Tuesday, July 21, 2020

March 26, 1942: Win Or Die, Vows MacArthur

Thursday 26 March 1942

Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi, 26 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi departing from Starling Bay, Celebes Islands, on 26 March 1942. Note the line of ships stretching into the distance. The task force is heading for the Indian Ocean to defeat the British Eastern Fleet and destroy British airpower in the region in order to protect the flank of the invasion of Burma.
Battle of the Pacific: General Douglas MacArthur gives a rousing speech at a 26 March 1942 dinner in his honor (he receives the citation for his Medal of Honor) at the Australian Parliament House, Canberra, Australia. MacArthur notes, "Although this is my first trip to Australia," that he already feels at home. He calls the war a "great crusade of personal liberty" and further says:
There can be no compromise. We shall win or we shall die, and to this end, I pledge you the full resources of all the mighty power of my country and all the blood of my countrymen.
Privately, MacArthur meets with the Australian Advisory War Council and reassures them that the Japanese do not have the power to mount a large-scale invasion of Australia. However, MacArthur cautions that the Japanese still might attempt it "to demonstrate their superiority over the white races." The real danger, he says, is from small-scale invasions and raids in which the Japanese would attempt to set up air bases in Australia.

General Douglas MacArthur, 26 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Douglas MacArthur in Canberra, 26 March 1942 (CREDIT:F.J. HALMARICK, The Sydney Morning Herald).
On the Bataan Peninsula, the large force that MacArthur was ordered to leave continues to be shelled throughout the day as the Japanese prepare for a major offensive. Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon and his family evacuate aboard three USAAF B-17s to Australia.

At the Battle of Toungoo in Burma, the Japanese 112th Regiment attacks in the northwest of the Chinese perimeter but makes no progress. Other attacks elsewhere take the western part of the city to the west of the railroad, but the Chinese retain the heart of the city to the east of the railroad. The two sides close to within 100 meters on either side of the railway, firing at each other across the tracks. Both sides take heavy casualties, and eventually, the Japanese withdraw about 200 yards to give their artillery and bombers room to operate. Late in the day, the New 223nd Division arrives to the north of Yedashe and forces the Japanese to dilute their attacking strength by sending the 2nd Battalion, 143rd Regiment in a blocking move. A temporary stalemate develops.

A Japanese task force including aircraft carriers departs from the naval base at Kendari on Celebes Island, Netherlands East Indies, for the Indian Ocean. This is the beginning of a major raid in the Indian Ocean by the Kido Butai force that conducted the raid on Pearl Harbor. The first target will be Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Napa Register, 26 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Napa (California) Register of 26 March 1942 headlines MacArthur's "Win or Die" pledge below a disaster at Sandits Eddy Lehigh Cement in Pennsylvania.
Eastern Front: In the Crimea, Soviet General Kozlov opens his third offensive against the German line on the Parpach Narrows. The objective is the German strongpoint at Koi-Asan. The Soviet 390th Rifle Division and 143rd Rifle Brigade of the 51st Army lead the assault. They are supported by two T-26 companies, six KVs, and three T-34s from the 39th and 40th Tank Brigades and the 229th Separate Tank Battalion. The operation, much smaller than the previous two Soviet offensives, fails almost immediately.

Finnish forces begin a military operation (the Battle of Suursaari) in the frozen Gulf of Finland. The goal is to recover islands ceded to the Soviet Union after the Winter War in the Moscow Peace Treaty. These islands are Gogland and Bolshoy Tyuters. The islands already have changed hands twice since the peace treaty, as Soviet troops abandoned the islands, they were then occupied by the Finns, and then Soviet troops returned to recover them. The Finns have assembled three battalions in the nearby Haapasaaret Islands for this operation under the command of Major General Aaro Pajari. Today's preparations for the assault include opening two roads over the ice to the vicinity of the islands.

Berliner Illustrierter Zeitung, 26 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Berliner Ilustrierte Zeitung, 26 March 1942. Everything is sunny in the Reich, and the articles include an account of the destruction of a Soviet tank and ambitious plans in the United States that don't seem to be possible. Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, March 26, 1942, Howard Mowen NSDAP Collection, Western Michigan University.
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends 24 Boston bomber to Le Havre. One bomber is lost.

