Monday, July 13, 2020

March 23, 1942: Hitler's Insecurity Builds

Monday 23 March 1942

Andaman Islands invasion, 23 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese troops land on the Andaman Islands, 23 March 1942.
German Military: While to all appearances the western borders of the Greater Reich are peaceful and secure on 23 March 1942, Hitler does not believe what everyone else is seeing. Instead, Hitler views the Atlantic coastline as being wide open to an imminent invasion by enemy forces. Accordingly, Fuhrer headquarters issues Fuhrer Directive No. 40, "Competence Of Commands In Coastal Areas." The intent behind the Directive is made clear in the opening lines:
The coastline of Europe will, in the coming months, be exposed to the danger of an enemy landing in force. The time and place of the landing operations will not be dictated to the enemy by operational considerations alone. Failure in other theatres of war, obligations to allies, and political considerations may persuade him to take decisions that appear unlikely from a purely military point of view.
This is Hitler's first concrete admission that the Reich has gone over to the defensive in a major theater of operations. It comes barely a month after the 13 February 1942 cancellation of projected Operation Sealion, showing just how subtly but quickly the tides shift during World War II.

While not one of Hitler's better-known Directives, it is early evidence of operational tendencies that will become dominant themes within the command of the Reich for the remainder of the war. One of these is the priority of political over military considerations, a typical Hitler trait which he here projects upon his adversaries. Another is his command that "Enemy forces which have landed must be destroyed or thrown back into the sea by immediate counterattack" - an all-or-none philosophy that simply assumes sufficient superiority to ward off any attacks and does not require skill or strategy.

Fuhrer Directive 40 might be viewed as simply a belt-and-suspenders safety precaution. However, diving deeper into the Directive shows real concern, almost fear. Most significant are admonitions that "Fortified areas and strongpoints will be defended to the last man" and "No Headquarters or formation is to initiate withdrawal in such circumstances." Concerns about fighting to the last cartridge are not the mark of a commander secure in the overwhelming power of his forces. These two rules - no retreat and fighting to the last man - will become the basic Wehrmacht policy in virtually every situation before long.

Newsweek 23 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Newsweek Magazine, 23 March 1942 features "Chinese Army: Key to Far East Strategy."
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese occupy the undefended Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean. The landing by a battalion of the 18th Division at Ross And Chatham Island is supported by aircraft carrier Ryujo. The invading force quickly takes the naval installation at Port Blair. The tiny British garrison (most were evacuated in January) is sent to Singapore for imprisonment, while local officials such as Chief Commissioner Waterfall and Deputy Commissioner Major A. G. Bird are imprisoned locally.

The purpose of taking the Andaman Islands is to protect the sea route from Singapore to Burma. An airbase is operational by the end of March. This is the farthest point of Japanese expansion into the Indian Ocean aside from the occupation of Burmese territory to the northwest. It also is the only part of India that is occupied more than temporarily and remains in Axis possession until 1945. As in Singapore, the Japanese quickly enroll Indian soldiers in the Andaman Islands into Subash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army. Civilians are soon forced into sexual servitude and forced labor.

Since General MacArthur escaped to Australia about ten days ago, world attention has drifted away from the embattled Allied forces in the Philippines. In fact, both sides are having issues, the Americans low on supplies because of the Japanese blockade and the Japanese with 13,000 troops in the hospital and daily rations in the 14th Army cut from 62 to 23 ounces. General Gomma Masaharu is under heavy pressure from Tokyo to wrap up the campaign, so he plans an attack through the center of the Allied line to Mount Samat and then around the base of the mountain. General Wainwright ignores repeated Japanese demands that he surrender, relying on 32,000 troops in the I Corps area in the west and 28,000 troops in the II Corps on the eastern half of the Bataan defensive line (the Main Defensive Line).

Decatur Daily, 23 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
US newspapers remain very positive about the war, with optimistic headlines such as this one in the Decatur (Alabama) Daily of 23 March 1942.
Eastern Front: The German relief effort aimed at the Demyansk pocket continues to make steady progress in weather that hovers around the freezing mark. Several regiments approach the Redya River, a key landmark in the wilderness, but they remain less than halfway to their real objective. Meanwhile, the Soviets are busy shipping in reinforcements from both the north and south, and the battle is becoming a race between the Germans heading east and the Soviets trying to cut them off. Two Soviet parachute brigades also are dropped into the Demyansk pocket itself but accomplish little.

Battle of the Black Sea: A Luftwaffe raid on Tuapse, on the Black Sea coast south of Rostov, sinks a motor torpedo boat and 2121-ton minelayer Ostrovskiy (some sources indicate 611-ton transport Yalta also is sunk today). The planes also damage two Soviet submarines, S-33 and D-5. Another German aircraft sinks 2690-ton Soviet transport Vasiliy Chapaev near Kherson (Ukraine) lighthouse. These attacks by Junkers Ju 88s of KG 51 are intended to provide indirect relief to the Germans in the Crimea.

Bainbridge Island, 23 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A Japanese farmer and his daughter view the strawberry farm they must leave on Bainbridge Island, in Washington, on March 23, 1942." (Library of Congress).
European Air Operations: A fairly quiet period in the air war continues on 23 March 1942. A dozen Hampdens, three Stirlings, and two Manchester bombers conduct minelaying operations off the submarine base of Lorient in southwest France. The Stirlings engage in the minelaying campaign for the first time.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-754 (Kptlt. Hans Oestermann), on its second patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and sinks 8620-ton British tanker British Prudence northeast of Halifax. British Prudence is a straggler from Convoy HX-181. There are 47 survivors and three deaths.

U-553 (Kptlt. Karl Thurmann), on its sixth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 8106-ton British tanker MV Diala about 300 miles southeast of Cape Race, but today's action that actually sinks the tanker is the conclusion of a long story. The Diala was initially torpedoed on 15 January 1942 by U-553, which burned but did not sink. Its crew quickly abandoned the tanker, which had had its bow blown off, but another sunken ship's crew (from the Athelcrown, sunk by U-82 on 22 January 1942) later spotted the drifting vessel and boarded it. The Athelcrown crew was rescued from the Diala after another eight days. The Diala itself thereafter continued to drift after attempts to tow it proved unsuccessful. Today, 23 March 1942, over two months later, it finally receives the coup de grace from U-587 (Kptlt. Ulrich Borcherdt). This is one of those bizarre sequences that add to the mystery and lore of the North Atlantic convoys.

PBY Catalinas over Iceland, 23 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Consolidated PBY Catalinas of the VP-73 (US Navy patrol squadron) over Reykjavik, Iceland, March 23, 1942.
U-124 (Kptlt. Johann Mohr), on its eighth patrol out of Lorient,  torpedoes and sinks 5373-ton US freighter Naeco about 65 miles southeast of Cape Lookout, North Carolina. There are 24 dead and 14 survivors. This concludes a very successful patrol for Captain Mohr, whose U-124 has sunk seven ships (42,048 tons) and damaged three others (26,167 tons) since 14 March 1942. It appears Mohr only broke off the patrol so soon because he ran out of torpedoes.

Italian submarine Morosini (C.C. Fraternale) torpedoes and sinks 9741-ton British tanker Peder Bogen about 680 miles southeast of Bermuda. The submarine surfaces and uses its deck gun when the tanker does not sink right away. All 53 men on board the Peder Bogen survive.

