Friday, September 25, 2020

April 18, 1942: The Doolittle Raid Bombs Japan

Saturday 18 April 1942

USS Hornet launching Doolittle raiders, 18 April 1942
"A B 25 bomber of the US Army Air Force, piloted by Lieutenant Colonel James H Doolittle, takes off from USS HORNET, bound for a raid on Tokyo and other Japanese military centers on 18 April 1942." © IWM NY 7343.
Battle of the Pacific: Lieutenant-Colonel James H. Doolittle launches his Doolittle Raid on Tokyo on 18 April 1942. While successful in many respects, it does not go exactly as planned. The day is rainy and overcast, with thirty-foot swells and repeated rain squalls.
At 03:00, the USS Enterprise radar operators spot two Japanese picket ships about 11 miles ahead. Admiral "Bull" Halsey sounds general quarters and takes evasive action, which avoids contact for the moment. At 05:58, an Enterprise scout plane spots another patrol boat about 40 miles ahead and flies back to drop this sighting on the Enterprise's deck in a canvas bag in order to maintain radio silence. Halsey again changes course, and again this avoids contact.

At 07:48, a Japanese picket boat (Patrol Boat No. 25, the Nitto Maru) suddenly appears off within sight of aircraft carrier Hornet about ten miles away. US Navy cruiser Nashville opens fire with six-inch guns and Enterprise dive-bombers quickly join in. They sink the Nitto Maru at 08:23, but the Japanese crew has alerted the Fifth Fleet that it has spotted "three enemy carriers." Radio operators on the Enterprise pick up these transmissions and know they have lost the element of surprise. SBD Dauntless and F4F Wildcat planes from the Enterprise also sink patrol boats Iwata Maru No. 1, Nagato Maru, and Nanshin Maru No. 26, with some of their crew rescued by I-74.
Doolittle raiders, 18 April 1942
A B-25B bomber taking off from USS Hornet on its way to Japan, 18 April 1942.
Even though the ships are still about 700 miles east of Japan, Admiral Halsey sends the "go" signal to Doolittle on the Hornet:
launch planes x to colonel doolittle and gallant command x good luck and god bless you.
The pilots know they are too far away from Japan to make it to Chinese bases, as the plan was to close to within 400 miles. At 08:15, Doolittle takes off with the first B-25, barely clearing the waves by yards. The 15 other bombers soon follow, and Halsey quickly orders the task force to reverse course back to Hawaii.

At 09:45, a Japanese patrol plane spots the bombers and alerts Tokyo. However, Japanese naval intelligence believes it is impossible for twin-engined bombers to be operating that far out to sea and takes no action. Doolittle continues leading his force west in a very loose formation stretching over two hundred miles, fighting 20-mile-per-hour headwinds.
Doolittle raiders, 18 April 1942
Smoke rises from bomb strikes on the Japanese mainland on 18 April 1942.
Colonel Doolitttle, in the lead, crosses the Japanese coast around noon about 80 miles northeast of Tokyo. At 12:15, he releases four incendiary clusters on the city. Facing heavy antiaircraft fire, Doolittle descends to a treetop level and turns south, heading for China. The following bombers arrive soon after from all directions but skip Tokyo and instead bomb Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka, and Nagoya, confusing the Japanese defenses. After dropping their 500-pound bombs, they, too, scoot off to the west toward China.

The Doolittle raiders now are in the clear, but they have one a problem: they don't have enough fuel to make it to the planned five landing strips at Chuchow. The US has kept the raid so secret, however, that the Chinese haven't been properly informed of the bombers' arrival, so they fail to send out pre-arranged homing signals. In any event, the bombers run out of fuel, and most of the crews bail wherever they happen to be - and many crews can't even tell if they are over land or water due to clouds and fog. Of the sixteen planes, only one makes a safe landing at an airfield at Vladivostok, where, much to their surprise, they are taken imprisoned as internees (they eventually escape to Iran).
Doolittle raiders, 18 April 1942
Four unidentified Doolittle Raiders being escorted in a Japanese village, 18 April 1942.
Doolittle himself parachutes into a rice paddy behind Japanese lines and quickly makes contact with Chinese guerillas. Only three of 72 crewmen of the Doolittle Raiders perish before reaching the ground. Eight men are taken as prisoners and, after a war crimes trial, three are executed by a Japanese firing squad. One of the other men dies in captivity. The planes averaged about 2,250 nautical miles (4170 km), the longest mission ever by B-25 Mitchell bombers. The last surviving crewman, Lt. Robert L. Hite, passes away on 29 March 2015.

The Doolittle Raid isn't the only US Army Air Force raid today. The US 5th Air Force sends Martin B-26 bombers over the Japanese overseas base at Rabaul and hits Japanese Navy aircraft transport Komaki Maru. The ship sinks so close to shore that the Japanese fill the hulk with sand and make it a pier.
Doolittle raiders, 18 April 1942
The Minneapolis Morning Tribune of 18 April 1942 trumpets the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: British troops of the Burma Division are in trouble south of Penangyaung, as Japanese troops have blocked their best escape route to the north. The 13th Indian Brigade launches a breakout attempt at 06:00 that is intended to open a path to advancing Chinese relief forces of General Sun Li-jen's 38th Division.

The ground is rough and well-forested and the Allied attack bogs down without taking its key objective, a hill overlooking a road they can use to escape. The fighting in the dense forest becomes confused and desperate. A small Japanese force feigns being Chinese and lulls troops of the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers into letting down their guard, then suddenly attacks and bayonets the surprised British troops, killing several men. Throughout the day, the Japanese infantry is supported by effective air support.

At 17:00, the Allied troops consolidate and form a defensive perimeter after a hard day of close fighting. Unknown to the British troops, the Chinese relief force makes good progress and crosses the Pin Chaung Ford, brightening the prospects of effective relief. The British plan another breakout attempt on the 19th.

Elsewhere in Burma, the Japanese 55th Division encircles the Chinese 55th Division in the Toungoo area. The Chinese have few prospects for relief. The Japanese 56th Division is battering the Chinese 6th Corps in the Karen Hills area of Bawlake, Bato, Taunggyi, and Loikaw and slowly forcing the Chinese back.
Doolittle raiders, 18 April 1942
A U.S. postage stamp commemorating the Doolittle Raid of 18 April 1942.
Eastern Front: The spring thaw ("Rasputitsa") is in full swing in central Russia, and General Franz Halder notes in his diary, "Unaccountable quiet along the entire front." However, the relief attempt at Demyansk continues with the breakout from the pocket making good progress as well as General Seydlitz's men coming up along the Lovat River. 

European Air Operations: It is a quiet day on the Channel Front as weather conditions are poor.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-boats have achieved devastating success during Operation Paukenschlag off the east coast of the United States, to the consternation of US authorities. Convoys are planned but have not yet made any difference. In desperation, the US Navy now orders a blackout all along the east coast to prevent U-boats from using city lights to spot the silhouettes of passing ships.

German 2978-ton freighter Seefahrer hits a mine and sinks near Borkum, Germany.
Doolittle raiders, 18 April 1942
The New York Times of 18 April 1942 features the Doolittle Raid as its main headline, along with Admiral Leahy being recalled as Ambassador to France.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Air raids on Malta resume today after a multi-day lull. A bomber hits and sinks Royal Navy tug HMS Andromeda while the tug is leaving Grand Harbour.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Thrasher torpedoes and sinks 1297-ton German freighter Bellona near Tobruk.

