Thursday, October 24, 2019

March 6, 1942: Churchill Assaults Free Speech

Friday 6 March 1942

Controversial Daily Mirror cartoon, 6 March 1942
The Philip Zec "price of petrol" cartoon of 6 March 1942 in the Daily Mirror. It sets off Winston Churchill and almost leads to censorship of a mainstream publication. This becomes an iconic image for many British citizens and is famously re-used in 1982 during the Falklands War to oppose that war.
British Homefront: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sees a political cartoon by Philip Zec in the 6 March 1942 Daily Mirror which he doesn't like. The war at sea isn't going very well due to a surge in U-boat sinkings, and the stress is beginning to tell. In fact, Churchill really doesn't like the cartoon and he decides to do something about it. The cartoon is fairly innocuous, showing a merchant seaman from a sinking ship with the caption ""The price of petrol has been increased by one penny – Official." Accompanying the cartoon is a newspaper editorial headed "Weed Them Out," attacking the "brass-buttoned boneheads" leading the British war effort. Churchill views the combined cartoon and editorial as harmful to the war effort and contemplates banning the Daily Mirror entirely.

Signal magazine, March 1942
Signal Magazine, March 1942 #6.
Churchill summons Herbert Morrison (not the announcer from the Hindenburg tragedy, but the Home Secretary) and tells him to take action. Morrison already famously has banned the Daily Worker (on 21 January 1941), so he knows what he can do. Morrison calls in the leaders of the Mirror and tells them bluntly to stop their:
sneering attacks, mischievous misrepresentations and the sort of thing inspired by a desire for reckless sensation.
Morrison warns them that he can and will shut down the Mirror under Emergency Regulation 2D of the Emergency Powers Act just as he did the Daily Worker. Unknown to the Mirror leaders, Morrison also initiates a Special Branch investigation into both the Mirror's ownership interests and Zec's personal background. The investigation finds nothing untoward (aside from some connections to socialist Sir Stafford Cripps) and the whole matter is eventually dropped after the Mirror adopts what Churchill considers to be a more patriotic tone.

Hope Star of Hope, Arkansas, 6 March 1942
The 6 March 1942 Hope Star of Hope, Arkansas (later famous for Bill Clinton) prints a helpful map of Japanese conquests and goals in the Pacific.
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese continue advancing in Java from north to south. The remaining Allied forces continue withdrawing to Bandung in the middle of the island with the Japanese 2nd Infantry Division (Lt. Gen. Masao Maruyama) right behind them. The Japanese enter Buitenzorg (Bogor), not far from Bandung, and the Abe Unit makes a night attack against Porong near Surabaya. Among the retreating Allied units in East Java is the "E" Field Artillery Battery of the US Army 131st (Texas) Field Artillery Regiment. In West Java, a motley collection Allied troops from multiple nations under the command of Major-General Sir Hervey D.W. Sitwell decides to make a stand in the hills south of Bandung with the Japanese a day or two away.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6 March 1942
A street scene in the 6 March 1942 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (p. 25).
The Allied troops' only hope of rescue is from the southern ports of Tjilatjap and other, smaller ports nearby. However, that depends on stopping the Japanese at Bandung - a tall order, as they haven't been able to stop the Japanese anywhere to date. At Poerwokerta, about 30 miles north of Tjilatjap, about 2500 RAF airmen under the command of Air Commodore B. J. Silly wait helplessly for an evacuation they know may never come. There no longer is any Allied fighter cover in Java, so everyone is wide open to Japanese air attacks.

Japanese aircraft and naval forces remain active offshore, meaning any Allied attempt to escape will be contested. Japanese aircraft sink 174-ton Dutch freighter Dayak south of Tjilatjap.

HNLMS Pieter de Bitter, 6 March 1942
HNLMS Pieter de Bitter, scuttled on 6 March 1942.
While the Allied armies on Java are still fighting, everyone behind the lines can see what is coming. As at other ports on other islands about to be captured, the Allies begin scuttling ships. They include:
  • 513-ton Dutch freighter Reteh
  • 1187-ton Dutch freighter Pasir
  • 395-ton Dutch tug Overijssel
  • 525-ton Dutch minesweeper Pieter de Bitter
  • 173-ton Dutch freighter Moeara Boelian
  • 525-ton Dutch minelayer Serdang
  • 1787-ton Dutch freighter Sipirok
  • 1594-ton Dutch freighter Sipora
The ports themselves also remain under fierce Japanese air attacks. With no Allied air defenses, the attacks prove deadly. Japanese bombs sink 4819-ton Dutch freighter SS Barentsz at Tjilatjap.