In the far South Atlantic northeast of Tristan da Cunha, German auxiliary cruiser Thor captures and scuttles 3942-ton Greek collier Pagasitikos.

Convoy WS 17 departs from Oversay bound for Freetown. This is a major convoy whose escort includes aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. Many of the ships will take a full month to reach Durban and almost two months to reach Bombay, India.

The founding of Daheshism, 23 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Dr. Dahesh (a pen name for Salim Moussa Achi) proclaims Daheshism in this Lebanon dwelling on 23 March 1942. Daheshism focuses on the immortality of the spirit and reincarnation. Daheshism retains popularity in the Arabic world.  
Battle of the Mediterranean: The Second Battle of Sirte that began on 22 March 1942 continues today. Unlike yesterday, however, the main threat to the British is air attack, as the Italian fleet has withdrawn. The Axis planes sink one freighter, 7255-ton MS Clan Campbell, about 50 miles (80 km) from its destination in Malta and badly damage oil tanker Breconshire. Two other freighters, however, make port in Valletta, where they are subjected to intense aerial attacks in the coming days. While Breconshire is towed into port, it will succumb to these attacks and capsize on 27 March 1942.

Italian destroyer Lanciere, heading from Messina, Sicily, toward the Second Battle of Sirte, sinks due to the weather after seawater contaminates its fuel in rough seas. Italian destroyer Scirocco also sinks in the same storm, with only two survivors.

Manzanar Internment camp, 23 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese-Americans relocated from Los Angeles to their new home at Manzanar take their first meal there on 23 March 1942 (AP Photo).
US Military: The Army begins construction of Otter Point Airfield on Umnak Island. This base will cover Dutch Harbor on nearby Unalaska Island and the main US base in the Aleutian Island chain. The ground is soft, so Marston matting is used for the 5000-foot runway.

American Homefront: Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, the Western Defense Commander, issues his first Civilian Exclusion Order. This compels residents of Japanese ancestry to leave Bainbridge Island, Washington, before 30 March 1942. The entire West Coast of the United States has been declared a "Theater of War" since shortly after the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

James Sakamoto writes a letter on behalf of "American Citizens of Japanese parentage" to President Roosevelt. He comments that "We shall obey willingly" relocation orders and "shall continue to trust you and to give our allegiance to the ideals you enunciate." He asks that the US provide "some refuge in the heart of the country far removed from even the suspicion or possibility to do harm. We have helped to feed the nation in the past." Sakamoto also acknowledges that "there have been dissident elements among us, often unknown to ourselves" but that the government can "Restore our good name to us" by removing those of Japanese ancestry from sensitive areas.

Life magazine, 23 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Life magazine, 23 March 1942.

2020

Sunday, July 12, 2020

March 22, 1942: Second Battle of Sirte

Sunday 22 March 1942

ATS Recruitment 22 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
An ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) recruiting parade in Rishon le-Zion (Rishon LeTsiyon) on March 22, 1942 (Esther Herlitz, Jewish Women's Archive).
Battle of the Pacific: In Burma (Myanmar), the British Burma Corps under Lieutenant General William Slim gives up its biggest remaining foothold when they abandon the airfield at Magwe (Magway) on 22 March 1942. This opens up the Irrawaddy River valley, where the Japanese are eager to occupy the Yenangyaung oil fields. It will take the Japanese a few weeks to bring the 33rd Division into position for a set-piece attack on the oil field. The British are short of supplies, especially water, and are counting on newly arrived Chinese troops to help hold the oil.

Time magazine cover of General Yamashita 22 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese General Yamashita, leader in the Philippines, on the cover of the 22 March 1942 Time magazine.
Eastern Front: The stalemate on the Kerch Peninsula in the Crimea continues. Two Soviet attacks to break it have failed, while the most recent attempt by the German 22nd Panzer Division also has failed. Soviet General Kozlov is preparing for a third attack on the German strongpoint at Koi-Asan which is scheduled to begin on 26 March. Both sides have taken heavy casualties during these battles, but the unsuccessful Soviet attacks have been particularly hard on their own forces. However, Stalin is insistent that the attacks continue because he sees this as a continuation of the successful winter counteroffensives even though winter is rapidly turning into spring this far south.

The temperature rises above freezing on the front north of Moscow, where the German Operation Brueckenschlag enters its second day toward the pocket at Demyansk. The Germans make good progress against spotty Soviet resistance. The first objective, the Redyat River, is coming within sight, but the snow is turning to slush, which favors the defense. The Soviets are determined to take the pocket before it is relieved and are sending in reinforcements from both the north and south. They also are preparing two paratrooper brigades to land in the Demyansk pocket and take it from within.

European Air Operations: It is a quiet day on the Channel front, with no major operations.

Greenville SC News, 22 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Navy Asks For More Men For Production" is a headline in the 22 March 1942 Greenville (South Carolina) News.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-123 (Kptlt. Reinhard Hardegen), on its eighth patrol out of Lorient, gets its first success of a highly successful cruise off the east coast of the United States. Hardegen puts one torpedo into 7034-ton U.S. tanker Muskogee about 335 miles north-northeast of Bermuda. The torpedo hits the engine room and the tanker sinks quickly. While ten survivors make it onto rafts and are questioned by Hardegen, all 34 men aboard the Muskogee disappear and never see land again.

U-373 (Oblt. Paul-Karl Loeser), on its fourth patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes and sinks 5575-ton British freighter Thursobank about 200 miles southeast of Nantucket. There are 30 dead and 34 survivors. This incident has a peculiar case of mutiny after the sinking when Chinese crewmen, who outnumber the British survivors, refuse to share their food with the British. The Chinese crewmen are arrested when rescued after three days by passing tanker Havsten.

Seas are rough along the North Atlantic convoy routes. One ship, 5786-ton Norwegian tanker Nueva Andalucia, runs aground off Mars Rock, Halifax Harbor. It is ultimately is towed to port but not repaired until 1947. All 39 men aboard survive.

Bomb damage in Malta, 22 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Bomb damage in Malta on or about 22 March 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: As a Royal Navy convoy approaches Malta, it is attacked by sustained Axis air power and also aggressive moves by the Italian Navy. The Italian battleship Littorio and several Italian cruisers keep the British on the defensive. Littorio damages Royal Navy destroyer HMS Havock with a near-miss. Destroyer Kingston also is badly damaged. Three of four freighters ultimately make it to Valletta but the port itself comes under heavy air attack. The Italians, though having the advantage, break off the attack at nightfall and head back to port. The battle is considered an Italian tactical victory but a Royal Navy strategic victory because the Italians fail at their objective of destroying or turning back the convoy.

Propaganda/Partisans: The BBC begins sending news in Morse Code to resistance fighters on the Continent.

British/Indian Relations: Sir Stafford Cripps is in India (the "Cripps Mission") attempting to arrange a settlement with Indian nationalists. Cripps is friends with Jawaharlal Nehru, but he has an unclear mandate from the British government. The British viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, is hostile to the Cripps Mission, and with good reason - one of Cripps' proposals is to remove Linlithgow. Cripps is only able to promise what the Indian Nationalists want - Dominion Status and ultimately full independence - after the war. Ultimately, the Cripps Mission fails. Mahatma Gandhi comments sarcastically that Cripps' promise of Dominion Status after the war was a "post-dated cheque drawn on a failing bank."

