Tuesday, March 24, 2020

March 15, 1942: Operation Raubtier Begins

Sunday 15 March 1942

Hitler greets disabled veterans, 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Adolf Hitler greets disabled veterans as part of the Heroes Day celebrations, 15 March 1942 (Polish National Digital Archives).
Eastern Front: After two days of postponements, Army Group North's 18th Army finally begins Operation Raubtier ("Beast of Prey") on 15 March 1942. The weather remains frigid, but the Luftwaffe sends its Stukas to soften up the Soviet defenders on the Volkhov River salient at 07:30. German I Corps and 38th Corps advance from the north and south, respectively, in an effort to pinch off the Soviet salient and create a pocket. The troops in the southern section include General de División Augustín Muñoz Grandes’s División Azul, or Blue Division, the Spanish volunteer formation known to the Germans as the 250th Division.

The two German attacks advance slowly, with the northern group advancing about 3500 yards (3200 meters) and the southern group only about 880 yards (800 meters). The Germans find that the snow greatly lessens the effectiveness of the Stukas, because when the planes drop their bombs far ahead of the advancing troops, the Soviets have time to recover. When the Stukas drop their bombs closer to the advancing troops, they often hit their fellow German soldiers. Operation Raubtier continues despite the slow progress, however, and eventually does cut off the Soviet salient and create a Soviet pocket on the west side of the Volkhov River.

Life Infographic March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
This March, 1942, infographic from Life magazine showed the lines of Axis attack against the United States and its Allies.
In the Army Group South sector, the Soviet offensive at the Parpach Narrows peters out without achieving his major objective of a breakthrough to relieve Sevastopol. The only victory by the Soviet 51st Army is the capture of strongpoint Korpech’, which requires heavy Soviet losses and is something of a Pyrrhic victory. While the attacks continue sporadically for a few days, the main effort ends on 15 March 1942 because the Soviets are out of ammunition and have taken devastating tank losses.

The Germans have destroyed 157 Soviet tanks in three days, including 88 tanks of the 56th Tank Brigade. Among the heroes of the defensive victory for the Germans is Fritz Schrödel, whose StuG III destroyed eight Soviet tanks, of which two were KV-1s, and Lieutenant Johann Spielmann, whose StuG III destroyed 14 T-34s in one day. This is the heyday of the German tank destroyers, which are almost as effective as tanks but vastly cheaper to produce because they lack expensive turrets.

The Sunday Star, 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The headline on the 15 March 1942 Washington, D.C., The Sunday Stary is, "Allies Reveal Loss of 12 Ships, Including U.S. Cruiser Houston, In Last-Ditch Battle for Java." Information, especially about losses, was released very slowly during World War II.
Battle of the Pacific: The British 1st Burma Division wards off the advancing Japanese 55th Division and retreats toward India. It is being replaced in the front lines by the Chinese Division in Burma.

The Japanese High Command is beginning to plan Operation C, a full carrier strike in the Indian Ocean against the British Eastern Fleet stationed in Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka). They order reconnaissance of the western coast of India and Ceylon. Meanwhile, on the British side, Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton is announced as the new commander-in-chief of Ceylon.

The front on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines remains deceptively quiet, but the Japanese are working furiously to build up their forces. Heavy artillery along the southern shore of Manila Bay southwest of Ternate renews intensive bombardment of the fortified Allied islands in the bay such as Forts Frank and Drum. The US Army attempts counterfire, but it is insufficient to make a difference. The Japanese bombardment damages four guns at Battery Ermita (Battery E, 91st Coast Artillery) in Fort Frank, two beyond repair.

British tanker British Resources, 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British tanker British Resources, sunk on 15 March 1942.
At Del Monte Airfield on Mindanao, General MacArthur continues to cool his heels waiting for B-17s to carry him and his party on to Australia. MacArthur is furious at the delay and commands General Brett in Australia to send him the three best bombers in the theater. In order to make Mrs. Jean MacArthur more comfortable during her wait, MacArthur aid Sid Huff moves her preferred mattress (yes, she brought her mattress on the PT boat) ashore for her. This leads to a cynical rumor that the mattress is stuffed with treasure, which it isn't - apparently.

Pursuant to President Roosevelt's telegram to Winston Churchill of 14 March 1942, the US Army informs Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell, Commanding General American Army Forces, China, Burma, and India, that Chiang Kai-Shek's request that he be placed in charge of Allied operations in Burma is being denied. This is a delicate diplomatic situation because Chiang is still bitter about the British attempt to commandeer lend-lease supplies allocated to him in December 1941. Chiang has gotten along well with Stilwell and apparently wants to show his preference for the Americans. British General Archibald Wavell, Commander in Chief India, will remain responsible for operations In Burma even though he is no favorite of Churchill's. The British power base in India makes this a pragmatic if not altogether ideal solution.

Luftwaffe Field Division Lieutenant, March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
An Oberleutnant (first lieutenant) of a Luftwaffe Field Division (the Meindl division) in Russia, March 1942. He has the Iron Cross First Class and a pilot's badge (House Block, Federal Archive Figure 101I-395-1513-30).
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command is in the middle of a lengthy quiet period as it builds its forces and waits for better flying weather. During the day, six Bostons fly unproductive sweeps off the Brittany coast. After dark, three Blenheims make solo attacks on Dutch airfields, including Schiphol near Amsterdam.

The Luftwaffe conducts a coastal sweep and sinks 91-ton Belgian fishing boat Gratie Gods in Oxwich Bay on the south of the Gower Peninsula, Wales.

HMS Vortigern (D 37), sunk on 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HMS Vortigern (D 37), sunk on 15 March 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: The early morning hours see a brutal sea action off the eastern British coast. In a typical night-time attack, five German E-boats (S 105, S 111, S 62, S 104, and S 108) swarm English coastal convoy FS-749 near Cromer. Royal Navy destroyer HMS Vortigern is defending the merchantmen and occupies the E-boats while the rest of the convoy escapes. E-boat S-104 sinks Vortigern with a torpedo, causing the loss of 147 lives with only 14 survivors. On the way back to their base, the E-boats tangle with Royal Navy MGB 87, 88, and 91, and E-boat S-111 takes heavy damage and eventually sinks. A force of Spitfires from Nos. 234 Squadron, 317 Squadron, and 412 Squadron also attack the E-boats and claim to sink one E-boat (probably S-111) and damage four others.

The crew of another Royal Navy destroyer nearby witnesses the Vortigern sinking but they do not stop to render aid, as Captain S. Lonbard-Hobson feels that it makes more sense to remain with the fleeing convoy to protect it. This action leads to a Court of Inquiry that is inconclusive. The loss of life is the worst for any single sinking along the English east coast during World War II.

U-503 (Kptlt. Otto Gericke), on its maiden patrol out of Bergen, has been at sea for only 16 days when it is spotted by a patrolling US PBO-1 Hudson aircraft (VP-82 USN) about 250 miles southeast of St. John's, Newfoundland. The Hudson quickly attacks and sinks U-503. All 51 men on board perish. U-503 has sunk no ships during its brief career.

HMS Dido, 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HMS Dido as seen from HMS Euryalus in the Meditteranean, 14 or 15 March 1942. They are en route to bombard the Italian base at Rhodes (© IWM (A 8578)).
U-158 (Kptlt. Erwin Rostin), on its first patrol out of Helgoland, is in a heavily trafficked spot about 15 miles south of Cape Lookout when it spots 7118-ton tanker Olean. At 06:04, Rostin hits the tanker with one torpedo and the crew abandons ship even though the tanker is still moving forward (though out of control). Rostin pumps a second torpedo into the tanker at 06:18 and then departs the scene. However, the tanker does not sink. Olean is later towed to Hampton Roads and eventually repaired and returned to service first under the new name Sweep and then USS Silver Cloud (IX 143), being used as a mobile floating storage tanker. There are six dead and 36 survivors.

