Monday, July 20, 2020

March 25, 1942: Chinese Under Pressure in Burma

Wednesday 25 March 1942

Bainbridge Island 25 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A US Army soldier hands out copies of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1 to Bainbridge Island, Washington, residents. All 227 Japanese-Americans on the island are required to vacate the island by the end of the month. The Seattle Daily Times, March 30, 1942, page 2. 
Battle of the Pacific: Heavy fighting continues in Toungoo, Burma, on 25 March 1942 as the Allied defenses crumble save for desperate Chinese resistance. The Japanese attack the Chinese defensive perimeter at Toungoo on the north, west, and south, trying to overrun what has become a pocket. Behind the Chinese is the Sittang River, and trying to retreat across it while being attacked would be suicidal. The Chinese 200th Division at Toungoo, however, holds its ground for much of the day. Nighttime brings a different result. Around 22:00, Japanese infiltrators gain access through the carefully constructed defenses in the northwestern sector of the perimeter and a ferocious battle begins. A Chinese counterattack fails and they are forced to cede the lost ground, compressing the Chinese bridgehead even further. The Japanese airforce and artillery also manage to destroy a critical bridge over the Sittang, further reducing Chinese chances of retreat.

Men relaxing on USS Enterprise, 25 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
This photograph was taken 25 March 1942 on the foretop of USS Enterprise (CV-6). The three men (two reporters and an officer, center) are awaiting news of a strike against Marcus Island (US Navy History and Heritage Command).
It is a busy day in the Pacific for US submarines. They score three successes:
  • USS Drum sinks a freighter about 120 miles southwest of Japan;
  • USS Pompano sinks a tanker about 70 miles northwest of Okinawa;
  • USS Tautog sinks a transport about 460 miles southeast of Ulithi.
The Japanese bombardment of the Allied position on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines continues. Lieutenant General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV's United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) is hit with salvoes from 190 artillery pieces. These include some of the biggest guns of the war, including 150 mm cannons and even Type 42 240 mm howitzers. Japanese commanding General Homma, however, is not yet ready for a full-scale attack.

Joplin Globe 25 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
March 25, 1942, front page of the Joplin Globe, Joplin, Missouri is sunny and bright about the war situation - until you look a little closer. Aside from the tales of vanquishing hordes of Japanese, it also announces the loss of USS Edsall DD-219 and USS Pillsbury DD-227. While the paper "fears" the ships are lost, the US Navy knows full well the Edsall sank on 1 March 1942 and the Pillsbury sank on 2 March 1942. The Navy quickly names new destroyers after these two sunken ships.
The US 162nd Infantry Regiment of the 41st Infantry Division arrives at Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Companies C and D of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion disembark from light cruiser USS St. Louis at Midway. They bring a 37 mm gun battery for the 3rd Defense Battalion.

Japanese submarine HIJMS I-9 launches an E14Y1 reconnaissance "Glen" aircraft to reconnoiter Kiska and Amchitka Islands.

Eastern Front: In the Crimea, Soviet General Kozlov readies his third offensive against the German 11th Army line on the Parpach Narrows for the morning of the 26th. This drive will be aimed at the German strongpoint at Koi-Asan. This will be a much smaller operation than the previous offensives due to the large losses Kozlov's 51st Army has suffered.

German coast batteries sink Soviet patrol boat CKA-121 off Musketeers Bay, Sevastopol.

Royal Navy ships on maneuvers, 25 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Royal Navy ships performing high-speed maneuvers off Fort William, 25 March 1942. © IWM A 9340.
European Air Operations: During the day, nine Boston bombers with a fighter escort attack the Le Trait, France, shipyard. There are no losses.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command launches its first major attack in about two weeks. Things do not go particularly well. The RAF sends 254 aircraft (192 Wellingtons, 26 Stirlings, 20 Manchesters, 9 Hampdens, and 7 Lancasters) in a full-strength attack against Essen. Nine aircraft (5 Manchesters, 3 Wellingtons, and 1 Hampden) are lost. The attack is intended to hit the Essen Krupps works, but savvy German deception efforts lure most of the bombers to a phony site at Rheinburg some 18 miles to the west. Damage is extremely light in Essen itself, and the Germans exactly 1627 propaganda leaflets dropped on the town along with 9 bombs and 700 incendiaries. Only one house is destroyed, with five people killed and 11 injured. The Krupp works are undamaged. One bomber on this mission bombs Airfield Haamstede near the town of Haamstede on the island of Schouwen-Duiveland in the southwest of the Netherlands

In secondary operations, 27 bombers attack St. Nazaire, 38 lay mines off Lorient, and 30 bombers drop leaflets over France. A single bomber hits Lannion airport in Brittany. Two bombers, a Wellington and a Hampden, are lost on these secondary raids. Overall for the night, 11 out of 349 aircraft are lost, a 3.2% loss rate.

The day is notable for a "first" when US Army pilot Major Cecil P. Lessig becomes the first US Army Air Force pilot to fly a mission over France during World War II. He flies a Spitfire with RAF no. 64 Squadron out of Hornchurch, England. Lessig is part of an abortive sweep of 34 fighters that is recalled when 50 Luftwaffe fighters appear on the scene.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-105 (KrvKpt. Heinrich Schuch), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 10,389-ton British tanker Narragansett about 400 miles east of Hampton Roads, Virginia. The ship sinks at 06:18, taking all 49 men with it. Schuch had a difficult time with the tanker, missing with two separate salvoes totaling five torpedoes in the early morning hours before finally getting the tanker with two torpedoes.

