Thursday, April 15, 2021

May 8, 1942: Lexington Sunk in the Coral Sea

Friday 8 May 1942

USS Lexington on fire and sinking, 8 May 1942
"A mushroom cloud rises after a heavy explosion on board the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), 8 May 1942. This is probably the great explosion from the detonation of torpedo warheads stowed in the starboard side of the hangar, aft, that followed an explosion amidships at 1727 hrs. Note USS Yorktown (CV-5) on the horizon in the left center, and destroyer USS Hammann (DD-412) at the extreme left." Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-16651.
Battle of the Pacific: The Battle of the Coral Sea ends on 8 May 1942 with a classic tactical victory but strategic defeat for the Japanese. The Japanese Navy inflicts more damage on the Allies, but the Allies prevent it from accomplishing its main objectives and, by so doing, completely alter the course of the Battle of the Pacific.

Japanese Rear Admiral Chūichi Hara, on Zuikaku, is in tactical command of the carrier air forces aboard that ship and Shōkaku. He knows the US carrier force known to be nearby must be eliminated for the invasion of Port Moresby, which has been halted, to proceed. With his force about 100 nautical miles (120 miles, 190 km) east of Rossel Island, Hara sends out search planes at first light to locate the enemy force. About twenty minutes later, Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher does the same. A USS Lexington pilot is the first to spot the enemy's position, quickly followed by a Shōkaku search plane sighting US Task Force 17. After the violent maneuvers of 7 May, the two opposing carrier forces are about 210 nautical miles (240 miles, 390 km) apart - close enough to attack.

The Japanese get their planes aloft by 09:15, and the Americans by 09:25. The carrier groups both head for each other's position at flank speed. The stage is set for a decisive carrier battle.
US Navy fighters taking off
The USS Yorktown's dive bombers (William O. Burch) reach their target first, at 10:32, but pause to await lagging formations to catch up before launching a coordinated attack. The Japanese have 16 Zero fighters patrolling over the two carriers, which are about 10,000 yards (9100 meters) apart. The weather is mixed, with low-hanging clouds and rain squalls. The attack begins at 10:57 and quickly scores two 1,000 lb (450 kg) hits on Shōkaku. Each side loses two planes.

Lexington's dive bombers attack next, at 11:30. They hit the Shōkaku with another 1000 lb bomb but miss the Zuikaku. The Japanese shoot down three Grumman F4F Wildcats without loss. Takatsugu Jōjima, the Shōkaku's captain, then withdraws his battered ship at 12:10 to the northeast.

While the attack on the Japanese carriers is in progress, Task Force 17 detects the incoming Japanese bombers on their CXAM-1 radar. A Close Air Patrol of six Wildcats is sent up, but it stations itself too low, completely missing the Japanese planes above. Some Yorktown SBDs, however, have better luck. The commander of the torpedo planes, Lieutenant Commander Shigekazu Shimazaki, directs 14 to attack Lexington and four to target Yorktown. The Japanese lose three planes to the SBDs and another to the Wildcats at a cost of four SBDs to the bombers' Zero escorts.
USS Lexington on fire and sinking, 8 May 1942
" Japanese Type 97 Shipboard Attack Plane (Kate torpedo bomber) is hit by anti-aircraft fire during attacks on the U.S. aircraft carriers, late in the morning of 8 May 1942." Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-16638.
The Japanese torpedo attack begins at 11:13 against the two US carriers, which are stationed about 3000 yards (2700 meters) apart. While no hits are scored on Yorktown, it is a much different story regarding Lexington.  Coming in from both sides, the torpedo bombers get their first hit at 11:20, which punctures the port aviation gasoline stowage tanks and releases gasoline vapors. A second hit soon after destroys the port water main, forcing the three forward boilers to be shut down. The Japanese lose an additional four torpedo planes during this attack.

A few minutes after the torpedo planes attack, the Japanese dive bombers begin their attacks from 14,000 feet, with 19 aiming for Lexington and 14 diving on Yorktown. They score two hits on Lexington, starting numerous fires, and one on Yorktown. The hit on Yorktown is particularly damaging, causing 66 casualties and putting the superheater boilers out of action. A dozen near-misses also deform Yorktown's hull. The Japanese lose two dive bombers during this attack.

The Japanese dive bombers largely escaped the defending fighters during the attack, but once they are at sea level wild air battles ensue. The US loses three Wildcats and three SBDs, while the Japanese lose three torpedo bombers, a dive bomber, and a Zero. After this, the planes from both sides turn toward their own carriers at around 12:00.

Lexington and Yorktown, despite both receiving heavy damage, both remain operational. However, the plane recovery process goes poorly and they lose an additional five SBDs, two TBDs, and a Wildcat. The Japanese on Zuikaku suffer similar issues and lose five dive bombers, two Zeros, and a torpedo plane. Due to damage and lack of deck space due to the damage to the inability of Shōkaku to recover its planes, the Japanese push five recovered torpedo planes, four dive bombers, and three additional Zeros overboard.
USS Lexington on fire and sinking, 8 May 1942
"USS Lexington (CV-2) under Japanese dive bomber attack, shortly before Noon on 8 May 1942, during the Battle of the Coral Sea." Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-19100.
At 14:22, Fletcher decides that he has had enough and withdraws. Hara reports to Takagi that he has lost all but a dozen of his bombers, and Takagi, worried about his fuel situation, withdraws at 15:00.

Attention now shifts in both fleets from offensive operations to saving their own damaged ships. At first, it appears that Lexington can handle her multiple hits. The crew puts out the worst fires and she becomes operational again. However, at 12:47, sparks from electric motors ignite the gasoline vapors released from the first torpedo strike, causing a huge explosion that kills 25 men. There is another explosion at 14:42, and a third at 15:25. At 15:38, the fires are out of control and the crew realizes the situation is hopeless. Captain Frederick C. Sherman orders the crew to abandon the ship, and at 19:15 escorting destroyer Phelps pumps five torpedoes into the flaming hulk of "Lady Lex." It sinks at 19:52, with 216 deaths from the 2951-man crew. It also takes 36 aircraft with it.

On the Japanese side, Takagi sends Zuikaku with her escorts to Rabaul, while the badly damaged Shōkaku heads for Japan. The Port Moresby invasion remains off, though Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is still determined to continue when the time is right. The Japanese have sunk a US fleet carrier, a destroyer, and an oiler, along with the destruction of dozens of US planes, while the Americans have sunk only a Japanese light carrier. This is a close but clear Japanese tactical victory. But the Allies' ability to prevent the invasion of Port Moresby and blunt the Japanese military's heretofore unchecked advance south represents a much more important and lasting strategic victory. The Battle of the Coral Sea also is renowned as the first sea battle where no ship sights an enemy ship or fires at one.

US Navy submarine USS Skipjack torpedoes and sinks 4804-ton Japanese freighter Bujun Maru in the South China Sea.

USS Navy submarine USS Grenadier torpedoes and sinks 14503-ton Japanese naval transport Taiyo Maru 92 nautical miles (170 km) southwest of Me Shima, Nannyo Gunto, Kyushu, Japan. There are 816 deaths and 15 survivors, who are picked up by several nearby ships and a fishing vessel.
USS Lexington on fire and sinking, 8 May 1942
"Battle of the Coral Sea, May 1942. Abandoning of USS Lexington (CV-2) following the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942. Small explosions amid-ship is visible." Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-16637.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: An attempted mutiny in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands by Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) troops against the British fails. As illustrated by the final words of one of the mutineers - "Loyalty to a country under the heel of a white man is disloyalty" - there are elements of nationalism and racism to the uprising.