U-158 is not done for the day. At 07:22, Rostin spots a second tanker, 6952-ton Ario about four miles from Olean. He pumps one torpedo into Ario, then surfaces and opens fire with his deck gun. The tanker's crew abandons ship but reboards it after U-158 (which is close by and almost collides with a lifeboat) departs the scene. Unlike Olean, though, this tanker really is sinking, though it takes its time and drifts to within 10 miles east of Cape Lookout before finally going under. There are 26 survivors and 8 dead, most of whom perish as their lifeboat is struck by a shell as it is being lowered to the water.

U-161 (Kptlt. Albrecht Achilles), on its second patrol out of Lorient, concludes a successful patrol by using its deck gun to sink 1130-ton USCG Acacia, a Coast Guard lighthouse west of St. John's and north of Haiti (about 80 miles southwest of Saint Kitts and Nevis). This is the only US Lighthouse Service vessel lost during World War II. All 35 men aboard the lighthouse are rescued and taken to San Juan.

Canadian freighter Sarniadoc, sunk on 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Canadian freighter Sarniadoc, sunk on 15 March 1942.
U-161 also torpedoes and sinks 1940-ton Canadian freighter Sarniadoc in the same area as Acacia. All 21 men on board perish.

U-124 (KrvKpt. Johann Mohr), on its eighth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes 7209-ton British tanker British Resource about 230 miles north of Bermuda late on 14 March. After the first two torpedoes do not sink her, Mohr fires another which turns the tanker into a blazing wreck. It sinks during 15 March, with 46 deaths and only seven survivors, including the master, third radio operator, and three gunners.

Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli sinks 8780-ton British tanker Athelqueen near the Bahamas using torpedoes and gunfire. There are three deaths.

British 971-ton freighter Presto sinks during a convoy from Blyth to Dover due to a collision with fellow freighter Llandover. There is no record of casualties.

German freighter H-5, sunk on 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German freighter H-5, sunk on 15 March 1942.
German 4974-ton freighter H-5, the former Nicole Schiaffino captured on 5 August 1940 at Bordeaux and used as a troop transport, wrecks at Finnsnesrenna, Gisund, south of Tromsø, Norway. There is no record of casualties.

German FW 200 Condor aircraft bomb and sink 1757-ton British freighter Dago near Cape Carvoeiro during a passage from Lisbon to Oporto. There is no record of casualties. The location of this wreck was finally pinpointed in 2014 by a volunteer team of divers (International Journal of Nautical Archaeology).

British 127-ton utility barge Sparsholt hits a mine and sinks in the Thames Estuary. There are seven deaths.

British 231-ton fishing vessel Danearn runs aground at Scotstoun, North of Peterhead, and is written off. There is no record of casualties.

British WRENS in the Middle East, 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Two Wrens having a banquet of oranges, a rare treat for them." The ladies have just arrived in the Middle East, probably Cairo, on 14 or 15 March 1942 (© IWM (A 8440)).
Battle of the Mediterranean: The Luftwaffe resumes its major bombing campaign against Malta on 15 March 1942, targetting Valletta for the first time. The most notable feature of today's raids is the first use of 1800kg (two-ton) "Satan" bombs. These are the heaviest bombs carried by Junkers Ju 88s. The Luftwaffe presence has greatly increased recently, and enemy fighters now outnumber defending RAF planes during raids. In all, the Axis planes drop over 15,000kg of high explosive bombs on Valletta, killing a dozen civilians and a British serviceman.

With the British occupied in Malta, the Italian Navy mounts Operation Sirio, a supply convoy of two transport ships from Naples to North Africa via Messina. The British also send supply ships of their own in Operation MF-8 to transfer supplies to Malta and return empty freighters to Alexandria.

Valletta, Malta, 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A large cloud of smoke rising from the center of Valletta as a bomb bursts on St Ursula's Church." Malta, 15 March 1942. © IWM (A 9624).
POWs: At the Colditz officer's camp, the Germans have set the prisoners to work removing dirt that they have discovered being stockpiled in an attic. It has been moved there from an abortive tunnel being dug beneath the chapel and discovered by the Germans in January. The prisoners are forced to load carts full of the dirt and take them through Colditz town for dumping. Today, as one of the carts is rolling through town, French Lieut. H. Desjobert is spotted emerging from beneath the mound of dirt. He is quickly apprehended.

US Military: The US Army Air Force activates the XI Interceptor Command (11th and 18th Pursuit Squadrons) at Elmendorf Field, Anchorage.

The USAAF 67th Pursuit Squadron arrives in New Caledonia. This is the first USAAF tactical unit in the theater. It brings with it 45 crated P-40 fighters.

NSDAP collection of Hitler speeches that ends on 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A three-volume collection of Adolf Hitler's speeches issued by the Central Publishing House of the NSDAP concludes with his address at the Sportspalast on 15 March 1942.
German Government: In the evening, Adolf Hitler gives his annual speech at the Berlin Sportpalast in honor of Heroes' Memorial Day. In it, Hitler accuses the victors of World War I of causing World War II through the draconian Treaty of Versailles that caused the "impoverishment" of Germany. He further accuses the western Allies ("especially in the United States") of planning World War II "as far back as 1935 and 1936." The speech is loaded with references to "the Jews who pull the strings" who fomented a "conspiracy of the Plutocracies and of Bolshevism." He vows:
Therefore, there can be only one solution, which is, to continue this fight until a permanent peace has been guaranteed, i.e., until the destruction of the enemies of such a peace has been accomplished.
The 15 March 1942 speech is notable for a somewhat pessimistic tone. Rather than bragging about Wehrmacht successes as in past speeches, Hitler makes a curiously truthful reference to the role played by the Russian winter on the course of the conflict:
Sooner than any experience or scientific knowledge had anticipated, a winter broke upon our army which now gave the adversary four months' time, to bring about on his part the turning point in this fateful struggle. It was the sole hope for the potentates of the Kremlin, in this behavior of the elements of nature which even they had never experienced, to inflict the Napoleonic fate of 1812 on the German Wehrmacht. In the superhuman struggle, under the exertion of the last forces of body and soul, the German and allied soldiers have withstood these trials and thus have conquered the hordes.
Of course, the Wehrmacht still faces the "hordes" and they are far from conquered, a fact his audience well knows.

Uncanny Tales, March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Uncanny Tales, March 1942. Melvin R. Colby, No. 15 Volume 2, Canadian pulp magazine.
Holocaust: The Dünamünde Action (Aktion Dünamünde) takes place in Biķernieki forest, near Riga, Latvia. Conducted by SS troops under the command of SS General Friedrich Jeckeln and local collaborators, the Dünamünde Action involves the murder of about 1900 Jews who had been deported recently to Latvia from Germany, Austria, and the province of Bohemia and Moravia (former Czechoslovakia). The victims of the Riga Ghetto are tricked into boarding trucks that they are told will take them to a better camp called Daugavgrīva (Dünamünde), but in fact, the trucks take them to the words north of Riga where they are shot. They are buried in pre-dug mass graves. A similar second incident that is sometimes called the Second Dünamünde Action takes place on March 26, 1942, with 1840 people murdered and buried in that action.

The Dünamünde Action is notable because it marks the beginning of efforts to make these kinds of mass killings more "efficient." General Jeckeln has become disturbed by the haphazard manner in which his troops have been conducting executions, which he considers wasteful. In the Dünamünde Actions, Jeckeln invents Sardinenpackung (sardine packing). This involves forcing the victims to climb down into the pit and lie down in a pattern that occupies the least amount of space, usually above the corpses of previous victims in a head-to-foot arrangement, before they are shot. This greatly reduces the number of pits that must be dug.