Article on solar power, 22 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Dr. Frank Thone poses an interesting question about solar power in the 22 March 1942 Galveston (Texas) Daily News.
American Homefront: The Japanese-American internment camp at Manzanar officially opens pursuant to Executive Order 9066 of 19 February 1942 signed by President Franklin Roosevelt. This is the first internment camp to open. At first, Manzanar is known euphemistically as the "Owens Valley Reception Center." It will acquire its better-known name of the Manzanar War Relocation Center on 1 June 1942. The first Japanese-Americans that arrive help to build the camp under the auspices of the US Army's Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA).

Chevrolet ad, 22 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
All production of automobiles has been halted due to the war situation. So, with no 1942 models to sell, dealerships are selling whatever they can find. In this case, it is  1940 Chevrolet with "lovely mohair upholstery". Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune, March 22, 1942.

2020

Saturday, July 11, 2020

August 9, 1939: Goering's Fateful Vow

Wednesday 9 August 1939

RAF bomber quoting Hermann Goering's 9 August 1939 boast worldwartwo.filminspector.com
As its nose art, this RAF bomber quotes Goering as saying "No enemy bomber will operate over the Reich territory" (Life).
German Government: On 9 August 1939, Hermann Goering (Göring), the head of the Luftwaffe, makes a prediction:
The Ruhr will not be subjected to a single bomb. If an enemy bomber reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Hermann Göring: you can call me Meyer!
The phrase "I want to be called Meyer if …." is a typical German idiom meant to imply that the thing mentioned is impossible. While some view Goering's use of the word Meyer (or Meier) as being an insult to Jews, that does not appear to have been the intent. In fact, Meyer (spelled in different ways) is the second most common surname in Germany.

The promise, of course, is quickly broken. Some Allied bomber crews even paint the phrase or a variation of it on the noses of their aircraft as a sort of impudent rebuke. By 1945, Berlin's air raid sirens become known to the city's residents as "Meier's trumpets," or "Meier's hunting horns." However, Goering himself remains popular with the people even during the last days of the Battle of Berlin.

At Berchtesgaden, Adolf Hitler holds a conference on the Danzig (Gdansk) situation with Albert Foster, the NSDAP Gauleiter for the city. The plan is for Foster to stage "agitations" for a German annexation of the city and prepare the way for the entry of German troops, many of whom will be arriving before the outbreak of hostilities in plain clothes. Hitler has a full slate of meetings scheduled for this week during which he announces his fateful plans for the outbreak of World War II.

RAF bomber quoting Hermann Goering's 9 August 1939 boast worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Silent film actress Phyllis Gordon (1889 – 1964) window-shopping in Earls Court, London, on August 9, 1939. She is accompanied by her four-year-old cheetah, flown to Britain from Kenya.
Italian Government: The Mussolini government imposes fines on anyone moving from rural areas to cities with populations over 25,000 inhabitants. The intent is to keep people safe from possible bombing raids upon the cities. The Italian government is actively encouraging citizens to move out of citizens, and this new law is intended to further these internal migration patterns.

British Government: George VI conducts a fleet review of 133 ships at Weymouth Bay. Throughout the war, King George remains very close to military affairs.

US Government: Among a flurry of bills being finalized before its recess, Congress passes 31 USC 401. It authorizes the confiscation and forfeiture of vehicles, vessels, and aircraft being used to transport certain illegal items. This act is amended in 1950 to include a vast array of drug-related contraband among the items making a vehicle etc. subject to forfeiture.

RAF bomber quoting Hermann Goering's 9 August 1939 boast worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Fremont, Nebraska, Fremont Tribune for 9 August 1939 notes that 'Yankees Fret As Losses Continue," but today is the start of something big for them and one of their players.
American Homefront: In her nationally syndicated "My Day" column, Eleanor Roosevelt ponders the beginning of a long recess for Congress:
As I look over the last few weeks, I begin to think that some of the press is correct in thinking that the Republican minority with 20 to 25 percent of the minority Democrats are going to stand out primarily for their sporting disposition. These two minorities, which constitute a majority, have made two bets with the public. One is that there will be no war in Europe until they return in January. If they lose, it might be rather serious, for little influence could be brought to bear by the Executive to try to avert war.
Of course, nobody overseas is looking to Washington to have any influence on a coming European war. However, Roosevelt's comments always give some insight into how the highest echelons of the U.S. government are viewing world affairs, and the threat of war clearly is on her mind.

New York Yankees third baseman Red Rolfe begins an 18-game run-scoring streak that will never (as of this writing) be broken and only tied once in 2000. Rolfe's 139 runs scored in 1939 leads the league.

Future History: Claude Wilson Osteen is born in Caney Spring, Tennessee. He becomes a Major League Baseball pitcher from 1957 - 1975 and a three-time All-Star.

RAF bomber quoting Hermann Goering's 9 August 1939 boast worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Golden Gate International Exposition, a World's Fair held on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, declares 9 August 1939 "Matson Day" after the shipping company.

2020

Sunday, April 12, 2020

March 21, 1942: Germans Attack Toward Demyansk

Saturday 21 March 1942

German troops attacking toward Demyansk, 21 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The German relief force attacking toward the Demyansk pocket, 21 March 1942.
Eastern Front: Having made a rapid shift of forces, primarily Luftwaffe planes, from the successful Volkhov operation, the Wehrmacht opens a vital relief attack toward the encircled garrison at Demyansk. Operation Brueckenschlag ("Bridge-building") begins at daylight through a wilderness of trees and snow. The Soviet defenders are taken by surprise and in some spots fall back in confusion. The Germans have four divisions to cover the 25 miles to the pocket and must cross the Lovat River five miles from it. The trapped men in the pocket are barely holding off the Soviet attacks and cannot hold out much longer.

The Red Army fights desperately to open a supply corridor to the 130,000 troops now trapped on the west side of the Volkhov River due to the Germans' Operation Raubtier. The Soviets manage to open a small corridor for a short time, through which General Kirill A. Meretskov (undoubtedly under orders) personally enters the pocket to take command of the 2nd Shock Army. The Red Army troops in the pocket end their offensive toward Lyuban and Chudovo and prepare to defend the ground where they stand. The Soviets know better than to break out to the East without orders, as troops that did that during the Winter War were disciplined and sometimes executed. Stalin has not issued orders to retreat.

In Crimea, operations have ceased again as both sides have failed in recent attempts to end the stalemate on the Parpach Narrows. General Kozlov, commander of the Soviet forces, is building up his forces for a third attempt on the strong German base at Koi-Asan. General Manstein, meanwhile, is helped by a continuing Luftwaffe building as units return from the Reich after badly needed refits.

German troops using a captured Soviet T-60 tank at the Kholm pocket 1942  worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Germans using a captured Soviet T-60 light tank in defense of the Kholm pocket (Kampfgruppe Scherer) during spring 1942 (Muck, Richard, Federal Archive Figure 183-J19893). 
Battle of the Pacific: General MacArthur and his party, including his wife and young son, arrive at Adelaide on 21 March 1942. Among those greeting MacArthur are the Australian Minister for the Army, Frank Forde, and senior US officers including Brigadier-General Patrick Hurley of the US Army. MacArthur now has supreme command of all Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific. MacArthur's escape has attracted worldwide attention by both sides. Incidentally, MacArthur already has made his famous "I Shall Return" speech while changing trains on the 20th, and he has nothing remotely as consequential to add today. MacArthur now changes to a special carriage on the Adelaide Express for the final run into Melbourne, where he will arrive on the 22nd.