The mutineers, 30 men of the Ceylon Garrison Artillery on Horsburgh Island, attempt to arrest their commanding officers and turn the islands over to the Empire of Japan. The mutiny fails because the mutineers turn out to be completely incompetent soldiers who have difficulty firing their guns accurately, though they kill one loyal (Indian) British soldier and wound an officer. Once the mutiny is put down, three mutineers are executed and four others imprisoned for life. While completely unsuccessful, the Cocos Islands Mutiny provides fodder for anti-British agitation throughout the region, particularly in Sri Lanka.

Operation Ironclad, the British invasion of Madagascar, ended in a British victory on 7 May 1942, but the Vichy French retain some powerful but scattered assets. One of those assets, submarine Monge, launches an attack on Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable but misses. Two escorting destroyers, Active and Panther, leap into action and sink the French submarine (all 69 crew perish). All other undefeated Vichy French forces withdraw to the south, where they are annoying but pose no real threat to the British occupation. Italian freighters 2315-ton Duca Degli Abruzzi and 2669-ton Somalia are scuttled at Diego-Suarez.

Japanese troops driving north from Bhamo enter Myitkyina, Burma, which the British evacuated on 7 May. The Allied forces in northern Burma withdraw into China or India via the Hukawng Valley to the east and north of the city, depending on their preference. The retreating Allied forces do a good job of destroying the area's numerous bridges, which slows down any Japanese pursuit toward Sumprabum.

The 1st Burma Infantry Brigade leaves the 1st Burma Infantry Division and heads to India. It leaves Tigyaing on the Irrawaddy River today and heads west to the road junction at Indaw. The objective is to go to Pantha on the Chindwin River, cross it, and head west to India. This path involves difficult cross-country travel but it is the shortest route and free of enemy troops who are not far to the north on the Irrawaddy at Myitkyina.
USS Lexington survivors being rescued, 8 May 1942
"Survivors of USS Lexington (CV-2) are pulled aboard a cruiser (probably USS Minneapolis) after the carrier was abandoned during the afternoon of 8 May 1942. Note man in the lower part of the photo who is using the cruiser's armor belt as a hand hold." Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-7392.
Eastern Front: General Franz Halder sums up the day with the brief entry, "Kerch offensive has opened with good initial successes. Rest of the front quiet."

At 04:15, General Erich von Manstein opens Operation Trappenjagd on the Crimean peninsula. The objective is to clear the eastern Kerch peninsula of Red Army troops so that the German 11th Army can concentrate all of its assets to subdue the Soviet pocket at the western port of Sevastopol.

Manstein has promised that the offensive will have "concentrated air support the like of which has never been seen." He describes his plan as a ground attack that will have its main strength in the air. The planes would "pull the infantry forward" because Luftwaffe General Wolfram von Richtofen has the strength of an entire air fleet - which usually accompanies an entire army group - to support the advance.

The attack opens with massive Luftwaffe VIII Air Corps raids on Soviet airfields and communications. Soviet 44th Army, holding the southern section of the Parpach Narrows front, loses touch with its headquarters, while the commander of 51st Army, holding the northern half of the front, is killed. The Germans mount 2100 sorties during the day, shooting down 57 of 401 Soviet aircraft and destroying their airfields.
Manstein at the front in Crimea ca. 8 May 1942
General Manstein directs the attack on the Kerch peninsula from his command truck ca. 8 May 1942 (Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe 2-768).
When Manstein launches his ground attack after a quick 10-minute artillery barrage, the stunned Red Army defenders in the south quickly give way despite outnumbering the Axis units (19 Soviet divisions and four armored brigades to five German divisions, 2 1/2 Romanian divisions, and the 22nd Panzer Division). A German seaborne invasion by the 902nd Assault Boat Command of the 436th Regiment, 132nd German Infantry Division, lands behind the Soviets and helps to pierce the defensive line. The 28th Light Division and 132nd ID advance six miles by nightfall, a massive distance when previous gains have been measured in meters. General of Artillery Maximilian Fretter-Pico, commander of the 30th Corps, asks for and receives the 22nd Panzer Division to exploit the breakthrough. He also brings forward his only reserve, the Grodeck Brigade composed of a Romanian motorized regiment and two German truck-mounted infantry battalions.
Lord Gort inspects bomb damage in Malta on 8 May 1942
Lord Gort, the new Governor of Malta, and Vice Admiral Leatham inspect the dockyard area, 8 May 1942 © IWM A 8767.
European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe ends a four-day lull in operations with a Baedeker Blitz attack on Norwich. While 70 bombers participate, the raid causes little additional damage to the city, which the Germans previously attacked on the night of 27/28 April 1942.

After a daylight mission to Dieppe by 6 Boston bombers without loss, the night's mission is to Warnemünde, Germany. The 193 bombers make a "moderately successful" attack and lose 19 aircraft for a very poor 10% loss rate.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-564 (Kptlt. Reinhard Suhren), on its fifth patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and sinks 6078-ton US Design 1015 freighter Ohioan ten miles (19 km) off Boynton Beach, Florida. There are 15 deaths and 22 survivors, who are rescued by US Coast Coast Guard ships.

U-507 (KrvKpt. Harro Schacht), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 2424-ton Norwegian freighter Torny in the Gulf of Mexico west of Tampa, Florida. There are two deaths and 24 survivors, who are rescued by US Navy seaplanes.

U-136 (Kptlt. Heinrich Zimmermann), on its second patrol out of St. Nazaire, spots the 325-ton three-masted Canadian schooner Mildred Pauline off the coast of Nova Scotia. It surfaces and shells the ship, sinking it. All seven crewmen perish.
HMS Olympus, sunk on 8 May 1942
HMS Olympus, sunk on 8 May 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Olympus (LtCdr H.G. Dymott) hits a mine and sinks while leaving Grand Harbour, Malta. It is carrying survivors from submarine Pandora, P.36, and P.39. There are 89 deaths and only nine survivors - three from Olympus and six from P.39 - who manage to swim ashore.

German/Spanish Relations: The German military attache to Madrid, Colonel Krabbe, tells General Halder that "Spain is manifestly racked by economic and political strains. Likelihood of British invasion." Things actually are not quite that bad in Spain, and the British have no intention of invading. However, Spanish leader Francisco Franco does not mind the Germans thinking that Spain is in bad straits because he does not want to join the Axis.

American Homefront: Warner Bros. releases "In This Our Life," directed by John Huston/Raoul Walsh and starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, and George Brent. It is a classic "women's film" and involves issues of racial discrimination, personal responsibility, and marriage issues. It is based on a popular novel by Ellen Glasgow that dealt much more sharply with these issues and raised even more disturbing ones, such as incest. Huston is called away by the United States Department of War midway through production and the studio replaces him with Raoul Walsh, which causes problems with the cast, particularly Bette Davis. The film is notorious for its portrayal of African-Americans, though Davis personally finds Ernest Anderson, a waiter at the studio commissary, to play a key role for which he receives much critical praise and which kickstart his acting career. Due to its negative portrayal of African-Americans, the wartime Office of Censorship refuses to certify "In This Our Life" for foreign distribution. Despite all the issues, particularly some wildly diva-ish behavior by Davis, the film makes money.
USS Lexington torpedo damage, 8 May 1942
View on the port side of USS Lexington (CV-2), looking aft and down through torn flight deck life nettings, showing damage from the aftermost of the two torpedo hits received during the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942. This hit was centered at about Frame 85, and blew some of the ship's hull blister plating up and out, as seen at the waterline in this photo. Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-16804.


