Sunday, August 9, 2020

April 3, 1942: Japanese Attack in Bataan

Friday 3 April 1942

General Erwin Rommel on 3 April 1942
German General Erwin Rommel makes a surprise visit to the most advanced Afrika Korps base 89.6 km north of Tobruk on the North Africa front, 3 April 1942 (Koeth, Cord, Federal Archive Image 101I-441-1390-17).
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese of General Homma's 14th Imperial Army begins a massive preparatory bombardment of Allied forces along the Orion-Bagac Lineon defensive line on the Bataan Peninsula at 09:00 on 3 April 1942. The barrage is centered on Mount Samat, which is the center of the Allied line and the point where US Army I and II Corps meet. The Japanese 4th Division and 65th Brigade also attack in this area on the left flank of US II Corps, which is manned by two Filipino Divisions (21st and 41st). The Japanese quickly gain ground in a rough landscape and plan on capturing the entire peninsula in one week. Japanese attacks in the I Corps (western) portion of the line gain little ground. After dark, the US forces launch a counterattack that regains some ground.

Concerned about Japanese use of the French Frigate Shoals as staging areas for flying boat attacks on Hawaii (as were attempted twice in March), the US Navy mines the area. Light minelayers USS Pruitt, Preble, Sicard, and Tracy lay the mines. The US also will station a destroyer permanently there.
Wilson NC Daily Times, 3 April 1942
The Wilson (North Carolina) Daily News, 3 April 1942. The main headline is, "Grave Reverses Mark Allied Burma Defense."
Battle of the Indian Ocean: Japanese bombers attack Mandalay, Burma, with devastating results on 3 April 1942. While they have attacked the city previously, the Japanese are helped this time by weather conditions that create a firestorm (firestorms require certain meteorological factors and are not just the product of dropping a lot of bombs). Incendiary bombs destroy about 60% of the wooden structures in the city and kill about 2000 people. The effects are magnified by the "lucky" destruction of city firefighting equipment in the raid. Bodies lie in the street for days. Ironically, the fort which is a centerpiece of the city is largely untouched.

Admiral Nagumo, in command of the powerful Kido Butai Japanese naval force that attacked Pearl Harbor, continues sailing into the Indian Ocean in accordance with the plans for Operation C. This operation, better known as the Indian Ocean Raid, aims to draw out the British Eastern Fleet for destruction by threatening Ceylon (Sri Lanka). British Admiral Sir James Somerville knows roughly what he is facing due to naval intelligence and has divided his force into two groups, A and B, based on speed. As the inferior force, the British are avoiding combat by day and have withdrawn to a point 600 miles (970 km) southwest of Ceylon to refuel. Nagumo is sailing toward a point roughly halfway between Somerville's forces and Ceylon. Both sides are unaware of the other's position.
HIJMS I-7 in a pre-war photo
Japanese submarine HIJMS I-7 in 1937 (colorized by Irootoko Jr.).
Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-7 (lT. Cdr Koizumi) torpedoes and sinks 9415-ton British refrigerated freighter Glenshiel about 300 miles east of the Maldive Islands. The ship sinks slowly, so Koizumi must use a total of four torpedoes and also shells the ship with his twin 140-mm deck gun. Everyone survives and is rescued by destroyer HMS Fortune.

In Burma, British Burma I Corps continues a withdrawal northward from the Allanmyo region. In the Sittang Valley, the Chinese prepare to make a stand at Pyinmana. Chinese 22nd and 96th Divisions there are under the control of Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell, Commanding General American Army Forces, China, Burma, and India, though Chinese generals have not been following his orders.

The US Army Air Force sends six 10th Air Force B-17 bombers from Asansol Aerodrome, India, to Rangoon. They bomb warehouses and docks at the cost of one bomber.
Panzerschreck firing
Panzerschreck in action.
Eastern Front: A temporary lull in larger operations continues all along the Eastern Front, but there is still a lot of local fighting. General Seydlitz has regrouped his forces for the relief attempt to the Demyansk Pocket and is ready to resume his attacks on 4 April. Rather than attack through the mud and trees, he will focus on a road further north. On the other side, the Soviets also have regrouped and reinforced their own forces. The Red Air Force has begun harassing attacks of German troops using old biplanes, often manned by women aviators, who cruise slowly at very low altitudes over the German camps at night and drop small bombs. The Germans take to calling these pilots the "Night Witches."

