Friday, September 20, 2019

February 17, 1942: Indian Troops Defect to Japanese

Tuesday 17 February 1942

Tobruk 17 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Troops passing through Tobruk visit the graves of their comrades. The graves belong to Australian, Polish, South African, New Zealand and British soldiers." 17 February 1942. © IWM (E 8448).
Battle of the Pacific: At Bataan in the Philippines, the Allies finally establish a solid and continuous front along the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) on 17 February 1942. The US Army I Corps in the western half of the line ejects the final Japanese troops from a salient they had driven into the MLR. Further south, other Allied troops chase down fleeing remnants from a lost bridgehead Salaiim Point. The success is important for Allied morale, but the Japanese intentionally have withdrawn in order to concentrate their forces for a major offensive which is not long in the offing.

In Burma, the situation is growing desperate for the British on the Bilin River. The river itself is dry, offering no protection, and Japanese troops have infiltrated the jungles in an attempt to cut the British lines of communications. The British are looking over their shoulders at the Sittang River, which offers better defensive advantages. The Indian 17th Division on the Bilin River prepares to retreat during the day and begins doing so after dark.

In Singapore, the Japanese conquerors continue reassembling the city in their own image. Already, they have renamed Singapore City "Light of the South" (Syonan-To), but the changes go much deeper than that. The British Malaya Command officially surrenders today, and while that is a settled issue, what happens with the Indian troops fighting for the Empire is not. Japanese Major Iwaichi Fujiwara is given command of the Indian troops, and he immediately transfers the command to Mohan Singh, member of the Indian Independence Movement. Singh today declares the formation of the Indian National Army (INA) at the Farrer Park address and asks the approximately 40,000 Indian troops to join it in order to fight against the British Empire and (among other things) free India from British rule. About 30,000 of the Indian soldiers do, and some of them wind up serving as guards over their former British and Australian allies at Changi Prison.

Dutch destroyer Van Nes, sunk on 17 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Dutch destroyer Van Nes, sunk by Japanese bombers on 17 February 1942.
The Allies continue losing ships in the region from aggressive Japanese attacks. Japanese bombers from aircraft carrier Ryujo sink Dutch destroyer HNLMS Van Nes and the ship it is escorting, 2977-ton Dutch freighter Sloet van de Beele off Bangka Island. There are no survivors from either ship, which apparently are packed with refugees.

The USAAF Fifth Air Force sends eight P-40s to attack the new Japanese presence at Palembang, Sumatra. Due to the distances involved, the fighters must first land at Batavia Airdrome, Java. However, perhaps due to forewarning by spies on Java, the Japanese are ready and waiting for the attack. A fierce dogfight develops, with five of the P-40s jettisoning their bombs to defend themselves. Three P-40s release their bombs on the invasion barges, while the five who jettison their bombs claim to down five Japanese aircraft at no loss to themselves.

Dutch freighter Sloet van de Beele, sunk on 17 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Dutch freighter Sloet van de Beele, sunk on 17 February 1942.
Giving up the fight on Sumatra, about 2,500 RAF airmen, 1,890 British troops, 700 Dutch soldiers and some 1,000 civilian refugees board evacuation vessels at Oosthaven and leave the island. At Tanjong Batoe, Japanese troops seize 1560-ton freighter Tatung.

Operating off of Japan, US Navy submarine USS Triton (SS-201), on its second patrol, torpedoes and sinks Japanese freighter Shinyo Maru Number 5 off Nagasaki.

Eastern Front: The Stavka is determined to continue its winter offensive even though it has petered out after the initial surge. Today, the Red Air Force drops 7,373 paratroopers in the Rzhev area behind the German lines - though exactly where the actual front lines are, or whether there even are any, is more a matter of interpretation than reality. The weather is foggy, and the drops put many paratroopers in places where the Germans are able to quickly capture about a quarter of them. The rest wander about aimlessly, with some joining partisan detachments and others simply fighting for their own survival.

Australian troops in Palestine, 17 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Palestine. 17 February 1942. Group portrait of members of the 2/6th Australian General Hospital (2/6AGH)." Australian War Memorial P00458.003.
European Air Operations: During the day, five RAF Bostons search fruitlessly for shipping off the Dutch coast. After dark, three RAF Bomber Command Hampdens drop leaflets on Paris and one Whitley drops leaflets on Oslo, while eight bombers hit Essen and five others drop their bombs at random due to poor weather conditions. All aircraft return safely.