May 7, 1942: Scratch One Flattop!

Thursday 7 May 1942

Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho burning, 7 May 1942
U.S. Navy planes bomb Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō in the Coral Sea on 7 May 1942. 
Battle of the Pacific: At daybreak on 7 May 1942, Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher decides to split his forces. He sends Australian Rear Admiral John Crace and his Task Force 44 (now redesignated Task Group 17.3), led by Cruisers HMAS Australia, Hobart, and USS Chicago, to block the Jomard Passage. Fletcher knows that the Japanese invasion force would have to traverse this channel to invade Port Moresby. With this "back door" secured, Fletcher feels free to engage the Japanese carrier force.

Fletcher's problem, however, is that he doesn't know where Vice Admiral Takeo Takagi's two fleet carriers, Shōkaku and Zuikaku, are. He sends 10 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers to look for the carriers to the north, but they find nothing. The Japanese, on the other hand, figure the US carriers are to the south. Takagi sends out a dozen Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers and four Kawanishi E7K2 Type 94 floatplanes to find Fletcher's carriers.

Takagi gets good news first when his Kate bombers report, beginning at 07:22, that they have spotted a carrier to the southwest. Seizing the moment, Takagi orders a full-scale attack by 18 Zero fighters, 36 Aichi D3A dive bombers, and 24 Kate torpedo bombers. Altogether, 78 Japanese planes set out at 08:15 to destroy the sighted US carrier. It is an impressive feat of instantaneous reaction and leaping into action with a true warlike spirit.

There's only one problem: the Kate scout planes have misidentified the US oiler Neosho and destroyer Sims for much larger ships. At 8:20, with the attacking planes in the air, Takagi learns from headquarters at Rabaul that another scout, a floatplane from cruiser Kinugasa, has sighted the carriers to the west, not to the southwest.

Takagi thus must reconcile completely contradictory sightings. He decides to believe the first sighting, confirmed by two scout planes, rather than the second sighting by only one plane. He allows the 78 attacking planes led by Lieutenant Commander Kakuichi Takahashi to continue southward rather than turn west.
Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho burning, 7 May 1942
U.S. Navy planes bomb Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō in the Coral Sea on 7 May 1942. Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-17024.
Meanwhile, on the American side, Fletcher receives word from one of Yorktown's SBD pilots, John L. Nielsen, that he has spotted advanced elements of the Japanese Port Moresby Invasion Force to the northwest. Due to errors in Nielsen's coded message, Fletcher concludes that he has located the Japanese carriers, not the invasion transports and escorts. He launches 93 planes - 53 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers, 22 Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers, and 18 Grumman F4F Wildcats. The planes are on their way by 10:13. Fletcher then gets another report of the carriers being 30 nautical miles (35 miles, 56 km) south of Nielsen's sighting, i.e., still to the west but not as much to the north.. Unlike Takagi, Fletcher decides to accept the second report and redirects his attackers.

This all becomes an illustration of the fog of war. Takagi's planes heading south, and Fletcher's planes heading northwest, are all heading in the wrong directions. Though there are targets in those directions, they are not the ones the admirals want to attack at this time. In fact, the Japanese carriers are 300 nautical miles (350 miles, 560 km) east of Fletcher's carriers, and both sides are looking in the wrong directions.

When Takagi's planes reach their destination, all they find is the 7470-ton fleet tanker Neosho and its destroyer escort Sims. Unable to find the desired US carriers (which are far to the northwest), the Japanese pilots basically shrug and decide the targets they do have. This results in the cataclysmic obliteration of the Sims, which breaks in half and sinks immediately (177 dead, 15 survivors), and the Neosho. Not only is the Neosho hit by seven bombs, but one of the dive bombers is hit by anti-aircraft fire and the pilot decides to crash into it. This is an early example of an unplanned kamikaze strike. Due to its watertight, compartmentalized construction, Neosho does not sink right away, but it loses power and is headed for the bottom. Neosho's radio operation, however, is able to get off a quick message to Fletcher that lacks any detail. While the Neosho stays afloat for several days, it is a wreck and is scuttled by USS Henley on 11 May.

At 10:40, Fletcher's planes also sight an unintended target, but it is more appetizing than a tanker and destroyer. It is Shōhō, a light aircraft carrier, not a large fleet carrier. Unfortunately for the Japanese carrier's crew, they only have a light combat air patrol aloft while they prepare other planes for a strike on the US carriers. The US planes score quick hits that disable the carrier, and after that, it is relatively easy to destroy the stationary ship. It sinks at 11:35 just northeast of Misma Island, with 631 deaths and 202 survivors.
Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho burning, 7 May 1942
"Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho under attack by U.S. Navy carrier aircraft in the late morning of 7 May 1942. Photographed from a USS Yorktown (CV 5) torpedo plane. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives." Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-17046.
Lieutenant Commander Robert Ellington Dixon, a Yorktown squadron commander, radios the news in eloquent fashion:

Scratch one flat top.

This prearranged signal (meaning, Dixon was told to send it) becomes a catchphrase for the war in the Pacific. Dixon wins his second Navy Cross for leading his squadron in one of the attacks that sank the Shoto. It pays to go viral during World War II.

After his planes land, Fletcher decides one "flat top" is enough for the day. He adopts a defensive posture for the rest of the day and turns to the southwest, unknowingly heading away from Takagi's carriers.

Takagi, however, thirsts for revenge of the sunken Shōhō. He orders the invasion convoy to withdraw to the north while he finds and defeats the enemy carrier. Instead of the carriers, though, he gets a report at 12:40 of the cruisers that Fletcher has sent to guard the Jomard Passage. Once again, the message suggests that the ships are carriers when they are not. These ships, though, are too far away for Takagi's planes to reach. Instead, he radios the base at Rabaul to attack them. This attack proceeds, but without result. The US cruisers then withdraw to the southeast.
Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho burning, 7 May 1942
 "Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho under attack by U.S. Navy carrier aircraft in the late morning of 7 May 1942. A TBD Devastator is visible in the lower right center, and another plane can be seen in the top center. Photographed from a USS Yorktown (CV 5) torpedo plane. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives." Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-17047.
Takagi sends out one more attack late in the afternoon, once again going on faulty reports about the US carriers' location. By sheer chance, this is close to the actual direction. Fletcher's crew spots the incoming planes on the radar and launches 11 Wildcats to intercept them. The Japanese quickly lose seven torpedo bombers and a dive bomber while the US loses three Wildcats. After the Japanese strike leaders call off the attack, their planes get lost and find the US carriers and, mistaking them for their own carriers, attempt to land. Only 18 of the original 27 planes make it back to the Japanese carriers.

After dark, Fletcher decides to head west, away from the Japanese carriers. Takagi, on the other hand, receives orders to destroy the US carriers on the 8th. Pending that, the Port Moresby invasion is postponed. Takagi then heads north in order to cover the invasion convoy. 

Basically, both sides are determined to destroy the other but all of their actions on 7 May 1942 are a confused mess based on over-aggressiveness, false sitings and reports, and wishful thinking. At times, the main carrier forces are only 70 miles apart but keep searching for their opponents in the wrong directions. It is one of the most confused sequences by both sides of the war.