The Wehrmacht in the Demyansk area has begun using a new weapon, the Panzerschrek, on an experimental basis. This weapon is similar to a US Army bazooka and fires a hollow-point grenade that, when on target, can destroy a T-34 tank (the Panzerschreck is similar to but different than the later Panzerfaust). Today, Seydlitz reports that using the weapon requires nerve "and a generous endowment of luck" because the weapon's range is only 50 yards. Secret German hollow-charge shells (Rotkopf), meanwhile, are proving ineffective in the heavily wooded region because the shells tend to explode when they hit a branch en route to their targets.

European Air Operations: There is little activity on the Channel Front today. This lull follows a heavy bombing schedule for RAF Bomber Command over the past couple of weeks.
US freighter David H. Atwater, sunk 3 April 1942
US freighter David H. Atwater, sunk on 3 April 1942 (Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Bowling Green State University).
Battle of the Atlantic: At 03:40, U-552 (Kptlt. Erich Topp), on its eighth patrol out of St. Nazaire, surfaces and begins firing with its deck gun at 2438-ton US freighter David H. Atwater about ten miles east of Chincoteague Inlet, Virginia. The U-boat fires 93 shots and hits the vessel with about 50 of them. This sets the ship on fire and the crew is unable to abandon ship in an orderly fashion, instead simply leaping into the water. There are 24 deaths and only 3 survivors who manage to swim to an empty lifeboat. The use of a deck gun alone to sink a freighter is not unheard of, but it is unusual and shows that Captain Topp is trying to be efficient and conserving his torpedoes to prolong his patrol. USCGC Legare (WPC 144) and USCGC CG-218 arrive on the scene quickly and pick up the survivors. Some accounts state that this incident occurred late on 2 April 1942.

U-754 (Kptlt. Hans Oestermann), on its second patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and sinks 4839-ton US freighter Otho about 200 miles east of Cape Henry, Virginia. There are 32 dead and 21 survivors. Some of the survivors are not picked up until 25 April after drifting to within 150 miles of Bermuda, and one man dies an hour after being rescued.

U-505 (Kptlt. Axel-Olaf Loewe), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5775-ton US freighter West Irmo about 300 miles southwest of Takoradi (Sekondi-Takoradi), Ghana. There are 10 dead and 99 survivors. All of the dead are African stevedores who were sitting on a hatch that blew up when the torpedo hit. An attempt is made to tow the sinking West Irmo on 4 April, but this is unsuccessful and the ship is then intentionally sunk.

U-155 (Kptlt. Adolf Cornelius Piening), on its first patrol out of Kiel, hits 6882-ton US tanker Gulfstate with two torpedoes about 50 miles southeast of Marathon Key, Florida. The tanker immediately bursts into flame and sinks in four minutes, and the crew is unable to launch lifeboats. There are 43 dead and 18 survivors, with the survivors being picked up within hours by a Coast Guard seaplane and USS YP-351.

U-702 (Kptlt. Wolf-Rüdiger von Rabenau), on its first patrol out of Helgoland, is lost to a mine on or about this date. There are no survivors. U-702 finishes its career with no victories.

German raider Thor
German raider Thor (HSK 4), as it would have been seen by the crew of one of its victims such as Norwegian freighter Aust on 3 April 1942.
German raider Thor, operating in the South Atlantic, uses its floatplane and deck gun to stop 5630-ton Norwegian freighter Aust. The ship is sunk with placed charges after the Germans take the entire crew as prisoners.

Luftwaffe aircraft bomb and damage/sink 6854-ton British freighter Empire Starlight at its dock in Murmansk (the date of its "sinking" is disputed). The Empire Starlight was part of Convoy PQ 13. The Soviets later raise the Empire Starlight in 1945 and rename it Murmansk.

The Luftwaffe also bombs and sinks British freighter New Westminster City from Convoy PQ-13 at Murmansk. This vessel also is later raised. In the same attack, the Luftwaffe severely damages Polish freighter Tobruk. It is later repaired and returned to service in September 1942.

British freighter Gypsum Prince sinks after colliding with fellow British freighter Voco about four miles off Lewes, Delaware. There are 20 survivors and five dead.