The Japanese advance on Borneo, too. They take the town of Sampit.

Rangoon, Burma, 6 March 1942
Rangoon, Burma. 6 March 1942. The work of demolition parties as seen from the last aircraft to be flown out. Smoke rises from charges set at a strategic site in Rangoon. The pilot was Sergeant R. P. Curtis of Manly, NSW, and the wireless operator-air gunner Sergeant J. L. Brinkley of Cottesloe, WA, who took this photograph. A portion of their Blenheim aircraft is at the left of the picture. Australian War Memorial P02491.173.
In Burma, the Japanese advance toward Rangoon stalls temporarily as they bring up bridging equipment to replace the blown bridge across the Sittang River. The worn-out 17th Indian Infantry Division is in a bitter battle at Pegu on the road to Rangoon but is under-strength and lacks adequate weapons. Other Allied units in the area (the 1st Burma Division and the 7th Armored Brigade) also are hard-pressed. The British evacuate Rangoon and the last aircraft departs for India.

Japanese aircraft strafe and sink 527-ton Philippines freighter Fortuna MV near the Leper Colonies on Cullion Island, Calamian Islands. The ship has been requisitioned by the US Army to carry supplies to the colony. The strafing sets fire to gasoline drums on the deck which turns the ship into a blazing inferno that sinks about a quarter of a mile from the docks.

Front-Illustrierte, March 1942
"Front-Illustrierte," No. 6, March 1942.
Eastern Front: In the Crimea, the Soviets are reinforcing the Crimean Front under Lieutenant General Dmitry Timofeyevich Kozlov for another attempt to pierce the Axis line at the Parpach Narrows. The last attempt failed largely due to Luftwaffe supremacy, so the Red Air Force brings in 581 planes. However, the Soviet planes are largely obsolete models while the Luftwaffe has current models. The Soviets also mass 224 tanks, which Kozlov decides to divide up to support individual units rather than use them as a single, powerful striking force. The Germans know the Soviets are likely to attack again, so they are laying 2000 Teller mines near the key Koi-Asan position. The Soviet attack is scheduled for 13 March.

European Air Operations: The air front remains quiet as the RAF continues to build up its forces after the successful Billancourt Raid of 3/4 March.

Damage to HMS Thrasher, 6 March 1942
Damage to the conning tower of Royal Navy submarine HMS Thrasher at Alexandria, Egypt caused by a 6 March 1942 Luftwaffe attack. The bomb failed to explode but pierced the steel. © IWM (A 13569).
Battle of the Atlantic: Several German U-boats are making the long journey across the Atlantic either to or from their bases in France. However, some U-boats and Italian submarines (which are usually overlooked in accounts of the Battle of the Atlantic) remain hard at work and score some successes.

U-710 (Kptlt. Horst Degen), on its second patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks independent 213-ton British freighter Rononia about 200 miles southeast of Iceland. This follows a 12-hour span in which Degen works patiently to get into firing position. He finally attacks at 23:06 on the surface and observes the Rononia break in halves immediately due to an internal explosion. All 11 men on board perish.

U-587 (Kptlt. Ulrich Borcherdt), on its second patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 900-ton Greenlandic freighter Hans Egede south of Newfoundland. All 24 men on board perish.

US freighter Steel Age, 6 March 1942
US freighter Steel Age, sunk on 6 March 1942.
U-129 (Kptlt. Asmus Nicolai Clausen), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 6188-ton US freighter SS Steel Age about 600 miles southeast of Trinidad (130 miles northeast of Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana). The attack is made at 22:05, with two torpedoes hitting and causing the ship to sink within two minutes. The quick sinking may be due to its cargo of ore. The sole survivor recalls running topside immediately from the messroom and finding the deck already awash (U-129 picks him up and he becomes a POW). There are 34 dead and only one survivor. This sinking sometimes is said to have occurred on 7 March, perhaps due to timezone differences.

U-505 (Kptlt. Axel-Olaf Loewe), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks independent 7587-ton Norwegian tanker Sydhav between Trinidad and Freetown. The ship sinks quickly but 24 men manage to survive on two rafts. There are twelve deaths. The survivors later recall that Loewe did not bother to pick them up or another survivor in the water who he questions (who later dies) even though he had the opportunity.