RAF Coastal Command aircraft operating off Skudenes, Norway torpedo and sink 248-ton German (seized from Norway) trawler Eber (NS21).

A merchant ship in convoy RA64 heading for the USSR, on or about 17 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A merchant ship in convoy RA64 sails through heavy seas in the Arctic Ocean." Sometime between 17-28 February 1942. © IWM (A 27565).
Battle of the Atlantic: Having made a dramatic impact in the Caribbean with Operation Neuland yesterday, the U-boats involved in the operation head for Martinique, a friendly Vichy French island. However, they leave behind a reminder of their presence. During the attack by U-156 on tanker Arkansas at Aruba, one of its torpedoes missed the ship and ran up on the beach. Four Dutch Marines walk over to examine it, and the torpedo suddenly explodes, killing them. This is the last Axis attack on Aruba during the war.

U-136 (Kptlt. Heinrich Zimmermann), on its first patrol out of Bergen, sinks 6914-ton British freighter Empire Comet, a straggler from Convoy HX-174, in the Atlantic about 33 miles north of Rockall. All 46 crew perish after the ship quickly sinks after a massive detonation on board.

On a voyage to Liverpool, Greek 6629-ton freighter SS Spyros runs aground off Lawrencetown, about 20 miles from Halifax, and is wrecked. Everyone survives.

A British soldier bathes in Tobruk on 17 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
With the front stable, for the time being, a British soldier takes a bath in a ruined house in Tobruk on 17 February 1942. Colorized photo, the black-and-white original version is at the Imperial War Museum collection.
Battle of the Mediterranean:  The Allies are still reeling from the loss of Singapore on 17 February 1942, and this exacerbates the need to prioritize either the European (ETO) or Pacific (PTO) Theater of Operations. This decision is complicated by the fact that many Australian troops are fighting in the Middle East while their homeland is threatened. Australian Prime Minister John Curtin today makes a none-too-subtle request that all Australian troops not already committed to battle be sent back to Australia. Recognizing both the military and political realities, the British order General Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander in Chief Middle East Command, to transfer two more divisions from Egypt to the Far East. These are the British 70th and Australian 9th Division (the 9th winds up staying in the Middle East). These troop transfers are indirect benefits to the Reich of the Japanese declaration of war, and German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel is the right man to take advantage of these new opportunities.

Borger Daily Herald, 17 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese war crimes are being publicized throughout the Allied world Here, the Borger (Texas) Daily Herald reports on an alleged incident in Bataan, the Philippines. These reports are contributing to the anti-Japanese feeling within the United States that drives support for internment of people of Japanese descent.
War Crimes: Shore fire sinks 133-ton British auxiliary patrol boat HMS Tanjong Pinang in the Banka Strait. The ship is carrying 130 women and children evacuated from Pom Pong, survivors of the sinking of HMS Kuala. The Japanese murder all but three of the 164 people from the ship who make it ashore. This is known as the Tanjong Pinang Massacre.

British/Chinese Relations: Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek embarrasses the British authorities by meeting with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the All-India Muslim League. Tomorrow, Chiang meets with Mahatma Gandhi.

US/New Zealand Relations: The commander of the United States Army Air Force, General "Hap" Arnold, agrees to turn over to New Zealand six new North American O-47 observation aircraft for the defense of New Caledonia.

USS Yorktown, showing a F6F Hellcat and the hangar catapult, worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A ship's hangar catapult is seen under an F6F Hellcat belonging to VF-1 seen on the USS Yorktown (CV-10) main deck. The hangar catapults are ordered removed on 17 February 1942 (US Navy). 
US Military: The Seabees make their first operational deployment when the 102d Infantry Regiment (minus the 3d Battalion), the 198th Coast Artillery Regiment (Antiaircraft) and the Bobcat Detachment of the First Naval Construction Battalion arrive at Bora-Bora. This 5,000-man force is brought by Task Force 5614.

The US Navy orders the removal of athwartships hangar deck catapults from Wasp, Yorktown, Enterprise, and Hornet. Hangar catapults are designed to launch scout aircraft when the flight deck is busy. This is to be done gradually during refits, with a deck catapult added in their places, and the process takes until 1944. The hangar catapults basically work, but the determination is made that they are less necessary than an added deck catapult. In addition, scout planes are found to be increasingly unimportant with the development of radar.

