Sunday, September 8, 2019

February 12, 1942: The Channel Dash

Thursday 12 February 1942

Channel Dash, 12 February 1942
Gneisenau and Scharnhorst during the Channel Dash of 12 February 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: Having left Brest late on Wednesday, the ships of Operation Cerberus, better known as the Channel Dash, reach Barfleur, France, by dawn on 12 February 1942. This means that Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen are due south of the Isle of Wight, some 300 miles (500 km) up the English Channel. The British remain blissfully unaware that the German operation is in progress, due to chance, clever German planning, and foul winter weather. Finally, an RAF patrol plane flies directly over the flotilla, but its pilot is under strict orders to not break radio silence. So, he waits until he returns to base to report his observation. By this point, the German ships are passing by Beachy Head in Sussex.

Channel Dash, 12 February 1942
Scharnhorst during the Channel Dash, 12 February 1942 (Schlemmer, Federal Archive, Bild 101II-MW-3695-21).
As the ships pass Dover, the British Army's long-range artillery attempts to engage them. However, the cloudy weather forces the gunners to guess the ships' location, and the shells all fall short. Royal Navy torpedo boats then approach, but the MTBs are kept at bay by the half-dozen destroyers accompanying the three capital ships. They launch their torpedoes, but the two-mile range is too great and they score no hits. Then, the Royal Navy sends half a dozen Swordfish planes to launch torpedoes, escorted by 10 Spitfires. Adolf Galland's Luftwaffe fighter cover (Unternehmen Donnerkeil) shoots all of the slow Swordfish down. Overall, the RAF loses 20 bombers and 16 fighters while the Luftwaffe loses 18 fighters.

Channel Dash, 12 February 1942
Scharnhorst during the Channel Dash, 12 February 1942 (Schlemmer, Federal Archive, Bild 101II-MW-3695-21).
Sporadic British attacks continue throughout the day, without effect. The RAF sends 242 bomber sorties in all, but only 39 of them can even drop their bombs due to the fighter defenses and poor visibility. They score no hits. When the Royal Navy sends destroyers based at Harwich to intercept the flotilla, they are attacked by RAF planes who have not been informed of their presence. When the five remaining destroyers approach, the German ships open fire and damage HMS Worcester. They score no hits. However, the German ships do not escape unscathed, as Scharnhorst hits a mine at 19:55 and Gneisenau hits one off Terschelling a bit later, but they continue sailing. Scharnhorst hits a second mine on the port side at 21:34, and this one causes the engines to stop. At 22:23, though, the Scharnhorst's crew gets the starboard engine operating again. Under the cover of darkness, the ships continue on their way, Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau about three hours ahead of Scharnhorst.

Channel Dash, 12 February 1942
Scharnhorst during the Channel Dash, 12 February 1942 (Schlemmer, Federal Archive, Bild 101II-MW-3695-21).
Battle of the Pacific: With the counterattack in central Singapore by Tomforce having failed on 11 February, the British on 12 February 1942 begin establishing a last-ditch perimeter around Singapore City in the eastern end of the island. This requires withdrawals of forces at Changi and from along the north shore. The defeated Australian 22nd Brigade temporarily holds its position west of the Holland Road, but after dark, it pulls back to Holland Village.

In the Philippines, I Corps continues to make progress against the Japanese pocket behind the Main Line of Resistance (MLR). It recovers a trail jungle in the jungle as the Japanese pull back. Further south, the Japanese break out of their pocket near Silaiim Point and flee northward. However, the Allies are right behind them and divert them toward the western coast.

The USAAF Fifth Air Force continues its anti-shipping sweeps in the Makassar Strait. They damage a freighter and Japanese navy transport.

HMS Godeia II, transferred from the Royal Navy to the Belgian forces in exile, 12 February 1942
HMS Godetia II. It is transferred on 12 February 1942 by the Royal Navy to the newly formed naval branch of the Belgian forces in exile, the Royal Navy, Section Belge (RNSB). It is returned to the Royal Navy on 16 December 1944. © IWM (FL 6058).
Eastern Front: Pursuant to Stavka orders, the 3rd and 4th Shock Armies of the Kalinin Front launch a renewed offensive south of Lake Ilmen. The Soviet aim is to further isolate the large German forces trapped in the Demyansk Pocket and then turn on them. With Soviet 34th Army pressing in from the east and these new forces coming from the west, the Red Army hopes to eliminate the pocket completely. However, the Wehrmacht has large forces in the pocket which are being sustained with a Luftwaffe airlift. The Soviets also hope to eliminate a much smaller pocket at Kholm, but it is further west and in a strategically better position than the men at Demyansk. The new Soviet attack is directed into large open spaces and lightly defended areas and is hampered more by the terrain and weather than the enemy. The Germans are happy to divert the Red Army effort into non-vital areas and otherwise let them march around aimlessly through the countryside.

European Air Operations: After dark, RAF Bomber Command sends 12 Hampden and 9 Manchester bombers to lay mines near the Frisian Islands. The weather is so poor that only 8 aircraft are able to drop their mines. There is one loss when a Hampden crashes in England. For most of the day, the RAF's main focus is the Channel Dash.

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Maori, sunk at Malta on 12 February 1942
"HMS MAORI half-submerged after being bombed in the early hours of 12 February 1942 in the Grand Harbour, Malta. She sank a few hours after the picture was taken." © IWM (A 9512).
Battle of the Mediterranean: The Luftwaffe attacks Malta Grand Harbor and sinks destroyer HMS Maori (F24). The destroyer sinks at its moorings. There is only one death because the crew is sleeping ashore. The wreck is later raised and moved to a convenient spot off Fort Saint Elmo, where the Maori is scuttled. Left only a few hundred meters offshore and with her bow in only 14 meters (46 feet) of water, the Maori becomes a popular dive site. This sinking is sometimes dated 11 February 1942.

