Monday, October 7, 2019

February 26, 1942: Gneisenau Eliminated

Thursday 26 February 1942

Gneisenau after being bombed on 26 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Aerial reconnaissance photo of heavy cruiser Gneisenau in its Kiel drydock after having its bow blown off in an RAF raid. This is "Bomber" Harris' first major success as head of Bomber Command.  
Battle of the Pacific: The Allies are desperately trying to hold Java on 26 February 1942, but they have been having difficulty tracking the Japanese invasion fleet that they know is coming. Today, a Dutch Dorner seaplane spots the Japanese ships again in the Makassar Strait. It reports 30 Japanese transport ships escorted by two cruisers and five destroyers sailing at 10 knots. The plane shadows the ships for several hours, then attacks destroyer HIJMS Amatsukaze but misses. The USAAF then sends two B-17 Flying Fortresses at low altitude (1300 feet) which miss destroyer Hatsukaze. At 18:30, Admiral Karel Doorman, commander of the Allies' Combined Striking Force, sails from Surabaya, Java to conduct a night attack. On paper, Doorman's force outguns the Japanese escort, but real battles are not fought on paper, and many of Doorman's ships are in poor repair from the previous fighting. The Allied ships head eastward along the north shore of Madoera (Madura) Island. Three light cruisers, HMS Dragon and Danae and HMAS Hobart, sail from Batavia to join Doorman's large force. The Allied ships find nothing during the night - once again, the invasion fleet has disappeared.

RAF Spitfire, 26 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"'Four members of Finucane's Squadron wheel out the new Spitfire. It has been specially prepared for his return'. Finucane is almost certainly Wing Commander Brendan 'Paddy' Finucane', an Irish-born RAF fighter ace of World War II." This picture was taken on 26 February 1942. © Daily Herald Archive / National Science & Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library.
In the Philippines, the Japanese are beginning to expand out from the power center on Luzon. Today, they send an amphibious force from Olongapo, Luzon to Mindoro Island. When it lands, it will contain an infantry battalion and a field artillery battery. On the Bataan Peninsula, things remain quiet as the Japanese build up their forces for an assault on the Allied lines.

Der Adler, 26 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Der Adler, 26 February 1942.
In Burma, the Japanese are putting pressure on the 17th Indian Division at Pegu, which is blocking the Rangoon-Mandalay road. A battle breaks out in the Waw area to the northeast. The Japanese are crossing the Sittang River in increasing numbers and threatening the rail link between Mandalay and Rangoon.

US Navy submarine USS S-38 uses its deck gun to shell the radio station on Japanese-held Bawean Island in the Netherlands East Indies.

Japanese submarine HIJMS I-25, on its second patrol out of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, launches its Yokosuka E14Y1, Navy Type 0 "Glen" Small Reconnaissance Seaplane to fly over Melbourne, Australia's Port Phillip Bay. This is one in a series of such reconnaissance flights over Australia and New Zealand from mid-February to mid-March. The Allies do not spot any of these flights.

German soldiers on the Eastern Front, February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Three German soldiers in a foxhole who are manning an MG-34 machine gun in front of a knocked-out Soviet T-26 light tank, February 1942.
Eastern Front: The Red Army has built up an attack force on the Kerch Peninsula, Crimea, to liberate Sevastopol. The Crimean Front force is commanded by Lieutenant General Dmitry Timofeyevich Kozlov and is composed of nine rifle divisions and numerous tank brigades of the 44th, 47th, and 51st Armies. Kozlov has 73,804 soldiers, 1195 guns and mortars, 125 anti-tank guns, 194 tanks, and 200 aircraft. However, while this is an imposing force on paper for such a small 80-square kilometer front, the Red Army units are short of essential supplies like fuel and working weapons. Kozlov requests permission to delay his offensive, but the Stavka orders hi to attack on 27 February.

A convoy at sea, February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
An unidentified convoy sailing out of Brooklyn, New York, February 1942. USS Neville (AP-16) is in the foreground, with six or seven freighters and a light cruiser also visible.
European Air Operations: During the day, four Boston bombers of RAF No. 226 Squadron make this aircraft's their first regular operation. The Bostons attack shipping, but neither side sustains any losses.

The night raids mark a turn of fortunes for the RAF. After several failed attempts to damage German heavy cruiser Gneisenau in its drydock in Kiel, RAF Bomber Command scores a major success. The RAF sends 49 aircraft (33 Wellingtons, 10 Hampdens, 6 Halifaxes) and loses 2 Wellingtons and one Halifax. A bomb hits the Gneisenau in the bow area, killing 116 crew and causing major damage. This one hit ends the career of Gneisenau, once a major threat in the North Atlantic. After this attack, the Gneisenau is towed to Gdynia but never is repaired. It is stripped of its guns and left as a lifeless hulk. While one bomber scores a hit, though, many of the bombers get lost and drop their bombs elsewhere. This includes the town of Kiel itself and locations as far as away as east Denmark. Thre are three deaths in Vejle, 100 miles north of Kiel, and 1 death in Odense.

RAF reconnaissance spots German battleship Tirpitz at Trondheim. This ship is a major focus of the Royal Navy's strategy and its destruction is considered imperative. As Churchill likes to say, destroying the Tirpitz would alter the entire balance of world naval operations and allow major shifts to the Pacific.

Dutch tanker Mamura, 26 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Dutch tanker Mamura, sunk by U-504 on 26 February 1942 with no survivors.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-504, on its second patrol out of Lorient, hits independent 8245-ton Dutch tanker Mamura with two torpedoes at 19:13 about 230 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The cargo explodes, breaking the tanker in two and causing it to sink quickly. All 56 men on board, including 34 Chinese sailors, perish. Mamura carried 11,500 tons of clean oil and was headed to Belfast, Ireland.