At Auschwitz, the SS men running the camp get drunk and decide to have some fun. They force prisoners to exercise, which directly leads to 278 prisoner deaths and 28 others who perish later in the prison hospitals from the effects of exposure and beatings. The dead today include 198 Poles, 103 Soviet POWs, 68 Jews, 30 Czechs, 8 Germans, and 2 Yugoslavians.

Vogue magazine, 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The latest fashion in the 15 March 1942 Vogue, as captured by Horst P. Horst (Horst Bohrmann).
Norwegian Homefront: The Quisling government arrests more than 1300 schoolteachers who have refused to teach the required German curriculum. A total of 12,000 out of 14,000 teachers have refused to join the teacher's association and the occupation authorities wish to make a point. Half of the teachers are held in a concentration camp outside of Oslo, while the rest are sent to Kirkenes in the Arctic to perform forced labor alongside Soviet prisoners of war.

Salvation Army in Australia, 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Salvation Army assembly in Newtown, New South Wales, Australia, 15 March 1942 (State Library New South Wales 30906).
New Zealand Homefront: As in other Allied nations, New Zealand begins to experience tire shortages due to reduced rubber supplies.

British Homefront: World War I veteran J. R. R. Tolkien, who has attempted to become a World War II cryptographer but failed, is working on a new book. He writes a letter to friend John Kettle on 15 March 1942 in which he discusses "The Hobbit," his book published on 21 September 1937. He goes further, though, and also discusses a new book that he is writing in which:
You will meet the perennial Gandalf again… Bilbo and many other hobbits of Took descent, and also one Sam Gamgee; Tom Bombadil… Trotter the Ranger; Ents (very strange creatures); Elrond, Gollum, and others; and visit the Mines of Moria, the elf-lands of Lothlórien; the Riders of Rohan; the Fortress of Minas Tirith; and come to the final overthrow of the Dark Tower. Or I hope so. And supposing you want to.
This will become "The Lord of the Rings," finally published in 1954. It will become one of the best-selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.

Future History: Mollie Peters is born in Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk, England. Starting out as a model, she changes her name slightly to Molly Peters and branches out into acting. Film director Terence Young takes an interest in her and casts her as Patricia Fearing, a nurse who takes care of James Bond (Sean Connery") in "Thunderball" (1965). Her final on-screen appearance is in 1968, and Molly Peters passes away on 30 May 2017.

Macleans magazine, 15 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Maclean's, 15 March 1942.


Monday, March 23, 2020

March 14, 1942: US Leans Toward Europe

Saturday 14 March 1942

Heroes Day in Berlin 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Generalfeldmarschall Keitel, Reichsführer SS Himmler, and Generalfeldmarschall Milch waiting for Adolf Hitler in front of the Berlin armory at the 14 March 1942 Heroes Day ceremony. Note that Keitel is holding his Marshal's baton. (Federal Archive Figure 183-J00683).
Battle of the Pacific: The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff has been split between focusing on Japan or Germany as it builds up its forces. On 14 March 1942, it finally decides to lean toward Europe and maintain a more defensive posture in the Pacific Theater of Operations. This decision is strongly opposed by Admiral Ernest J. King, who prefers to focus on the PTO, but he is overruled. Throughout the war, though, King remains a lone voice calling for greater efforts against the Japanese.

During the late morning, coast watchers on the southern shores of New Guinea in the village of Kerema, just west of Port Moresby, spot a large force of Japanese planes heading west. They alert the RAAF by radio. They turn out to be eight Mitsubishi G4M1 heavy bombers escorted by twelve A6M2 Zeros of the 4th Kokutai The Japanese bombers took off from both Rabaul and Lae airfields, are heading toward Australia.

Heroes Day in Berlin 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Heroes Day ceremony in Berlin, 14 March 1942. On the platform are Adolf Hitler, Grand Admiral Raeder, Generalfeldmarschall Keitel, Generalfeldmarschall Milch, Reichsführer SS Himmler, Colonel General Fromm, Reichsführer General d. Inf. Reinhardt and Reich War Victim Leader Oberlindober. The ceremony involves laying a wreath on the cenotaph dedicated to heroes. Among other things, this photo is interesting for showing how utterly concerned the Germans are about air attack at this stage of the war (Federal Archive Figure 183-J00682).
The Japanese bombers raid Horn Island, which is ten miles (16 km) north of Queensland, Australia. They destroy a Hudson bomber and a fuel dump and cause some other damage to infrastructure. The RAAF is able to get fighters in the air due to the warning and shoot down two Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters (according to the Japanese) or four Zeros and a bomber (according to the Australians). While little noticed by the public, Horn Island is in a critical location in the Torres Strait between Queensland and New Guinea and thus perfectly suited for air operations between Australia and New Guinea. The Allies realize this and are building the island up into the main tactical base for Allied air operations in the Torres Strait. This is the first of nine Japanese air raids against Horn Island.

The first US Army troops land in Australia. General MacArthur, their commander, remains stuck at Del Monte Field on Mindanao in the Philippines awaiting air transport to Darwin.

German soldiers in Crimea 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German troops during the March 1942 fighting in Crimea (Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe 2-840).
Eastern Front: It is the second day of the Soviet offensive in the Parpach Narrows, and already it is floundering. The fighting is bitter, but the Germans skillfully protect their strongpoint at Koi-Asan using antitank guns, StuG III tank destroyers, and an increased Luftwaffe presence. The Soviets are launching attack after attack (at least ten in all) with three rifle divisions, but the ground is soggy due to the beginning of the Spring Thaw (Rasputitsa). This slows down the advancing tanks and supporting infantry enough for the Germans to stop them.

The Germans remain determined to begin Operation Raubtier ("Beast of Prey"), the mission to encircle a Soviet salient across the Volkhov River. It already has been delayed for one day due to poor weather. As the new day dawns, however, the temperature has fallen precipitously (-31° F (-35° C). General Küchler, commander of Army Group North, reluctantly postpones the operation for another day. This leaves the infantry, in exposed forward positions ready for the attack, to suffer through another day and night of subzero weather.

Troops disembarking in Adelaide, Australia, 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Adelaide, SA. 14 March 1942. Troops of the 7th Australian Division, disembarking from His Majesty's Transport (HMT) Orcades on their return from the Middle East." Australian War Memorial 030126/06.
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command, having conducted major operations against Cologne and scattered other targets during the night of 13/14 March, have a quiet night on the 14th. It sends six Boston bombers on an anti-shipping sweep off Le Havre. This begins a lengthy period in which Bomber Command conducts only small-scale missions as it builds up its strength and waits for good summer weather.

Soldier testing a telescope in France, 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A soldier in a French workshop working on a telescope (Gourmet, Federal Archives Figure 101II-MW-3708-11).
Battle of the Atlantic: After dark, German E-boats attack a British convoy in the North Sea. They sink Royal Navy destroyer HMS Vortigern at a cost of five of their own boats.

Aircrew of a Short Sunderland, 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"North African coast area. 14 March 1942. Five members of the aircrew having a cup of tea in the wardroom of a Sunderland flying boat while on coastal patrol off the North African coast. A Sunderland aircraft carries a normal crew of eight." Australian War Memorial MED0354.
Battle of the Mediterranean: U-133 (Kptlt. Eberhard Mohr), on its third patrol but first under new captain Mohr, strikes a mine and sinks two hours south of Salamis. The Salamis wandered off course into a German defensive minefield. All 45 men on board perish. During its career, U-133 sank one ship of 1,920 tons. There is a myth about U-133 that it was on a secret mission to sail up the Colorado River and destroy the Hoover Dam, but that is all it is - a myth.

The German state radio pays the anti-aircraft efforts on Malta a rare compliment, saying:
Malta’s Anti-Aircraft artillery must be counted among Tommy’s very best, and plays the greatest part in the defense of the Island.
The Luftwaffe continues its attacks on Malta's airfields with raids on Hal Far. The Luftwaffe suffers an unfortunate accident when two Bf 109s collide over the island, killing Heinrich Blum, III/JG3. The other pilot, Leutnant Walter Seiz, manages to return to base (14 victories, POW 23 August 1944).