MacArthur quickly sets to work establishing his General Headquarters (GHQ) Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA). He staffs it with his fellow escapees from Corregidor, and they become known as the "Bataan Gang." This headquarters becomes known for its fanatical loyalty to MacArthur and its insularity. Lieutenant (junior grade) John D. Bulkeley, who led the PT boats that brought MacArthur out of the Philippines, goes on to a brilliant US Navy career and becomes MacArthur's biggest cheerleader, calling him "the greatest general as well as statesman since George Washington."

Brooklyn Eagle 21 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Brooklyn Eagle, 21 March 1942. General MacArthur's escape receives worldwide attention.
MacArthur learns officially (he already has been told this unofficially at Batchelor Airfield) that he has little to work with. There is not a single tank in Australia and only 32,000 Allied troops - and most of these service troops. The only combat-ready unit is one brigade of the Australian 6th Division. Official Australian strategy in the event of a Japanese invasion is to withdraw immediately to the "Brisbane Line" in order to hold the populated areas along the eastern and southern coasts. In other words, Darwin is ripe for the taking. MacArthur calls this his greatest shock and surprise of the entire war.

At Taungoo, Burma, about 60 Sikh sowars of the Burma Frontier Force make a desperate and futile cavalry charge against advancing Japanese infantry. This is the last British cavalry charge in history. The Japanese 112th Regiment is still assembling its forces for a major attack on the Oktwin position. The Chinese 200th Division today complete their defenses at Oktwin and Toungoo, helped by the time gained by the sacrificial cavalry charges. The Japanese, having finally overcome these delaying tactics, today close up on the 200th Division outposts at Oktwin and prepares for a set-piece attack. In a formality, the Chinese Expeditionary Force under Lt. General Joseph Stilwell and Chinese Lt. General Lin Wie officially becomes operational today.

Japanese aircraft raid the Magwe Airdrome at 14:30 and destroy nine RAF Blenheim Mk IV bombers and three American Volunteer Group P-40s on the ground, and three Hawker Hurricane Mk. II fighters in the air. Magwe now is the home base of the AVG "Flying Tigers." The defending AVG shoots down two "Nate" bombers.

Opening Ceremony of Warship Week, 21 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"The Lord Mayor of London (back to camera) inspecting the Naval Guard of Honour at the opening ceremony." Warship Week Opening Ceremony in Trafalgar Square, 21 March 1942 (© IWM A 7981). 
The Japanese have been raiding northern Australia repeatedly recently. Today, they send a Mitsubishi Ki-15 Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance aircraft from Koepang, Timor, over Darwin to scout out new targets. A US Army Air Force P-40 of the 9th Pursuit Squadron shoots it down after an alert from a coast watcher on Bathurst Island. Later in the day, the Japanese bomb Katherine, Australia, about 200 miles (322 km) south of Darwin, with little result.

Before invading Australia, the Japanese want to completely secure New Guinea. The RAAF today sends four Curtiss Kittyhawks Mk. IAs of RAAF No. 75 Squadron to help defend Port Moresby there. However, nervous antiaircraft gunners there mistake the planes for Japanese attackers and open fire. Three of the four planes are damaged, one irreparably, but manage to land at Seven Mile Aerodrome.

In the Philippines, the Allied forces on the Bataan Peninsula continue to hold out against the Japanese following MacArthur's escape. Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright, commander of U.S. Forces in the Philippines (USFIP), organizes his command on Corregidor Island. He appoints Major General Lewis Beebe his chief of staff. Major General Edward P. King, Jr., is named commander of Luzon Force. Today, General Yamashita sends a surrender demand to General Wainwright that is ignored. The US forces make a small raid on Mindanao to keep the Japanese busy.

Opening Ceremony of Warship Week, 21 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Warship Week opening ceremony in Trafalgar Square, 21 March 1942. Note that nobody seems particularly concerned about air attack. © IWM A 7980.
European Air Operations: An extended lull in operations on the Channel Front continues today. RAF Bomber Command sends one Wellington bomber to attack Essen, but it returns early due to weather conditions.

Battle of the Atlantic:  U-124 (Kptlt. Johann Mohr), on its eighth patrol out of Lorient, continues a very successful patrol off of the East coast of the United States by torpedoing two ships:
  • 7934-ton US tanker Esso Nashville
  • 11,355-ton US tanker Atlantic Sun
These add to the Allies' miseries of losing many tankers recently. However, neither tanker sinks completely. Esso Nashville, hit at 06:08 by one torpedo about 16 miles northeast of Frying Pan Lightship Buoy, breaks in two, with the bow section sinking but the stern section towed into Morehead City (it ultimately is repaired and returned to service). Atlantic Sun, carrying a full load of crude oil, suffers only minor damage from one torpedo fired under non-ideal circumstances and makes it to Beaufort, North Carolina, under its own power.

The weather in the Atlantic is rough today, causing 598-ton Panamanian Lumberboat Vamar to capsize off Port Saint Joseph, Florida, in 25 feet of water. The ship was carrying building materials for the Naval Base to be built at Guantanamo Bay. This wreck becomes a favorite spot for sport divers known as the "Lumberboat" or "Lumbership wreck." Previously named Eleanor Boling, the Vamar had served as Admiral Byrd's research vessel and supply ship during his quest to circumnavigate the South Pole in 1928. During this service, the ship brought the first mechanized vehicles (converted Model T Fords) to Antarctica.

German Kriegsmarine submarine commissionings continue to outpace the occasional losses. Today, U-442 (F.Kapt. Hans-Joachim Hesse) and U-517 (Kptlt. Paul Hartwig) are commissioned. The new boats have longer range and capabilities than most of the submarines the Reich began the war with. The new submarines are sent to training flotilla to work up.

Adolf Hitler and General Erwin Rommel at Rastenburg, 21 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Adolf Hitler personally gives General Erwin Rommel the Oak Leaves with Swords to the Cross of the Iron Cross at Rastenburg on 21 March 1942 (they were awarded on 20 January 1942, but Rommel was busy in North Africa). Rommel is the 10th recipient of this award.
Battle of the Mediterranean: The Italians have become aware of the Royal Navy supply convoys heading for Malta from both east and west. To stop them, Italian Vice Admiral Angelo Iachino sails from Taranto, Italy, aboard battleship Littorio accompanied by four destroyers. In addition, Rear-Admiral Angelo Parona sets sail from Messina with the heavy cruisers Gorizia and Trento, the light cruiser Bande Nere, and four destroyers. The plan is to intercept the British ships sailing west from Alexandria near the Gulf of Sirte. The British Force H, meanwhile, launches 16 Spitfires for Malta from the convoy heading east from Gibraltar.

In a continuing effort to distract the Germans from events at sea, the British Eighth Army launches more harassing attacks against Axis forces near Benghazi. This keeps the Axis reconnaissance aircraft occupied over the land rather than scouting out at sea where they might spot the numerous British ships. However, Italian submarines Onice and Platino both spot British convoy MW 10 and report its position. The Axis command in Rome orders Italian submarines Perla, Acciaio, and Galatea and German submarines U.73, U-205, and U-403 to the area. Commando Supremo also readies the Italian 4th Air Fleet and German II Air Corps for attacks. The Axis air forces get their first victim when 6 Italian Fiat CR-42 bombers sink British motor launch boat ML-129 between Gibraltar and Malta. There are seven deaths.

