Wednesday, April 1, 2020

March 18, 1942: Japan Attacks In Burma

Wednesday 18 March 1942

Royal Navy patrol boat 18 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"HMT ADRONIE CAMIEL with a barrage balloon above her." 18 March 1942 in Milford Haven and Fishguard. © IWM (A 7908).
Battle of the Pacific: In Burma, the two-day Battle of Tachiao begins on 18 March 1942 when about 200 Japanese reconnaissance troops on motorbikes are ambushed while advancing toward a critical bridge 35 miles south of Toungoo and 12 miles south of Pyu. The Japanese lose 30 dead and much equipment but resume their advance as the main body of troops arrives. This conflict begins the Battle of Yunnan-Burma Road which will last until early June 1942.

The American Volunteer Group (AVG), or "Flying Tigers," are still causing the Japanese problems in Burma. At 07:55, they attack the Japanese airfield at Moulmein and destroy three bombers, two transport planes, and 11 fighters on the ground. The Japanese realize they need to beef up their air presence in Burma. So, during the day, the Japanese transfer 420 aircraft from recently conquered Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies to reinforce their forces in Burma.

Royal Navy Minesweeper 18 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Motor Minesweeper J514." 18 March 1942. © IWM (A 9738).
After spending the night in Alice Springs, Australia, General MacArthur's party boards a three-car wooden train drawn by a steam locomotive that General Brett has commandeered from the Australians and heads for Melbourne via Adelaide. This journey will take several days and involve numerous stops and changes of trains. MacArthur is traveling by train because his wife, Jean, is tired of flying.

The United States' presence in Australia is still very light. Today, the US Army Air Force has a strength of 213 combat aircraft. This includes a dozen B-17 Flying Fortresses, 27 A-24 Dauntless dive bombers, various other medium and light bombers, 33 P-39 and 52 Bell P-400 Aircobras (export version of the P-39), 92 P-40 fighters, and assorted other transport and trainer aircraft.

USAAF pilot Paul Bateman enlists on 18 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Let's take a look at an average pilot. "Lt. Paul H. Bateman enlisted on 18 March 1942 at Fort Bragg, NC. Assigned to the 370th Fighter Squadron in April 1943, he completed his combat tour of duty in July 1944 with 301-1/2 hours and 1-3/4 aerial victories and 1-1/3 ground. Aircraft included P-51B CS-O 42-106926." American Air Museum UPL 38438.
Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht scores a minor victory in Operation Raubtier when elements of I Corps advancing from the north cut a Soviet supply road into the large salient on the western side of the Volkhov River. With the "Erika" lane in their possession, the Germans continue driving from both north and south toward the remaining supply lane, codenamed "Dora." The Red Army has 130,000 troops to the west whose only source of communications to the east is along the Dora lane, which now is in severe jeopardy.

European Air Operations: The RAF is in the midst of an extended lull in operations. RAF Bomber Command sends five Wellington bombers to Essen but they return without attacking due to weather conditions.

SS Kassandra Louloudis, lost on 18 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
SS Kassandra Louloudis, lost on 18 March 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-124 (Kptlt. Johann Mohr) has a big day off the east coast of the United States. It sinks two unarmed US tankers. First, at 01:14, Mohr spots and sinks independent 5106-ton Greek tanker Kassandra Louloudis (Master Themistokles Mitlas) about seven miles off Diamond Shoals, Cape Hatteras. All 35 men on board survive. At 08:27, Mohr spots and sinks independent 9647-ton US tanker E.M. Clark (Master Hubert L. Hassell) about 22 miles southwest of the Diamond Shoals Lighted Buoy. Two torpedoes hit, and the tanker sinks ten minutes later. There are one death and 40 survivors.

British 1547-ton freighter Ebro, carrying a load of fish from Reykjavik (Iceland) to Hull (GB), runs aground in Strathberg Bay, 2 nm NW of Rattray Lighthouse (Scotland, UK) and is written off. There is no report of any casualties.