German/Italian Relations: The two Axis partners sign a new trade agreement.

Stalin's bunker in Kuibyshev, 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Stalin's secret bunker in Kuibyshev. The portrait is of Alexander Suvorov (ShinePhantom).
Anglo/Soviet Relations: The new British Minister to the USSR, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, arrives in Kuibyshev (Kuybyshev, or Samara). This is the Soviets' alternative capital should Moscow fall and has become a center of the Soviet bureaucracy. Among other things, the Soviets are busy at this time building a secret bunker for Stalin located 37 meters below the CPSU oblast Committee building (later the Samara State University of Culture). Stalin and the military high command (Stavka), however, remain in Moscow and there is no evidence that Stalin ever visits his potential command post in Kuibyshev.

Japanese Military: Now that resistance on Java is over, Japanese Imperial General Headquarters issues orders for "Operation X" (the invasion and occupation of Christmas Island). Rear Admiral Shōji Nishimura is assigned to command the Second Southern Expeditionary Fleet's Occupation Force. The British only have 32 men on Christmas Island. A group of Punjabi troops there recently mutinied and killed five British soldiers, including the British commander, Captain L.W.T. Williams. The invasion is planned for 31 March 1942.

Troops disembarking in Adelaide, Australia, 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Adelaide, Australia. 14 March 1942. Troops of the 7th Australian Division, waiting to entrain at Adelaide after having disembarked from His Majesty's Transport (HMT) Orcades on their return from the Middle East." Australian War Memorial 030127/01.
US Military: US Army Air Force units of the 51st Pursuit Group, 10th Air Force, arrive in Karachi, India, from the United States. The 9th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), flying B-17s, also arrives from Australia.  These B-17s fly their first mission on 2 April 1942.

Units of the USAAF 5th Air Force transfer from Melbourne to Laverton, Australia. These include the 13th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy), 43d BG (Heavy), later redesignated as the 403rd Bomber Squadron. There are other transfers of units to and from Melbourne as General Brett rebalances his forces, and the air echelon of 88th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy), 7th BG (Heavy), ceases operating from Townsville, Australia with B-17's and begins moving to Karachi, India.

Troops disembarking in Adelaide, Australia, 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The New Yorker, 14 March 1942.
British Military: The British realize that Ceylon is a likely target of the Japanese and are beefing up their presence there. Today, they appoint General Sir Henry Pownall to lead the Ceylon Command.

The head of the British Military Mission to Chungking, Major-General Dennys, perishes in a plane accident near Kunming. Relations between Chiang Kai-Shek are not strained at the moment due to the lingering aftereffects of the Tulsa Incident.

US Government: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a proposal to all 48 state governors (Hawaii and Alaska are still territories) that speed limits throughout the nation be reduced to 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) to conserve tired due to the short supplies of rubber.

The War Production Board orders gasoline deliveries be cut 20 percent in 17 eastern states and the District of Columbia. This is due to the great loss of tankers in the past two months, particularly along the Eastern seaboard. Gasoline is already rationed.

Troops disembarking in Adelaide, Australia, 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Adelaide, SA. 14 March 1942. Troops, hands extended, of the 7th Australian Division, receive a welcome from the people of the suburbs of Adelaide as they pass through a station on their way to Adelaide from the docks after having disembarked from His Majesty's Transport (HMT) Orcades on their return from the Middle East." Australian War Memorial 030127/02.
Australian Government: Prime Minister John Curtin makes a speech to the public:
We are, then, committed, heart and soul, to total warfare. How far, you may ask me, have we progressed along that road? I may answer you this way. Out of every ten men in Australia four are wholly engaged in war as members of the fighting forces or making the munition and equipment to fight with. The other six, besides feeding and clothing the whole ten and their families, have to produce the food and wool and metals which Britain needs for her very existence.
Curtin is trying to bring as many Australian troops home from other theaters as possible to defend the homeland.

Norwegian Homefront: Seven Bishops of the Norwegian Lutheran Church resign their offices rather than co-operate with the Quisling government. They are Bishop Andreas Fleischer (Bergen), Bishop Wollert Krohn-Hansen (Tromso), Bishop Gabriel Skagestad (Stavanger), Bishop Hille (Hamar), Bishop Johan Storen (Nidaros, Trondheim), Bishop Berggrav (Oslo - Primate of the Norwegian Church), and Bishop Maroni (Agder Diocese).

Future History: Rita Tushingham is born in Liverpool, England. She becomes an actress after working as an assistant stage manager at the Liverpool Playhouse. Her film debut is in "A Taste of Honey" (1961), in which she participates with Paul Danquah in what is reputed to be the first interracial kiss in film history. Other prominent film roles include supporting roles in "Doctor Zhivago" (1965), "Being Julia" (2004), and "The Leather Boys" (1964). Rita has won a Golden Globe and BAFTA Award. Rita Tushingham remains a working actress as of this writing in 2020.

Al Capp's Lil' Abner, 14 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Early ''Li'l Abner'' Comic Strip From 14 March 1942 Featuring J. Sweetlips Garks aka Jeb S. Scragg -- Drawn & Signed by Al Capp.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

March 13, 1942: Soviets Attack In Crimea Again

Friday 13 March 1942

U-boat Captain Clausen, 13 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Kapitänleutnant Nicolai Clausen poses on board U-129 in the mid-Atlantic, 13 March 1942. Clausen is wearing a temporary Knights Cross made by his crew after receiving confirmation of the award. Clausen becomes the 103rd member of the Kriegsmarine and the 46th member of the U-Boat forces to receive the Knights Cross.
Eastern Front: Following an order by Joseph Stalin, General Dimitri Kozlov's troops in the Crimea launch another attempt to break through German lines at the Parpach Narrows to relieve Sevastopol on 13 March 1942. Stalin had commanded on 3 March, when the previous offensive failed, that the next one was to begin ten days later, and Kozlov dutifully complies.

The main Soviet objective is the German strongpoint at Koi-Asan and the Soviets have 224 tanks. Soviet 44th Army mounts a feint against the German 132nd Infantry Division in the north along the coast, where the line bulges west slightly, but the main attack is in the center. The Red Air Force has brought in 581 aircraft to support the offensive, though most are obsolete models that are no match for the modern Luftwaffe planes.

US tanker John D. Gill, sunk on 13 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
US tanker John D. Gill, sunk on 13 March 1942.
The Soviet attack by 51st Army begins at 09:00. It quickly fails due to the boggy terrain caused by the early onset of the Spring thaw (Rasputitsa) in Crimea. The infantry has to struggle through the marshy ground that also slows the Soviet tanks. The Germans have anticipated an attack in this stop and have massed their anti-tank guns and StuG III assault vehicles under Lieutenant Johann Spielmann for this exact situation.

While the Germans stay busy knocking out the tanks, though, the Soviet infantry launches attack after attack in bitter fighting. Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, commander of the German 11th Army, calls in a top Luftwaffe fighter wing, II./JG 77, and neutralizes the Red Air Force buildup. The Soviet attacks will last for three days and is a failure.

Further north, the German 18th Army under the command of General Georg Lindemann, part of Generaloberst Georg von Küchler’s Army Group North, is trying to get its own offensive begun. The operation, codenamed Operation Raubtier ("Beast of Prey" or "Predator"), aims to cut off a Soviet salient north of Novgorod. One of the reasons for the offensive is to protect Lyuban, which is threatened by the Soviet salient. The offensive was planned to begin today, but fog and low clouds force a postponement.