Axis air attacks on Malta continue today without let-up. The main German target, the RAF field at Ta Qali, suffers repeated attacks, as do the communities near it. Dozens of people are killed.

Battle of the Black Sea: German aircraft sink 2482-ton Soviet transport ship SS Georgi Dimitrov (Георгий Димитров) in Sevastopol Harbor. There are no casualties.

A Bristol Bombay being transported in Northern Ireland, 21 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Bristol Bombay in a street in Hollywood, Northern Ireland, after a forced landing at Clandeboye." 21 March 1942 (© IWM HU 110308).
Partisans: Václav Morávek, a Czech officer, has been a member of the "Three Kings" partisan movement. He has had a reputation for daring, even foolhardy, exploits against the occupying Germans. Today, that comes to an end when the Gestapo arrests his colleague Václav Řehák. Morávek tries to intervene and the Gestapo guns him down. He is not forgotten, however, as he is posthumously promoted to Brigadier General and becomes famous in a Czech television series about the Three Kings. The death of Václav Morávek basically ends the Three Kings.

Despite the loss of the Three Kings, the Czechs have real trouble brewing for the Germans. The British SOE has had agents embedded in the Prague vicinity since late December looking for an opportunity to assassinate Gauleiter Reinhard Heydrich. This is Operation Anthropoid.

US/Chinese Relations: The United States agrees to provide US$500 million in aid to China. This is a very strategic move as Chinese troops now are carrying most of the burden of fighting in Burma as the battered British forces there try to regroup.

The New Yorker, 21 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The New Yorker, 21 March 1942.
US Military: The Assam-Burma-China Ferry Command is activated. It commands 25 Pan-American World Airways DC-3 transports. Their main mission is to take supplies to China over the Himalayas (the "Hump") but first they must supply the Allied troops under pressure in Burma.

Japanese Military: In a curious incident, Rear Admiral Sosa Tanetsuga writes an article in the Japan Times warning of the vulnerability of the Japanese homeland to air attack from the Aleutian Island chain. The Aleutians have been watched closely by both sides for the same reason - their possible use for air attack - but why a Japanese officer chooses a newspaper to broadcast this is a mystery.

German Government: Fritz Sauckel, one of Hitler's old "street fighter" comrades, is appointed Reich Plenipotentiary General for Labor Mobilization. Sauckel's portfolio includes the power, in Hitler's name, to ship laborers from all across occupied Europe to Reich labor squads by any means necessary. This includes "shanghaiing" men off the streets. However, Sauckel cannot (under current practices) use the thousands of Jews now being deported from Eastern Galicia to the new death camp at Belzec (this will change in the near future). Sauckel, whose appointment is a sign of German recognition that the war in the Soviet Union is going to be harder and longer than anticipated, will receive the death penalty at Nuremberg for his treatment of laborers.

Winnipeg Tribune, 21 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Winnipeg Tribune reports in its 21 March 1942 edition that the "Women's Land Army Has 21,000 Workers Throughout The Counties of England."
American Homefront: "Secret Agent of Japan" from 20th Century Fox premieres at the Globe Theater in New York City. It is the first motion picture to depict the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor - which, for most Americans, is still shrouded in secrecy and misinformation. "Secret Agent of Japan," directed by Irving Pichel, is a typical wartime espionage thriller starring Preston Foster and Lynn Bari.

Future History: Ali Abdullah Saleh is born in Al-Ahmar, Yemen He will serve as the 1st President of Yemen from 22 May 1990 to 25 February 2012. Notable for developing deeper ties with Western powers, particularly in the war on terror, Saleh passes away on 4 December 2017.

Françoise Dorléac is born in Paris, France. The sister of famous actress Catherine Deneuve, Françoise also becomes an actress primarily in Europe. Françoise Dorléac dies tragically on the cusp of stardom on 26 June 1967 in a car accident.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 21 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Australian Women's Weekly, 21 March 1942.

2020

Saturday, April 4, 2020

March 20, 1942: "I Shall Return," Says MacArthur

Friday 20 March 1942

MacArthur at Terowie, 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The MacArthur family (Jean, Arthur, and Douglas) at the Terowie train station on 20 March 1942 (Photo - Terowie Citizens' Ass. Inc.).
Battle of the Pacific: During his seemingly endless train ride from Alice Springs to Melbourne, General Douglas MacArthur seizes a chance at Terowie railway station north of Adelaide, Australia, to make a speech on 20 March 1942.
The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organizing the American offensive against Japan, a primary object of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came through and I shall return.
The phrase "I shall return" becomes a battle cry for many in the Pacific Theater of Operations. MacArthur does not spend much time at Terowie, where he and his party are only changing trains, but his remarks are broadcast around the world. He has had a long, lonely ride to think up what to say, and he does it right.

Wavell and Hutton, 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Burma. 20 March 1942. General Sir Archibald Wavell (right) is greeted by General T. J. Hutton, General Officer Commanding in Chief of Burma, upon his arrival at an RAF airfield." Australian War Memorial P02491.106.
Elsewhere, the Japanese remain on the attack. In Burma, the Battle of Yunnan-Burma Road continues with the beginning of the Battle of Oktwin. The Japanese 143rd Regiment, reinforced with cavalry units of the 55th Division, attacks the positions of the Chinese 5th Army Cavalry Regiment north of the Kan River. The Chinese quickly pull back to the north of Toungoo, leaving only one company to keep tabs on the advancing Japanese. There is little to delay the Japanese advance on Toungoo, but the 200th Chinese Division now has had enough time to build defensive positions in the Toungoo area which may be useful. The Japanese have the fresh 18th and 56th divisions, which just arrived by sea at Rangoon over the past few days, available.

The Japanese attempt to neutralize the strong Allied air power in Burma by attacking the American Volunteer Group (AVG) base at Magwe. They also attack "Burwing" (the RAF command in Burma). The British pull back from Tharrawaddy.

Brooklyn Eagle, 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The 20 March 1942 Brooklyn Eagle is full of optimism due to the stirring words of General MacArthur in Australia.
In the Philippines, Major General Jonathan Wainwright learns that he has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General. He now is given command of all U.S. forces in the Philippines (USFIP).

Japanese Mitsubishi G4M Navy Type 1 "Betty" bombers attack Broome Airfield in Western Australia. They attack from high altitude and do not cause any damage because most of the bombs miss the airfield completely. One nearby aboriginal is killed by a bomb splinter.

USS South Dakota (BB-57) is commissioned in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It will see heavy action in the Pacific during the second half of 1942 and later serve in the Atlantic for a while before returning to the Pacific.

USS Grunion, 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"USS_Grunion (SS-216), stern view at rest. March 20, 1942, at the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT. In a little less than 6 months, the boat and all her crew would be M.I.A." (U.S. Navy).
Eastern Front: General Erich von Manstein, commander of the German 11th Army in Crimea, launches a minor counterattack to recover ground lost during the recent Soviet offensives on the Parpach Narrows. The attack is aimed to recover Korpech', a German strongpoint which was the only major Red Army gain in the recent battles. The spearhead of the German/Romanian advance is the 22nd Panzer Division, which is inexperienced and equipped with weak Czech-built Panzer 38(t)s.