Partisans: On the Nanos Plateau in the Slovene Littoral, about 800 Italian soldiers surround 54 Slovene partisans. In this Battle of Nanos, the Italians kill 10 partisans and capture 11, with the rest escaping in the forest.
Hitler Youth marching on 18 April 1942
Hitler Youth marching on 18 April 1942 (Federal Archive Image 183-J01182).
Propaganda: General Halder meets with General Dittmar, the army radio spokesman, to discuss how the army "wants news presented."

Finnish/German Relations: General Halder receives the Finnish Cross of Liberation 1st Class from General Talvela.

French Government: Pierre Laval officially returns to power. Not only is he head of the executive, with Petain now a figurehead, he also is Minister of the Interior, of Information and of Foreign Affairs. He pledges to maintain "Une place de choix" (a special place) for France beside Germany in the fight against Communism.

American Homefront: The Toronto Maple Leafs complete one of the greatest comebacks in sports history when they defeat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Maple Leafs were down 3 games to none but now have won the last four games to win the title. This is Toronto's fourth Stanley Cup.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney passes away in New York City at age 67. She is the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art. She also is the designer of the Titanic Memorial in Washington, D.C.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

April 17, 1942: The Disastrous Augsburg Raid

Friday 17 April 1942

Douglas SBD "Dauntless" aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6) April 17, 1942
Douglas SBD "Dauntless" aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6) April 17, 1942 (US Navy).
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The British retreat in Burma accelerates on 17 April 1942 as the Japanese take Yenangyaung, the site of Britain's largest overseas oil fields. The British have skillfully destroyed the 6000-well oil field, which continues to blaze away. The Japanese 214th Regiment has blocked the British Burma Division's retreat route to the north, so the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Yenangyaung is forced to retreat south - toward the main body of the Japanese force. Things do not look good for them as the Japanese have infiltrated through the jungle and all the roads are blocked.

Fortunately for the British, help is on the way in the form of part of the Chinese 38th Division. While he is under orders not to help the British, Chinese General Sun Li-jen disobeys and sends his 113th Regiment (1121 men) south toward the trapped British. British Lieutenant-General William Slim chips in the 7th Armored Brigade (Brigadier John Anstice) with two regiments of American M3 Stuart tanks and a battery of 25-pounder guns to help General Sun's infantry. This combined force battles its way south toward the trapped British infantry, making good progress in 114-degree Fahrenheit heat.
Ironwood Daily Globe, 17 April 1942
Ironwood (Michigan) Daily Globe, 17 Aprl 1942. The public knows there are a lot of prisoners in Bataan, but they do not know what is happening to them in the Bataan Death March. That is not disclosed until early 1944.
Battle of the Pacific: The Bataan Death March continues in the Philippines. Prisoners who have survived the roughly 65-mile (105 km) walk to Camp O'Donnell under brutal conditions find little relief there. Men collapse at the camp and many die of exposure. The roads to the south remain clogged with shuffling columns of underfed and dehydrated men hoping they won't fall behind the slow pace and be bayoneted by pitiless Japanese guards. The sides of the roads are littered with dead bodies. Of the 80,000 Allied POWs who began the march, only about 54,000 even make it to the camp.

About 1000 miles (1500 km) east of Japan, Admiral "Bull" Halsey's Task Force 16 continues preparing for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. The deck crew of USS Hornet pulls the 16 B-25 bombers to the rear of the flight deck, loads them with four 500-lb bombs apiece and ammunition, and fuels them. The bombers also are fitted with broomsticks painted black in their tails to look like machine guns. All plane systems are checked even though the operation is not scheduled to begin for a couple of days. 

Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle and the Hornet's Captain Marc Mitscher hold a small ceremony on the Hornet's flight deck with the aircrew. They tie "friendship medals" given to the United States by Japan before the war - this apparently was President Roosevelt's idea, who wanted to return the medals in proper fashion. The fleet oilers refuel the ships and then withdraw with the destroyers to the east. The two aircraft carriers, Hornet and Enterprise, continue heading west at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) in radio silence.
Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle, 17 April 1942
Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle pins a Japanese "Peace and Friendship" medal to a bomb destined to be dropped on Tokyo, 17 April 1942 (US Navy).
Eastern Front: General Franz Halder notes in his war diary that there are "confused movements and radio silence" opposite General Kleist's front along the Mius River from south of Kharkiv to Taganrog on the Sea of Azov. While Halder does not flesh this out, it is well known among German commanders that Soviet radio silence usually presages an attack.

Following Hitler's lead, Halder is becoming busy preparing for Operation Blau, the upcoming offensive in Kleist's area toward the Caucasus. Troops are being transferred from Army Group Center to the south (held in reserve for now) and they need support. Today, Halder meets with Reichsleiter Konstantin Hierl, head of the Reich Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst; RAD), to arrange support services for Operation Blau. At some point, Halder notes in his diary, these Labour Service personnel face "incorporation into Army." Halder also meets with the Italian transportation chief, General de Raimondo, and discusses strategy for Blau with General von Sodenstern, the chief of staff for Army Group South.

The Luftwaffe continues building up its strength in the Black Sea region in order to support General Manstein's 11th Army, and this is producing results. KG 26 sinks 4125-ton transport Svanetiya as it is trying to bring reinforcements to Sevastopol, leading to the death of about 535 Soviet soldiers. Luftwaffe General Wolfram von Richthofen is bringing an entire air fleet - which usually supports an entire army group - into the area as units return from winter quarters in the Reich. While the ground contest is fairly even, there is no question that the Luftwaffe dominates the air over the Crimea.
Douglas F-3 "Havoc" aerial reconnaissance aircraft, April 17, 1942
Douglas F-3 "Havoc" aerial reconnaissance aircraft, April 17, 1942.
European Air Operations: During the day, Arthur "Bomber" Harris decides to try something new to address the poor accuracy of his bomber force. He sends a dozen Lancaster bombers to Augsburg while 30 Boston bombers stage a diversionary raid to northern France. The controversial Augsburg raid succeeds in one respect - the eight bombers that get through do make accurate bombing runs. However, the Luftwaffe has something to say about all this, and its pilots shoot down four of the Lancasters en route to the target and three others over Augsburg itself. An additional Boston is lost during the diversionary raid. Many of the bombers that do make it back are damaged. Squadron Leader J.D. Nettleton of RAF No. 44 Squadron, flying one of the five damaged planes that make it back from Augsburg, receives the Victoria Cross for his heroism during this raid.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command does a normal nighttime mission and sends 173 bombers (134 Wellingtons, 23 Stirlings, 11 Halifaxes, 5 Manchesters, and 7 Manchesters) over Hamburg. As is standard with these night raids, bombing accuracy is poor. The bombs start 75 fires, 33 large, in Hamburg, with 23 people killed and 66 injured. In minor operations, 22 Whitleys bomb St. Nazaire, four bomb Le Havre, six Blenheims attack targets in Holland, and nine bombers lay mines off Heligoland.

Overall, it is a bad day for the RAF. Out of 214 sorties, it loses 10 aircraft. This loss ratio of 4.7% is too high for sustainable operations. Thus, Harris decides to end his experimental daylight raids to focus exclusively on night attacks.
The crew of HMS UPRIGHT with their Jolly Roger Flag recording their successes, Holy Loch, 17 April 1942,
"The crew of HMS UPRIGHT with their Jolly Roger Flag recording their successes." Holy Loch, 17 April 1942. © IWM A 8426.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-123 (Kptlt. Reinhard Hardegen), on its eighth patrol out of Lorient, completes one of the war's best patrols by sinking 4834-ton US freighter Alcoa Guide about 300 miles east of Cape Hatteras. Out of torpedoes, Hardegen maneuvers close to the freighter and uses the last of his deck-gun ammunition to shell the ship from only 400 yards. The Alcoa Guide's master, Leroy Cobb, tries to ram the U-boat but fails, so the crew abandons the ship, which sinks at 05:23. There are six dead and 28 survivors. One survivor is at sea until 18 May when he is picked up by freighter Hororata.