Japanese submarine I-21 shells and sinks 4641-ton Greek freighter Chloe 20 miles (32 km) west of Nouméa, New Caledonia.
General Wainwright broadcasting surrender, 7 May 1942
General Jonathan M. Wainwright, in captivity, broadcasts over Station KZRH on 7 May 1942 telling all forces in the Philippines to surrender.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The British executing Operation Ironclad decisively crack Vichy French resistance in northern Madagascar. The deadlock at the Vichy French port of Antisarane is broken in the early hours of the morning of 7 May 1942 when British troops swarm into the city. They take the Governor's House around 01:00, though Governor-General Annett is nowhere to be found. By 02:00, Welsh Fusiliers enter the French Defense Headquarters and arrest army commander Colonel Pierre Clarebout and navy commander Paul Maerten. Other men of the Fusiliers link up with Captain Martin Price's marines holding a perimeter at the docks after being landed late on 6 May by destroyer HMS Anthony.

At daybreak, British ground commander Major General Robert Sturges, Royal Marines, enters Antisarane and negotiates a cease-fire with the two French commanders. Clarebout and Maerten also order nearby coastal batteries and Forts Caimans and Bellevue to surrender. Later in the morning, Royal Navy Rear Admiral Edward N. Syfret accepts the surrender of all Vichy forces in Northern Madagascar.

 In other action, RAF Martlets shoot down three French Moranes at the cost of their own, mean 12 Moranes and five Potez 63 fighters have been eliminated out of the 35 aircraft the French began with. Swordfish torpedo bombers attack the 1547-ton French submarine Le Héros and force its crew to abandon ship. After today's events, the British effectively control the sea, the northern part of Madagascar, and the air.
Senegalese prisoners at Diego Suarez, Madagascar, 7 May 1942
French troops, mainly Senegalese, marching into captivity after surrendering to British troops at Diego Suarez on 7 May 1942. © IWM A 8872.
While French Governor-General Annet continues French resistance to the south, Operation Ironclad concludes today as a smashing success. While there will be more fighting, British victory is assured. During the three-day campaign, the British had 105 dead, four missing, and 284 wounded, while the French lost 145 men and 336 wounded.

In Burma, the British evacuate their main base in the north at Myitkyina. Japanese troops advancing up the road from Bhamo and are meeting little opposition. The British are beginning to find making a stand anywhere in Burma is difficult and perhaps impossible. Anyone associated with the Allies is escaping either to India or China. There are many suspension bridges in this area and the retreating soldiers make sure to blow up every suspension bridge to slow the Japanese down. 

Ranging far into the Indian Ocean, Japanese submarine I-30 launches its reconnaissance seaplane and flies over Aden, Yemen.
USS Neosho burning after a Japanese raid, 7 May 1942
US Fleet tanker Neosho on fire after the 7 May 1942 Japanese attack.
Eastern Front: In Crimea, German General Erich von Manstein makes his final dispositions for his offensive to clear the Kerch peninsula of Soviet troops. Operation Trappenjagd ("Bustard Hunt") depends on surprise and heavy Luftwaffe support. The Front is short, heavily defended, and carefully watched, with few opportunities for finesse, so Manstein needs to catch the Red Army off guard. He chooses a swampy area that seems an unlikely place to launch a major offensive. the plan is for infantry to breach the Red Army lines at the swamp and open a breach for the 22nd Panzer Division to blast through. Operation Trappenjagd is scheduled to begin before dawn on 8 May.

General Franz Halder's war diary begins taking a different tone than in recent weeks as the spring thaw ("Rasputitsa") fades and the ground hardens, allowing for more troop movements. The Red Army is beginning to stir in select areas, and Halder notes that these attacks have been "repelled." General Italo Gariboldi, the Italian commander in chief, visits the Fuhrer Headquarters to discuss Italian participation in the projected summer offensive in the south, Case Blau. Mussolini promised Hitler at their recent summit meeting in Salzburg that he would commit troops to the Eastern Front.

Pursuant to Joseph Stalin's order of 6 May, the Red Army officially turns to the defensive today, thus ending the winter offensive that began on 6 December 1941. However, the Soviets are still developing plans for operations that are more in the nature of spoiling attacks than true offensives.
A Spitfire at RAF Hornchurch, 7 May 1942
"This image is part of a sequence of five photographs taken on 7 May 1942 at Hornchurch, and later released by the Ministry of Information to illustrate a typical offensive operation. In the bright spring sunshine, a No 64 Squadron Spitfire VB is readied for another sortie." © IWM CH 5772.
European Air Operations: During the day, RAF Bomber Command sends a dozen Boston bombers to attack Zeebrugge coke ovens and the Ostend power station. All of the planes return.

After dark, the RAF sends 81 bombers from Nos. 3 and 5 Groups for minelaying from Copenhagen to Heligoland. Two bombers, a Hampden and Wellington, are lost. In other operations, five bombers attack the St. Nazaire U-boat pens and a Halifax droops leaflets, all without loss.
USS Sims, sunk on 7 May 1942
USS Sims (DD-409), sunk by Japanese planes on 7 May 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-162 (FrgKpt. Jürgen Wattenberg), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 4271-ton Norwegian freighter Frank Seamans north of Suriname. Everyone on board is picked up by Dutch freighter Koningin Emma.

U-507 (KrvKpt. Harro Schacht), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 3099-ton Honduran freighter Ontario in the Gulf of Mexico south of Pensacola. Everyone on board is rescued by the patrol yacht USS Onyx (PYc-5).

RAF Coastal Command planes bomb and sink 3622-ton Swedish freighter Ruth at Den Helder, North Holland.

Battle of the Mediterranean: At Malta, there is a change of command. Governor and Commander in Chief Sir William Dobbie is replaced by General Lord Gort, who arrives in the evening aboard a Lockheed Lodestar. There is minimal ceremony or celebration as explosions interrupt the change in command. After quickly briefing Lord Gort, General Dobbie gets on the same plane with his wife and daughter and flies away en route to England.

There are scattered air attacks throughout the day. Around sunset, Beaufighters and Hurricanes arrive from Egypt to bolster the defense.
US 82nd Infantry assembled on 7 May 1942
The first assembly of the 82nd Infantry Division at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, 7 May 1942 (Library of Congress 2007664556).
US Military: At Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, the 82nd Infantry Division has its first assembly of the division since its reactivation. World War I hero Sergeant Alvin C. York addresses the assembled men.

New Zealand Homefront: Lockheed 10A Electra ZK-AFE, far off course, crashes into Mount Richmond about 13 miles from Nelson, New Zealand. All five people on board perish.

American Homefront: In her syndicated "My Day" column today, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt complains that recent cuts at the National Youth Administration mean that "No aid is being given to young people going to college or high school." She argues for a "real democratization of education in this country" so that "good students" are not denied entry to professional fields due to lack of funds. Not providing student aid, she warns, will "cost us dear in the future."
RAF pilots relaxing at RAF Hornchurch on 7 May 1942
"Groundcrew from No. 122 Squadron RAF play a game of draughts while waiting for their aircraft to return from an operation over France, Hornchurch, 7 May 1942." © IWM CH 5767.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

May 6, 1942: Corregidor Falls to Japan

Wednesday 6 May 1942

Fall of Corregidor 6 May 1942
Japanese soldiers celebrate their final victory (for now) in the Philippines atop a US coastal defense gun on 6 May 1942 (Naval History and Heritage Command NH 73222).
Battle of the Pacific: At 13:30 local time on 6 May 1942, US Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright surrenders the 10,000 Allied soldiers on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay to the Japanese forces of Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma. The surrender follows a vicious battle throughout the night and the landing of three Japanese tanks at 09:30.

