bombers and damage a third. The surviving bombers abort the mission and return to base.

Continuing a rather trendless pointless trend of the first few months after the Pearl Harbor attack, a Japanese submarine surfaces and shells Allied installations. HIJMS I-69, which has been in the vicinity of Midway since 21 January 1942 and whose crew may simply be bored, shells Midway atoll to little purpose.

Soviet snowmobile in action, February 1942,
A Soviet Aerosan RF-8/GAZ-98 snowmobile in action, February 1942. They are powered by a propeller (not shown) in the rear, like an airboat in the Everglades. 
Eastern Front: While the German troops in Demyansk have been isolated for some time, 8 February 1942 is regarded as the date on which the pocket there forms. The Soviets are under the command of General Kurochkin. Encircled are about 90,000 Wehrmacht troops and around 10,000 auxiliaries under the command of II Corps (General Walter von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt). These men are members of the 12th, 30th, 32nd, 123rd and 290th infantry divisions, and the SS Division Totenkopf, as well as Reich Labour Service, Ordnungspolizei (uniformed police), Organisation Todt, and other auxiliary units. Many have been swept into the pocket by the advance of Soviet Northwest Front under the command of General Lieutenant Pavel Kurochkin. The Red Army successfully has severed the Demyansk position, which has been forbidden to withdraw due to Hitler's "stand fast" orders, from its railhead at Staraya Russa south of Lake Ilmen. While the Soviet advance has severed the German lines of communication, it has not captured any major German fortified positions, and eliminating the Demyansk pocket turns into their best chance to do that. The Luftwaffe already has an air supply to Demyansk in progress under the command of Luftflotte 1. Unlike some later and notorious airlifts, the Demyansk airlift (and the contemporaneous one to the smaller trapped garrison about 62 miles (100 km) to the south at Kholm) is successful. This is largely because it benefits from relatively short flights and a lack of concentrated Red Army anti-aircraft fire in the forested areas surrounding the pocket.

German 88 mm Flak gun in the Demyansk pocket, February 1942,
A Flak 88 artillery piece in the Demyansk pocket, February 1942.
European Air Operations: Weather conditions are poor, so an RAF mission by four Blenheim Intruders to the Netherlands is recalled while still over the English Channel.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-108 (KrvKpt. Klaus Scholtz), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 7174-ton British freighter Ocean Venture about 100 miles northeast of Norfolk, Virginia (near Cape Hatteras). There are a dozen survivors and 31 deaths.

The ships which are slated to be involved in German Operation Cerberus, the Channel Dash, continue working up their seaworthiness after a year of inactivity at Brest, France. Adolf Galland, Luftwaffe Inspector of Fighters, prepares air cover for the mission. Operation Cerberus is scheduled for the night of 11 February due to lunar conditions.

SS Duino, sunk on 8 February 1942,
SS Duino, sunk on 8 February 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Proteus collides with Italian torpedo boat Sagittario off the North African coast. Both ships make it back to port, the Proteus with bent hydroplanes.

1334-ton Italian freighter SS Duino hits a mine and sinks off Cape San Vito, near Bari, Italy. This sinking is sometimes credited to HMS Upholder, but it is usually attributed to a mine. Italian 2710-ton freighter Salpi is also damaged and perhaps sunk in this incident.

Demyansk pocket, 8 February 1942,
The Demyansk and Kholm pockets.
US/Philippine Relations: Philippine President Manuel Quezon asks President Franklin Roosevelt to grant his country independence and declare it a neutral area. Roosevelt ignores the request but gives the US area commander, General Douglas MacArthur, permission to surrender Filipino troops if he sees fit. This, of course, is not something the Filipino troops or MacArthur have any desire to do, as rumors of Japanese atrocities are floating throughout the theater.

US Military: A fire at Camp Edwards, Cape Cod, destroys 125 vehicles and causes an estimated $250,000 in damage. There are no injuries or deaths.

Canadian Military: The third contingent of Canadian troops lands in Great Britain.