During this patrol, U-123 has sunk 8 ships of 39,917 tons and damaged three more of 24,310 tons for a total of 64,227 tons. It is because of successes like this along the east coast of the United States that Admiral Doenitz extends his Operation Paukenschlag through the summer.
A fleet tanker refueling the ships of the Doolittle Raid, 17 April 1942
A fleet tanker refueling the ships of the Doolittle Raid, 17 April 1942 (US Navy).
U-66 (KrvKpt. Richard Zapp), on its fifth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 11,020-ton Panamanian tanker Heinrich von Riedemann between Grenada and Isla La Blanquilla. All 44 men on board survive in lifeboats, with 15 men landing at Blanquilla and 29 picked up by passing freighter Karmt the same day as the sinking.

Activity remains bustling along the Arctic convoy route even though no action takes place today. Soviet submarines K-21, S-1010, and ShCh-401 begin a patrol along the Arctic coast and two Soviet destroyers join Convoy PQ-14 to help it into port. U-376, meanwhile, is shadowing the convoy and fires torpedoes at Royal Navy cruiser HMS Edinburgh east of Bear Island, but misses. German U-boat commanders routinely complain about defective torpedoes during this stage of the war, with the problem ultimately traced to the magnetic detonators being triggered prematurely due to variations in the earth's magnetic field.
Mobile canteen in Benghazi, 17 April 1942
"One of a fleet of YMCA mobile canteens presented by the Women of India distributing free chocolate to troops in Benghazi." © IWM K 1930.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Luftwaffe General Albert Kesselring's air offensive against Malta, begun on 20 March 1942, is over for the time being. With the skies temporarily clear, the British issue orders today for troops from Army infantry brigades to help clear and restore airfields for operations.

POWs: French General Henri Giraud, held in Königstein Castle near Dresden, escapes by making a 150-foot (46 m) rope out of torn bedsheets, twine, and copper wire. Giraud has alerted his family back in France of his plans in letters using a simple code, so they have placed a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) contact at Schandau. Giraud makes it to Schandau and, supplied there with identity papers and clothes, continues on to the Swiss border.

Resistance: The Gestapo reports that there has been an increase in resistance activities in the Rhineland. These include anti-German graffiti and "V for Victory" signs.

US/Vichy French Relations: In the evening, President Roosevelt announces that he is recalling the US Ambassador to France, Admiral William Leahy (Retired), due to Marshal Pétain's appointment of arch-collaborator Pierre Laval as Vice-Premier (and effective head of the French government). Leahy will remain in France through the end of the month.
Pentagon site, 17 April 1942
This photo was taken on 17 April 1942. It shows the area being cleared for the Pentagon. "Army Blitz levels Arlington Area-Government operations rather than a bomb caused this shell of a house and other wreckage near the new War Department Building in Arlington, Va. Workmen yesterday fired several houses, mostly frame, to clear the way for the network of roads which will surround the Federal structure, shown in the background. Colored families have moved into trailers supplied by the Government." Washington Star, 18 April 1942.
US Military: The US Army Air Force 5th Air Force transfers the 8th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor), 49th Pursuit Group (Interceptor), from Canberra to Darwin, Australia. 

Holocaust: It is "Bloody Friday" in the Jewish District of Warsaw. In the evening, German officers and non-commissioned officers from the police, SS, Gestapo, and Jewish employees of the Jewish Ghetto Police undertake a "hunt" under the direction of SS leader Karl Brandt. The President of the Warsaw Judenrat, Adam Czerniaków, writes in his diary:
There is panic in the district. The shops are being closed. The population is gathering in the street in front of the houses. I went out onto the street and walked through several streets to calm the people down.
Cars containing armed Germans each assisted by a Jew of the Jewish Ghetto Police round up individuals and families based on a list of obscure derivation. The victims are given a few minutes to round up a very few possessions (to allay their suspicions) and then driven to a central spot and executed. A total of 52 people (both women and men) are shot. By the standards of the Holocaust, this is not a lot, but the entire city's Jewish population is terrorized. "Bloody Friday" is considered a prelude to the worst extermination campaigns that begin soon after.

American Homefront: In an article by H. Dyson Carter in The Family Circle magazine, the question is raised of whether comics are bad for children. Carter's answer is a resounding 'No." She (presumably, given the first name is shown as an initial and this is a woman's magazine) writes about the popularity of comics with children:
Yes, you say, but is this healthy? And what you mean is: Isn’t it dangerous to put so much faith in fantasy?  Isn’t this escapism?  Doctors Baker and Lourie answer no to both questions.  Your child isn’t wrong.  It’s you who are wrong.  You’ve lost touch, as adults invariably do, with the essence of childhood-which is a magic compound of imagination and fantasy.  It isn’t so much his faith that a child puts into these comic book stories.  It’s his gathering emotions, his craving for self-expression, his desire to be a part of great adventures.  And great adventures, at his age, are limited only by the limits of his imagination.  And where his imagination leaves off, Superman begins.
This article is the first shot in a long war about this particular issue. In the 1950s, Senator Estes Kefauver and Fredric Wertham will lead a crusade against comic books, so there is hardly unanimity on this topic. It is worth pointing out that the "Batman" and "Superman" comic series are both relatively new in 1942, with a classic serial of "The Batman" running in theaters. In the long run, the view expressed in this 1942 article ultimately prevails.
Family Circle magazine, 17 April 1942
The Family Circle magazine, 17 April 1942, asks the eternal question: Are comics bad for kids.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

April 16, 1942: Oil Field Ablaze in Burma

Thursday 16 April 1942

The Berlin Zoo Flak Tower on 16 April 1942
Soldiers on the Berlin Zoo-Flak Tower, 16 April 1942 (Pilz, Gunther, Federal Archive Image 183-G1230-0502-004).
Battle of the Pacific: The Bataan Death March on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines continues on 16 April 1942. The first groups of men who set out on 10 April from Mariveles arrive at the San Fernando train station, where they are packed into boxcars and carried for an hour so so and then unloaded so they can march nine more miles (14 km) to their destination. Their prison camp, Camp O'Donnell, has little infrastructure and few provisions. The men who make it (many have died along the way) are in terrible shape, and some are so exhausted that they die even after making it to the camp. Behind them, a long, ragged column of Allied prisoners continues marching north, clogging the roads and with many of them never making it to their destination.

The Japanese continue advancing elsewhere in the Philippines. The 41st Infantry Regiment lands unopposed at Iloilo and Capiz on Panay Island, and other troops continue occupying Cebu Island. They sink 2229-ton Philippine freighter Bohol. On Panay, Colonel Albert Christie follows the usual pattern at this point in the war and leads his men into the mountains to wage guerilla warfare for as long as they can (they surrender in May).

Admiral "Bull" Halsey's Task Force 16 continues steaming west toward Japan. Although they are still well over 1000 miles (1600 km) away, deck crews on board USS Hornet begin preparing the Doolittle Raid bombers for their attack. They move the 16 B-25 bombers to the rear of the flight deck in preparation for liftoff and fill their fuel tanks.