While Wainwright knows that he could hold out longer militarily, his troops are almost out of potable water and he knows there is no hope of relief. It is a difficult decision, but holding out would only lead to more needless deaths and the end result would be the same.

Before he surrenders, Wainwright sends one last radio message to General Franklin Roosevelt. It says, "There is a limit of human endurance, and that point has long been passed." He then orders that remaining gunboats Luzon (later raised and repaired by the Japanese), Oahu, and Quail be scuttled to prevent their falling into enemy hands.  Colonel Samuel L. Howard, commander of the 4th Marine Regiment that conducted the defense, burns the regimental flag as well as the national colors. At about 11:00, Wainwright sends two officers carrying a large white flag out of the entrance to Malinta Tunnel, watched by grinning Japanese soldiers posing for the camera.
Fall of Corregidor 6 May 1942
Surrender of Corregidor, the Philippines, 6 May 1942 (National Archives at College Park 535553).
That afternoon, Wainwright and three aides drive to the Japanese line in a battered Chevrolet staff car. After taking a boat to the mainland, they then are made to wait in a small frame house in the stifling heat for hours until Homma sees them. He and his aides note that Japanese shore artillery is still firing at Corregidor.

General Homma presses Wainwright to order all Allied forces in the Philippines to surrender (the Visayan-Mindanao Force has not surrendered), but Wainwright responds that he only controls troops on Corregidor. After that, Homma gets up to leave and refuses to talk further. The approximately 11,000 Allied troops are sent to various locations after the surrender. The US Army and Navy nurses remain on Corregidor for a few weeks to care for sick patients before being sent to the Santo Tomas prison camp. About 4,000 of the other troops are marched through the streets of Manila to the Fort Santiago and Bilibid Prison camps, with the vast majority of the remainder being sent to other Japanese camps. Wainwright is sent to confinement in Manchuria.

A very few Allied troops become guerilla fighters. In the most unique reaction to the Japanese success, 18 men from gunboat Quail (AM-15) led by their commander, Lt. Cmdr. John H. Morrill, sail a 36-foot motor launch from their ship away from the island (without orders or Wainwright's knowledge). The outcome of that voyage is described below.
General Homma
General Homma speaks fluent English and is broadly sympathetic to the plight of the captured soldiers. However, he does nothing effective to stop atrocities by his own soldiers beyond issuing vague orders (which are ignored) that they should be treated properly. While the victor, Homma has fallen out of favor with his superiors due to the length of time the victory took and his lack of aggressiveness and harshness. Homma soon loses his command and, in 1943, retires (likely involuntarily) from the military entirely.
Fall of Corregidor 6 May 1942
Victorious Japanese soldiers lower the US flag flying over Corregidor, 6 May 1942 (Naval History and Heritage Command NH 73223).
Far to the south of Guadalcanal, Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher combines his Task Force 17 (USS Yorktown) with TF 11 (Lexington) and TF 44. The Japanese carrier force commanded by Vice Admiral Takeo Takagi is slowly steaming south while refueling toward him, but Fletcher is unaware of this and also spends time refueling. At 10:50, Takagi receives a report from a Kawanishi reconnaissance flying boat that the US fleet is 300 nautical miles (350 miles, 560 km) to the south. He detaches his two fleet carriers, Shōkaku and Zuikaku, to head toward the US fleet in order to attack at first light on the 7th.

Meanwhile, USAAF B-17 bombers based in Australia attack the Japanese Port Moresby invasion convoy throughout the day. However, they have no success, illustrating the difficulties level bombers have in hitting moving warships. Late in the day, the Japanese seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru sets up a seaplane base in the Deboyne Islands to provide air support for the invasion.

At 18:00, informed of the location of the Japanese invasion forces (but not the carriers) by General MacArthur, Fletcher completes his refueling and heads northwest. This closes the gap between the two carrier forces to 70 nautical miles (130 km) as darkness falls. The stage is set for a major battle on 7 May if the two sides discover each other's position.
Fall of Corregidor 6 May 1942
General Homma, right, dictates terms to General Wainwright, left.
At Tulagi, the new Japanese occupants put into operation their seaplane base. Nearby in the Florida Islands, 264-ton minesweeper Tama Maru, damaged during the 4 May US Navy air attacks, finally sinks. There are four dead and seven wounded.

RAAF PBY Catalina A24-20 is shot down while on a daylight reconnaissance mission east of its Port Moresby Seaplane Base over the Coral Sea. The crew had just reported spotting two Japanese destroyers (likely of the Operation Mo invasion force) when contact was lost. The crew later is declared dead, but pilot Geoff E. Hemsworth is known to have been taken as a prisoner. However, nothing more is known about his fate and likely the Japanese execute Hemsworth on some unknown date. The crew is memorialized at the Port Moresby Memorial.

In the East China Sea northeast of Keelung, Formosa (Taiwan), US Navy submarine USS Triton torpedoes and sinks 5664-ton Japanese freighter Taigen Maru (alternately Taiei Maru). There are 31 dead.

US Navy submarine Skipjack (SS-184) torpedoes and sinks 2567-ton Japanese freighter Kanan Maru 26 miles northeast of Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina (Vietnam).

Japanese forces sink 58-ton US freighter Laida 30 nautical miles (56 km, 35 miles) northeast of Port Moller, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands. The Japanese have designs on the Aleutians and are scouting it for their upcoming invasion.
Portsmouth Times, Fall of Corregidor 6 May 1942
The fall of Corregidor is worldwide headline news, as in the 6 May 1942 Portsmouth, Ohio, Times.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The British invasion of Madagascar (Operation Ironclad) continues on 6 May 1942 against erratic Vichy French resistance. While the initial lodgement phase and capture of the port of Diego-Suarez happened quickly on 5 May, the next British objective, the French naval base at Antisarane, proves much more troublesome. The port is defended by trenches, two redoubts, pillboxes, and flanked on both sides by impenetrable swamps. The British also have had to march 21 miles to reach it and are far from their supplies.

The British, though, have several advantages. These include air and sea superiority and a dozen tanks. French 1969-ton aviso (sloop) D'Entrecasteaux temporarily escapes to open water because its draft is so shallow that torpedoes pass under it, but the ship is tracked down and heavily damaged by British naval and air power. The ship is beached with the loss of 16 crewmen.

Lt. Colonel Michael West, commander of the South Lancashires' 2nd Battalion, sets out at 02:00 to flank the French defenses at Antisarane. However, the swamps prove impenetrable. They have some successes but are eventually forced to withdraw after losing communication with the other units. At 05:00 the RAF bombs the French defenses, and the frontal assault begins at 05:30. It fails due to accurate French 75mm artillery and machinegun fire, leaving the British force scattered and demoralized. 
Admiral Syfret on Madagascar, 6 May 1942
Rear Admiral (later Admiral/Sir) Edward Neville Syfret, commander of Royal Navy forces (Force H, Eastern Fleet) at Madagascar, in recently captured Diego-Suarez, ca. 6 May 1942.
The British make a second frontal assault at 20:30, after darkness has fallen. This attack has more success. By 23:00 the British capture the forward line of French trenches that front the "Joffre Line." In conjunction with this attack, the destroyer HMS Anthony makes a daring dash to the Antisarane docks and lands 50 Marines before quickly scampering to safety. The Marines, under Captain Martin Price, enter the town and cause chaos, firing their guns and throwing grenades. Price frees some British prisoners and then withdraws to the docks to form a defensive perimeter for the night. Around midnight, the troops from the frontal assault break into Antirasane as well and capture the French headquarters.

