Saturday, October 12, 2019

March 1, 1942: Second Battle of Java Sea

Sunday 1 March 1942

HMS Exeter sinking at the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942
HMS Exeter is hit by a torpedo fired by Japanese destroyer Inazuma during the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942.
Battle of the Pacific: The naval situation of the Allies in the southwestern Pacific goes from bad to worse on 1 March 1942 when they lose another cruiser and two destroyers. Combined with the earlier Battle of the Java Sea and Battle of Sunda Strait, this action leaves the Allies without a naval presence near Java.

Damaged during the First Battle of Java Sea, Royal Navy cruiser HMS Exeter (famous for helping to destroyer German heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee in 1939) is ordered on 28 February to leave immediately from Surabaya to Ceylon for repairs. The decision comes just before the Japanese Navy sweeps the sea later that night in the Battle of Java Sea. At nightfall, Exeter and escorting destroyers HMS Encounter and USS Pope depart from the main north entrance (rather than the less obvious southern one) of the harbor due to Exeter's draft. The seas are swarming with Japanese, ships, and they spot Exeter at 04:00 on 1 March. They elude their pursuer, but the Japanese sight them again at 09:35. Heavy cruisers Haguro and Nachi, accompanied by destroyers Kawakaze and Yamakaze, approach and cause the Exeter to change course to the northeast. However, this only leads the British ships toward another group of Japanese warships (heavy cruisers Ashigara and Myōkō and destroyers Inazuma and Akebono). At 10:20, the ships begin firing at each other. At 11:20, a shell hits Exeter's boiler room, slowing it to four knots, and the Japanese cruisers close in. Exeter sinks at 11:40 about 90 miles (78 nautical miles and 140 km) northwest of Bawean. Both destroyers are sunk soon after, Encounter after her captain orders her scuttled and Pope by dive bombers. While the Japanese rescue 652 men from Exeter, 152 of them perish in Japanese custody.

HMS Exeter sinking at the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942
HMS Exeter sinking on 1 March 1942 (U.S. Navy photo NH 91772 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command, captured by US forces on Attu Island in 1943).
Japanese Aichi D3A ("Val") dive bombers operating near Christmas Island attack and sink US Navy fuel tanker USS Pecos and damage accompanying destroyer USS Edsall. Battleships Hiei and Kirishima are alerted to the destroyer's plight and they sail to the area and sink it using gunfire. There are five survivors of the Edsall who are captured and executed by the Japanese at Kendari on Celebes Island.

With the seas now cleared of large Allied warships, the invasion of Java continues without serious interruption. The first landings begin just after midnight at around 00:15. Japanese transport ships unload troops at Bantam Bay in West Java (near Merak and Eretan Wetan) and Kragan in East Java. Facing little opposition, the Japanese in the western force quickly sets up its headquarters at Serang, while the eastern force takes Kalidjati airfield by noon. The Allied defenders send defensive forces to the landing zones during the day, but they do not arrive in numbers large enough to counterattack until 2 March.

HMS Exeter sinking at the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942
The Second Battle in the Java Sea, 1 March 1942. Heavy cruiser Myoko and Ashigara are firing on the Exeter.
Everyone on the Allied side can see that the end is near for Java, and evacuations are in full swing. The USAAF flies its last three B-17s and an A-24 Dauntless squadron back toward Australia. Nine P-40s, six RAAF fighters, and four RNAF fighters attack the Japanese landings, losing three planes. The Japanese Air Force then counterattacks the P-40 base at Blimbing Airdrome and destroys the surviving fighters on the ground.

In the Philippines, the front is quiet but the Allied position is withering. The 34th Pursuit Squadron has been engaged in heavy fighting for two months and is down to its last two planes. The Japanese, however, also are taking heavy casualties, having lost 2700 killed and 4000 wounded. The difference between the two sides is that the Japanese can easily bring in reinforcements from the north, while the Allies are effectively blockaded by the oppressive Japanese sea and air presence.