US Navy submarine USS Tambor claims to torpedo and sink 361-ton Japanese trawler Kitami Maru 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Kavieng, New Ireland, Bismarck Archipelago. This sinking is not corroborated, and the Tambor's commander later complains that his torpedoes were defective.
The Berlin Zoo-Flak Tower on 16 April 1942
Antiaircraft artillery on the Berlin Zoo-Flak Tower on 16 April 1942 (Pilz, Gunther, Federal Archive Image 183-1987-0508-502).
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The British are in full retreat south of the Yenangyaung oil fields, which they now have destroyed pursuant to General Slim's orders. Flames from the fires shoot 500 feet (160 m) into the air. Yenangyaung is Britain's largest oil field in the Far East and a major prize for the Japanese.

The Burma Division north of Magwe undergoes Japanese air attacks that cause casualties. The 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers dismounts and retreats cross-country, being careful to remain well dispersed due to the threat of air attack. The advancing Japanese to the south continue to put pressure on the British throughout the day but are unable to bring them to battle.
The Yenangyaung oil fields on fire, 16 April 1942
"On 16 April the electricity and generating plant at the Yenangyaung oilfields, Burma, was "scorched" by British engineers and crashed in flame and smoke as Japanese forces closed in. The plant produced power for 85 percent of the oil production in Burma. So successful was the demolition work that the Japanese will be unable to extract the oil for at least a year. The picture shows:- million-gallon oil tanks ablaze, setting up a smokescreen that hid Yenangyaung from the air and raised the temperature several degrees." © IWM K 2202.
The British certainly are not out of danger despite retreating and pursuing a scorched-earth policy. The Japanese 33rd Division has cut communications between the two British Divisions, which are about 50 miles (80 km) apart, and the British are burdened with a large number of casualties who are difficult to transport. The commander of the 1st Burma Division, Major-General James Bruce Scott, asks the Chinese 38th Division (General Sun Li-jen) for help, but that aid is refused by Sun Li-jen's superior, General Lo Cho-ying. Despite this, General Sun directs part of his division to prepare to help the British on the 17th.

After dark, the US Army 10th Air Force sends B-17s from Dum Dum Airfield near Calcutta, India, to bomb Rangoon. Six bombers report hitting the target.
The Berlin Zoo-Flak Tower on 16 April 1942
The Berlin Zoo-Flak Tower on 16 April 1942 (Pilz, Gunther, Federal Archive Image 183-1987-0508-502)
Eastern Front: General Franz Halder simply notes "All quiet in the South" in his war diary and briefly mentions a Soviet attack against the German 40 Motorized Corps in the Kharkiv sector. Halder notes that "Russian 33rd Army has been liquidated," reflecting a common German tendency to write off enemy units that have been attacked. However, the 33rd Army remains in action under Lieutenant-General Mikhail Yefremov even though it is surrounded in the Bryansk-Rzhev area and remains part of a very troublesome pocket that the Germans have not been able to subdue. The Stavka is considering allowing them to break out to the main Soviet forces nearby.

Despite the many issues on the central sector, including the struggling relief operation toward Demyansk, Hitler's attention has turned to the south. He very forthrightly tells the general of Army Group Center that they are "on their own." From this point forward, he transfers troops out of the Moscow sector and sends them down to the Kharkiv area to prepare for the summer offensive. These troops remain under OKW control as a reserve and are strictly forbidden from taking part in current operations in order to maintain their strength for the drive to the Caucasus. Thus, a fantastic concentration of Wehrmacht power is growing in Army Group South as the weeks go by.
The Yenangyaung oil field destroyed during the British retreat on 16 April 1942
"On 16 April the electricity and generating plant at the Yenangyaung oilfields, Burma, was "scorched" by British engineers and crashed in flame and smoke as Japanese forces closed in. The plant produced power for 85 per cent of the oil production in Burma. So successful was the demolition work that the Japanese will be unable to extract the oil for at least a year. Picture shows:- A heavy mist of smoke shrouds a forest of oil derricks. The wooden derrick nearest the camera is ablaze and the well beneath it has been rendered useless as in the case of other wells." © IWM K 2203.
General Eric von Manstein is in Rastenburg to present a report on the situation in Kerch and Sevastopol. Oberstleutnant Heinz Brandt of the General Staff presents plans for an artillery assault on Sevastopol.

European Air Operations: It is a reasonably quiet night on the Channel front. During the day, a dozen Boston bombers hit the Le Havre power station and dock area. After dark, RAF Bomber Command returns to Le Havre and also hits Lorient with 21 bombers. Another 21 bombers lay mines off the French ports and 11 planes drop leaflets over France. The British lose a Manchester and a Wellington during the minelaying operations.
USS Enterprise on 16 April 1942
The USS Enterprise flight deck as it steams toward Japan on 16 April 1942 (US Navy).
Battle of the Atlantic: Shipping losses on the east coast of the United States, particularly of tankers, are becoming so serious that the US Navy orders a temporary halt to all oil tanker traffic.

U-66 (KrvKpt. Richard Zapp), on its fifth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 7329-ton Dutch tanker Amsterdam about 60 miles (100 km) west of British Grenada in the Caribbean. The tanker is carrying 9500 tons of oil. There are two dead and 38 survivors.

U-572 (Kptlt. Heinz Hirsacker), on its fourth patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and sinks 2368-ton Panamanian freighter Desert Light east of Cape Hatteras. There are 30 survivors and one dead.

U-403 (Kptlt. Heinz-Ehlert Clausen), on its second patrol out of Harstad, torpedoes and sinks 6985-ton British freighter Empire Howard northwest of North Cape, Norway and southeast of Bear Island. This is the ship of the convoy commodore in Convoy PQ-14. There are 25 dead, including the commodore, and 37 survivors.

U-575 (Kptlt. Günther Heydemann), on its fourth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 6887-ton US tanker Robin Hood about 300 miles southeast of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. The tanker sinks within seven minutes, allowing the crew only enough time to launch one lifeboat. There are 24 survivors and 14 dead. The men in the boat are at sea for a full week before being picked up by USS Greer (DD 145) and taken to Hamilton, Bermuda.

US tanker Gulfamerica torpedoed on 11 April by U-123, finally sinks about 5 miles (9.3 km) from Jacksonville, Florida.
Italian POWs arriving in Great Britain, 16 April 1942
"Italian prisoners of war walking to their train after being disembarked in Britain." April 16, 1942. © IWM A 8344
Battle of the Mediterranean: U-81 (Kptlt. Friedrich Guggenberger), on its fifth patrol out of La Spezia, uses its deck gun to sink Egyptian sailing ships about 25 miles (40 km) west of Beirut: 105-ton Egyptian Bab el Farag, 97-ton Egyptian Fatouh el Kher, and one or two other unidentified ships.

U-81 then spots 6018-ton British tanker Caspia and Vichy French antisubmarine trawler FFL Vikings (P 41) in the same area. Captain Guggenberger first torpedoes and sinks Vikings, then chases down and sinks the tanker about 10 miles south of Beirut. There are 26 dead and 11 survivors of the Caspia and 41 dead and 16 survivors of the Vikings.

British submarine HMS Turbulent torpedoes and sinks Italian freighter Delia off Brindisi.
French train derailment 16 April 1942
Photo of the derailment of the Maastricht-Cherbourg train on 16 April 1942 in Airan, Normandy. This followed the dismantling of the rails for several meters by the resistance (Source: DR).
Partisans: The French resistance derails the Maastricht-Cherbourg train near the Moult-Argences station in the Calvados region. This kills 28 German sailors on leave and wounds 19 others. In reprisal, Hitler orders executions and the deportation of 1000 communists. On 30 April, the Germans will shoot 24 hostages for this attack.