In Burma, Japanese forces based in the recently captured Bhamo regional center, approach the British base at Myitkyina in northern Burma. The British have no intention of holding there and prepare to evacuate to the west.

US Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell, known as "Vinegar Joe," begins his "walkout" from Burma to Assam, India. Accompanying him are the 117 men and women of his staff. The Assam route is used by many other retreating Allied and Chinese troops. Stilwell's case is different than most because he is a senior Allied commander and technically is second-in-command of all Chinese forces under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, though in reality the Chinese generals ignore Stilwell and do what they want.
General Stilwell begins his walkout, 6 May 1942
General Stilwell, right, during his "walkout" from Burma, ca. 6 May 1942 (Ibiblio).
Eastern Front: For months, Joseph Stalin has clung to his belief that his forces on the Kerch peninsula can break through to relieve the Red Army garrison bottled up in Sevastopol to the west. However, today he changes his mind and issues Order No. 170357, which orders all forces to turn to the defensive. Typically for Stalin, he blames the troops in the field for their failure to defeat the enemy and refuses to send reinforcements or allow a withdrawal. However, while the overall gist of the order is to adopt a defensive posture, it also stipulates that the troops first launch local operations to improve their positions. This keeps the Red Army troops from digging in just as General Erich von Manstein, commander of the German 11th Army, is preparing a major assault to breach the Soviet lines.

At Kholm, General Franz Halder notes briefly that the breakthrough to the Kholm pocket is "further improved" and that wounded who have been trapped in the pocket now can be evacuated. Otherwise, he notes, "Remainder of the front very quiet due to the weather and road conditions." Curiously, he makes no mention of Crimea, where Manstein is preparing a major offensive. Manstein, known to be one of Hitler's favorites, has few other fans at Fuhrer headquarters.
Luftwaffe BV 141 reconnaissance plane, 6 May 1942
A Blohm and Voss BV 141 reconnaissance aircraft. Photographed on 6 May 1942 (Federal Archive Image 183-B21073).
European Air Operations: A Luftwaffe intruder bombs and sinks the Fairmile B motor launch HMS ML 160 at Brixton in Greater London.

During the day, the RAF sends 18 Boston bombers to Boulogne (docks), Calais (parachute factory), and Caen (power station). After dark, the target for the third night in a row is Stuttgart. It is another moderately sized attack of 97 bombers (55 Wellingtons, 15 Stirlings, 10 Hampdens, 10 Lancasters, and 7 Halifaxes) with the primary target once again the Robert Bosch factory, which so far has not been touched. This mission also is a failure, and the people of Stuttgart don't see any bombs fall at all. Instead, the Lauffen decoy site once again draws off many bombers, which mistakenly bomb the city of Heilbronn only five miles from the decoy site. Seven people die in Heilbronn and over 150 buildings are destroyed, but Stuttgart suffers no damage.

In subsidiary operations, 19 bombers attack Nantes, there are four Blenheim bombers on Intruder missions (one lost), and 9 bombers drop leaflets.
Empire Buffalo, sunk on 6 May 1942
British freighter Empire Buffalo, sunk by U-125 on 6 May 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-125 (Kptlt. Ulrich Folkers), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 6404-ton British freighter Empire Buffalo west of the Cayman Islands. The freighter was en route from Kingston, Jamaica, to New Orleans, USA. There are 13 deaths and 29 survivors, who are rescued by the US ship Caique. Empire Buffalo escaped the same fate on 18 September 1939 when, as US freighter Eglantine, a U-boat stopped it but then allowed it to proceed.

U-125 also torpedoes and sinks 1946-ton US freighter Green Island about 80 nautical miles (150 km) south of Grand Cayman Island. All 22 crewmen are picked up by British ship Fort Qu'Appelle.

U-507 (KrvKpt. Harro Schacht), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks US freighter Alcoa Puritan in the Gulf of Mexico 15 miles (28 km) off the mouth of the Mississippi River. All 54 people on board are rescued by Coast Guard cutter USCGC Boutwell.

U-108 (KrvKpt. Klaus Scholtz), on its seventh patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 4422-ton Latvian freighter Abgara southeast of Great Inagua Island, the Bahamas. All 34 crewmen reach land in their lifeboats.
Dutch freighter Amazone, sunk on 6 May 1942
Dutch freighter Amazone, sunk by U-333 on 6 May 1942.
U-333 (Kptlt. Peter-Erich Cremer), on its second patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes and sinks 1294-ton Dutch freighter Amazone near Fort Pierce, Florida. There are 14 deaths, while 11 survivors are picked up by US Navy submarine chaser USS PC-484.

U-333 also torpedoes and sinks 7088-ton US tanker Halsey off St. Lucie Inlet, Florida. The 33-man crew takes to the boats and is almost rescued by submarine chaser USS PC-451, but it spots U-333 and embarks on a pursuit. Shortly after they leave, the tanker explodes and breaks in two. The men in the boats ultimately are rescued by local fishing boats.

U-333 also torpedoes and damages 8327-ton US tanker Java Arrow about eight miles off Vero Beach, Florida. The crew abandons ships, but the tanker does not sink. A US Coast Guard officer boards the tanker and determines it can be towed to show, so the master, Sigvard J. Hennichen, and four crewmen board the tanker, which ultimately is towed to Port Everglades and repaired. There are two dead and 45 survivors.

Royal Navy 913-ton armed trawler HMT Senateur Duhamel sinks after colliding near Cape Lookout, North Carolina with auxiliary ship USS Semmes (AG-24). 
DuUSS Quail, sunk on 6 May 1942
The USS Quail, scuttled at Corregidor on 6 May 1942. Several members of her crew refused to surrender to the Japanese and instead rode a motorboat out into the Pacific.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Residents of Malta expect an Axis invasion, and those fears are exacerbated on 6 May 1942 when a naval battle erupts within sight of shore off Grand Harbour. The twenty-minute battle is between a Royal Navy motor launch, ML-130, on its normal patrol, and German E-boats laying mines. The British vessel is blown up, with four deaths and nine men taken prisoner. Otherwise, it is a normal day on Malta during the recent Blitz, with attacks beginning a little before 10:00 and lasting throughout the day. There is some good news at 19:20 when five Hurricanes Mk 2C arrive from Egypt to bolster the defense.

Battle of the Black Sea: Soviet 2782-ton transport Vostok hits a mine and sinks at the entrance to the Kerch Strait. There are ten dead and 47 survivors, who are picked up by an escort.

US Military: The US Army Air Force requisitions all but 200 civilian Douglas DC-3s passenger planes into military service. These will become C-47 Skytrain (or Dakota) military cargo planes, many used to carry supplies to China over "The Hump" by the 10th Air Force.

The US Navy opens a Naval Auxiliary Air Facility, Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii.

The 4th Marine Regiment is captured on Corregidor on 6 May 1942 and is deactivated on 18 June 1942. It is reactivated on 1 February 1944 on Guadalcanal.