Guld Calendar for March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Gulf calendar for March 1942.
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese complete Operation SR, the invasion of Salamaua-Lae, New Guinea. They quickly begin building an airfield to support further operations in eastern New Guinea and the Coral Sea area. The Australian defenders withdraw toward Wau while conducting harassing operations with their Kanga Force. Japanese planes strafe 7 Mile Drom at Port Moresby and destroy a Ford Trimotor A45-2. Off Salamaua-Lae, Japanese minesweeper Tama Maru No. 2 sinks from damage inflicted by the 10 March 1942 US Navy air raid.

The conquest of Salamaua-Lae frees up the forces to invade Tulagi in the Solomon Islands eventually. In preparation for that, the Japanese 4th Fleet sails from Rabaul, New Britain, to seize Buka Island, Solomon Islands.

US Navy submarine USS Gar, on its maiden patrol, torpedoes and sinks 1520-ton Japanese freighter Chichiubu Maru about 6-10 miles southwest of Mikura Jima, Japan. Gar is patrolling near the Nagoya and the Kii Channel entrance to the Inland Sea of Japan.

Chilean freighter Tolten, sunk on 13 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Chilean freighter Tolten, sunk by U-404 on 13 March 1942.
HIJMS submarine I-64 sinks 1513-ton Norwegian freighter Mabella east of India. There are six deaths and six survivors.

Japanese submarine HIJMS I-25 sends its "Glen" patrol plane to reconnoiter Auckland, New Zealand. As with similar flights, this one by Japanese Warrant Flying Officer Nobuo Fujita (who had flown over Melbourne on 26 February) passes unnoticed.

Having secured Java on 12 March, the Japanese quickly send the Sakaguchi Detachment from there to Burma to rejoin the 56th Division.

General MacArthur and most of his party, having escaped from Bataan, arrive at Cagayan on Mindanao Island aboard three motor torpedo (PT) boats after a two-day journey. MacArthur, however, is temporarily stranded there because there are no sufficiently reliable planes at Del Monte Airfield to take him to his destination in Australia. Major General George Brett, Commanding General U.S. Army Forces in Australia, sends three B-17 Flying Fortresses from there to pick up the general. A fourth PT boat had to divert to Tagauayan Island due to engine trouble. Submarine USS Permit arrives there during the day and picks up the crew and passengers. Permit's commander destroys the disabled PT boat (PT-32) with its deck gun before leaving.

USS Regulus on 13 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Stern view of USS Regulus (AK-14) at Mare Island, 13 March 1942. Regulus was under repairs at Mare Island from 17 January to 20 March 1942. Note the exposed after steering station on her stern (US Navy).
European Air Operations: During the day, RAF Bomber Command sends 11 bombers to attack the Hazebrouck marshaling yard, with ten making successful attacks.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command attacks Cologne with 135 bombers (112 reach the target) at the cost of one Manchester. There is extensive damage in the Nippes section of the city, especially to the Franz Cloud rubber works and the Land- und See-Kabelwerke A.G. factory. Five churches and 1500 homes are hit. This is the first successful raid led by the Gee navigational system. It also involves the use of "Pathfinder" bombers (though they are not yet called that) which drop flares and incendiary bombs to identify the target for following bombers. The results are good, with 237 separate fires started, 62 Germans killed, and 84 injured.

Bomber Command also sends two bombers to attack the port area at Ostend, 20 aircraft to bomb Boulogne (seven planes bomb the target), and 19 to bomb the port area of Dunkirk (11 complete the attack). One other bomber attacks Schiphol Airfield near Amsterdam, and one bombs Bonn. Another five Hampdens drop leaflets over France.

US schooner Albert F. Paul, sunk on 13 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
US schooner Albert F. Paul, sunk by U-332 on 13 March 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-332 (Kptlt. Johannes Liebe), on its third patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes and sinks two ships northeast of Cape Hatteras:
  • 735-ton US schooner Albert F. Paul (all 8 aboard killed)
  • 5402-ton Yugoslavian freighter Trepca (4 dead, 33 survivors)
Both ships are independents, as an effective convoy system has not yet been organized along the US East Coast.

U-404 (Kptlt. Otto von Bülow), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 1858-ton Chilean freighter Tolten east of Neptune, New Jersey. There is only one survivor and 27 dead. This sinking of a neutral ship leads to a diplomatic protest by the Chilean government, but things soon settle down and it does not lead to a break in relations between Chile and Germany.

U-158 (Kptlt. Erwin Rostin), on its first patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 11,641-ton US tanker John D. Gill about 25 miles east of Cape Fear, North Carolina. There are 26 survivors (many badly burned) and 23 deaths.

Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli torpedoes and sinks 6422-ton British freighter Daytonian in the Atlantic while en route from Mobile to Halifax.

Artwork titled "Wrecked Italian tank at Sidi Barrani 13 March 1942" worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Historical artwork by Peter McIntyre, "Wrecked Italian tank at Sidi Barrani, 13 March 1942" - watercolor (New Zealand government).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Fierce Axis air attacks continue on Malta. Luftwaffe Ju 88 bombers drop bombs on Ta Qali, Hal Far, Dingli, Siggiewi, and Wardia.

HMS Turbulent (Cdr. J.W. Linton) sinks 32-ton Greek schooner Anastassis (KAL-155) with its deck gun west of Serifos, Greece.

Freighter Rabmanso leaves Haifa, Palestine, with a cargo of 7000 tons grain in emergency food supplies for Greece.

Anglo/US Relations: President Roosevelt cables Winston Churchill to discuss relations with China. Chiang Kai-Shek has requested the appointment of General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell to command all Allied forces in Burma and southern China. While FDR notes that this would be "unwise," he tells Churchill that he is "pleased" that Chiang is forming a "closer working relationship" with the US and UK.

Australian/US Relations: Prime Minister Curtin broadcasts to the United States that "Our minds are set on attack." He instructs Minister for External Affairs Dr. Evatt to head immediately for Washington (this takes a week).

SNJ-2 Texan trainer on 13 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A U.S. Navy North American SNJ-2 Texan (BuNo 2556) at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida (USA), in March 1942. (U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo No. 1996.488.166.130).
US Military: Some US Army Air Force troops of the 10th Air Force, 26th Pursuit Squadron, originally sent to Java arrive in Karachi after being diverted. These are the first US troops to reach the China-Burma-India Theater (aside from some individuals such as General Joe Stilwell and the "volunteer" air force known as the "Flying Tigers"). These units bring P-40 fighters. They will fly their first mission on 15 October 1942.

The 8th Pursuit Group, 36th Pursuit Squadron, 5th Air Force, transfers from Brisbane to Lowood, Australia. They fly P-39s.

USAAF XII Bomber Command headquarters is activated at MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida.

Julia Flikke, Nurse Corps, becomes the first female Colonel in the U.S. Army, 13 March 1942.

Yugoslavian freighter Trepca, sunk on 13 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Yugoslavian freighter Trepca, sunk by U-332 on 13 March 1942.
Canadian Military: The Canadian Women's Army Corps is integrated into the Canadian Army.

Holocaust: A transport of 62 Poles deported by Germans from Warsaw arrives at Auschwitz concentration camp. Among them are 23 prison wardens from Pawiak prison arrested for helping prisoners there to escape and communicate with the outside world.

American Homefront: 20th Century Fox releases the musical comedy film "Song of the Islands" starring Betty Grable and Victor Mature. While little remembered, "Song of the Islands" begins Grable's long run as a major box office star. She will remain in the top ten box office stars every year from 1942 into the 1950s, hitting No. 1 in 1943.