The attack goes wrong right from the start, with some of the panzers running into a minefield and others being slowed by thick fog. The Red Army reacts quickly and blocks the advance with a battalion of T-26 tanks and four heavy KV-1 tanks of the 55th Tank Brigade. After losing 32 of 152 tanks damaged or destroyed, Manstein calls off the attack. The one success of the attack is that it disrupts the Soviets' own planned attack in the same area, so it serves as an unintended spoiling attack.

Mitsubishi Raiden, 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The first flight of Mitsubishi J2M1 Raiden "Jack" was on 20 March 1942. It will make its combat debut in June 1944 at the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The Raiden became a mainstay of the Japanese Air Force in the last year of the war.
On the Volkhov River, the Germans participating in Operation Raubtier have cut off 130,000 Soviet troops to the west. The Red Army finally realizes the danger and General Kirill A. Meretskov’s Volkhov Front launches a determined attempt to relieve the pocket. This bears some fruit and a small opening is achieved through which a limited number of men and supplies can be funneled. However, the Germans are determined to seal their victory and the fierce battle along the river continues. The Soviet relief attempt is insufficient for the trapped Soviet forces to escape, and, in any event, they do not have permission to retreat back across the Volkhov even were that possible.

With Operation Raubtier having accomplished its main mission, the Wehrmacht quickly shifts to the next operation on the docket. This is Operation Brueckenschlag ("Bridge-building"), an attempt to relieve the Demyansk pocket.  There is some doubt whether the trapped men in the Demyansk Pocket can hold out through the Spring thaw ("Rasputitsa"), which is fast approaching, so every day is precious. German resources, especially in the air, are so light that they cannot do even these small operations contemporaneously, but only in sequence. Adolf Hitler personally is ordering these shifts from East Prussia, keeping a close eye on daily developments. The Luftwaffe spends today shifting its units from the Volkhov to the Demyansk area, and Generalmajor Walter von Seydlitz-Kurzbach shifts his attack units into position on the X Corps line. The relief attack is scheduled to begin at daylight on the 21st.

British anti-aircraft gunner, 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Seaman James Sweeney with his Lewis gun." A gunner on board the trawler HMS Cornelian, 20 March 1942. © IWM (A 8009).
European Air Operations: A prolonged lull in operations continues today on the Channel Front. During the day, RAF Bomber Command sends 13 Manchesters and 6 Lancasters to lay mines in the Frisian Islands. Due to poor weather, only 11 manage to lay their mines in the proper area. The RAF also sends two bombers to attack Essen, but they return without completing their mission due to weather conditions.

"Plan for Initiation of U.S. Army Bombardment Operations in the British Isles" is released by the US Army Air Force. It spells out an agenda of using the British Isles to bomb German infrastructure on the Continent. Major General Ira C Eaker submits a report to Major General James E Chaney, requested on 25 February 1942, analyzing the best methods for this air offensive. It concludes that an effective campaign can be waged by combining USAAF daylight precision bombing with RAF night area bombing. The effects of the bombing campaign can be enhanced by close coordination between the two air forces.

Launching of USS Birmingham, 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Launch of the U.S. Navy light cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-62) at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company shipyard, Newport News, Virginia (USA), on 20 March 1942." US Naval History and Heritage Command NH 75592.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-71 (Kptlt. Walter Flachsenberg), on its fifth patrol out of St. Nazaire, uses its machine gun to stop 5766-ton US freighter Oakmar about 300 miles east of Cape Hatteras. Oakmar is unarmed, so the U-boat's machine gun alone is sufficient to force the crew to abandon ship (the seas are too rough to use the deck gun). Flachsenberg then fires a torpedo that misses due to the rough seas, but a second at 21:39 hit forward of the bridge, causing the ship to sink. There are six dead and 30 survivors, with several of the crew lost due to the rough weather.

Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli (Cmdr Carlo Fecia di Cossato) spots British tanker Davila while heading back to Bordeaux but cannot attack because of previous war damage on its patrol. However, the crew of the Davila spots the submarine and decides to attack it. Cossata dives when the Davila begins firing at him. Both ships escape without damage. This is a rare instance of a tanker attacking a submarine instead of vice versa.

Norwegian 823-ton freighter Risøy is attacked by three aircraft and sunk near Trevose Head, Cornwall, England. There is one death.

British tanker Davila, 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British tanker Davila, which attacked the Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli on 20 March 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: U-652 (Oblt. Georg-Werner Fraatz), on its eighth patrol out of Salamis, Greece, when its crew spots 1050-ton British destroyer HMS Heythrop (L 85) about 40 miles northeast of Bardia. At 10:54, Fraatz fires four torpedoes, one of which hits destroyer Heythrop. HMS Eridge (L 68) takes Heythrop in tow, but it sinks on the way to Alexandria. There are 16 dead and 150 survivors.

The Royal Navy is running another major convoy operation to Malta from Gibraltar. Force H brings a flight of Spitfires to replace the planes lost in the recent Luftwaffe onslaught on the island. This is operation MG 1. A separate convoy of four freighters, MW-10, also departs from Alexandria bound for Malta. The Royal Navy positions six submarines in the Gulf of Taranto in case the Italian Fleet decides to intervene. With all of these ships in motion, the possibility of a major battle is likely, and this leads eventually to the Second Battle of Sirte.

British destroyer Heythrop, sunk on 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British destroyer Heythrop, sunk by U-652 off Bardia on 20 March 1942.
As a decoy for the naval operations, the British Eighth Army is tasked with drawing German attention to land operations. It launches raids against German landing grounds in the Derna and Benghazi area after dark.

Malta itself remains under heavy air attack. Bombs land all over the island, and there are several mass air raids involving many dozens of Luftwaffe aircraft. The Germans also increasingly are strafing civilian areas with cannon fire. Ta Qali airfield is so badly damaged that the Army must be called to repair it.

Rhodesian pilot Douglas Leggo, KIA on 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Rhodesian Pilot Officer Douglas Leggo, shown here before his commission, was shot down and perished on 20 March 1942. The message on the plane is written in Shona (Media Drum World).
Partisans: Operation Munich, an anti-partisan operation in the Yelnya-Dorogobuzh area that began on 19 March, continues today. The partisans sometimes make a stand and fight ferociously, but more often they just melt away into the forests and towns and blend in with innocent townspeople. The Red Army has reinforced the partisan forces with trained soldiers who provide organizational and weapons skills.

At the Polish town of Zgierz, the German occupation forces decide to enforce draconian new rules for taking reprisals against partisans. The Germans round up 100 Poles from a nearby labor camp and execute them in front of an assembled crowd of 6000 from Zgierz and the surrounding area.

US tanker Oakmar, sunk on 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
US tanker Oakmar, sunk by U-71 on 20 March 1942.
Soviet/Japanese Relations: While both nations are engaged in fights to the death, Japan and the USSR maintain eerily normal relations. Today, their representatives sign an extension of the 1928 Russo-Japanese Fishing Convention in Kuibyshev (the location of most of the bureaucracy of the Soviet government).