Further south in the Crimea, Otto Ohlendorf, in charge of Einsatzgruppe D, has been recruiting Crimean Tatars to fight partisans. These local inhabitants have proven sufficiently anti-communist to help maintain security behind the lines. Today, Ohlendorf sends his superiors a message that the Tatars have "proven themselves admirably" in fighting the partisans.

US/Vichy French Relations: The US Ambassador to France, Admiral Leahy, receives a cable from Washington telling him that he will be recalled due to the return to power of arch-collaborator Pierre Laval. The Laval appointment has not been officially announced by the French yet.

German Military: Hitler appoints Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt OB West again, taking over from the reportedly ill Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben. Rundstedt remains in Hitler's good graces despite his perceived failures at Army Group South in 1941. Witzleben may not in fact be ill, and he likely has been fired due to his criticisms of Hitler's war policies, including Operation Barbarossa. Witzleben receives no more commands. Unknown to the hierarchy, he is actively involved in the underground resistance to Hitler and in fact becomes its figurehead leader.
US World War I tanks waiting to be scrapped 16 April 1942
World War I tanks at Fort George Meade, Maryland. They are about to be scrapped (AP Photo). 
US Army: The USAAF Fifth Air Force transfers the headquarters of the 49th Pursuit Group from Bankstown north to Darwin. This is part of a major reinforcement of this area due to recent Japanese air attacks on Darwin.

German Homefront: Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Tsar Alexander II of the Russian Empire, passes away from meningitis at Schwäbisch Hall, Free People's State of Württemberg. She had worked as a Red Cross nurse during World War I and was an early supporter of Hitler.

American Homefront: It is a quiet day of the war, relatively speaking. There are only 32 known US military deaths today, the majority being mariners.

Future History: Leo Nucci is born at Castiglione dei Pepoli, Province of Bologna. He develops a love for opera and debuts in 1967 in Spoleto as Figaro in "The Barber of Seville." He becomes one of the top Italian baritones and gives his farewell performance in Parma on October 10, 2019.

David Draper is born in Secaucus, New Jersey. He develops an interest in weight training at the age of ten and develops into one of the top bodybuilders of his era. He wins the Mr. New Jersey title in 1962 and branches out into acting, appearing in television series such as "The Monkees" and "The Beverly Hillbillies."
Know The Enemy's Planes, The Longview, Texas News Journal Newspaper, April 16, 1942
Know The Enemy's Planes,The Longview, Texas News Journal Newspaper, April 16, 1942. Shown is a Japanese Kawasaki 97 Light Bomber.


Monday, September 14, 2020

April 15, 1942: Sobibor Extermination Camp Opens

Wednesday 15 April 1942

USCGC Balsam being launched on 15 April 1942
US Coast Guard Cutter Balsam (WLB-62) being launched 15 April 1942 at Zero Dredge Company, Duluth, Minnesota. She is destined to serve in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Apparently, USCGC Balsam remains in use as an Alaskan crab fishing boat.
Battle of the Pacific: The Bataan death march continues on 15 April 1942. The first groups left early on 10 April and it is a six-day walk to the San Fernando train station, so today the first men are reaching the railway that will take them close to their prison camp. However, the roads behind them remain clogged with thousands and thousands of ill-fed and mistreated Allied POWs who increasingly are being brutalized by their Japanese captors.

The Japanese are advancing across Mindanao in the Philippines, so the US military begins destroying equipment. This includes motor torpedo boat PT-41. US Navy Motor Torpedo Squadron 3 is disbanded for want of boats.
New York Times, 15 April 1942
Pierre Laval's return to power in Vichy Franch is the big news in the 15 April 1942 New York Times.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The Japanese offensive north in the Irrawaddy River valley of Burma continues unabated (the Japanese 55th Infantry Division captures Thawatti), so Allied local commander Lieutenant-General William Slim basically accepts defeat. He orders the oil fields and refinery at the Yenangyaung oil fields to be demolished, and this is done during the day. Since the situation is falling apart, General Harold Alexander, commander of the Burma Army, pleads with US Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell to have Chiang Kai-shek move the Chinese 38th Division into the area. The real question now, however, is not whether the Allies can hold at Yenangyaung, but whether the troops still trying to defend it still have time to escape before they are encircled.

The American Volunteer Group (AVG, or "Flying Tigers") remains a bright spot in the Allied presence in Burma. The US Army begins the process of making it an official US Army unit by recalling its leader, Claire Chennault, to active duty as a colonel.

Eastern Front: It is a quiet day on the Eastern Front as both sides await the full onset of the spring thaw ("Rasputitsa"). The only real activity is the breakout attempt at Demyansk toward the relief force commanded by General Seydlitz. General Franz Halder sums up the day's activity laconically in his war diary:
Situation: Unchanged. On the whole, all quiet. At Staraya Russa [the Demyansk breakout], our attack gains some ground.
Halder remains preoccupied with getting troops in position for the big summer offensive planned for southern Russia. He notes that "Men with two months training must be sent directly to the combat units," which is a month less than usual but necessary given manpower shortages.
Cyclotron under construction at the Berkeley Lab 15 April 1942
The 184-inch cyclotron under construction at the Berkeley Lab, 15 April 1942 (US National Archives).
European Air Operations: The renewed Luftwaffe presence on the Channel Front pursuant to Adolf Hitler's demand that for retaliation for the RAF raid on Lubeck begins to make its presence felt. While some planes do some typical minelaying near Tynemouth around midnight, others continue flying inland and bomb Berwickshire, Northumberland, Durham, and the North Riding. There is one death and two injuries in West Hartlepool, while 26 are killed and 52 wounded in Middleborough, Yorkshire. There is widespread damage to infrastructure and 39 homes are destroyed.

RAF attacks also are causing damage. Bombing runs on Le Havre, France, during the night of 14/15 April sink Kriegsmarine minesweepers M 3810 and M 4603. During the day, nine Boston bombers attack Cherbourg without loss.

After dark, RAF Bomber Command stages a follow-up raid to Dortmund, the target of 14/15 April. It sends 152 bombers (111 Wellingtons, 19 Hampdens, 15 Stirlings, 7 Manchesters) to Dortmund at a cost of three Wellingtons and a Stirling. As has been typical recently, cloud-cover and icing wreak havoc on the bombers' navigation and most of the bombers drop their bombs somewhere other than the target. Only one house is destroyed and 13 damaged in Dortmund itself, with two people killed and six wounded. In other operations, 18 Whitleys bomb St. Nazaire, 8 Wellingtons bomb Le Havre, four Blenheims bomb the Netherlands, four bombers drop leaflets on France, and 11 bombers lay mines off St. Nazaire.
Naval exercises aboard HMS Wheatland, 15 April 1942
Practicing boarding-party techniques with a Tommy gun aboard HMS Wheatland, 15 April 1942 (© IWM A 8538).
Battle of the Atlantic: Most of the activity today is in the Arctic. The Luftwaffe bombs Murmansk and sinks one freighter and damages another. Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft spot Convoy PQ-14, giving the Germans plenty of time to prepare attacks for when it passes close to the Norwegian coast. Soviet submarine K-2 lays a minefield off Vardo, Norway. The Kriegsmarine has three U-boats in position to attack QP-10, a convoy that already has been mauled on its way from Murmansk to Iceland, but they fail to score any successes.