NYPD magazine "Spring 3100" for March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
NYPD New York City Police Department "Spring 3100 Magazine" from March 1942.Volume 13, No.1.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

March 12, 1942: Japan Takes Java

Thursday 12 March 1942

RAF Westland Lysander 12 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Three Westland Lysander Mark IIIAs of No. 309 Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron (part of the RAF Army Cooperation Command), based at Dunino, Fife, taking part in a low-level bombing exercise on a range in Scotland." 12 March 1942. © IWM (H 17776).
Battle of the Pacific: On 12 March 1942, the Battle of Java officially ends when the senior British, Australian, and American commanders are brought to Bandoeng to sign a formal instrument of surrender. The Japanese commander, Lieutenant-General Masao Maruyama, promises them their prisoner-of-war rights of the Geneva Convention. This marks the end of the ABDA Defense of the Netherlands East Indies. Java is garrisoned from this point forward by the 16th Army (the 2nd and 48th Divisions) while the Imperial Navy guards the eastern territory (the Lesser Sunda Islands, Celebes, Ambon, and Netherlands New Guinea).

In Sumatra, the Japanese advance inland and take the airfield at Medan. The Imperial Guard Division is ordered to complete mopping-up operations on the island.

In Burma, the fighting is nearing an end. The badly mauled 17th Indian Division receives orders to evacuate to India. The British and Gurkha garrison of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal evacuates to India, depriving the Allies of the seaplane base there. The Burma Army establishes its headquarters at the resort town of Maymyo (Pyin Ol Lwin), which has a large European population. The Japanese eventually incarcerate many of them due to suspected sympathies for the Allies.

Captain America 12 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Captain America Comics No.12 - March 1942, featuring The Weird Case of the Pygmies of Terror.
While the front remains quiet on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines, all is not well on the Allied side. Malaria and dysentery are rampant due to contaminated water. About 500-700 men a day are reporting themselves sick, while others are not feeling well. The Japanese are building up for a major offensive to drive the Allies out of the Philippines but are not ready yet. Their fresh troops do not suffer the ailments facing the Allies.

General Douglas MacArthur and his party are en route from Luzon to Tagauayan Island in the Cuyo Group aboard fast motor torpedo (PT) boats. During the night, the four PT boats become separated and two of the boats develop mechanical issues. MacArthur's PT boat, however, proceeds without issue, and all four boats eventually arrive safely.

The British know that the next area of naval warfare is likely to be the Indian Ocean. Accordingly, aircraft carrier Formidable and destroyers Paladin and Panther depart today from Capetown bound for Colombo.

US freighter Olga, lost on 12 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
US freighter Olga, sunk near Cuba on 12 March 1942.
Eastern Front: Ten Soviet parachute troops land behind German lines near Birza, Lithuania. Their mission is to commit sabotage. However, the Germans spot them and eliminate them quickly.

The Soviets under General Kozlov on the Crimea are preparing for another attempt to break through the German lines to relieve Sevastopol. Kozlov is under strict orders by Stalin issued on 3 March to resume the offensive within ten days. The Germans have laid down 2000 Teller mines in front of the key defensive area and concentrated their assault guns in a defensive posture. Due to the usual spring thawing (Rasputitsa), the ground is muddy and not suitable for an attack, but Kozlov has his orders. The attack will begin as ordered at 09:00 on 13 March 1942.

RAF Westland Lysander 12 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Ground crew removes a Type F.24 camera from Westland Lysander Mark IIIA, V9437 'AR-V', of No. 309 Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron (part of the RAF Army Cooperation Command), at Dunino, Fife, following a photo-reconnaissance sortie." 12 March 1942. © IWM (H 17778).
European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command attacks Emden and Kiel. Twenty Wellingtons and 20 Whitleys are sent to Emden but only 22 of the 40 planes actually claim to reach the target (three lost). Subsequent aerial reconnaissance shows that the nearest bombs were dropped 5 miles (8 km) from the target. At Kiel, 68 Wellingtons attack the Deutsche Works U-boat shipyard, and 53 bomber crews report successful attacks. The RAF loses five Wellingtons over Kiel. Sixteen other bombers lay mines off of German ports, while one Hampden drops leaflets over France.

Norwegian freighter Ingerto, lost on 12 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Norwegian freighter Ingerto, sunk with no survivors on 12 March 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: At 02:34 and 06:11, respectively, U-126 (Kptlt. Ernst Bauer) torpedoes and sinks two ships north of Cuba (about 40 miles east of Nuevitas):
7005-ton US freighter Texan (ten dead, 37 survivors)
2496-ton US freighter Olga (one dead, 32 survivors)
Both ships are unarmed. The survivors of the Olga are all taken to Guantanamo Bay. The suction from the Texan causes its lifeboats to capsize and leads to many men drowning.

U-578 (KrvKpt. Ernst-August Rehwinkel), on its third patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 3089-ton Norwegian freighter Ingerto about 370 miles southeast of Cape Race. The ship is a straggler of Convoy ON-70. Ingerto sinks quickly and takes all 32 men on board with her.

British 2291-ton passenger ship St. Briac hits a mine and sinks off Aberdeen. There are about 45 deaths of the 123 men on board. Many of the men aboard the St. Briac are Royal Naval sailors because it is classified as an air target vessel.

Two Royal Navy armed trawlers, HMS Wastwater (FY 239) and Le Tigre (Fy 243) begin patrols off the coast of New Jersey in the Third Naval District area.

Repairing a signal flag on HMS Alcantara on 12 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"A sailor onboard HMS ALCANTARA uses a portable sewing machine to repair a signal flag during a voyage to Sierra Leone." March 1942. © IWM (CBM 1049).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Turbulent (Cdr. J.W. Linton) uses its deck gun to sink Greek caique Agia Paraskevi north of the Zea Channel. Two crewmen are wounded. The Germans are known to use such caiques for troop movements between the islands.

In Malta, the RAF has lost many planes on the ground in recent days from Luftwaffe bombing. Infantry battalions now are being used to build blast walls to shield parked planes from the explosions. The Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica continue their attacks today, dropping bombs on the Ta Qali airfield area and near St. Andrews, Kalafrana, Safi, and near St. Agata Church. These attacks slightly damage seven Hurricane fighters at Ta Qali. A bomb hits a shelter there, killing one soldier (eventually) and wounding several others.

Japanese/Australian Relations: Japanese Prime Minister General Tojo Hideki issues a surrender demand to Australia that is ignored.

RAF Westland Lysander 12 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Three Westland Lysander Mark IIIAs of No. 309 Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron RAF (part of the RAF Army Cooperation Command), based at Dunino, Fife, on a photographic-reconnaissance training sortie over snow-covered Scottish hills." 12 March 1942. © IWM (H 17770).
US Military: Admiral Ernest J King, Commander-in-Chief U.S. Fleet (CINCUS), is designated to replace Admiral Harold R Stark as Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) effective 26 March. The title of CNO is combined with CINCUS for the duration. Admiral Stark is heading to Europe to become Commander of United States Naval Forces Europe, where he will oversee the 6 June 1944 D-Day landings. In essence, Stark has been "kicked upstairs." Stark remains under a cloud due to the Pearl Harbor attack and eventually will face a Court of Inquiry over his actions leading up to it.

Three transport ships carrying USAAF ground personnel arrive at Karachi from Australia. Many of the men no longer have aircraft to service, however, due to their loss in the sinking of USS Langley on 27 February 1942.

US Army troops under Brigadier General Alexander M. Patch land on New Caledonia Island to establish a base at Noumea. This is Task Force 6814 consisting of 17,500 men. New Caledonia is of uncertain loyalty to the Allied cause due to the strong Vichy French presence on the island.

British housewives receiving Lend-Lease goods on 12 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British mothers at a Tottenham Welfare Center celebrate the arrival of scarce American lend-lease products such as orange juice and cod liver oil. 12 March 1942 (© Daily Herald Archive / National Science & Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library 10313768).
British Government: Oliver Lyttelton takes over the Ministry of War Production, which is the old Ministry of Production.

American Homefront: The Esposito brothers, Anthony and Esposito, are executed in the electric chair in Sing Sing prison. They were convicted of the "thrill kill" murders of a police officer and a holdup victim on 14 January 1941. While their defense of insanity failed, it did accelerate a long history of such defenses in the court system.

