Sunday, July 12, 2020

March 22, 1942: Second Battle of Sirte

Sunday 22 March 1942

ATS Recruitment 22 March 1942
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
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
"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
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
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
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.


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
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
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
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
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.