The youngest British seamen on 3 April 1942
"George Thomas the 16-year-old anti-aircraft gunner." Onboard freighter SS Empire Airman, Liverpool, England, 3 April 1942 (© IWM A 8110).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Italian coaster Antonio Landi hits a mine and sinks off Punta Platamoni, near Kotor, Montenegro. There is one death.

Perpetual air raids continue all across Malta on 3 April 1942 as Luftwaffe General Kesselring attempts to subdue the island. Unexploded bombs are becoming a major problem for Malta. It is very hazardous work and many officers lose their lives doing it. 

Battle of the Black Sea: Soviet destroyer Shaumian sinks of unknown causes at Rybachka-Gelendshik in the Black Sea. The vessel is later scrapped.

US Military: Admiral Chester W. Nimitz officially takes command of Pacific Ocean Areas (POA). The Southeast Pacific Area, currently a backwater used mainly as a supply route to Australia, remains under the command of Rear Admiral John F Shafroth. General Douglas MacArthur is the commander of the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).

The 21st and 22d Transport Squadrons, Air Transport Command, 5th Air Force, are activated at Archerfield (near Brisbane)) and Essendon (near Melbourne) Airdromes, Australia, respectively. The 39th Pursuit Group of 39th Pursuit Squadron transfers from Mount Gambier to Williamstown, Australia.
Short Snorter 3 April 1942
A "Short Snorter" dated 3 April 1942. This is a banknote signed by fellow travelers on an airplane. Each of the men signing it would have had their own bill. These were considered a good luck practice and memorialized a temporary bond (Collectors Weekly).
American Homefront: "The Jungle Book," an independent production largely created by the Korda family (Zoltan, Alexander, and Vincent) based on the book by Rudyard Kipling, is released by United Artists. Starring Sabu as Mowgli, the film earns the studio $1.3 million in rentals and becomes a big hit for UA. After the war, "The Jungle Book" is released or released in European countries such as France and the United Kingdom and becomes a hit once again. 

Future History: Carson Wayne Newton is born in Norfolk, Virginia. Carson learns to play the piano, guitar, and steel guitar at an early age and begins singing in supper clubs with his older brother, Jerry. The act begins getting bookings on local television shows and in 1958 it is spotted on one of them by a Las Vegas booking agent. The agent signs the brother act and they wind up performing six shows daily in Vegas for the next five years. This leads to television show appearances and other opportunities. In 1963, billed as Wayne Newton, Carson is signed by Capitol Records as a solo act and has a Top 40 hit with 'Danke Schoen." This leads to a spectacular career in showbusiness for the man who becomes known as "Mr. Las Vegas." As of 2020, Wayne Newton remains active in show business.

Marsha Mason is born in St. Louis, Missouri. She becomes an accomplished actress who is nominated for four Academy Awards in the 1970s and 1980s. She also is well-known for marrying playwright Neil Simon, who gives her some of her best roles and writes three of her Oscar-nominated parts. As of 2020, Marsha Mason remains active on television.
Munster, Indiana, Daily times, 3 April 1942
A page of apparently random news photos from the Munster, Indiana, Times, 3 April 1942.

April 1942

April 1, 1942: Convoys Come to the USA 
April 2, 1942: Doolittle Raiders Leave Port
April 3, 1942: Japanese Attack in Bataan
April 4, 1942: Luftwaffe Attacks Kronstadt
April 5, 1942: Japanese Easter Sunday Raid on Ceylon
April 6, 1942: Japanese Devastation In Bay of Bengal
April 7, 1942: Valletta, Malta, Destroyed
April 8, 1942: US Bataan Defenses Collapse
April 9, 1942: US Defeat in Bataan
April 10, 1942: The Bataan Death March
April 11, 1942: The Sea War Heats Up
April 12, 1942: Essen Raids Conclude Dismally
April 13, 1942: Convoy QP-10 Destruction
April 14, 1942: Demyansk Breakout Attempt
April 15, 1942: Sobibor Extermination Camp Opens
April 16, 1942: Oil Field Ablaze in Burma
April 17, 1942: The Disastrous Augsburg Raid
April 18, 1942: The Doolittle Raid bombs Japan
April 19, 1942: British in Burma Escape
April 20, 1942: The Operation Calendar Disaster
April 21, 1942: Germans Relieve Demyansk


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