Battle of the Mediterranean: Due to the gallant stand of island residents against the sustained Axis air assault, King George VI awards the George Cross to the entire island of Malta. This is made in a letter to Lieutenant-General Sir William Dobbie, the island's governor. This award will be incorporated into the island's flag. The actual George Cross is in the National War Museum in Malta.
Kolbe Receives Goethe Medal 15 April 1942
State Secretary Gutterer (left) presenting sculptor Georg Kolbe (center) the Goethe Medal for Art and Science, personally awarded to Koble by Adolf Hitler. 15 April 1942 (Schwahn, Federal Archive Image 183-J01121). 
French Government: Premier Philippe Petain officially announces what everyone already knows, that Pierre Laval will lead a new government. This marks a drastic lurch in French politics in favor of supporting the German war effort. Admiral Leahy, the US ambassador to Vichy France, prepares to return to the United States by the end of the month as a sign of US disapproval.

Holocaust: The new death camp at Sobibor on the River Bug in Poland opens around this date. The first inmates are 30-40 Jewish women brought by rail from the nearby labor camp at Krychów. Christian Wirth, commander of Bełżec extermination camp and an inspector of new camps, arrives to witness the extermination of these women using experimental gassing techniques. The extermination equipment is crude, simply a truck engine placed on a cement slab with its exhaust piped into a wooden chamber, but effective.
Tobacco queue in England, 15 April 1942
Following the drastic tax increase on tobacco products by Minister Kingsley on 14 April, long queues form at tobacco shops that have not yet raised their prices on 15 April 1942 (AP Photo).
French Homefront: A trial of leaders of the French Third Republic being held in the city of Riom (the "Riom Trial") in central France is called off (adjourned sine die) because it has begun to embarrass the Petain government. The original intent of the show trial was to pin the 1940 defeat on Leon Blum's Popular Front government in office at the time. In the German view, the invasion of France occurred because France first invaded German territory (which technically is true, though it ignores why that happened). The Germans have assumed that this French aggressiveness would be an easy and quick case for the Petain government to make and thus initially were happy that the trial was taking place.

However, the trial has turned out differently than the Germans expected. The defense has argued convincingly that the only fault was the lack of French defensive preparations, as opposed to an overly-aggressive posture by the Blum government (meaning, France was the victim rather than the Reich). Given this turn of events, German Ambassador Otto Abetz orders Pierre Laval, recently reinstalled as the de facto leader of the Petain government, to end the trial because Hitler has decided it no longer serves his purposes. The trial never resumes and is quietly ended on 21 May 1943.

British Homefront: The Churchill government continues clamping down on non-essential production in increasingly minute ways. The board of trade bans, as of 1 June 1942, various decorations on women's and girl's underwear. The new rules require no more than three buttons on skirts, six seams, only one pocket, and two box pleats or four knife pleats. Some of the rules apply to male attire, as double-breasted suits are not to be sold and pockets are restricted on pajamas.
US Army troops in Northern Ireland 15 April 1942
US Army troops in Northern Ireland having a snowball fight, 15 April 1942 (AP Photo).
American Homefront: Feelings against Japan are hard, and that translates to harshness toward Japanese-Americans, too. In response to a request for help when a local sheriff arrests a Japanese-American family trying to relocate lawfully from Tacoma to Klamath County to avoid internment, Oregon Governor Sprague responds:
they are to be escorted to Portland when the military authority issues the necessary order, and they will be cared for as other Japanese of the coastal area are to be cared for.
The rationale given by the local sheriff for arresting the Japanese-Americans is that he "fears mob violence" if unknown Japanese-Americans suddenly appear in the area. Basically, there is no way for such folks to avoid internment.

Future History: Kenneth Lee Lay is born in Tyrone, Missouri. He joins the Officer Candidate School for the United States Navy in 1968 and ultimately rises to the rank of lieutenant with staff positions in the Pentagon. He exits the government in 1974 and, based on various contacts developed during his government service, becomes a top businessman in the energy field. Lay's company, Enron, files for bankruptcy in 2001. It becomes the biggest bankruptcy in United States history, and Lay is indicted on numerous counts of securities fraud and other crimes. He is convicted on ten counts but dies on 5 July 2006 of a heart attack before he can be sentenced.

Juliana Edith Sommars is born in Fremont, Nebraska. As Julie Sommars, she becomes a well-known television actress in the United States, making her debut in 1960. She wins a Golden Globe for her role in the 1969-70 television series "The Governor & J.J." After that, Sommars became a regular guest star on numerous popular TV series of the 1970s and 1980s. As of 2020, Julie Sommars appears to have retired from acting.

Sven Erik Fernström is born in Solna, Sweden. As Jerry Williams, in 1962, he becomes a member of The Violents, a Swedish rock group associated with prominent British group The Shadows. Williams becomes the frontman and lead singer and later embarks on a successful career with other acts. Jerry Williams remains active in the Swedish music until his death on 25 March 2018.
Hearst Military Ball 15 April 1942
A table of elite Hollywood figures at a military ball held in Hollywood, California, on 15 April 1942. Seated on the opposite side of the table from left to right are: Marion Davies (in her uniform first medical battalion of California State Guard), actor George Montgomery (who will join the USAAF in 1943), Hedy Lamarr (who is working on her groundbreaking spread spectrum technology around this time), William Randolph Hearst, and Rita Hayworth (AP Photo).


Saturday, September 12, 2020

April 14, 1942: Demyansk Breakout Attempt

Tuesday 14 April 1942

Finnish ski patrol soldiers on the move, 14 April 1942
Finnish ski patrol on the move. Petsamo, Kukkesjaur. April 14, 1942 (original color photograph, SA-Kuva).
Battle of the Pacific: The Bataan Death March continues on 14 April 1942. The march to the San Fernando railhead takes six days and new groups of POWs are just starting out, so the roads north from Mariveles and Bagac are full of shambling, mistreated men. The two separate columns, one from each starting point, merge at Pilar, Bataan, into one massive wave of bodies moving north. The Japanese guards are walking alongside the prisoners and also feeling mistreated, plus they look down upon prisoners as cowards who should have fought and died rather than surrender. Thus, the Japanese are becoming increasingly angry and resentful and the mistreatment of the Allied prisoners increases every day. Men who fall behind or stop at the roadside for any reason are often executed on the spot, with their bodies left as examples for those following.

The Doolittle raiders in Admiral "Bull" Halsey's Task Force 16 continue heading west toward Japan. The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet carries 16 B-25 bombers for a raid on Tokyo. The Japanese have an inkling that something is happening because of intercepted radio signals, but await word from their picket ships stationed about 600 miles east of Japan. Back in Washington, D.C., Admiral Ernest King visits President Roosevelt at the White House to give the President a detailed summary of the planned raid and its progress.
Rifle practice for new Naval ratings, 14 April 1942
Royal Navy ratings at rifle training at Formby, Lancashire, 14 April 1942. © IWM  A 8326.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The Japanese offensive in the Irrawaddy River valley north toward the Yenangyaung oil fields continues to make steady progress while the Allies pull back. The Japanese 214th Regiment, accompanied by artillery, bypasses the British Burma Division to take possession of a critical ford of the Pin Chaung River, north of Yenangyaung. This unexpected success has the potential to block the British escape route and places the entire British position in jeopardy. Lieutenant General William Slim, commander of Burma Corps, realizes his command may have to fight its way out of a developing trap.
Finnish troops in action on 14 April 1942
Finnish troops in action during the battle of Pertjärvi on 14 April 1942 (Koukinsky, SA-Kuva).
Eastern Front: Korpsgruppe Zorn begins Operation Fallreep, a breakout from the Demyansk pocket toward the Lovat River at Ramushevo. General Seydlitz's relief force is still struggling north on the road to Ramushevo, so this is a gamble that Seydlitz will actually get to Ramushevo so the two columns can meet across the river from each other. The Soviets are defending tenaciously and Seydlitz's men already have taken 10,000 casualties, so there are no guarantees of success.