HMT Sulla, a minesweeper in the service of the Soviet Navy, sinks in the Arctic due to foul weather.

New Greek Navy recruits on parade in Alexandria, 25 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Some 500 new recruits in the Greek Free Navy marching in Alexandria after being sworn in, Egypt, 25 March 1942. © IWM A 8848.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Axis airforces have been pounding Malta ever since the Second Battle of Sirte a few days ago. Today, they score two victories, sinking Royal Navy destroyer Legion and submarine P39 in the Grand Harbor, Valletta. Attempts to repair P39 are considered, but later bomb damage seals her fate. She is finally scrapped in 1954. Legion, already damaged by previous bomb damage, also is considered for repair but the damage is too great. She is completely scrapped by 1946.

British tanker HMS Breconshire, badly damaged during the Second Battle of Sirte, finally is towed into Marsaxlokk Harbour, Malta. The ship carries 5000 tons of oil that are badly needed by the island garrison. The ship has been stranded offshore due to continual Axis air raids ever since the battle. Destroyer HMS Southwold had been protecting her, but it blundered into a British minefield and sank, leaving the tanker defenseless until today.

UK Government: The ruling Tories lose a by-election in Grantham. This is their first loss since September 1939.

US Government: The Department of War forms the White Hosue Communications Agency. This office is intended to create secure communications for the President wherever he is.

Finnish Government: President Risto Ryti writes a letter to Field Marshal Mannerheim at his headquarters at Mikkeli about a proposed offensive toward the Murmansk railway line that the Germans badly want. Ryti notes that "from an operative point of view" the offensive "can be carried out." While Ryti tells Mannerheim to "use your own discretion," he very strongly hints that it would be a better idea to not attack in order to husband Finland's resources. In addition, he mentions the possibility that "the Germans are forced to retreat on the St. Petersburg front," which would "cause us great difficulties and hazards." Among other considerations is the fear that the United States might declare war on Finland due to such an attack. Ultimately, Mannerheim decides to postpone the attack and, in fact, the attack is never made.

B-25B in Florida, on or about 25 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
North American Aviation B-25B Mitchell 40-2291 at Eglin Field, Florida, March 1942. (U.S. Air Force).
German Military: An Me 262 fighter prototype is fitted with BMW 003 turbojet engines and flown at Rechlin Airfield north of Berlin. This is the plane's first test flight with its intended jet engines, and it does not go well. Shortly after takeoff, the compressor blades in the jet engine shatter, leaving the Me 262 powerless. However, fortunately for test pilot Fritz Wendel, the prototype still is equipped with a traditional propeller Junkers Jumo 210 G engine in the nose. He switches that on and lands safely. This mishap effectively ends the BMW engine as the one to be used on the plane. The engineers, fortunately, have another jet engine in development, the Junkers Jumo 004 A. They switch to that. Although this sets the program back a few months, that is what testing and test flights are for.

US Military: The US Army activates the 77th Infantry Division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Some B-26s of the 22nd Bomber Group (Medium) arrive from the United States at Archerfield Aerodrome, Brisbane. This is part of the standard ferry operation from the States to Australia via the South Pacific.

General Douglas MacArthur visits Lt. General George Brett, the man he replaced in charge of Allied forces in Australia. Brett, who still commands all air units in the Theater, recalls that MacArthur expressed "contempt" for the air units. Brett also recalls MacArthur saying that the Philippines were lost, but not due to anything MacArthur had done. Specifically, Brett recalls MacArthur saying about the air units, "They lack discipline, organization, purposeful intent." MacArthur has a reputation of preferring to deal only with his personal cronies, and Brett is not counted among them.

USS California, a battleship sunk during the 7 December 1941 Pearl Harbor raid, is re-floated today and dry-docked for repairs. Restoring her to service will take until 31 January 1944, after which she earns a total of seven battle stars during the war.

Twenty-two North American Aviation B-25B Mitchell twin-engine medium bombers of the 34th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 17th Bombardment Group (Medium), U.S. Army Air Force, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Harold Doolittle, begin a two-day, low-level, transcontinental flight to the Sacramento Air Depot, McClellan Field, California. These bombers will participate in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.

Holocaust: A train carrying 997 young women departs from Poprad railway station in the Slovak Republic bound for Auschwitz. This is the first mass transport by trains of Jews to the extermination camp.

Greek Independence Day parade in Athens, Greece, 25 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Greeks march in the streets of Athens to celebrate National Independence Day on 25 March 1942. They carry a large Greek flag and sing patriotic songs (National Museum of the US Navy).
Greece: Greeks defiantly march in the streets of Athens to celebrate National Independence Day. This is very dangerous due to the occupation and the parade is quickly dispersed.

Future History: Aretha Louise Franklin is born in Memphis, Tennessee. After singing gospel in her local church in Detroit, Michigan, Aretha becomes a recording artist at first Columbia Records and then Atlantic Records. She has a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, including "Respect," "Think," and "I Say a Little Prayer." Aretha Franklin passes away on 16 August 2018.

Sailing vessels in Boston Harbor, 25 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Sailing ships apparently in Boston Harbor, 25 March 1942. Boston Public Library.

2020

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