Friday, December 20, 2019

March 8, 1942: Rangoon Falls to Japan

Sunday 8 March 1942

PBY Catalina 8 March 1942
PBY-5A on 8 March 1942 (USAF).
Battle of the Pacific: Japanese forces of the 33rd Division enter Rangoon, Burma on 8 March 1942. They find the city empty of Allied forces, as the British Army has known the city would fall for several days. British units of the 16th and 63rd Brigades force their way through a Japanese roadblock at Taukkyan on the Rangoon-Prome road. USAAF bombers begin ferrying operations to consolidate remaining British troops in Burma at Magwe, where they are protected by the "Flying Tigers" (American Volunteer Group, or AVG).

The Japanese invasion of Salamaua–Lae begins when a convoy arrives in the Huon Gulf. Troops land at Salamaua (144th Regiment) and Lae (2nd Maizuru Special Naval Landing Force) without interference. A RAAF Hudson (No. 32 Squadron) attacks the convoy and scores a hit on a large transport that sinks or is beached. The US Navy is preparing a raid by aircraft carriers USS Lexington and Yorktown against the Japanese landing force, but it will take days to launch.

British 25-pdr 8 March 1942
"25 pounders going into action in support of an Infantry Brigade during training in the Western Desert, 8 March 1942." © IWM (E 9134).
The Japanese roll forward in their conquest of Java. The Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces, Lieutenant General Hein Ter Poorten, broadcasts a general surrender over the radio at 09:00. In the afternoon, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies and General Ter Poorten in the Bandoeng area surrender to Lieutenant General Imamura Hitoshi at Kalidjati. Japanese troops are in Surabaya by 18:00. The final broadcast by Dutch radio station NIROM is made at 23:00 with the words: "We are closing now. Farewell till better times. Long live the Queen!"

There are still determined Australian troops, "Blackforce," under Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur S. Blackburn in the hills at Tjikadjang which refuse to surrender. This is a blocking position which at least theoretically allows Allied forces on the south coast to continue evacuating, though those operations, by and large, are over. Blackburn has no hope of holding out for long but remains holed up for several days despite repeated radioed orders to surrender from RAF Air Vice-Marshal Maltby and Major General Hervey Sitwell, General Officer Commanding British Troops Java. Ultimately, Blackburn makes the very tough decision to surrender for the (presumed) good of his men. What the British do not know is that a large fraction (up to 25% in some cases) of Allied prisoners taken on Java will perish in the camps.

PBY Catalina 8 March 1942
PBY-5A, 8 March 1942 (USAF).
There are still some Allied forces left on the southern portion of the island and Hawker Hurricanes based there fly their final mission before the command surrenders. The Lesser Sunda Islands Invasion forces under Rear Admiral Hara Kenzaburos leaves Surabaya bound for Lombok Island. At Northern Sumatra, Japanese forces take Sabang Island and Koetaradja. Troops quickly secure oilfields at Langsa and Pangkalanbrandan.

The front on Bataan in the Philippine Islands is relatively quiet. General Douglas MacArthur, Commanding General U.S. Army Forces, Far East, issues a communique stating that his opponent, General Homma Masaharu, has committed suicide out of frustration. Homma is far from dead, however, and sees the report of his supposed death with surprise. MacArthur apparently is engaging in psychological warfare, because the Japanese high command is upset with Homma for the stalemate at Bataan. It is unclear if it is coincidental or not, but staff officers arrive from Tokyo and insult Homma. They tell him to stop living the high life in Manila and finish the battle. Just to make their point crystal clear, they transfer some of Homma's staff to Manchuria, not considered a particularly desirable posting. Homma quickly begins planning an offensive. He secures a promise of reinforcements from Shanghai, some crack troops of the 65th Brigade and 4th Infantry Division, to resume the advance.

Dutch minesweeper Jan van Amstel is sunk by a Japanese destroyer in the Madura Strait near Java.

Japanese submarine HIJMS I-25 sends its Yokosuka E14Y1, "Glen," to fly over Wellington, Australia. As with other reconnaissance flights, the Allies do not spot it.

Eastern Front: The Soviets under General Kozlov are preparing to resume their offensive on the Crimea. They are under strict orders from Stalin to get moving quickly, who has taken a personal interest in the situation (he likes to vacation in the south). Kozlov's plan is to break the German defensive strongpoint at Koi-Asan, hitting the Germans where they are strongest. The Germans also are reinforcing their positions on the Parpach Narrows. The Germans are bringing in anti-tank StuG units while the Red Army is building up its tank force.