Hitler refuses to authorize abandonment of the Demyansk and Kholm pockets, so the weary 95,000 men within the Demyansk pocket must both hold the perimeter and extend a hand to Seydlitz. This is a daunting task for under-supplied troops who have been isolated for months in the dead of winter. Time is of the essence because the spring thaw ("Raputitsa") is beginning and soon will make all movement difficult. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

General Eric von Manstein, commander of 11th Army in the Crimea, flies to Fuhrer Headquarters in Rastenburg for the evening Fuhrer Conference. He submits plans for an artillery assault on Sevastopol, where Soviet troops continue to hold out behind the German front on the Parpach Narrows. No decisions are made, but Manstein wants to attack in force on the Parpach Narrows to drive the Soviets from the Kerch peninsula before making a set-piece assault on Sevastopol. On the Soviet side, Stalin still has hopes of relieving Sevastopol by piercing Manstein's line along the narrows, so the situation remains in flux.
Deck gun of U-85, which sank off the North Carolina coast on 14 April 1942
The deck gun of U-85 which sank off the North Carolina coast on 14 April 1942 (Courtesy of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary).
European Air Operations: During the day, the RAF sends a dozen Boston bombers to bomb the Mondeville power station without loss. After dark, RAF Bomber Command raids a new target, Dortmund, with 208 aircraft (142 Wellingtons, 34 Hampdens, 20 Stirlings, 8 Halifaxes, 4 Manchesters). Five Wellingtons and 4 Hampdens fail to return. As with the recently completed series of raids on Essen, bombing accuracy is poor and bombs strike all along a 40-mile stretch of the Ruhr River. In Dortmund, an industrial building and a military post are destroyed, along with four homes. Four other homes are damages with four deaths and 27 injured. In other operations, the RAF sends 23 bombers to Le Havre (which the bombers completely miss), five Blenheim intruders to Soesterberg airfield, and one Stirling on a minelaying mission off Heligoland. One bomber fails to return from the Le Havre mission.

The RAF loss ratio continues to be poor. In 237 sorties, the RAF loses ten aircraft for a loss ratio of 4.2%. Anything around 5% means the average flight crew required to fly 20 missions will likely not last his entire tour of duty.

The Luftwaffe has been strained ever since the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, which has given Great Britain relief from major air attacks. However, the German public has begun to notice the sting of RAF Bomber Command raids, particularly the destruction of the historic seaport of Lubeck on 28 March 1942. Hitler, always sensitive to public opinion although he rarely lets it interfere with his own plans, directs Hermann Goering's planes to retaliate. These missions become known as the "Baedecker Blitz" after the famous guidebook. as they pinpoint small British towns that typically appear in it.
Union Station, Los Angeles, 14 April 1942
Men lining up to buy tickets at Union Station in Los Angeles, 14 April 1942 (Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times).
In any event, there have been very few, if any, major raids against England for almost a year, but that is about to change. The Luftwaffe Operations Staff announces:
The Fuehrer has ordered that air warfare against England is to be given a more aggressive stamp. Accordingly, when targets are being selected, preference is to be given to those where attacks are likely to have the greatest possible effect on civilian life. Besides raids on ports and industry, terror attacks of a retaliatory nature [Vergeltungsangriffe] are to be carried out against towns other than London. Minelaying is to be scaled down in favor of these attacks.
This operation is notable for the first use in the German high command of the word "Vergeltungsangriffe," or "Vengeance," whose use will become much more common as the war progresses.

The Luftwaffe assigns the task to Luftflotte 3. The bomber squadron Erg. U. Lehr Kdo 100 will use its Heinkel He 111 bombers as pathfinders for a larger bomber force. About 80 bombers of II and III./KG 2 and II./KG 40, equipped with Dornier Do-217 and other models, compose the main strike force. KuFlGr 106 will use its Junkers Ju 88 bombers and I./KG 2 with around 25 Do-217s will also participate.

Attacks are to begin in strength later in April. The main targets will include York, Norwich, Canterbury, Bath, and Exeter - all towns roughly of the same size and importance to England as Lubeck was to the Reich. A representative of the German Foreign Office, Gustav Braun von Stumm, offhandedly claims (without authorization) that "We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide." This, however, is not how the German leadership wishes to characterize the raids, which are intended to be solely retaliatory and not targeting any specific cultural areas.
USS Roper, which sank U-85 off the North Carolina coast on 14 April 1942
USS Roper, which sank U-85 on 14 April 1942 (Courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command).
Battle of the Atlantic: It is a bad day for submarine crews, with two German (in the Atlantic) and one British submarine (in the Mediterranean) sunk. World War II submarine work is extremely hazardous with a high percentage of submarine sailors perishing during the war.

U-85 (Oblt. Eberhard Greger), on its fourth patrol out of St. Nazaire, is caught on the surface off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, by US Navy destroyer USS Roper. The crew of the Roper makes quick work of U-85 with gunfire because for some reason Greger remains on the surface throughout the engagement. All 46 crewmen of U-85 perish, many when Roper drops depth charges that kill swimming U-85 crewmen who had abandoned the sinking U-boat. This is the first U-boat sunk off the North American coast. U-85, which finishes its career with three ships sunk of 15,060 tons, sits in about 110 feet (34 m) of water 14 miles (23 km) east of Oregon Inlet along the Outer Banks between Wimble Shoals and Cape Hatteras. It is a popular dive site despite tricky currents. Incidentally, 29 bodies from U-85 were recovered and are buried under cover of darkness at Hampton National Cemetery.

U-252 (Kptlt. Kai Lerchen), on its first patrol out of Helgoland, is sunk at 22:30 by depth charges from escorts of Convoy OG-82. Royal Navy sloop HMS Stork and corvette Vetch take credit for the sinking southwest of Iceland. U-252, which had just landed German agent Ib Riis in Iceland, finishes its career with one sinking of 1355 tons.
U-85 at rest on the sea floor after being sunk on 14 April 1942
U-85, sunk by USS Roper on 14 April 1942 (Courtesy of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary).
U-203 (Kptlt. Rolf Mützelburg), on its sixth patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and sinks 6160-ton British tanker Empire Thrush about 8 miles north of Diamond Shoals near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. All 55 men aboard survive, picked up quickly by US Navy Q-ship USS Asterion (AK 100), which witnessed the attack from a distance.

U-66 (KrvKpt. Richard Zapp), on its fifth patrol out of Lorient, gets its first victory of what turns out to be a very successful patrol in the Caribbean, 2116-ton Greek freighter Korthion. It hits Korthion with one torpedo south of Barbados and the ship sinks quickly. There are 14 dead and 9 survivors.

U-571 (Kptlt. Helmut Möhlmann), on its fourth patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes and sinks 3352-ton US sugar freighter Margaret about 45 miles east of Cape Hatteras. The ship sinks within five minutes after a boiler explodes. All 29 men on board perish.

German 5032-ton freighter Kellerwald hits a mine and sinks off Helgoland. The RAF has been expending a great deal of effort recently in dropping mines in the German Bight.

The Luftwaffe attacks Murmansk, sinking the 5172-ton British freighter Lancaster Castle. There are ten dead, mostly Indian sailors.