The First Battalion of the Fourth Marine Regiment is captured on Corregidor and temporarily ceases to exist. It will be reactivated on 1 February 1944 on Guadalcanal by redesignation of the 1st Raider Battalion, 1st Raider Regiment.
Douglas C-47 Skytrain, sunk on 6 May 1942
A Douglas C-47 Skytrain in flight (USAF).
British Homefront: The first American Red Cross Service Club in the UK opens at Northern Counties Hotel in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

American Homefront: A student at Washington State, Carl Ronning, writes an "open letter" to Governor of Idaho Chase A. Clark. After noting that Clark recently forbade out-of-state Japanese-Americans from enrolling in any state college, Ronning writes:

I am certain, Mr. Governor, that the majority of the people of Moscow [Idaho, location of the state university] and the students of the University do not approve of your actions. I myself am soon slated for the army, but if I thought that I was going to fight to defend any of the actions such as you have committed, I would hang my head in shame.

Of course, it would be difficult for many such students to attend college while they are in internment camps as ordered by President Roosevelt.

Future History: General Wainwright survives the war in Japanese captivity. After being released, he plays a prominent role in the official Japanese surrender ceremony held on the USS Missouri on 2 September 1942. President Harry Truman awards Wainwright the Medal of Honor upon his return to the United States.

General Homma also survives the war. He is tried as a war criminal for the Bataan Death March and other atrocities, found guilty, and is executed by firing squad on 3 April 1946.

Lt. Cmdr. John H. Morrill of USS Quail and his 17 men set out from Corregidor in their motor launch at 10:15 on 6 May, shortly before the surrender. Morrill has prepared adequate supplies for the trip (after all, his scuttled ship no longer needs them), but the outboard engine is old and cranky. They experience engine troubles on their ride out of Manila Bay but make it past the Japanese patrol vessels nearby. The men land in the small village of Digas, where they are welcomed by the local inhabitants and are given the opportunity to fix the engine. Then, after numerous other stops, they finally reach Darwin, Australia (a distance of 3200 km) on 6 June 1942. Without any ceremony, the US Navy then sends the men on new assignments.
The Road to Mandalay Bar in San Francisco on 6 May 1942
The Road to Mandalay Bar in West Portal, San Francisco, 6 May 1942.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

May 5, 1942: British Invade Madagascar

Tuesday 5 May 1942

War at sea 5 May 1942
This photo dated 5 May 1942 shows an unidentified ship being bombed or torpedoed. Perhaps taken by photographer and documentarian Nigel Henderson (Tate Gallery TGA 9211/9/6/3).
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The British 29th Infantry Brigade and No. 5 Commando land on Vichy Madagascar on 5 May 1942. This is Operation Ironclad and is conducted by Force 121. The troops land at Courrier Bay and Ambararata Bay, just west of Diego-Suarez, while a decoy attack is executed to the east.

The landing is covered by aircraft from Royal Navy aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious and Indomitable, with battleship Ramillies providing shore bombardment. Swordfish torpedo bombers quickly sink the French submarine Bévéziers at Diego-Suarez with depth charges (two killed, one wounded). They also sink 4504-ton Vichy armed merchant cruiser Bougainville and scout ship D'Entrecastreax (later raised, repaired, and used by the Free French). The British suffer a loss, too, when corvette Auricula (LtCdr S.L.B. Maybury) strikes a mine in Courrier Bay and eventually sinks (all crewmen survive but with some wounded).

The Vichy commander, Governor General Armand Léon Annet, has about 8,000 troops, about 6,000 of whom are local Malagasy tirailleurs and most of the rest Senegalese. Annet has 1500-3000 of his troops in the vicinity of Diego-Suarez, but they are poorly equipped with eight inadequate coastal batteries and 17 Morane-Saulnier 406 fighters.
HMS Hero, 5 May 1942
It is payday aboard destroyer HMS Hero during its passage from Alexandria, Egypt, to Haifa, Palestine to refit. The men filing past the table receive their pay on the crown of their cap. 5 May 1942 (© IWM A 9123).
The 17th Infantry Brigade quickly seize the coastal batteries and barracks, then turn and take the port of Diego-Suarez. Other troops from the 29th Independent Brigade march 21 miles against light resistance to the naval base at Antisarane. There, they destroy Arrachart airfield and destroy five Morane fighters. They also damage two more Moranes, while also damaging two Potez-63 twin-engine fighters. By the end of the day, the invading British force have taken Diego-Suarez and are in place to attack heavily defended Antisarane.

In Burma, Japanese troops set out from the newly occupied Bhamo and drive toward the British base at Myitkyina. They encounter no organized resistance, though the roads are clogged with civilian refugees and fleeing Allied troops. To the east, some Japanese troops cross the border into China, but they have no intention of invading China from that direction across the Himalayas.
Japanese invasion of Corregidor, 5 May 1942
Japanese troops landing on Corregidor on the evening of 5 May 1942. By this point, the defending Allied troops are already confined to Malinta Tunnel.
Battle of the Pacific: As 5 May dawns, the Japanese troops of the 61st Infantry Regiment, 14th Army, that late on 4 May invaded the last Allied bastion in the Philippines, Corregidor Island, have pinned the island's defenders from the 1st Battalion, Fourth Marine Unit, into Malinta Tunnel. Casualties on both sides are heavy, with the Allies losing about 800 US and Filipino troops and the Japanese about three times as many. The Japanese are having great difficulty crossing the channel and are low on landing craft, so the possibility of a stalemate exists.

However, Allied commander General Jonathan M. Wainwright recognizes the hopelessness of the situation. Among other problems, he only has a few days of potable water left. He orders to be scuttled his remaining vessels: US Navy patrol yacht Fisheries II, yacht Maryann, auxiliary patrol boat Perry, motor torpedo boat Q-111 Luzon (raised and repaired by the Japanese), 529-ton tug USS Vaga, and 688-ton tug USS Genesee scuttled (later salvaged, repaired, and used by the Japanese). Just before noon, Wainwright orders white flags of surrender to be flown and gives the order, "Execute Pontiac," which means surrender. Talks soon begin with victorious Japanese General Masaharu Homma, but General Wainwright does not officially surrender yet. 

On Tulagi, the Japanese garrison continues working on their new seaplane base amidst the devastation caused by Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's three air raids on the 4th. Destroyer Kikuzuki, beached by its crew, is pulled off the Gavutu beach by the tide and sinks in Tulagi Harbor. A total fo 87 Japanese naval personnel perished in the 4 May attacks and 36 landing troops were seriously injured.

Fletcher's tasks Force 17 (USS Yorktown) rendezvouses with TF 11 (Lexington) and TF 44 at 08:16 320 nautical miles (370 miles, 590 km) south of Guadalcanal. As they assemble, four Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters from Yorktown intercept and shoot down a Kawanishi H6K reconnaissance flying boat from the Yokohama Air Group of the 25th Air Flotilla based at the Shortland Islands. The loss of this aircraft alerts the Japanese admirals to the presence of US Naval carriers in the general vicinity.

Admiral Chester Nimitz now informs Fletcher by radio from Hawaii of reliable information obtained from naval intelligence that the Japanese intend to invade Port Moresby on 10 May. Under Operation Mo, Nimitz says, the Japanese intend to join their Carrier Force (Zuikaku and Shōkaku) with the Tulagi Invasion Force at 14:00 on 6 May and then head for Port Moresby. It is very precise information, and Fletcher immediately decides to spend the rest of the day refueling and head for a certain confrontation with the Japanese fleet.