USAAF Fifth Air Force continues redeploying its forces in light of current realities. It sends the B-17s of the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron, 7th BG (Heavy), from Nandi Airport, Fiji to Australia.

USAAF 11th Air Force (Alaska) receives a new commander. He is Colonel Lionel R. Dunlap.

Chief Musician Charles Brendler becomes the second Leader of the Navy Band, staying in the position until 1962. Brendler serves 49 years in the Navy, all in the Navy Band, and retires with the rank of Commander.

The US Army decides today to locate the USAAF Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Miami, Florida. This involves the requisition of dozens of hotels to house the soldiers. Among many other men, movie star Clark Gable passes through OCS in Miami. The curriculum is intended to compress the essentials of the United States Military Academy into only four months. The OCS is led by Major General Walter Reed Weaver.

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories No. 17, February 1942.
British Military: While publicly the British are emphasizing their "victory" during the Channel Dash of 12 February 1942 due to the removal of the German surface fleet threat from the Atlantic Ocean, in private they are seething. Prime Minister Winston Churchill announces a tribunal of inquiry under Mr. Justice Bucknill into how three large German ships made it through the English Channel.

US Government: The Provost Marshal General's office sends a telegraphic survey out to its corps commanders which asks:
Probable that orders for very large evacuation of enemy aliens of all nationalities predominantly Japanese from Pacific Coast will issue within 48 hours. Internment facilities will be taxed to utmost. Report at once maximum you can care for, including housing, feeding, medical care, and supply. Your breakdown should include number of men, women, and children. Very important to keep this a closely guarded secret.
A follow-up communication clarifies that 100,000 internees would be held east of the Western Defense Command and that there would be "50 percent in the Eighth Corps Area, 30 percent in the Seventh, and 10 percent each in the Fourth and Sixth." General DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command, has been adamant that internment camps must be outside of his area.

There is a flurry of conferences today on the internment issue. President Roosevelt meets with Secretary Stimson, and Stimson later meets with Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, Brigadier General Mark Clark, Provost Marshal Major General Allen W. Gullion, and Chief of the War Department's Alien Division Colonel Karl R. Bendetsen. Roosevelt makes clear to his top aides that evacuation is a military, not civilian, decision. Stimson is personally against a mass evacuation but finally decides that DeWitt should begin the process immediately. Attorney General Biddle then accepts a draft executive order from General Gullion authorizing the removal of both citizens and aliens from the Western Defense Command. This is the executive order that President Roosevelt ultimately signs.

An F6F Hellcat launching from a hangar catapult on USS Hornet, worldwartwo.filminspector.com
An F6F Hellcat launching from a hangar catapult on USS Hornet (CV-12) (US Navy).
American Homefront: In her "My Day" column, Eleanor Roosevelt, after gossiping blandly about apartment-hunting in New York City, suddenly changes direction and reflects upon the shock and fear engendered by the loss of Singapore:
Sunday afternoon the news of Singapore's capitulation came to a great many people as a tremendous shock. I had talked with the President and he said resignedly that, of course, we had expected it, but I know a great many people did not. Perhaps it is good for us to have to face disaster, because we have been so optimistic and almost arrogant in our expectation of constant success. Now we shall have to find within us the courage to meet defeat and fight right on to victory.
At this point, the Japanese appear unstoppable. This may explain some of the decisions being made in Washington, D.C., during this period.

Future History: Huey Percy Newton is born in Monroe, Louisiana. He becomes a co-founder of the Black Panther Party in 1966, and in 1967 is involved in a shootout with police that leads to the death of a police officer. In 1974, Newton is accused of shooting a woman to death. He becomes an iconic revolutionary figure in some political circles. On 22 August 1989, Huey Newton is gunned down by Tyrone Robinson, a member of the Black Guerilla Family.

Pic magazine featuring Dona Drake, 17 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Pic Magazine, 17 February 1942, features Dona Drake on the cover. Drake, a film actress, appears in "Road to Morocco" in 1942. Born Eunice Westmoreland on 15 November 1914, Drake, of three-quarters black heritage but always posing as Mexican under names such as Rita Rio and Rita Shaw, passes away in 1989.

2019

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