Bing Crosby appears on the Kraft Music Hall and sings ten songs. These are later released as an album, including patriotic song "We're the Gang that Feeds the Army."

In Omaha, Nebraska, 11-year-old Warren Buffett buys his first shares of stock (Buffett himself gives the date as 12 March 1942, though other sources say it is 11 March 1942). They are three shares of Cities Service preferred stock. Being underage, he must use his father's brokerage account. The purchase consumes all of the money Buffett has saved since age 6. "I went all in," Buffett reminisced in February 2019. "I had become a capitalist, and it felt good."

Future History: James Sherman Wynn is born in Hamilton, Ohio. He earns the nickname "The Toy Cannon" while playing for several Major League Baseball teams primarily as a center fielder in the 1960s and 1970s. He winds up his career with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1977.

Cambridge man wins his appeal on 12 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Reflecting on the importance of the essentials during wartime, the 12 March 1942 Boston Globe reports that a man previously convicted of stealing one pound of sugar from a Cambridge, Massachusetts, store has won his appeal.


Thursday, January 2, 2020

February 2, 1941: Wehrmacht Supermen

Sunday 2 February 1941

2 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Dr. Voronoff
Dr. Serge Voronoff at his monkey-gland laboratory in France.
Italian/Greek Campaign: The Greeks (Cretan 5th Division of II Corps) on 2 February 1941 finally take full possession of the Trebeshina (Trebeshinë) massif. The nearby Greek 15th Division also makes small gains, completing the capture of the village of Bubeshi.

Italian forces in the area, however, remain unusually feisty for Italian troops of World War II. Thus, little profit appears likely from this commanding position in the area achieved by the Greek troops. Further progress may depend upon British troops, which remain in Egypt and Libya pending the completion of operations there and Greek approval to accept them. The RAF is busy in support of the Greeks. The Greeks are trying to take the strategically decisive port of Valona (Vlorë) quickly, and capture of the Trebeshinë heights is necessary to accomplish that. However, Klisura Pass is just the gateway toward Valona, not on its doorstep, and much work remains to be done (such as the capture of Tepelenë) before the port is even threatened, much less overcome.

With the benefit of hindsight and in light of later events (Operation Marita), the protracted defense of the Trebeshinë heights by two battalions of the Italian Blackshirts may be seen as having secured Valona and, thus, the entire Italian position in Albania for the duration of World War II. It salvages a tiny bit of Italian military honor. With the benefit of even more hindsight and perhaps a bit of arguable interpretation, the use of crack Cretan troops in Albania rather than keeping them in Crete may have contributed to future Allied defeats there as well.

Spinning things out a bit further.... perhaps beyond the breaking point... the successful Italian defense of the Trebeshinë heights may have played an even larger role in the outcome of World War II. If the Italians in Albania had folded completely in a short period of time, Hitler might not have authorized Operation Marita (at least partly intended to rescue the Italians). In that case, he might have had those troops available at the start of Operation Barbarossa. Many historians theorize that, had those troops been used in the Soviet Union right from the opening of hostilities, Moscow might have been captured before the winter snows and the entire course of world history altered. But, that is sheer speculation.

2 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Keren Eritrea battle map
Map of initial attacks on Keren, Eritrea.
East African Campaign: The Italian collapse in Eritrea continues. The 5th Indian Infantry Division takes Barentu, with the Italians retreating at first down a small road that turns into a mule track. The reported prisoner haul is 8000, but this figure seems high. Ultimately, the Italians abandon the road altogether and simply hike overland toward the coast. While this prevents the pursuing British from catching up to them, it also forces them to abandon every single vehicle, including guns, trucks, and tanks. The Italian troops (largely colonial) from both the Cochen Mountain and Barentu fronts head for Keren on the Keren Plateau, which has fewer natural defensive advantages than the positions the British already have overcome. However, it is located at 4300 feet above sea level, which forces the British to attack essentially while going uphill.

Preliminary operations against Keren already are underway. Gazelle Force crosses the Baraka River with some difficulty (the Italians have blown the Ponte Mussolini bridge) and ascends toward the plateau. The British troops make it all the way to within about 6 km of Keren, where it is stopped at the Donglolaas Gorge. Normally, the area can be traversed without difficulty, but the Italians have dynamited the overhanging escarpments, filling the gorge with boulders and debris. The Italians also rather unhelpfully have mined the approaches.

In Abyssinia, the advancing South African troops capture Hobok.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command begins a sustained campaign against the Channel invasion ports, in conjunction with Coastal Command. Among the targeted ports today are Berck, Le Havre, and Ostend. After dark, the RAF bombs Brest.

The Circus Operations continue. As opposed to Rhubarb missions, which are fighters only, the Circus missions include a token force of bombers to make their interception by the Luftwaffe more potentially profitable. This attack in the daylight is by five Blenheims against Boulogne. The British claim three fighters destroyed.

The Luftwaffe remains dormant. There are scattered raids over eastern England, with a few bombs dropped here and there.

Battle of the Atlantic: German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which have been in the far North Atlantic near Bear Island for several days waiting for the weather to improve, finally manage to complete refueling from tanker Adria. They each receive about 3400 tons of fuel and then quickly head to the southwest. Rather than head south of Iceland, as they did during their abortive breakout attempt in late January, the two ships head north of Iceland. Their objective is a passage through the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland. Around this time, one of the Gneisenau's crewmen, named Liske, is lost overboard in the heavy seas and not recovered.

The Luftwaffe bombs and sinks 834-ton British freighter The Sultan in the outer fringes of the Thames Estuary. There are two deaths and 12 survivors.

Royal Navy 505 ton trawler HMT Almond hits a mine and sinks off Falmouth. All 19 onboard perish.

Belgian 168 ton coaster Pallieter (formerly Hero) has its cargo shift during a storm. This causes the ship to sink in the Firth of Forth.

The Luftwaffe attacks 5135-ton British freighter Waziristan in the Atlantic shipping lanes west of the Faroes Islands. A near miss disables the ship, which eventually is taken under tow by tug Bandit and brought to Kirkwall.

Convoy FN 398 departs from Southend, Convoy FS 402 departs from Methil, Convoy BS 14 departs from Suez.

U-431 is launched.

2 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Italian POWs Tobruk
Italian POWs are being brought to the fortress area at Tobruk for processing, 1941 (Australian War Memorial). Tobruk serves as the embarkation point for Italian POWs heading for Alexandria.
Battle of the Mediterranean: The Australian 6th Division continues pursuing the Italians west of Derna. While not in wild flight, the Italians are moving with some alacrity back toward Benghazi - which itself is being evacuated. They also are engaging in skillful minelaying and combat destruction. This is slowing down the Australian infantry, as each minefield requires a methodical clearing before the advance can continue.

With Middle East Commander Archibald Wavell's permission in hand, General O'Connor of XIII Corps is preparing to send his armored forces south of the mountain (Jebel Akhdar, or Green Mountain) that bifurcates northeast Libyan operations. This requires supplies that must be shipped to Tobruk - not in perfect working order after the recent battles there - and then transport north toward Derna. O'Connor is torn between getting his supplies in order and then sending his troops (Combe Force) out fully prepared, or sending what he has available out quickly in order to increase the likelihood of blocking the Italian retreat.

O'Connor adopts the latter course. He orders Lieutenant Colonel J.F.B. Combe, commanding 11th Hussars, 2nd Rifle Brigade and assorted field, antitank and antiaircraft artillery) to set out first thing in the morning of the 3rd. The 7th Armoured Division will follow shortly thereafter. The basic plan is for the Australians to herd the Italians westward north of the mountain, while Combe Force moves directly westward and cuts them off further west. This unit becomes known as Combe Force.