German coastal fortification at Cap Gris Nez, France, 1942 or 1943,
A Todt Organisation fortification at Cap Gris Nez, France, in 1942/43 (Maier, Federal Archive Bild 146-1973-036-01).
German Government: Having spent an extended period at the Wolfsschanze ("Wolf's Lair") near Rastenburg in East Prussia, Dr. Fritz Todt perishes in an aircraft accident shortly after takeoff on 8 February 1942. Reich Minister for Armaments and Ammunition Todt recently had acquired new powers over the economy to improve war production. These powers would have impinged upon the fiefdoms of other top German officials, most significantly those of Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, whose Reich Air Ministry investigates the crash and flatly denied "the possibility of sabotage." Regardless, there are suspicions of assassination. Todt's is one in a series of mysterious transport plane crashes, including those of General der Jagdflieger Werner Mölders and General Hans-Valentin Hube, which remove promising leaders of the Third Reich. Todt's name remains on structures throughout Europe by virtue of inscriptions commemorating their erection by military engineering company Organisation Todt.

Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer,
Albert Speer, right, with Adolf Hitler.
Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler's favorite architect who has been working on civic improvements in Berlin, just happens to be at the Wolfsschanze. He arrived there the previous evening in order to accompany Todt back to Berlin. However, Speer canceled this trip with Todt a few hours before takeoff, claiming fatigue from a late-night discussion with Hitler. Upon learning of the crash, Hitler instantly offers the position to Speer., who accepts. There is speculation that Hitler made this uncharacteristically quick decision in order to forestall a major battle within his inner circle over the Ministry and its immense power over the Reich economy. In particular, Goering was known to covet the Ministry, which would solidify his growing empire of factories throughout Austra and the Balkans (the "Hermann Goering Works"). Hitler also appoints Speer to replace Todt as head of the Organisation Todt, which is tasked with building fortifications throughout Europe.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler in Paris in 1940,
Albert Speer, left, famously accompanied Adolf Hitler, center, on an early-morning visit to Paris in mid-1940. Speer was there as Hitler's friend and architect, not for any military reason.
Everyone, on both sides of the conflict, ultimately agrees that this choice of Speer to replace Todt is among Hitler's most inspired appointments. An architect by training, Alber Speer has virtually no experience in the management of armaments. What he does have in abundance, though, is common sense and few scruples about fulfilling Hitler's wishes. Speer certainly has his detractors within the Reich leadership, where he is disparaged and lazy and not fully committed to ultimate victory. However, Albert Speer is ambitious and savvy enough to use his close relationship with Hitler (whom he has known since before Hitler became Chancellor when he was hired to renovate the Berlin NSDAP headquarters) to defend and even expand his powers. Speer ultimately may have cause to regret his appointment, as he is found guilty after the war of using slave labor and spends 20 years in prison. However, on 8 February 1942, Speer is merely one of Hitler's old cronies who finds himself with vast new powers through a stroke of fortune.

A Junkers Ju 52 involved in the Demyansk airlift, 1942,
A Luftwaffe Junkers Ju-52 flying in the Demyansk airbridge operation, 1942.
New Zealand: The government of New Zealand announces a potato shortage.

Holocaust: Dawid Rubinowicz, a 12-year-old Jewish boy in Occupied Poland, records in his diary an incident that he is told by another boy. He writes that a German soldier had entered a Jewish family's house and:
turned everyone out of the place. He’d then ordered the snow to be shoveled into the house because it was so dirty inside. I didn’t believe it. In the evening, however, I went and saw with my own eyes that it was really true, what he’d told me in the morning. Everyone was terrified, as you can well imagine.
While not as famous as Anne Frank's diary, the stories in the Rubinowicz diary are just as tragic.

Separately, a transport train of 96 Soviet POWs arrives today at Auschwitz. Ultimately, about 15,000 Red Army POWs are sent there, and most perish.

American Homefront: Japanese nationals already are heading toward inland internment camps. As recalled by Toyojiro Suzuki, a member of the Japanese fishing settlement on Terminal Island in Los Angeles Harbor, he was imprisoned on 2 February by members of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation before being embarked on a train east on 6 February. His train arrives today, 8 February 1942, in Missoula, Montana en route to a destination unknown. With him are approximately 150 other future internees. They are being taken to a camp outside Bismarck, North Dakota, where they arrive on 9 February.

Times Square, NYC, February 1942,
Times Square, New York City, February 1942 (John Vachon for Office of War Information).