HMS Exeter sinking at the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942
Dutch freighter Rooseboom, sunk west of Sumatra on 1 March 1942.
Japanese submarine HIJMS I-59 (later I-159), under the command of Lieutenant Yoshimatsu, torpedoes and sinks 1035-ton Dutch freighter at 23:35 west of Sumatra. Two men are picked up by a passing Dutch freighter in the water nine days later, with well over 100 deaths. There is one other (known) survivor, and he tells quite a tale. The sinking is best remembered for the account of the events endured by the survivors in the sole lifeboat that is launched before the ship quickly capsizes told by Corporal Walter Gardiner Gibson. According to Gibson, 80 people are crowded in the boat which is designed to hold only 28 people, with many more survivors left to swim in the water. Some of the swimming men try to build a raft from flotsam, but it sinks and they all drown. There is no food or water and people in the boat begin to hallucinate, many killing themselves due to their agony. A group of survivors in the boat's bow throws the weaker ones overboard at night, and then they themselves are pushed overboard to drown. When the survivors are down to a group of two white men, a Chinese woman, and four Javanese seamen, the Javanese murder and eat the other white man. Eventually, the lifeboat grounds on an island off Sumatra, Sipora. The four Javanese sailors all perish (two disappear into the jungle). The Japanese shoot the Chinese woman as a spy and put Gibson in a POW camp. Gibson lives to write two books about his experiences, "The Boat" (1952) and "Highland Laddie" (1954).

HMS Exeter sinking at the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942
President Polk, sunk near the Gilbert Islands on 1 March 1942.
Japanese aircraft bomb and sink 9225-ton US troopship President Polk near the Gilbert Islands. The Americans later raise the ship and return it to service.

Japanese submarine HIJMS I-25 launches its Yokosuka E14Y1, Navy Type 0 Small Reconnaissance Seaplane "Glen" to perform reconnaissance over Hobart, Tasmania. As on its other flights, the seaplane carries out its mission without being spotted.

HMS Exeter sinking at the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942
Destroyer USS Pope (DD-225) sinking on 1 March 1942 during the Second Battle of the Java Sea. This photo was taken from a Japanese floatplane.
Eastern Front: While the front has stabilized following the Soviet counteroffensive in December, the German position remains much shakier than anyone ever expected. General Halder, head of OKH, issues an analysis showing that total casualties are approaching half the number of men that began the campaign. While many of those men are still fighting, the winter was not the respite that the Wehrmacht expected and instead has turned into a struggle to the death. Replacements are not coming close to making up all the losses, and ammunition supplies are becoming an issue as well.

After almost two weeks of indecision about whether to even approach Hitler with the idea of another retreat, today Fourth Army General Heinrici arrives at the Fuhrer headquarters in Rastenburg to plead his case with Hitler. Hitler, however, already is thinking about operations elsewhere to regain the initiative and rescue the trapped units at Kholm and Demyansk and is not concerned about the troops near Moscow. To Heinrici's (and everyone else's) astonishment, Hitler immediately grants the withdrawal request. He explains that previously he had been "deliberately obstinate" about retreats, but the front situation has improved so much in recent weeks that he no longer cares exactly where it is. Heinrici returns to headquarters with permission to pull troops back from an exposed position at Yukhnov.

HMS Exeter sinking at the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942
Guns of Japanese cruiser Myoko firing during the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942.
On the Crimea, the Soviet effort along the Parpach Narrows front now is focused on the Romanian forces at the north end of the line. They are the only sector that has given up serious ground. Today, the German 170th Infantry Division moves up and stops this threat, leaving the Red Army in possession of a bulge at the extreme northern end of the line. The Soviets land a small party at Alushta today, but it achieves nothing and quickly re-embarks, while the Soviet Navy bombards Yalta and Feodosiya to little effect. The Soviets already have lost 40 tanks during their offensive and now are achieving little, but they refuse to abandon it. Lieutenant General Dmitry Timofeyevich Kozlov prepares one last attack on the 2nd against the German strongpoint at Koi-Asan.

HMS Exeter sinking at the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942
HMS Exeter sinking after the Second Battle of Java Sea, 1 March 1942.
European Air Operations: The RAF conducts no major missions today.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-656 (Kptlt. Ernst Kröning), on its second patrol out of Brest, is bombed and sunk by a Lockheed PBO-1 Hudson (VP-82 USN) south of Cape Race, Newfoundland. An unlucky boat, U-656 sinks or damages no ships during its career. There are no survivors of the 45 aboard. This U-boat sinking by an airplane is a rare event for this period of World War II.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Unbeaten sinks 3415-ton Vichy French tanker PLM.20 5 nautical miles east of Mehedia (Mahdia), Tunisia.

US/British Relations: Winston Churchill rightfully fears a Japanese expansion into the Indian Ocean. Today, he informs President Roosevelt of the Royal Navy's desire to land troops at Diego Suarez, Madagascar. Madagascar is under Vichy French control, and already there are Japanese submarines around India. The invasion is still tentative at this point, however, and no plans have been prepared.