RAF raid on Poissy, France, 8 March 1942
"Low-level oblique aerial photograph was taken during the course of a daylight attack on the Matford automotive works at Poissy, France." 8 March 1942. © IWM (C 2282).
European Air Operations: It is a big day for the RAF. During the day, 24 Boston (Douglas A-20 Havoc) bombers raid targets in France. Twelve of them hit the Ford truck factory at Poissy, while, in diversionary raids, six each attack Abbeville railway yards and the Comines power station. The RAF loses its first Boston of the war after the raid on Poissy.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command sends 211 bombers (211 aircraft, 115 Wellingtons, 37 Hampdens, 27 Stirlings, 22 Manchesters, and 10 Halifaxes) to attack the German manufacturing center of Essen. Despite being led by Gee navigational equipment, the bombers have difficulty finding the target, some Krupp installations, and only 168 actually claim to bomb the factories. The raid illustrates the limitations of RAF direction-finding equipment, as the Gee system can only lead bombers to a city, not a specific target. The factories escape unscathed, but bombs kill ten people with an additional 19 missing. There also are raids by single bombers on the German cities Dortmund, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Gelsenkirchen, and Oberhausen. Six Blenheim bombers raid the docks of Ostend, with four claiming hits. A group of 13 Wellington and Stirling bombers attack targets in the Netherlands, two bombing Soesterberg Airfield.

Walrus being launched from HMS Shropshire, 8 March 1942
Supermarine Walrus aircraft being catapulted from the cruiser HMS Shropshire between 8 and 12 March 1942 (© IWM (A 8069)).
The Luftwaffe raids the western part of Lowestoft, England, at 22:56. There is some minor damage along Essex Road from four high explosive 250kg bombs. An unexploded 1000kg "Hermann" bomb falls in a field and does no damage, but remains there until 1948. There is one death and 10 wounded, with 14 houses destroyed and 75 others damaged.

Bombing of Lowestoft, 8 March 1942
Damage in Lowestoft from the 8 March 1942 Luftwaffe raid (Bert Collyer via Lowestoft Aviation Society).
Battle of the Atlantic: Royal Navy 541-ton anti-submarine trawler HMS Notts County hits a mine and sinks off Iceland. There are 41 deaths.

German battleship Tirpitz remains at sea on a mission to attack Arctic Convoys QP 8 and PQ 12. Unbeknownst to the Germans, Royal Navy battleship HMS King George V and aircraft carrier Victorious are in the vicinity to provide support to the convoys. The British know of the Tirpitz mission due to Enigma intercepts and are maneuvering into a position to attack. Late in the day, though, German commander Admiral Ciliax decides to return to port. The British still hope to intercept the German battleship with aircraft on the 9th.

Bren gun carriers, 8 March 1942
"Bren gun carriers moving off in the Western Desert, 8 March 1942." © IWM (E 9140).
Battle of the Mediterranean: British General Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander in Chief Middle East Command, orders Eighth Army Commander Lieutenant General Neil Ritchie to prepare a diversion to distract Axis forces from an incoming convoy.

At Malta, the Axis launches virtually continuous air raids on Luqa Airfield in an attempt to put it out of action. There are 325 bombs dropped. Some time bombs must be dealt with by the bomb disposal forces. There are multiple civilian casualties. Hal Far airfield and other locations also are attacked.

Allied Relations: The British and U.S. governments extend loans of £50 million and $500 million, respectively, to the Nationalist Chinese government.

Bombing of Lowestoft, 8 March 1942
Damage to Lowestoft from the 8 March 1942 Luftwaffe raid (Bert Collyer via Lowestoft Aviation Society).
US Military: Brigadier General William O. Butler takes command of the USAAF 11th Air Force based in Ft Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. The 11th Air Force is assigned to the Alaska Defense Command under Major General Simon B. Buckner, Jr. The Alaska Defense command is part of the Western Defense Command under Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt. While there is no enemy activity in Alaska at this time, the entire Western Defense command is a theater of operations.

The 10th Air Force based in Patterson Field, Fairfield, Ohio (near Dayton) begins transferring to India. Its mission is to assist with operations in Burma and, ultimately, perform supply operations to China over the "Hump" (mountains) in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of Operations.

The 5th Air Force in Australia begins moving the 16th and 17th Bombardment Squadrons of the 27th Bombardment Group from Batchelor Field in the Northern Territory to Brisbane. The 3rd Bomber Group leaves Brisbane for Charters Towers.

On Bora Bora, Inshore Patrol Squadron VS-2-D14 begins air operations over the Society Islands.

The US Army Corps of Engineers (with assistance from US and Canadian civilian contractors) begins construction on the Alaskan Highway (ALCAN). Two separate crews set out from each end of the highway and plan to meet somewhere in the middle. The highway is completed by November 1942 and dedicated on 20 November 1942.

Carmen Miranda, 8 March 1942
Carmen Miranda is on the cover of the 8 March 1942 Cine Radio Actualidad Magazine [Uruguay].
American Homefront: There are practice blackouts in New England. For instance, the Draper Corporation plant in Hopedale, Massachusetts, has its first blackout.

José Raúl Capablanca passes away in New York City from complications of hypertension at the age of 53. Capablanca, ultimately buried in his native Havana, Cuba, is widely considered one of the truly great chess players and consistently either was the World Chess Champion or a serious contender for that title. Many of his books about chess are considered classics.

Richard Anthony Allen is born in Wampum, Pennsylvania. He goes on to a stellar career in professional baseball, becoming a seven-time All-Star for the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox.

Penny Singleton, 8 March 1942
Actress Penny Singleton graces the cover of Sunday News magazine on 8 March 1942.

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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