While moving through dense fog, 5030-ton US freighter Cassimir collides near the tip of the Frying Pan Shoals off North Carolina with another freighter, Lara. Cassimir sustains severe damage on its starboard side amidships and the crew abandons ship. Wartime conditions play a major role in such incidents, as ships are trying to maintain blackout conditions. The Lara, which sustains virtually no damage, takes aboard the survivors. There are 31 survivors and five deaths.

Brazilian 3557-ton collier Cabedello disappears on 26 February 1942 while en route from Philadelphia to Rio de Janeiro. The likeliest cause was a torpedo attack by an Italian submarine, but there is no record of this attack. Nobody survives.

British soldiers on patrol in the Western Desert, 26 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British patrol on the lookout for enemy movements over a valley in the Western Desert, on the Egyptian side of the Egypt-Libya border, February 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: On Kastellorizo, about 200 British No. 50 Commandos are trapped after a botched landing. The Italians at nearby Rhodes spend the day preparing a counterattack, and it begins after sunset when torpedo boats Lince and Lupo land about 240 men north of the port. The boats shell the port and in the Governor's palace with their 3.9-inch (99 mm) guns, killing three commandos and wounding another seven. The torpedo boats then land unopposed at the port and evacuate some of the Italian inhabitants.

British Prime Minister, under serious pressure in Parliament after recent reversals such as the successful German Channel Dash and the fall of Singapore, asks Middle East Commander General Claude Auchinleck to open an offensive against the Afrika Korps. Auchinleck, however, demurs, saying he needs to build his forces before he can attack from the Gazala Line. He says that he may have sufficient forces in place by June. British XIII Corps holds a 36-mile (58 km) line from Gazala to Bir Hacheim, while the British 30 Corps is further back along the Libya/Egyptian frontier.

British corvette HMS Campion, 26 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Royal Navy Flower-class corvette HMS Campion in Londonderry, 26 February 1942. © IWM (A 7307).
Soviet/Allied Relations: Speaking at the Overseas Press Club in Washington, D.C., Soviet Ambassador to the U.S. Maxim Litvinov admonishes his listeners that there should be "no idle armies, immobile shipping." Litvinov demands the opening of a second front in France in 1942. He states:
only by simultaneous offensive operations on two or more of the fronts can Hitler's armed forces be disposed of.
The Western Allies, though, have no intention of opening a second front in 1942. In fact, the US Army is having serious doubts about following through with Operation Gymnast, the invasion of North Africa, before 1943.

Indian/Chinese Relations: Following the well-received (but at times embarrassing, due to meetings with independence leaders) visit by Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek to India, the Indian (British) government appoints a "China Relations Officer." He is sir Edward Cook. New British Ambassador to China Sir Horace +

Royal Navy minesweeper J512 at Londonderry, 26 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HM Motor Minesweeper J512 at Londonderry, 26 February 1942. © IWM (A 7306).
Canadian Homefront: Canadian Prime Minister MacKenzie King joins the United States in ordering the removal of persons of Japanese ancestry from British Columbia on the west coast.

American Homefront: The 14th Academy Awards are held in Los Angeles. Director John Ford and his "How Green Was My Valley" are the big winners, each earning Oscars. Documentary "Churchill's Island" wins the first Oscar in the new category "Best Documentary (Short Subject)." Gary Cooper wins the Best Actor Oscar for "Sergeant York," while Joan Fontaine wins for her performance in "Suspicion." Donald Crisp and Mary Astor win Best Supporting Oscars. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" from "Lady Be Good" wins for Best Original Song. "Citizen Kane," considered by many to be one of the best films of all time, wins only for "Best Original Screenplay," giving Orson Welles (along with Herman J. Mankiewicz) his only Oscar despite the film receiving nine nominations. This is due in large part to sustained hostility to Welles and his film from the Hearst newspaper chain.

Italian magazine Tempo, 26 February 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Italian magazine Tempo, 26 February 1942. "Assault on an Enemy Position" is the cover story.

February 1942

February 1, 1942: The US Navy Strikes Back
February 2, 1942: Germans Recovering in Russia
February 3, 1942: Japanese Shell and Bomb Singapore
February 4, 1942: Battle of Makassar Strait
February 5, 1942: Empress of Asia Sunk
February 6, 1942: The Christmas Island Body
February 7, 1942: The Double-V Campaign
February 8, 1942: Japan Invades Singapore
February 9, 1942: French Liner Normandie Capsizes
February 10, 1942: US Car Production Ends
February 11, 1942: Tomforce Fails on Singapore
February 12, 1942: The Channel Dash
February 13, 1942: Japanese Paratroopers In Action
February 14, 1942: RAF Orders Terror Raids
February 15, 1942: Japan Takes Singapore
February 17, 1942: Indian Troops Defect to Japanese
February 18, 1942: Battle of Badung Strait
February 19, 1942: FDR Authorizes Internment Camps
February 20, 1942: O'Hare the Hero
February 21, 1942: Crisis in Burma
February 22, 1942: Bomber Harris Takes Over
February 23, 1942: Bombardment of Ellwood, California
February 24, 1942: US Raid on Wake Island
February 25, 1942: Battle of Los Angeles
February 26, 1942: Gneisenau Eliminated
February 27, 1942: Battle of Java Sea
February 28, 1942: Battle of Sunda Strait

2019

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