Thursday, July 30, 2020

March 31, 1942: Japanese Seize Christmas Island

Tuesday 31 March 1942

Japanese celebrate capture of Christmas Island on 31 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Victorious Japanese troops cluster around a coastal defence 6-inch gun and shout 'Banzai' in celebration after the conquest of Christmas Island, off the southern coast Java, 31 March-1 April 1942. The island was taken without a fight, after Indian troops defected in support of the Japanese." © IWM HU 2782.
Battle of the Pacific: Japanese bombers raid Christmas Island, a British possession south of Java, at dawn on 31 March 1942. Then, a small Japanese invasion force approaches the island. Timing things to perfection, a group of Punjab soldiers in British service then mutinies, killing the island's commander, Captain L.W. Williams, and four British NCOs. The mutineers signal the Japanese that the coast is clear, and about 900 soldiers land without opposition, beginning a Japanese occupation of Christmas Island that turns out to be not very useful for them. Aside from its prime geographical location, Christmas Island contains rich phosphate deposits that the Japanese are happy to exploit, but Allied domination of the surrounding seas eventually halts that. The events on Christmas Island form another instance of Indian soldiers abandoning the British and going over the enemy, such as in Singapore, perhaps in response to Japanese propaganda about a free India.
New India policy cartoon in Daily Mail, 31 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
This cartoon by Leslie Gilbert Illingworth (1902-1979) appeared in the 31 March 1942 Daily Mail. It shows three hunters, riding on elephants marked "Congress," "Moslems," and "Princes" stalking a tiger marked "Indian Disunity." Sir Stafford Cripps, on a mission to create some kind of agreement with Indian nationalists, shouts, "Now's your chance." Indian turmoil already is affecting the war effort directly, such as by today's mutiny by Indian troops on Christmas Island that turns the island over to the invading Japanese. (National Library of Wales).

The Chinese 200th Division and 22nd Division, having made contact northeast of Toungoo, withdraw north of Pyinmana to rest and recuperate after the fierce battles at Toungoo. Only a small Chinese rear guard is left on the road east from Toungoo to Mawchi, and the Japanese at Toungoo quickly overpower them and head toward Bawlake.

US Navy submarine USS Seawolf spots Japanese cruiser Naga supporting the landings on Christmas Island and fires four torpedoes. They all miss and the crew of the Naga apparently does not see them. The Seawolf remains in the area and prepares to attack the cruiser again on 1 April.

The Japanese Indian Ocean raid (Operation C) by the Kido Butai task force that bombed Pearl Harbor officially begins today. Admiral Chūichi Nagumo sailed from Staring Bay, Celebes Islands, on 26 March 1942. Royal Navy Vice-Admiral Sir James Somerville has sailed out with aircraft carriers HMS Formidable, Hermes, and Indomitable to block Nagumo. The Japanese already have occupied the Andaman Islands and their main objective is to destroy the British Eastern Fleet at Ceylon. So, if Somerville risks his entire fleet, in a sense he is playing into Japanese hands.
New Castle News, 31 March 1942 worldwartwo.filmsinepctor.com
The New Castle (Pennsylvania) News optimistically reports that the Allies control the airspace around Australia.
Eastern Front: The Battle of Suursaari continues without much action today. The Soviet troops holding Bolshoy Tyuters abandon the island across the frozen ice of the Gulf of Finland sometime during the day or night. Finnish troops prepare to attack the island on 1 April 1942.

The Luftwaffe is increasingly active from bases on the Crimea, and they are operating out to sea as well as over the two battles (at Sevastopol and the Parpach Narrows) that are more or less in progress. They sink Soviet submarine Shch-210 of the Black Sea Fleet off Shabler Cape sometime during March. There is no record of any survivors.

European Air Operations:  A lull in RAF Bomber Command operations following the recent heavy raids on Lubeck, Essen, and St. Nazaire continues today. During the day, 11 Hampdens and 6 Wellington bombers fly over Germany looking for targets of opportunity. Six bombers find something useful to bomb with no losses.

After dark, four bombers manned by picked crews (presumably because the German defenses will be heavy following the recent raids, and the crews are using Gee for guidance) fly to Essen. However, the night is overcast and the bombers only bomb random targets (one plane bombs Essen, another Hamborn), with no losses.