Convoy TC-14 departs from the UK for Halifax. This is a special convoy that carries 10 tons of Russian gold that had been transferred from Archangel to the UK by light cruiser Kenya in Convoy QP-3.
Lieutenant-Commander Malcolm David Wanklyn, lost at sea on 14 April 1942
Lieutenant-Commander Malcolm David Wanklyn, lost at sea on 14 April 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine HMS Upholder (Lieutenant-Commander Malcolm David Wanklyn) disappears on or about this date. There are no survivors of Upholder's 32-man crew, so the exact circumstances and location of her loss are unknown. There are several theories, including depth charges from Italian torpedo boat Pegaso north of Tripoli or hitting a mine. The Admiralty report of her loss - ending with "The ship and her company are gone but the example and inspiration remain" - has an enduring place in Royal Navy history, with that phrase repeated verbatim after another loss during the Falklands War in 1982. Upholder ends its career having sunk 97,000 tons of enemy shipping, one destroyer, and three U-boats. Wanklyn is considered one of the top Royal Navy heroes of World War II.

Royal Navy submarine Turbulence (Cdr. J.W. Linton) uses its deck gun to sink 73-ton Italian sailing ship Franco about 10 miles south of Sebenico, Croatia. There is no record of the fate of the crew of three.

The air offensive against Malta continues, with constant air raids throughout daylight hours. The Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 3, Hptm. Karl-Heinz Krahl, an Experten (ace) with 24 victories, is shot down and killed over Malta near Luqa Aerodrome. Major Kurt Brandle replaces him as Gruppenkommandeur.
Enigma machine recovered from U-85 in 2001
The Enigma machine from U-85, recovered by divers in 2001. This is the type of machine used to encode messages by the Germans that the British Ultra program intercepted and decoded in real-time (The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources).
The RAF theater command in Cairo assembles a special strike force to attack Italian convoys known to be crossing from Sicily to Benghazi. This information is based on Ultra intercepts, though very, very few people know this. They build up a strike force within RAF No. 39 Squadron (along with elements of No. 22 Squadron, which happens to be passing through on its way to Ceylon) at Sidi Bu Amud, Libya. This is to be a shuttle mission, with the planes taking off in Egypt, attacking the convoy, and landing in Malta. At least, that's the plan.

The ships are known to be passing within 100 miles of Malta due to the German belief that the Luftwaffe air offensive has incapacitated the island. Basically, they are sailing on the shortest route south from Naples without any worry about attacks from Malta - normally, they would route around Sicily via Palermo. Nine RAF Beauforts and four Beaufighters set out (one Beaufort aborts early), but they have difficulties locating the convoy and then, when they do find it, run into unexpected Luftwaffe air cover. The mission makes no hits on the convoy and it turns into an RAF disaster,  Only three Beauforts make it back to base, two badly damaged, with seventeen of the aircrew lost. The mission effectively ends this strike force and deprives Ceylon of some air reinforcement. The lone serviceable plane flies back to Egypt.
British convoy at anchor at Freetown, 14 April 1942
"Sunset picture [on 14 April 1942] at Freetown Harbour showing a convoy at anchor. On the left is HMS DEVONSHIRE and on the extreme right is AMC ALCANTARA." This photo was taken from HMS Adamant. © IWM A 9225.
Battle of the Black Sea: Several Soviet ships supplying the troops on the Kerch peninsula of the Crimea sink after hitting mines. These sorts of mine strikes by multiple ships within a short time often happen right after mines are dropped by air in a new spot before ships can be routed around them.

Soviet troop transport Anton Chekhov hits a mine and sinks near Kerch. The mine likely was dropped by the Luftwaffe, which is being built up into an overpowering force in support of General Manstein's 11th Army. There are 200 deaths and 50 wounded men.

Soviet minesweeper KT-608, Soviet transport SS Kommunar, and submarine chaser SKA-042 also hit mines off Kerch. Eight men on the SKA-042 perish and 72 on the Kommunar.
Map of encounter between USS Roper and U-85 on 14 April 1942
Map of the encounter between USS Roper and U-85 on 14 April 1942.
Anglo/US Relations: The British quickly agree to a framework by Harry Hopkins and General George C. Marshall, who are in England for talks, for "Operation Bolero." This is the buildup of US forces in the British Isles which eventually leads to Operation Overlord, the Normandy Invasion. However, many details remain to be worked out that will be the province of a combined committee of American and British logistical officers. This committee begins to take shape quickly. At this time, there are only vague plans for a cross-Channel invasion in late 1942 at the earliest or more likely in mid-1943.

Australian/US Relations: The Australian government approves the 30 March directive in which General Douglas MacArthur was named Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA). This effectively places an American in charge of the Australian military for the duration of the conflict, though, when pressed, the Australian government generally gets its way on the commitment of the Australian military.

British Military: Vice-Admiral W.T.R. Ford succeeds Vice-Admiral Sir Gordon Ramsey as Commander in Chief, Rosyth.

French Government: Premier Philippe Petain invites Pierre Laval to return to his former position leading the Vichy French government under Petain's nominal supervision. The Germans (meaning, Hitler) greatly prefer arch-collaborationist Laval to nationalist Petain and have demanded the change. After this, Petain becomes a figurehead. The decision is announced publicly on 15 April and Laval assumes office on 18 April.

Laval's appointment causes a crisis in relations with the United States, which still maintains diplomatic relations with Vichy France. Admiral William Leahy, the US Ambassador to France, cables the State Department about the news. It quickly replies that Leahy will be recalled once Laval assumes power.
Lima, Ohio, News, 14 April 1942
The big news of the day in the Lima, Ohio, News is the return to power of Pierre Laval.
British Government: It is Budget Day in the UK, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Kingsley Wood delivers the bad news. Taxes must be doubled, to 66%, on a wide variety of non-essential goods such as alcohol, tobacco, cosmetics, and theater tickets. Government expenditures for the year ending 31 March 1942 totaled £4 billion, £285 million above projections, while the current budget year is projected at £5.286 billion. Without Lend-lease, of course, the expenditures and deficits would be dramatically higher. Kingsley calls this the "sacrifices for the victory" budget. The standard income tax remains 50%.

Soviet Homefront: Premier Joseph Stalin, perhaps impressed by the successful US War Bond drive, opens his own war loan subscription. The goal is to raise 10 Billion Rubles.

American Homefront: Attorney General Francis Biddle writes a letter to Postmaster General Frank Walker suggesting that "Social Justice," Father Charles Coughlin's periodical, be banned from the United States mails by for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. The publication has been parroting German propaganda since before the German invasion of Poland. Biddle also considers indicting Father Coughlin himself for his political activities.

Biddle's letter sets in motion a chain of events that leads to the cessation of publication of Social Justice. With a hearing set for 4 May 1942, Coughlin's superior in the Church, Bishop Edward Aloysius Mooney, orders Coughlin to end all political activities. Coughlin complies, ends his involvement with Social Justice (which continues publication for a short time available only on newsstands and hereafter confines his activities solely to those of a local parish priest. This ends Coughlin's political career, and he quietly serves as pastor of his church, Shrine of the Little Flower, until 1966.

Future History: Valentin Vitalyevich Lebedev is born in Moscow, Russia. He becomes a cosmonaut who makes two flights into space, including spending 211 days in space aboard Space Station Salyut 7 in 1982. He is a two-time Hero of the Soviet Union and as of 2020 remains active in Russian scientific circles.

New Masses, dated 14 April 1942
New Masses magazine, dated 14 April 1942, showing the disembodied heads of Father Coughlin (lower left) and Gerald L.K. Smith, both considered fascist sympathizers in the United States. This Marxist magazine featured an expose of Father Coughlin. Perhaps this is what caught the eye of Francis Biddle and caused him to shut down Coughlin's "Social Justice."