Elsewhere, the Royal Navy is active. Operation Picket by Force H is launched from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. This is an attack by eight Skuas of RAF No. 810 Squadron on a strategically important San Chiara Ulla Dam at Lake Tirso, Sardinia. This attack, which aims to destroy hydroelectric facilities as well using torpedoes, is executed but does not damage the targets due to low clouds, hail, rain, antiaircraft fire, barking dogs and the whole lot. Four torpedoes are released, but apparently, they hit a sandbar or other obstruction. The British lose a Skua, with the three crewmen rescued by the Italians and taken prisoner. It is an interesting operation in the abstract, full of derring-do and the like, but results only in quite a bit of profitless effort on both ends of the Mediterranean.

Admiral Somerville still plans to carry off companion operation Operation Grog (formerly Result) (the bombardment of Genoa). However, he decides against it on this sortie due to the weather. Force H then retires to Gibraltar. Many lessons are learned from this somewhat embarrassing affair which is put to good use eventually in the famous "Dambusters" raid later in the war.

A diversionary operation for the disappointing Operation Picket and abortive Operation Result is underway in the eastern Mediterranean. In Operation MC 7, a large force of Royal Navy ships essentially simulates a typical convoy from Alexandria to Malta.

Italian tug Uso sinks between the islands of Korčula and Lastovo, Yugoslavia. The cause of sinking apparently is a mine; some accounts say it is by a torpedo, but the source of the supposed torpedo is not given. Sometimes, witnesses at the scene don't even know what happened and can only guess. Post-war record checks don't always resolve such issues.

In Malta, the government decides to set up a new department, the Food and Distributions Office. This office, under Marquis Barbaro of St George, will implement a rationing scheme. As part of this process, households will be issued rationing cards.

Wellingtons based on Malta attack Castel Benito, a Libyan airfield that the Italians enlarged in the late 1930s. This is but the latest in many air attacks on the field.

2 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Dr. Voronoff Keren Eritrea
Keren, Eritrea, around the time of World War II.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The Gneisenau and Scharnhorst aren't the only German heavy ships operating in the Atlantic; battlecruisers Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper also are on the loose. There also are many other German ships of various purposes roaming the high seas which can help them fulfill their commerce-raiding missions. One of them operating in the western Indian Ocean, north of Madagascar, is German raider Atlantis. Today, it captures 7301-ton Norwegian tanker Ketty Brøvig, which is full of 6370 tons of fuel oil and 4125 tons of diesel oil from Bahrain. The Atlantis puts a prize crew aboard and will use the tanker to fuel itself and whatever other Axis ships it encounters. This is an example of how an entire fleet can "live off the land" in the middle of the ocean.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Formidable is on its way up the eastern African coast to join the Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria. Its presence there is necessary to replace the battered HMS Illustrious, which is heading for permanent repairs in the United States (at some point the two carriers pass, which must give the boys on the Formidable quite an eyeful of what to expect for themselves). Today, it operates as part of Force K, a determined British effort to track down German raider Atlantis. While having no success in that mission, it is in the vicinity of Italian Somaliland (Somalia), and the British decide to take advantage of that fact. Formidable launches its Swordfish against Mogadishu harbor to lay mines. The nine Albacores then attack Mogadishu itself in Operation Breach.

Italian destroyers are operating in the Red Sea. After dark, they attack one of the BS convoys but are deterred by the Royal Navy escorts.

German battlecruiser Admiral Scheer transits from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.

Battle of the Pacific: German raider Orion completes an overhaul at Maug Island in the Marianas and heads for the Indian Ocean.

2 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Dr. Voronoff
Dr. Voronoff claims that monkey glands may contain the secret to eternal youth. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 13 July 1924.
British Government: General Alan Brooke, commander of United Kingdom Home Forces and in charge of anti-invasion preparations, records in his diary that he had dinner at Chequers and then gave a presentation to Prime Minister Churchill, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and various others in Churchill's coterie. Everybody is complimentary, he says, but Churchill "would not acknowledge that an invasion ... was possible in the face of partial sea-control and local air-control."

US Government: Dean Acheson is made Assistant Secretary of State.

Canada: Prime Minister William Mackenzie King makes a radio speech to the Canadian people. He states that the Germans are engaging in barbarity:
Total war means an indiscriminate attack on every front, by every means, however fiendish. Practiced by the [fascists], as we have seen, it is war against homes, hospitals, schools and churches. It is war on men, women and children.
King emphasizes the importance of fully supporting the war effort. He informs the public that Canada will double the number of troops it already is contributing to the war effort in Europe.

Australia: Prime Minister Robert Menzies continues his epic journey from Melbourne to London, recorded in his voluminous diary (these entries most likely written on the plane). Today, he stops at Baghdad. He meets the Regent, who he describes as "clear-headed but only 25, afraid of his advisers." Menzies describes the new Iraqi Prime Minister as "a stop-gap, being a little better [than his predecessor] but not much." He then continues on to Jerusalem for the night.

China: The indeterminate fighting in Southern Honan (Henan) continues. The Japanese 11th Army evacuates Wuyang.

2 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Dr. Voronoff
Dr. Voronoff claims that monkey glands may be able to create a race of supermen. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 23 September 1936.
French Homeland: For unexplained reasons, the Germans seize the monkeys of French researcher Dr. Serge Voronoff. Now, this leads to the question, who is Dr. Voronoff and who cares about his monkeys? Well, there's a story to that.

Dr. Voronoff is the 74-year-old brother-in-law of the wife of ex-King Carol II of Romania. He has maintained a monkey farm and laboratory near Mentone for decades. He is a specialist in monkey glands, specifically, applied uses of monkey glands for medicinal purposes.

Now, monkey glands may not sound like a particularly exciting field. However, at this point in time, there are many hopes that monkey glands may have special powers. Specifically, there are claims that monkey glands are the fountain of youth. Dr. Voronoff does not mind the publicity, and in fact has made some wild claims of his own, reported in the international press, that monkey glands literally can create an army of supermen. And, in German hands, that would be an army of Wehrmacht Supermen.

Which means there may be something quite special about these particular monkeys. Who knows what... alterations the good doctor has made to them? It makes the otherwise inexplicable decision of the Germans to seize the monkeys quite explainable. As for Dr. Voronoff - he and his 26-year-old wife previously booked tickets to New York and arrived there on 6 September 1940.

Italian Homeland: Apparently as a result of reversals in Libya, Benito Mussolini declares southern Italy a war zone and places it under martial law.

2 February 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Dr. Voronoff
Dr. Voronoff's monkeys seized; 2 February 1941 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

February 1941

February 1, 1941: US Military Reorganization
February 2, 1941: Wehrmacht Supermen
February 3, 1941: World Will Hold Its Breath
February 4, 1941: USO Forms
February 5, 1941: Hitler Thanks Irish Woman
February 6, 1941: Operation Sunflower
February 7, 1941: Fox Killed in the Open
February 8, 1941: Lend-Lease Passes House
February 9, 1941: Give Us The Tools
February 10, 1941: Operation Colossus
February 11, 1941: Afrika Korps
February 12, 1941: Rommel in Africa
February 13, 1941: Operation Composition
February 14, 1941: Nomura in Washington
February 15, 1941: Churchill's Warning
February 16, 1941: Operation Adolphus
February 17, 1941: Invade Ireland?
February 18, 1941: Panzerwaffe Upgrade
February 19, 1941: Three Nights Blitz
February 20, 1941: Prien's Farewell
February 21, 1941: Swansea Blitz Ends
February 22, 1941: Amsterdam Pogrom
February 23, 1941: OB-288 Convoy Destruction
February 24, 1941: Okuda Spies
February 25, 1941: Mogadishu Taken
February 26, 1941: OB-290 Convoy Destruction
February 27, 1941: Operation Abstention
February 28, 1941: Ariets Warns Stalin