The Luftwaffe, taking to heart Adolf Hitler's order that it punish the British for its highly destructive raid on Lubeck, raids Brixham and sinks 3711-ton British freighter SS London City.
USS Niagara entering Pearl Harbor on 31 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
US Navy patrol gunboat USS Niagara (PG-52) entering Pearl Harbor on 31 March 1942 (US Navy Bureau of Ships photo 19-N-29806).
Battle of the Atlantic:  After many days of murderous German attacks by air and sea, British Convoy PQ-13 arrives at Murmansk (some ships continue sailing on to Archangel). The Luftwaffe, using its dominance of the skies over Soviet territory, continues the attacks against the ships in the port. Five ships out of the original fifteen have been lost, and four more will be lost in port. Two more will be lost on the return trip, Convoy QP 10.

U-754 (Kptlt. Hans Oestermann), on its second patrol out of Brest, continues a very successful patrol off the East Coast of the United States with a victory about 53 miles northeast of Virginia Beach against a tug and the three barges it is towing:
  • 441-ton tug Menominee (sunk)
  • 490-ton Ontario (damaged)
  • 914-ton Barnegat (sunk)
  • 914-ton Allegheny (sunk)
The barge Ontario has dunnage cargo and remains afloat, providing a huge liferaft for the men on the nine men manning the barges and two of the 18 men from the tug.
San Gerardo, sunk on 31 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British tanker San Gerardo, sunk by U-71 on 31 March 1942.
U-71 (Kptlt. Walter Flachsenberg), on its fifth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 12,915-ton British tanker San Gerardo southeast of New York City. Like virtually all traffic off the East Coast of the United States, San Gerardo is an independent. There are 51 deaths and six survivors. The ship takes 17,000 tons of fuel oil to the bottom with it.

Italian submarine Pietro Calvi torpedoes and shells 7451-ton US tanker SS T.C. McCobb off Surinam. There are two deaths during the sinking and another two men later perish from exposure.

U-702 (Kptlt. Wolf-Rüdiger von Rabenau), on its first patrol out of Helgoland, disappears without a trace somewhere south of Norway. It hits a mine on or about this date in the British field FD-37 that had been laid by Free French submarine Rubis on 21 March 1942. All 44 men on board perish. U-702 ends its career with no victories.
HMS Adamant in the Atlantic, 31 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Submarine depot ship HMS Adamant at sea in the Atlantic guarding a convoy. "Two ships of the convoy shelter under the 4.5" guns of HMS ADAMANT." © IWM A 8433.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy submarine Proteus torpedoes and sinks 3567-ton Italian transport Bosforo 24 miles off Sapienza. Total casualties are unknown, but apparently, there was a heavy loss of life. This is the second and last victory by Proteus on this patrol.

Axis air attacks on Malta remain heavy, with 20 alerts in the last 24 hours. Fortunately for the inhabitants of the island, there are low-lying clouds and this affects bombing accuracy. While 17 bombers attack during the day, only three manage to drop their bombs on land. Luftwaffe Bf 109s are active over the island and shoot down a Mosquito of RAF No. 69 Squadron right after it takes off from Luqa airfield.

Anglo/Indian Relations: The Indian Congress Party rejects the British offer of Dominion status after the war and demands immediate independence.
VW delivered to the Kommandamt der Waffen SS, Berlin, on 31 March 1942 worlwartwo.filminspector.com
This Volkswagen KdF Type 60 Beetle, built on 14 February 1942, was delivered to the Kommandamt der Waffen SS, Berlin, on 31 March 1942. These rare survivors occasionally come up for auction and sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
US Military: Major General (temporary) Carl Spaatz, commander of the Air Force Combat Command,  suggests that the US Army Eighth Air Force be sent to the United Kingdom for operations over the Continent. In May 1942, Spaatz will become its commander and oversee the bombing campaign against the Reich.

The US 5th Air Force adds to the growing reinforcement of Port Moresby by transferring the 8th Bombardment Squadron (Light) to there from Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia. 

New Zealand Military: Records indicate that as of the end of March 1942, New Zealand has 61,368 servicemen overseas (mostly in the Middle East) with 52,712 of them in the Army. The New Zealand Home Guard has a ration strength of 100,000.