Spanish/Portuguese Relations: Spanish leader Francisco Franco meets with his Portuguese counterpart, Dr. Salazare, at Seville.

Auschwitz intake picture, 12 February 1942
 Tadeusz Balcerowski's intake picture at Auschwitz on 12 February 1942. Balcerowski is a locksmith born in Miłosna on 28 September 1916. He becomes Auschwitz No. 21350. Balcerowski perishes in Auschwitz on 11 March 1943 (Auschwitz Museum).
US Military: The US Navy refloats battleship USS Nevada, which was beached at Hospital Point after being hit with a torpedo and several bombs. The repairs are only temporary and Nevada must sail to Puget Sound, Washington, for permanent repairs and a return to service.

The USAAF activates the 10th Air Force at Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio. The 10th is destined for the China-Burma-India sector to operate over "the Hump" and bring supplies to China.

The USAAF, in desperate need of night fighters, places an order for 410 Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighters. These are intended for the European Theater. However, the prototype XP-61 still has not been built, and Northrop is having a great deal of trouble with the design. At some point this month, subcontractor Curtiss informs Northrop that it will not be able to supply the intended C5424-A10 four-bladed, automatic, full-feathering propeller any time soon. So, Northrop must build the prototype with Hamilton Standard propellers until the preferred ones become available. This is just the first of many SNAFUs with this project.

Auschwitz intake picture, 12 February 1942
Bronisław Galiński's intake picture at Auschwitz, 12 February 1942. Galinski is a mason born in Warsaw. He becomes No. 21359. Bronisław Galiński perishes at Auschwitz on 13 April 1942 (Auschwitz Museum).
Lieutenant General Henry H "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General USAAF, begins plans to send 16 heavy bomber groups, three pursuit groups, and eight photographic reconnaissance squadrons to the United Kingdom before the year is out. Other USAAF air forces also request reinforcement, so Arnold must prioritize his resources.

USAAF Fifth Air Force completes the transfer of the air echelon of the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) and 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy) from Hickam Field to Nandi Airport, Fiji. This force has a heavy complement of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers.

Auschwitz intake picture, 12 February 1942
Zygmunt Kondracki's intake picture at Auschwitz, 12 February 1942. A cooper born in Warsaw, Kondracki becomes No. 21400. Kondracki perishes at Auschwitz on 17 July 1942 (Auschwitz Museum).
Australian/New Zealand Military: The United States, Australia, and New Zealand combine naval forces by forming the Anzac Squadron at Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji. This includes heavy cruisers HMAS Australia and USS Chicago, the light cruisers HMNZS Achilles and HMNZS Leander, and the destroyers USS Lamson and USS Perkins.

German Government: Adolf Hitler speaks at the state funeral for Fritz Todt in Berlin. He creates a new award, the German Order, and confers it on Todt posthumously.

Holocaust: Sixty Poles, twelve of whom are Jewish, are deported from the Pawiak Prison in Warsaw to Auschwitz. Only 8 of them survive the war.

Walter Lippmann column about interning Japanese-Americans, 12 February 1942
Walter Lippmann's column of 12 February 1942, as it appeared that day in the Washington Post.
American Homefront: Influential newspaper columnist Walter Lippmann pens a column, "Today and Tomorrow: The Fifth Column on the Coast," in which he advocates the internment of Japanese-Americans and enemy alien citizens from Japan, Germany, and Italy from the West Coast because they represent a national security threat. This column is in newspapers across the country. The US Army basically is in agreement with Lippmann's reasoning but worries about the impact this will have on supplying the troops.

Future History: Ehud Barak is born in Mandatory Palestine. He becomes the tenth Prime Minister of Israel from 1999 to 2001. He resigns after losing an election to Likud leader Ariel Sharon. In June 2019, he forms new political party Israel Democratic Party.

Auschwitz intake picture, 12 February 1942
Aleksander Gutarowski's intake picture at Auschwitz, 12 February 1942. Gutarowski is a shoemaker born in Warsaw, Poland. He is received as No. 21363. Aleksander Gutarowski perishes at Auschwitz on 19 April 1942 (Auschwitz Museum).

February 1942

February 1, 1942: The US Navy Strikes Back
February 2, 1942: Germans Recovering in Russia
February 3, 1942: Japanese Shell and Bomb Singapore
February 4, 1942: Battle of Makassar Strait
February 5, 1942: Empress of Asia Sunk
February 6, 1942: The Christmas Island Body
February 7, 1942: The Double-V Campaign
February 8, 1942: Japan Invades Singapore
February 9, 1942: French Liner Normandie Capsizes
February 10, 1942: US Car Production Ends
February 11, 1942: Tomforce Fails on Singapore
February 12, 1942: The Channel Dash
February 13, 1942: Japanese Paratroopers In Action
February 14, 1942: RAF Orders Terror Raids
February 15, 1942: Japan Takes Singapore
February 17, 1942: Indian Troops Defect to Japanese
February 18, 1942: Battle of Badung Strait
February 19, 1942: FDR Authorizes Internment Camps
February 20, 1942: O'Hare the Hero
February 21, 1942: Crisis in Burma
February 22, 1942: Bomber Harris Takes Over
February 23, 1942: Bombardment of Ellwood, California
February 24, 1942: US Raid on Wake Island
February 25, 1942: Battle of Los Angeles
February 26, 1942: Gneisenau Eliminated
February 27, 1942: Battle of Java Sea
February 28, 1942: Battle of Sunda Strait


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