Dutch freighter Astrea sunk on 6 March 1942
Dutch freighter Astrea, sunk on 6 March 1942.
Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli (Commander Carlo Fecia di Cossato) shells and sinks 1406-ton Dutch freighter SS Astrea en route from New York to Trinidad. The entire crew is rescued by a passing freighter after 11 days at sea.

Enrico Tazzoli also shells and sinks 3156-ton Norwegian freighter MV Tønsbergfjord in the same area. There are 33 survivors.

Italian submarine Giuseppe Finzi torpedoes and sinks 7011-ton British freighter SS Melpomene just east of the Caribbean while en route in ballast from Belfast to Baton Rouge. There are 49 survivors.

Swedish freighter Skane, sunk on 6 March 1942,
Swedish freighter Skane, sunk on 6 March 1942.
Giuseppe Finzi also sinks 4528-ton Swedish freighter Skane. The Italians use their deck gun to sink the Skane in the same vicinity as the Melpomene.

German freighter Lahneck collides with another ship, SS Treunfels in the Baltic near Oksay and sinks after being taken in tow.

German battleship Tirpitz and four destroyers leave their base at Trondheim in central Norway on a rare sortie to intercept an Allied Russia convoy. The Allied ships are in Convoys QP-8 and PQ-12. The Royal Navy quickly learns that the Tirpitz is at sea and plans countermeasures.

Captured German antitank gun, 6 March 1942
A British officer with a captured German 28mm Panzerbüchse 41 (sPzB 41)anti-tank gun in North Africa, 6 March 1942. © IWM (E 9090).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Malta has been devastated by around-the-clock air raids in recent days, and they continue today. The attacks begin early, with 43 Axis aircraft attacking at 08:16. The Junkers Ju-88 medium bombers attack the Royal Navy submarine base on Manoel Island, dropping twenty big 1000-kg bombs, ten 250-kg bombs, and fifty 50-kg bombs. The attack causes extensive damage and kills several civilians. More attacks continue throughout the day.

Bombed submarine base at Malta, 6 March 1942
Bomb damage to the wardroom cabins at the Submarine base on Manoel Island, Malta from the attack of 6 March 1942. The damage is to wardroom cabins and laundry. This is the most serious damage during the attack on the submarine base. © IWM (A 9565).
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The British continue reinforcing Ceylon in anticipation of a Japanese attack once Java falls. Aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable flies off Hurricanes of RAF No. 30 and 261 Squadrons, while aircraft transport Engadine arrives at Trincomalee along with several other ships such as light cruiser Glasgow and submarine Trusty. Convoy SU-2, including five troops ships, departs from Colombo bound for Fremantle.

USS St. Louis (CL-49), 6 March 1942
The U.S. Navy light cruiser USS St. Louis (CL-49) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California (USA), on 6 March 1942. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.
American Homefront: The San Francisco News prints a helpful editorial addressed to local Japanese people, "both aliens and native-born." It sets forth the best way they can "demonstrate their loyalty to the United States." The gist of the editorial is that the Japanese can best show their loyalty by accepting their relocation to internment camps. The editorial notes that the property of the internees "will be carefully protected by the Federal Government" (which often turns out not to be the case) and that "the transfer will be made with the least possible hardship" (which doesn't mean there is no hardship, because some internees wait literally for months in transit camps as their camps are prepared). The bottom line is that this is actually being done for the internees' safety, as:
Real danger would exist for all Japanese if they remained in the combat area. The least act of sabotage might provoke angry reprisals that easily could balloon into bloody race riots.
The editorial is issued under the newspaper's byline but reads as though it were written by the Army.

Future History: Benjamin Edward Castleberry Jr. is born on March 6, 1942, in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He becomes Ben Murphy when his mother remarries in 1956. Ben becomes an actor after attending eight colleges and quickly becomes a success. He appears as a guest star in episodic TV series such as "The Name of the Game" before nabbing a starring role in popular series "Alias Smith and Jones" from 1971-72. After that, Ben bounces around between series such as "Griff" without gaining much traction. Ben Murphy goes on to become a regular on television in guest-starring roles and occasion films, most recently in "The Genesis Code" (2010) and appears to be retired as of this writing.

Clark Gable promotional shot, 6 March 1942
Clark Gable on a 1939 Harley-Davidson EL, March 1942 (courtesy MGM).

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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