American Homefront: The San Francisco News reports today that "The FBI today was rounding up known and suspected members of the toughest alien Japanese group in San Francisco." This group, the newspaper reported, "was a 'front' for the ruthless and dread Black Dragon Society, the most nationalistic and terroristic of all Japanese secret bodies." The group operated gambling parlors where the "real" purpose, according to the Northern California FBI chief, Nat J.L. Pieper, was:
to inform the Japanese people of their national heritage and rights to dominate the world, and to conceive a counter-movement to rectify any and all projects detrimental to Japan.
Several of these gamblers were arrested along with a Japanese movie distributor "who was said to have admitted he had paid dues to the secret group."

Internment camp at Fort Devons, Ayer, MA,, photo taken on 31 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The main entrance of the Enemy Alien Concentration Camp at Fort Devons, Ayer, Massachusetts on March 31, 1942. Trucks and people have to be admitted through two rows of barbed wire before entering the camp. (AP Photo/JWG).

March 1942

March 1, 1942: Second Battle of Java Sea
March 2, 1942: Huge Allied Shipping Losses at Java
March 3, 1942: Japan Raids Western Australia
March 4, 1942: Second Raid On Hawaii
March 5, 1942: Japan Takes Batavia
March 6, 1942: Churchill Assaults Free Speech
March 7, 1942: British Defeat in Burma
March 8, 1942: Rangoon Falls to Japan
March 9, 1942: Japanese Conquest of Dutch East Indies
March 10, 1942:US Navy attacks Japanese Landings at Lae
March 11, 1942: Warren Buffett's First Stock Trade
March 12, 1942: Japan Takes Java
March 13, 1942: Soviets Attack In Crimea Again 
March 14, 1942: The US Leans Toward Europe
March 15, 1942: Operation Raubtier Begins
March 16, 1942: General MacArthur Gets His Ride
March 17, 1942: MacArthur Arrives in Australia
March 18, 1942: Japan Attacks In Burma
March 19, 1942: Soviets Encircled on the Volkhov
March 20, 1942: "I Shall Return," Says MacArthur
March 21, 1942: Germans Attack Toward Demyansk
March 22, 1942: Second Battle of Sirte
March 23, 1942: Hitler's Insecurity Builds
March 24, 1942: Bataan Bombarded
March 25, 1942: Chinese Under Pressure in Burma
March 26, 1942: Win Or Die, Vows MacArthur
March 27, 1942: The Battle of Suusari
March 28, 1942: The St. Nazaire Commando Raid
March 29, 1942: The Free Republic of Nias
March 30, 1942: Japanese-Americans Off Bainbridge Island
March 31, 1942: Japanese Seize Christmas Island

April 1942

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

2021

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

March 30, 1942: Japanese-Americans Off Bainbridge Island

Monday 30 March 1942

Kido Butai 30 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese carrier force Kido Butai on its way into the Indian Ocean on 30 March 1942. In the line are Akagi, Soryu, Hiryu, Hiel, Kirishima, Haruna, Kongo, and Zuikaku.
Battle of the Pacific: As 30 March 1942 begins, the Japanese 55th Division is pushing the Chinese back at Toungoo, Burma. The Chinese 200th Division abandons Toungoo by 04:00 after a bitter battle, retiring in good order to the east. Later in the morning, the Japanese attack in force all along the line, seizing the bridge across the Sittang at 07:00 and breaking into the Chinese line at 08:50. The Japanese then occupy Toungoo from the east against light resistance.

The Japanese success at Toungoo creates a gap in the Allied lines that the Chinese now must try to fill. The Chinese 22nd Division advances from the north and has some success at the Nangyun train station. This threatens the Japanese rear as they advance east from Toungoo. The two Chinese divisions then meet at Yedashe north of Toungoo on the east bank of the Sittang east of Nangyun. This helps to create a new defensive line to the east of Toungoo that slows the Japanese advance along the Sittang River Valley. 