Canadian Military: The Canadian Women's Army Corps receives full Army status as "a Corps of the Active Militia of Canada." Before this, the only women's units admitted to this status were the nursing sisters.

HMS Exeter sinking at the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942
Auschwitz 2.
Holocaust: The Germans begin building the Sobibor concentration camp near the town of Włodawa (Wolzek), Poland. The location is chosen due to the nearby Chełm – Włodawa railway line connecting the General Government with the Reichskommissariat Ukraine. Local people begin the construction and are soon replaced by the forced labor of a Sonderkommando of local Jewish residents. Ultimately, well over a hundred thousand people are murdered at the camp.

Also on 1 March 1942, Auschwitz Birkenau (also known as Auschwitz 2) is established. It is intended to house Soviet prisoners of war but ultimately becomes the main extermination camp at Auschwitz.

HMS Exeter sinking at the Second Battle of the Java Sea, 1 March 1942
One of the first ration books (The National WWII Museum).
American Homefront: Nationwide food rationing takes effect throughout the United Staes. Not everything is rationed - for instance, fresh fruit and vegetables are not - so everyone can always find something to eat. People also are free to grow or raise their own food. However, certain food items such as coffee and sugar must be imported and thus are rationed because the shipping is needed for other purposes.

By now, about 10,000 family members of US servicemen have been evacuated from Hawaii. About 20,000 remain to be shipped to California. They are taking up all of the shipping space, which leaves none for the proposed internment on the mainland (favored by the US Army) of Japanese-Americans. This indirectly blocks their removal from the islands.

Cornelius Vanderbilt III passes away in Miami Beach, Florida at the age of 68. He is most remembered for his interest in yachting and for serving honorably as a brigadier general in World War I.

The owners of the major league baseball clubs decide against allowing players who now are in the military from playing for their clubs when they are available, i.e., on leave or based nearby.

Japanese celebrating, 1 March 1942
The Japanese 2d Division celebrates landing at Merak, Java, on 1 March 1942.
Future History: The wreck of HMS Exeter was discovered on 21 February 2007 some 60 miles (97 km) from the last position given by its commander, Captain Oliver Gordon (who survives). It was classified as a British war grave and thus was considered untouchable. However, when another diving expedition visits the location in November 2016, it finds the right spot - but the ship itself is missing. Exeter, along with the nearby wreck of destroyer Encounter and two other vessels, apparently had been illegally scavenged during the intervening decade. It must have been a major salvage operation, one of the biggest in history. How this was done without anyone knowing about it in approximately 60 meters (200 feet) of water remains a mystery, along with what was done with the wrecks (presumably scrapped).

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

March 1942

March 1, 1942: Second Battle of Java Sea
March 2, 1942: Huge Allied Shipping Losses at Java
March 3, 1942: Japan Raids Western Australia
March 4, 1942: Second Raid On Hawaii
March 5, 1942: Japan Takes Batavia
March 6, 1942: Churchill Assaults Free Speech
March 7, 1942: British Defeat in Burma
March 8, 1942: Rangoon Falls to Japan
March 9, 1942: Japanese Conquest of Dutch East Indies
March 10, 1942:US Navy attacks Japanese Landings at Lae
March 11, 1942: Warren Buffett's First Stock Trade
March 12, 1942: Japan Takes Java
March 13, 1942: Soviets Attack In Crimea Again 
March 14, 1942: The US Leans Toward Europe
March 15, 1942: Operation Raubtier Begins
March 16, 1942: General MacArthur Gets His Ride
March 17, 1942: MacArthur Arrives in Australia
March 18, 1942: Japan Attacks In Burma
March 19, 1942: Soviets Encircled on the Volkhov
March 20, 1942: "I Shall Return," Says MacArthur
March 21, 1942: Germans Attack Toward Demyansk
March 22, 1942: Second Battle of Sirte
March 23, 1942: Hitler's Insecurity Builds
March 24, 1942: Bataan Bombarded
March 25, 1942: Chinese Under Pressure in Burma
March 26, 1942: Win Or Die, Vows MacArthur
March 27, 1942: The Battle of Suusari
March 28, 1942: The St. Nazaire Commando Raid
March 29, 1942: The Free Republic of Nias
March 30, 1942: Japanese-Americans Off Bainbridge Island
March 31, 1942: Japanese Seize Christmas Island


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