After dark, the RAF sends a follow-up raid to Essen. The raid on the night of the 25th was a failure, with few bombers even hitting the city. Tonight's raid of 104 Wellingtons and 11 Stirlings is not a surprise and is met by heavy opposition, including Flak and night fighters. However, while a much smaller raid, it is somewhat more successful. Unlike the previous night, hits are scored on the target, the Krupps works, and fires are started in the city. However, accuracy remains a huge problem for the RAF and only 22 high-explosive bombs are counted in the city. Six people are killed, 14 injured, and two houses are destroyed at a cost of 10 Wellingtons and one Stirling lost, a terrible 10% loss rate.

There also are smaller attacks sent against Le Havre (8 bombers), Holland (11 Blenheims), minelaying off Wilhelmshaven (36 bombers), and 15 bombers on leaflet operations over France. In the Holland raid, hits are scored on Schipol Airport and the port area of Rotterdam, along with Leeuwarden and Soesterburg Airfield. Two Blenheims (from the attack on Schipol) and two Hampdens (minelayers) fail to return.

Officers aboard HMS Adamant, 26 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Captain R S Warne, RN, (left) Captain of HMS ADAMANT, and his First Lieutenant, Lieut Cdr W H Hills on the bridge of Royal Navy submarine depot ship HMS Adamant in the North Atlantic, 26 March 1942. © IWM A 8431.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-71 (Kptlt. Walter Flachsenberg), on its fifth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 8046-ton US tanker Dixie Arrow about a dozen miles off Diamond Shoal Light Buoy (Cape Hatteras). With the break of day, Flachsenberg was about to submerge for the day when he spotted the masts of the Dixie Arrow approaching. He hits the tanker with three torpedoes at 08:58. There are 11 deaths and 14 survivors who are picked up about two hours later.

In a small-boats action in the North Sea, Royal Navy motor torpedo boats torpedo and sink 229-ton Dutch fishing trawler FV Corrie near Texel.

British freighter Pampas burning at Malta, 26 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British freighter Pampas burning at Malta on 26 March 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: This is the beginning of the worst period of the war for the British in the Mediterranean. Malta is isolated and ships are being sunk left and right. With the weather improving, attacks on land in North Africa can be expected to resume soon, too.

Incessant Axis air raids on Malta following the Second Battle of Sirte claim two more victims, 5415-ton British freighter MV Pampas and 6798-ton Norwegian freighter SS Talabot. Both ships from Convoy MW10 are sunk at their docks where they are being unloaded in between air attacks. Both ships remain where they sink until after the war (Talabot is not completely removed until 1985). In addition, Royal Navy submarine P-39 nearby is seriously damaged and ultimately written off, then scrapped at Kalkara.

With these attacks, Convoy MW 10, the one attacked during the Second Battle of Sirte, turned out to be a massive failure. While 26,000 tons (23 587 metric tonnes) were shipped, only about 5000 tons (4536-metric tons) actually make it off the ships to Malta. In addition, several ships were lost at minimal cost to the Axis.

U-652 (Oblt. Georg-Werner Fraatz), on its eighth patrol out of Salamis, sinks two ships. They are Royal Navy destroyer HMS Jaguar (F 34, 193 men lost, 53 survivors) and 2623-ton British fleet oiler Slavol (36 dead, 26 survivors). The attacks are made about 25 miles north of Sidi Barrani, Egypt. Jaguar was escorting the Slavol and other ships to Tobruk, and Fraatz first picked it off and then attacked Slavol in the resulting confusion.

SS Talabot was sunk at Malta on 26 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
SS Talabot, sunk in Malta's Grand Harbor on 26 March 1942.
Partisans: German security forces begin Operation Bamberg. This is an anti-partisan sweep through Hlusk District, Babruysk, Polesia, Byelorussia. This operation has been planned since 26 February 1942 to clear the area of partisans. The three objectives are: 1) annihilate partisan bands, 2) pacify the forested region, and 3) collect grain, livestock, and other supplies. This is the second major anti-partisan operation in the region, which has many Soviet army officers helping to organize resistance. The main strategy is to encircle an area with a diameter of 25-30 km (16-19 miles) and then gradually move inward to trap the partisans.