A Japanese force sails toward Christmas Island, south of Java, with 900 troops. There are rich phosphate deposits on the island

US Navy submarine USS Sturgeon torpedoes and sinks Japanese freighter Choyo Maru in the Makassar Strait.
The Daily News, 30 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Daily News, 30 March 1942, headlines attacks in Japan, but the main photo is of the blizzard in Maryland.
Eastern Front: Having pocketed Gogland Island during the Battle of Suursaari, the three Finnish battalions in the area send a patrol to investigate nearby Bolshoy Tyuters. A determined Soviet garrison on the island repels the patrol, and the Finns make plans to return in force in a couple of days. This begins a short but sharp fight for the relatively insignificant island.

General Seydlitz, in charge of the relief force heading toward the Demyansk pocket, bows to the inevitable and informs his superior, General Kuechler, that he must stop the attack and regroup. He decides to shift his main axis of advance north to the main Staraya Rusa - Demyansk road. While more resistance can be expected there, going through the woods in the midst of the spring thaw (Rasputitsa) simply is not feasible. The Soviets, meanwhile, are rushing reinforcements to the area.

European Air Operations: RAF Bomber Command sends 34 Halifax bombers to attack the German battleship Tirpitz in a fjord near Trondheim. The ship is well hidden and the bombers do not locate it. This is one of many unsuccessful raids on the battleship that the British launch over the course of several years. Three bombers do bomb nearby Flak positions. There is one Halifax bomber lost in this raid.
Seattle Daily 30 March 1942 Times worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Seattle Daily Times, 30 March 1942, headlines a German destroyer sunk in the Arctic (Z26) and some labor decisions at the US Supreme Court.
Battle of the Atlantic: The after-effects of the fierce German attacks on Convoy PQ-13 continue to reverberate in the Barents Sea. The weather is terrible, adding to the misery of anyone unlucky enough to wind up in the water.

U-585 (Kptlt. Ernst-Bernward Lohse), which has been operating against Convoy PQ-13 in the Barents Sea, is presumed to have hit a German defensive from field Bantos A that drifted loose mine and sunk on or about 30 March 1942. Nobody from the submarine, 44 men, is ever found. U-585 ends its career with no victories in four patrols.

U-435 (Kptlt. Siegfried Strelow), on its second patrol out of Trondheim, finds a straggler from Convoy PQ-13 and sinks it. The ship is 6421-ton US freighter Effingham, which was abandoned because it already had been attacked by U-456 (Kptlt. Max-Martin Teichert). There are 31 survivors and a dozen dead, with many of the deceased having survived the torpedoes but passed away in the lifeboats from exposure due to brutal weather conditions.
British freighter Induna 30 March 1942worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British freighter Induna, sunk by U-376 on 30 March 1942.
U-376 (Kptlt. Friedrich-Karl Marks), on its first patrol out of Helgoland, gets its first victory when its crew spots 5087-ton British freighter Induna. The ship is a straggler from Convoy PQ-13 due to bad weather, and U-376 puts one of three torpedoes into it northeast of the Kola Inlet. Another submarine, U-209, had been chasing Induna but U-376 happened to be in its path, so both subs witness the sinking. There are 38 dead and 22 survivors. The tale of the Induna is unique because it is the ship of the convoy's vice commodore, and he had collected a total of six stragglers and formed a new mini-convoy. The Induna was carrying survivors from another sunken ship, Panamanian freighter Ballot. Eleven of the 16 men picked up from the Ballot perish in this second sinking.

U-68 (KrvKpt. Karl-Friedrich Merten), on its third patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5853-ton British freighter Muncaster Castle. The submarine hits the freighter, which is part of Convoy ST-18, with two torpedoes at 22:43 south of Monrovia. The ship is carrying 268 passengers, and they take to more than ten lifeboats. There are 329 survivors (passengers and crew) and only 24 deaths. 

German raider Thor shells and sinks 4649-ton British freighter Wellpark about 500 miles southwest of St. Helena in the South Atlantic. There are seven deaths.
Bainbridge Island relocation, 30 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese-Americans being removed from Bainbridge Island, Washington, on 30 March 1942. This is an assembly point where internees are to be taken to the Puyallup Assembly Center pursuant to Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1. The 227 residents subject to the order have had six days' notice. The 49 residents not on the island on 30 March 1942 are not allowed to return. The internees ultimately wind up at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry).
Battle of the Mediterranean: King George VI sends Malta an official message:
I have been watching with admiration the stout-hearted resistance of all in Malta – Service personnel and civilians alike – to the fierce and constant air attacks of the enemy in recent. Weeks.
In active defense of the Island the Royal Air Force has been ably supported by R.M.A. [Royal Malta Artillery], and it, therefore, gives me special pleasure, in recognition of their skill and resolution, to assume Colonel in Chief of Regiment.  Please convey my best wishes to all ranks of my new regiment, and assure them of the added pride with which I shall follow future activities.
This is a great honor for the Royal Malta Artillery.