US Military: New US Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) arrives in San Diego after transiting the Panama Canal. It will soon begin carrier qualifications. The Hornet has been experimenting with launching B-25B bombers in anticipation of a bombing raid on a target yet to be disclosed to anyone on board the ship. Sixteen B-25s are being prepared for this mysterious mission by stripping them of everything not deemed essential.

British Government: Sir Stafford Cripps, on his way to India to talk to Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian nationalists, stops off in Cairo to receive a briefing.

Railroad Magazine, March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Railroad Magazine, March 1942.
Holocaust: Adolf Hitler discusses the Final Solution with Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels at Rastenburg. Goebbels notes in his diary:
Here, the Fuhrer is as uncompromising as ever. The Jews must be got out of Europe, if necessary by applying the most brutal methods.
It is not only the Jews, of course, who are the recipients of the "most brutal methods." Hitler's first objective, though, is to obtain slave laborers for the Reich's war needs.

An English translation of a dispatch in which the Chilean consul in Prague, Gonzalo Montt Rivas discusses the Holocaust winds up in American files by 20 March 1942. This is the earliest proof that American authorities had reason to know the Holocaust was in progress. In the memo, Rivas tells his colleagues about a German decree that Jews living abroad could no longer be German subjects and that their property would be confiscated. Writing in Spanish, Rivas says:
The Jew [residing abroad] loses German nationality immediately... The fortune which the Reich obtains in this manner will serve to solve the questions in connection with Jews
Rivas notes that "The German triumph [in the war] will leave Europe freed of Semites."

The first mass transport of Jews to the Auschwitz death camp begins on 20 March 1942. Occupation authorities in Poprad, Slovakia, tell local unmarried Jewish women and girls to assemble at the local school at 8 a.m. to be taken to do war work. The Hlinka guard, the military arm of Catholic priest Jozef Tiso’s First Slovak Republic, loads them into windowless cattle cars. The car is empty save for a vegetable tin to serve as a toilet. Within a week, the 800 victims, joined by others along the way, are inmates at Auschwitz.

American Homefront: With fuel rationing in effect, companies are finding creative ways to get their employees to work. Today, the Chief of Transportation at Redstone Ordnance Plant (later Redstone Arsenal) in Madison County, Alabama, establishes a Share-A-Ride program. The Army provides gasoline to drivers with cars who are willing and able to drive other employees to and from work. A growing fraction of these employees, incidentally, are women.

Lil Abner, 20 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
''Li'l Abner'' Comic Strip From 20 March 1942 Featuring Li'l Abner & Mammy Yokum -- Drawn & Signed by Al Capp.

2020

Friday, April 3, 2020

March 19, 1942: Soviets Encircled on the Volkhov

Thursday 19 March 1942

Spitfire on HMS Eagle, 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Supermarine Spitfire on board HMS Eagle, ca. 19 March 1942. The Spitfires are being taken to Malta with Force H (© IWM (A 9580)).
Eastern Front: The German I Corps and XXXVIII Corps, pushing into the base of a Soviet salient across the Volkhov River from the north and south, respectively, meet late in the day on 19 March 1942. This threatens to trap 130,000 Red Army troops to the west that have been trying to take Lyuban. The most significant Soviet outfit in the salient is the 2nd Shock Army, led by General Andrei Vlasov. This follows a typical pattern early in the war when the Red Army basically shrugs off these kinds of German tactics, usually to the Soviets' eventual detriment.

The Wehrmacht advance has been difficult because there are no north-south roads in the area, requiring a difficult route through snow and trees in frigid weather. The battle is not over, and the Soviets will reopen a small gap, but this encirclement in Operation Raubtier is the first major German success in the USSR since the fall.

In Crimea, General Erich von Manstein is preparing an attack on the Soviet line in the Parpach Narrows. He wishes to recover the small amount of territory lost in the recent Soviet attacks. However, the Soviets also are building up their own forces for a renewed attack. The only question is which side attacks first. Manstein's offensive, which he has prepared hurriedly and that relies on inexperienced troops using sketchy Czech tanks, is scheduled for the morning of 20 March 1942.

Bombs at Port Moresby, New Guinea, 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"PORT MORESBY, NEW GUINEA. 1942-03-19. THICK SMOKE BILLOWS UP FROM TUAGUBU HILL AFTER A JAPANESE AIRCRAFT ATTACK AGAINST A 3.7 INCH ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY." Australian War Memorial 129807.
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese score their first success in the Battle of Yunnan-Burma Road that began on 18 March when they win the Battle of Tachiao in the Sittang Valley. The 143rd Regiment of the 55th Division advances about 12 miles north and takes Pyu. The next Japanese objective is to attack the defenses of the Chinese Army Cavalry Regiment north of the Kan River. These will become known as the Battles of Toungoo and Oktwin, the main defensive position of the Chinese forces in the area.

Toungoo, now under Japanese attack, is the original training base of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) aka the "Flying Tigers." The AVG pilots and ground crew have had to "bug out" to northern India and China. Lieutenant General William J. Slim, former General Officer Commanding 10th Indian Division in Syria, arrives in Burma to take command of Imperial troops. Slim wants to hold the current Prome-Toungoo defensive line, which is good defensive terrain due to the presence of heavy jungles.

Map of Burma as of 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The situation in Burma as of 19 March 1942 (Charles F. Romanus, Riley Sunderland).
The Chinese troops in Burma are commanded by US Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell, and communication issues arise between the different allied forces. While experienced fighters, the Chinese divisions are the size of British brigades. The British troops are all defeated remnants of the previous Japanese advance across Burma, but Slim does have a potent tank force in the 7th Armored Brigade.

Seven Japanese bombers raid Darwin city, Myilly Point, and Larrakeyah in the Northern Territory of Australia. The 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group, USAAF scrambles from Batchelor Field (where General MacArthur landed recently) to intercept them, but they arrive after the bombers have left.

The Border Watch of Mount Gambier, Australia, 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Mount Gambier, Australia, The Border Watch of 19 March 1942 trumpets General MacArthur's arrival on the front page. 
General Douglas MacArthur, recently arrived in Australia from the Philippines, and his party continues the long train ride from Alice Springs to Melbourne, Australia. MacArthur's journey is closely watched in the media, but the trip is arduous, lasting several days. Their railroad coach is tiny, with hard wooden seats running lengthwise that prevent movement within the train between coaches. In addition, the air is full of flies and this is a sheepherding region, with the train stopping once to aid a stricken sheepherder. The journey will require a change of trains at Terowie on the 20th, where MacArthur will make his famous "I shall return" speech. The party could fly, but Mrs. MacArthur refuses.

Japanese submarine HIJMS I-25 launches a Yokosuka E14Y1 "Glen" to reconnoiter Suva on Viti Levu Island, Fiji. As with all similar Japanese reconnaissance missions of the sort, this one goes unobserved by the Allies.

Following the path taken by General MacArthur, Philippine President Manuel Quezon and 13 members of his party use motor torpedo boat PT-41 to evacuate threatened Dumaguete, Negros Island. They sail the 240 miles to Oroquito, Mindanao Island, where the US Army still maintains an airbase.

Tempo magazine, 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Italian magazine Tempo features a cover story on "Surveillance aircraft at work upon enemy positions" in its issue for 19 March 1942.
European Air Operations: An extended lull in operations continues on the Channel front. RAF Bomber Command sends one Wellington bomber to Essen during the day, but weather conditions force its early return to base.