U-653 (Kptlt. Gerhard Feiler), on its second patrol out of Brest, is lurking along the North Atlantic route near Convoy SL-119 when it is spotted by a patrolling Liberator aircraft of Squadron 120/F.  The submarine crew realizes it has been spotted and quickly dives, but it leaves one man topside who is lost. The U-boat sustains damage during the attack and barely makes it back to Brest on 30 April.

Italian submarine Tricheco, lost on 18 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Italian submarine Tricheco, shown being launched in 1931, was lost on 18 March 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarines continue their recent streak of sinking Italian submarines in the Mediterranean today. HMS Upholder (Lt.Cdr. Malcolm David Wanklyn) spots Italian submarine Tricheco sailing from Augusta, Sicily, to Brindisi and pumps a torpedo into it. The Tricheco splits into two pieces and sinks within seconds. There are 38 deaths and three survivors, including the captain.

The Luftwaffe continues its daily raids on Malta today. Junkers Ju 88s begin the barrage at around 08:00, and air battles continue over the island throughout the day. Both sides suffer losses, and the Germans succeed in further damaging Hal Far Airfield and other key points.

Rear Admiral Robert Lindsay Burnett,18 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Rear Admiral Robert Lindsay Burnett, OBE, addressing the ship's company of HMS ASHANTI. On the right just below the Admiral is the ship's captain, Commander R G Onslow, RN." 18 March 1942. © IWM (A 7972).
Anglo/US Relations: President Roosevelt sends Winston Churchill promising to send "one new battleship, two heavy cruisers, one carrier, five or six destroyers" to form a large part of Admiral Ghormley's European command. These forces, however, will "be under operational orders of CINC Home Fleet," meaning British command. This suggests that Ghormley is more of an administrator than a commander.

US/Chinese Relations: The United States Navy leases its river gunboat Tutuila to the Chinese government for the duration.

US/Australian Relations: General Brett, now technically General MacArthur's deputy even though MacArthur is still en route from Darwin, announces that the USAAF and Australian Air Force (RAAF) will fly together as a combined force.

British Military: Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten is named Chief of Combined Operations.

US Military: Two companies of the 182nd Infantry Regiment and a company of engineers arrive on Efate Island in the New Hebrides to construct an airfield.

An Auschwitz victim executed on 18 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Polish Jew Abraham Weinberger (No. 25986) of Tarnów, a political prisoner, was executed at Auschwitz on 18 March 1942.
US Government: President Roosevelt signs Executive Order No. 9102. This creates the War Relocation Authority (WRA), which handles the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The order directs in part:
Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.
Milton S. Eisenhower (the brother of Dwight) is appointed as the first director despite the fact that he is largely against the whole internment scheme. He writes his former boss, Agriculture Secretary Claude Wickard:
When the war is over, and we consider calmly this unprecedented migration of 120,000 people, we, as Americans, are going to regret the unavoidable injustices that we may have done.
Eisenhower, unable to cut back the program as he desires, will resign on 18 June 1942. However, during his brief tenure, he does manage to implement some reforms, such as raising wages for the interned people and establishing an internee advisory council.

The WRA's main objective is to take internees from their temporary "assembly centers" established by the military's Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA) and move them into permanent camps. This is done successfully at ten camp locations, most of which are on tribal land, though often the arriving internees themselves have to help with the camp construction.

American Homefront: "Reap the Wild Wind," directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring John Wayne and Ray Milland, hits theaters today. While one of Wayne's lesser-known films, "Reap the Wild Wind" is very successful and helps to cement his status as a major Hollywood star. It also is one of Wayne's more unusual films in that he plays a very dark character that is very similar to his later role in "Wake of the Red Witch" (1948). Paulette Goddard also stars.

Female aircraft workers in England, 18 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Two women workers sit inside the cockpit of an aircraft as they wire up the pilot's instrument panel, at a factory somewhere in Britain. According to the original caption, one woman is a GTC (Government Training Centre) trainee, and the other has been recently transferred from the canteen." 18 March 1942. © IWM (L 346).

2020

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