Special Operations: Royal Navy ships (three destroyers, a gunboat, motorboats, and motor torpedo boats) set out from Falmouth Bay, Cornwall England carrying special forces. Their target is the French port of St. Nazaire located at the mouth of the Loire Estuary. This is the beginning of Operation Chariot.

Spy Stuff: Police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, announce that they have broken up a spy ring and arrested 200 suspects. This is one in a series of such operations by local authorities in South America.

US Military: Admiral Ernest J. King takes over as Chief of Naval Operations from Admiral Harold R. Stark. This makes King Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations. His primary assistants are Vice Admiral Frederick J. Horne (Vice Chief of Naval Operations) and Vice Admiral Russell Willson (COMINCH Chief of Staff). Stark heads to England to become Commander of United States Naval Forces Europe. While this undoubtedly is a demotion for Stark due to fallout from the Pearl Harbor attack, he does good work preparing for and supervising the buildup of US forces for the D-Day landings.

Stark will be the beneficiary of a greatly increased US Navy presence in the European Theater of Operations. Today, Rear Admiral John Wilcox sails his Task Force 39, led by the battleship USS 'Washington' (BB-56), the aircraft carrier USS 'Wasp' (CV-7), the heavy cruisers USS 'Wichita' (CA-45) and 'Tuscaloosa' (CA-37) and six destroyers, from Portland, Maine, for Scapa Flow. This large force will supplement the British Home Fleet during the pendency of Operation Ironclad, the projected invasion of Vichy French Madagascar.

Egyptian Government: The ruling Wafd Party wins 240 of 264 seats in elections. This is partly due to a boycott of the election by the opposition.

Orli Wald, an inmate registered at Auschwitz on 26 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Orli Wald (original name Aurelia Torgau) registers at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, 26 March 1942. Wald has been in prison since 1936 when she was charged with high treason for being a communist and engaging in political resistance. She serves in the infirmary at Auschwitz-Birkenau and survives the war, dying in 1962.
Holocaust: Near Riga, Latvia, German occupation forces and their local auxiliaries begin the Second Dünamünde Action (Aktion Dünamünde). This operation results in about 1840 deaths of Jews who have been deported from Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia. The technique used is to lure the victims of Jungfernhof concentration camp to a supposed new resettlement facility in an area called Daugavgrīva (Dünamünde) with promises that things will be better. These victims are all older people, with younger people prohibited from accompanying them. Once aboard the transport trucks, the victims are taken to the Biķernieki woods north of Riga. The victims are forced to lie in trenches above previous victims in a pattern called "sardine packing" which the Germans consider to be the most effective use of space. They are then shot and more victims ordered to lie above them until the trenches are full.

The first trainload of female prisoners arrives at Auschwitz from Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and Slovakia via Poprad transit camp.

Judy Garland and Gene Kelly rehearsing, 26 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Judy Garland rehearses with Gene Kelly (his first film for MGM) for the upcoming musical "For Me and My Gal." Kelly later said, "I learned a great deal about making movies doing this first one, and much of it was due to Judy." (Photo credit: Kim Lundgreen via judygarlandnews.com).
American Homefront: The leaders of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) promise to aid the war effort for the duration of the conflict by curbing strikes.

Football star Tom Harmon, the winner of the 1940 Heisman Trophy and the first pick in the 1941 NFL draft, enlists in the US Army Air Corps. As a pilot, Harmon will win the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. After four years in the service, he returns to play for the Los Angeles Rams in 1947 and 1948, then enters broadcasting.

An explosion due to a premature detonation at Sandits Eddy Lehigh Cement five miles outside of Easton, Pennsylvania, kills dozens of men. The explosion is felt 50 miles away.

Future History: Erica Mann is born in New York City, New York. Under her married name, Erica Jong, she becomes famous as a fiction writer due to her 1973 novel "Fear of Flying," which explores female sexuality and sells 20 million copies.

Football star Tom Harmon enlisted in the USAAF on 26 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Football star Tom Harmon enlists on 26 March 1942.


2020

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