Admiral Takeo Takagi, meanwhile, spends most of 5 May sailing his carrier force south along the east side of the Solomon Islands. He then enters the Coral Sea between Guadalcanal and Rennell Island. He is, of course, sailing in the general direction of the US fleet, though they remain separated by hundreds of miles. A US B-25 sights a Japanese carrier off Bougainville as Takagi is sailing south but the report never makes it to the US Navy.

Japanese submarine I-21 torpedoes and sinks 7176-ton US Liberty ship John Adams off New Caledonia. There are five deaths and 45 survivors.
The Kholm pocket, 5 May 1942
View of the entrance to the Kholm (Cholm) pocket across the Bailey Bridge with a wrecked vehicle in the foreground, ca. 5 May 1942 (Muck, Richard, Federal Archive Image 101I-004-3636-08A).
Eastern Front: Wehrmacht troops reach Kholm at 06:20, relieving the small garrison after a brutal siege lasting months. This caps off a brilliant recovery by the Germans in which they saved the troops at both Demyansk and Kholm by narrow margins. The Army orders special medals to be struck for the two garrisons.

At Fuhrer headquarters in East Prussia, General Franz Halder passes off the relief of the Kholm garrison in one terse sentence, followed by "All quiet on the rest of the front." However, this follows a summary of German casualties from the beginning of Operation Barbarossa through 30 April 1942 that is quite revealing of the true situation on the Eastern Front. The Heer (army) has incurred casualties of 36.49% of the troops, with 9,152 officers and 235,908 others killed and 875 officers and 54,218 others missing. These are unprecedented numbers and unsustainable if the summer offensive fails.

In Crimea, General Erich von Manstein and his 11th Army are preparing his long-planned assault on the Red Army line along the Parpach Narrows to clear the Kerch peninsula (Unternehmen Trappenjagd, or "Bustard Hunt"). The Luftwaffe's IV Fliegerkorps supporting Manstein receives new reinforcements today, including Gruppen of SchG 1 at  Itshki-Grammatikovo. These air units have been replenished back in the Reich over the winter and are in top condition. The intention is to establish such absolute dominance in the air that the Soviet troops will be paralyzed and unable to defend their very strong positions.

Major Siegfried Freytag of Stab II./JG 77 scores his 40th victory, which always is a cause for celebration within the Luftwaffe.
The Kholm pocket, 5 May 1942
German soldier eating amidst the ruins in the Kholm pocket (Muck, Richard, Federal Archives Image 101I-004-3637-35A).
European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe does not make any major raids today. However, the town of Exeter is still struggling with the aftereffects of the raid conducted on the night of 3/4 May. New fire outbreaks continue throughout the day, including at St. Stephens Church on Gandry Street and St. Mary Arches Church. Reinforcements from surrounding areas help to fight the fires.

Following a mission by a dozen Boston bombers of RAF No. 226 Squadron to Zeebrugge coke ovens and an aborted mission to a Lille power station, tonight's mission for RAF Bomber Command again is Stuttgart. This time, 77 bombers (49 Wellingtons, 13 Stirlings, 11 Halifaxes, and 4 Lancasters) attempt to bomb the Robert Bosch factory. This mission goes even worse than yesterday's attack. The RAF loses three Wellingtons and a Stirling while none of the bombs fall in Stuttgart. Many of the bombers are attracted to the Lauffen decoy site and most of the bombs fall harmlessly in the woods. In subsidiary operations, the RAF sends 19 bombers to Nantes, four Blenheims make Intruder missions to Schiphol Airport outside Amsterdam, and ten bombers drop leaflets, all without loss.

RAF Coastal Command planes sink 5843-ton German freighter Konsul Carl Visser at Ålesund, Norway.
US freighter Afoundria, sunk on 5 May 1942
US freighter Afoundria, sunk by U-108 off Haiti on 5 May 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-106 (Kptlt. Hermann Rasch), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 7985-ton Canadian passenger ship Lady Drake 90 nautical miles (170 km) north of Bermuda. There are 12 deaths and 256 survivors, who are rescued by the minesweeper USS Owl. 

U-103 (Kptlt. Werner Winter), on its seventh patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5966-ton British freighter Stanbank in the general vicinity of Bermuda. There are nine deaths and 39 survivors, who are rescued by British freighter Rhexenor.

U-564 (Kptlt. Reinhard Suhren), on its fifth patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and damages 3478-ton US freighter Delisle 15 nautical miles (28 km) from Jupiter Inlet, Florida. There are two deaths and 36 survivors. The crew abandons the ship but reboards her on the 6th. A US Navy tug later tows Delisle to Miami, where the tanker is repaired and returned to service.

U-108 (KrvKpt. Klaus Scholtz), on its seventh patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5010-ton US freighter Afoundria (Master William Arthur Sillars)  about eight miles north of Le Male, Haiti. All 46 people on board survive and are rescued by USS Mulberry (AN 27) and taken to Guantanamo.

In poor weather, 1383-ton Norwegian freighter Magnhild runs aground on Virgin Rocks, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. The ship eventually is written off. All 20 crewmen are rescued by the minesweeper USS Brant.

German 3288-ton minesweeper Sperrbrecher 36 Eider hits a mine and is badly damaged off Heligoland. She makes it back to port but this ends her service.

German 6233-ton tanker Zabern hits a mine and sinks in the Bay of Kiel.
Look magazine of 5 May 1942
Look magazine of 5 May 1942 is full of helpful suggestions on "What We Must Do Now - to Win the War."
Battle of the Mediterranean: At Malta, the government announces a cut in the bread ration to 10 1/2 ounces per person per day. This follows previous cuts in other daily food item rations. The daily air raids begin shortly after noontime and continue into the night.

POWs: At Stanley Internment Camp in Hong Kong, there has been an outbreak of beriberi. Dr. Percy Selwyn-Clarke adds a weekly dose of thiamin to the internees' soup. This later is changed to a daily dose of 3 milligrams. This prescription ends the epidemic by August 1942.

Holocaust: The German government will no longer report concentration camp deaths to next of kin.

American Homefront: The Los Angeles Times wins a Pulitzer Prize for 1941 due to five editorials it ran supporting the right of publications such as the Times to comment on notable court cases. Also on 5 May, the court case brought against it to squelch these editorials that went to the United States Supreme Court also ends in its favor.

Future History: Virginia Wynette Pugh is born in Tremont, Mississippi. From a poor background, she sings on the Country Boy Eddie show on a local Birmingham, Alabama, television station in 1965 and gets some attention. After moving to Nashville, she wins a recording contract from producer Billy Sherrill of Epic Records, who induces her to adopt the stage name Tammy Wynette (her legal name only changes with her marriages). Her first single makes the Country charts at No. 44 and her second rises to number three, leading to a string of successes. Her biggest hit is "Stand By Your Man" in 1968, a somewhat ironic tune considering that she had left her husband to pursue her recording career. After that, Tammy Wynette's singing career is assured. She goes on to become recognized as the "First Lady of Country Music." Tammy Wynette passes away on 6 April 1998 in Nashville.
WACs in a Jeep, 5 May 1942
The original photo taken on 5 May 1942 in Florida of eleven WACs in a US Army Willys Jeep. This photo was later used in a well-known ad campaign (US Army).