Battle of the Atlantic: The U-boat fleet has been sinking tankers almost every day recently. This has caused great concern in London and Washington and has led to fuel rationing in the United Kingdom. The situation only gets worse today as more tankers go down.

U-124 (Kptlt. Georg-Wilhelm Schulz), on its eighth patrol out of Lorient, continues a very successful patrol off the east coast of the United States when it torpedoes and sinks two U.S. tankers about 15 miles southwest of Cape Lookout:
  • 5939-ton tanker Papoose (2 dead, 32 survivors)
  • 7076-ton tanker W.E. Hutton (13 dead, 23 survivors)
Schulz puts two torpedoes into Papoose beginning at 04:31. He then follows up by hitting the W.E. Hutton at 05:38. The men of both ships are rescued during the day by other passing freighters.

SS Liberator, 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
SS Liberator, one of the ships lost on 19 March 1942.
U-332 (Kptlt. Johannes Liebe), on its third patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes and sinks 7,720-ton US freighter Liberator about three miles west of the Diamond Shoals Buoy off Cape Hatteras. The ship is carrying 11,000 tons of sulfur, which ignites and creates fumes that force the crew to quickly abandon ship. There are five dead. The 30 survivors are picked up within an hour by USS Umpqua (AT 25), which witnesses the attack. This concludes U-332's patrol, during which it has sunk 25,125 tons of shipping off the east coast.

US tanker W.E. Hutton, sunk on 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U.S. tanker W.E. Hutton, lost on 19 March 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: The sustained Axis air assault on Malta continues on 19 March. The list of sites hit is extensive:
  • 1 JU 88 - 4 x 250kg (Ta Qali Aerodrome)
  • 4 ME 109 - 4 x 250kg (Grand Harbour)
  • 5 JU 88 - 20 x 250kg; 30 x 50kg (Grand Harbour)
  • 6 JU 88 - 24 x 500kg (Marsaxlokk)
  • 10 JU 88 - 8 x 500kg; 15 x 250kg; 36 x 50kg (Ta Qali Aerodrome)
  • 3 JU 88 - 12 x 250kg; 24 x 50kg (Luqa and Safi strip)
  • 6 JU 88 - 20 x 500kg (West of Luqa)
  • 13 JU 88 - 44 x 250kg; 100 x 50kg (South Malta)
Despite the air attacks, Malta remains in operation as a supply base for Royal Navy submarines. Today, HMS Unbeaten departs on patrol after a quick resupply turnaround, and Upright heads to Gibraltar and then the US for a refit.

Royal Navy submarine Upholder (Lt.Cdr. M.D. Wanklyn) uses its deck gun to sink 22-ton Italian auxiliary minesweeper B-14 (Maria) about 20 nautical miles south of Brindisi, Italy. There is no record of casualties.

US tanker Papoose, sunk on 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U.S. tanker Papoose, sunk on 19 March 1942.
Partisans: The Soviet partisan movement is becoming a serious problem for the Wehrmacht. The Third Panzer Army war diary states during late March:
There are indications that the partisan movement in the region of Velikye Luki, Vitebsk, Rudnya, Velizh, is now beiing organized on a large scale. The fighting strength of the partisans hitherto active is being bolstered by individual units of regular troops.
Some of the partisans are soldiers trapped during the rapid start of Operation Barbarossa. Others are Red Army troops flown in and dropped behind the German lines specifically to engage in partisan operations. The German troops sometimes see these Red Air Force planes landing in the distance to their rear and know exactly what is going on. As usual, the German response to this problem involves a massive application of force.

The Germans launch Operation Munich. This is a combined air/ground operation in the Yelnya/Dorogubuzh region against Soviet partisans. The Germans also are preparing and begin a similar anti-partisan action in the area of Hlusk District-Pariczi-Oktiabrskij to the south of Bobrujsk, in the eastern Polesie. This latter operation, more widely known, is Operation Bamberg.

In Serbia and Croatia, the Axis occupation authorities issue a draconian directive calling for the destruction of any village suspected of harboring or aiding partisans:
Removal of the population to concentration camps can also be useful. If it is not possible to apprehend or seize partisans, themselves, reprisal measures of a general nature may be in order, for example, the shooting of male inhabitants in nearby localities.
The directive specifies as an example of these "reprisal measures" that 100 local inhabitants be shot for every German that is killed, with 50 to be shot for every wounded Wehrmacht soldier. This is severe even by German standards.

USS Juneau in New York, 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"USS Juneau (CL-52), March 1942. Light cruiser at New York (also known as Brooklyn) Navy Yard, New York City, New York, March 19, 1942. U.S. Bureau of Ships Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2015/02/18)." National Museum of the U.S. Navy 19-LCM-31285.
US Military: Admiral King sends a memo to President Roosevelt in which he claims that it is "not at all sure that the British are applying sufficient effort to bombing German submarine bases and building (repair) yards." He adds that "It seems that the R.A.F. is not fully cooperative in complying with the views of the Admiralty in this (and other) matters relative to the selection of military objectives." He suggests "a directive from 'higher authority'" to remedy this situation. There is a constant tension throughout the war as different allied services request priority in the choice of bombing targets.

US Military Intelligence warns that the Japanese may seize the Aleutian Islands soon. The Aleutian Islands have been a preoccupation by both sides since the 1920s, with both the US and Japan worried they will be used for bombing operations against their respective homelands. The Intelligence position is that the Japanese also would use the islands to interrupt US/Soviet communications. Soviet-flagged ships continue to pass between the United States and the USSR in the North Pacific area because Japan is not at war with the Soviet Union.

HMS Wallace, 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Ratings aboard HMS WALLACE being issued with free gift cigarettes. Lieut Cdr J P Reid, RNVR, the CALO at Rosyth is handing out the gifts." 19 March 1942 (© IWM (A 7999)).
British Government: In Parliament, PM Winston Churchill announces various appointments. These include the appointment of R.G. Casey, the Australian Minister of Washington, as Minister of State in Cairo and a member of the British War Cabinet. Australian Prime Minister Curtin objects to this appointment, which he makes clear to Churchill in a testy exchange by message.

British home secretary Herbert Morrison accuses the London paper The Daily Mirror of "reckless indifference to the national interest" for its practice of publishing stories with an antiwar slant. This has been a continuing theme of the Winston Churchill government during the war, as Churchill expects nothing but cheerleading from the British press.

US Government: Congress is busy working on the relocation of people along the west coast of the United States for defense reasons. The Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration issues a report today recommending the imposition of a penalty of a $5,000 fine and misdemeanor conviction with the possibility of up to one-year imprisonment for persons violating restriction orders related to the military zones. This passes quickly, with little debate or discussion.

Holocaust: A new gas van, driven by two junior SS officers, Götz and Meyer, is used for the first time in Belgrade to address the "Jewish problem." These first victims of the gas van are staff and patients at the two Jewish hospitals in the city. The victims are loaded in groups of 80 and 100 and then driven through Belgrade. The vehicle exhaust is fed into the truck, killing the occupants within 15 minutes. The 800 dead in the two-day operation that concludes today are driven to Jajinci, a village at the base of mount Avala, south of the city. There, seven Serbian prisoners bury the dead in mass graves.

Spitfire on HMS Eagle, 19 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Spitfire taking off from HMS Eagle, 19 to 23 March 1942 (© IWM (A 9586)).

2020