Inter-American Relations: Today is the first meeting of the Inter-American Defense Board in Washington, D.C. Its purpose is to study plans for the defense of the hemisphere.

Inter-Allied Relations: The Pacific War Council is established in Washington, D.C. At this time, it includes representatives of the U.S. (technically President Roosevelt, but Harry Hopkins handles this for him), the U.K., China, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Canada. Representatives of India and the Philippines are added later.
Baltimore Sun, 30 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Baltimore, Maryland, Sun for 30 March 1942 headlines the Palm Sunday Blizzard.
US Military: Having gained complete control of the Pacific Theater of Operations from the British on 24 March 1942, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff organize it into three sectors: the Pacific Ocean Areas (POA), the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and the Southeast Pacific Area. The POA contains the smaller islands and atolls on the direct route from the United States to Japan, while the SWPA is centered at Australia and covers the Philippines, New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomons, and most of the Netherlands East Indies.

While not formally decided at this point, General Douglas MacArthur will have control of the SWPA and Admiral Chester Nimitz will lead the POA, the two most important areas in terms of combat. The Southeast Pacific Area technically has been in existence since the Pearl Harbor attack and currently is under the command of Rear Admiral John F. Shafroth Jr.
Life Magazinge 30 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Life Magazine, 30 March 1942. Featured on the cover is actress Shirley Temple.
Australian Military: Five Kittyhawk Mk. Ia fighters (P-40Es) arrive at Seven Mile Aerodrome at Port Moresby. These reinforce the RAAF No. 75 Squadron and suggest that the Allies are going to fight hard to keep Port Moresby.

Spain: A Swordfish of RAF No. 801 Squadron lands in Spanish Morocco due to mechanical issues. Defying the common stereotype that Spain is solidly in the Axis camp, it interns the crew accordingly to international law and eventually returns them to the British at Gibraltar - which it is under no obligation to do.

American Homefront: Today is the date mandated for all residents of Japanese ancestry to be off Bainbridge Island, Washington. This is the first such exclusion order that is fully realized. Many Filipino farmers/laborers on the island are not subject to the exclusion order and stay to work the fields previously worked by the Japanese-Americans. This leads to the creation of the Indo-Pino (or Indipino) community there due to intermarriage between residents of Filipino extraction and members of the First Nations tribes of British Columbia.

Many items such as new private automobiles already have ceased production due to government orders. Today, small electric appliances such as electric razors (still new in 1942) and toasters are prohibited from production. Retailers can still sell stocks on hand.
Bainbridge Island resident being taken to the ferry for internment, 30 March 1942. worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Army medical corps members assist a Bainbridge Island woman to the ferry during the mandatory evacuation of 227 people of Japanese ancestry living on Bainbridge Island on March 30, 1942. (The Seattle Times).

March 1942

March 1, 1942: Second Battle of Java Sea
March 2, 1942: Huge Allied Shipping Losses at Java
March 3, 1942: Japan Raids Western Australia
March 4, 1942: Second Raid On Hawaii
March 5, 1942: Japan Takes Batavia
March 6, 1942: Churchill Assaults Free Speech
March 7, 1942: British Defeat in Burma
March 8, 1942: Rangoon Falls to Japan
March 9, 1942: Japanese Conquest of Dutch East Indies
March 10, 1942:US Navy attacks Japanese Landings at Lae
March 11, 1942: Warren Buffett's First Stock Trade
March 12, 1942: Japan Takes Java
March 13, 1942: Soviets Attack In Crimea Again 
March 14, 1942: The US Leans Toward Europe
March 15, 1942: Operation Raubtier Begins
March 16, 1942: General MacArthur Gets His Ride
March 17, 1942: MacArthur Arrives in Australia
March 18, 1942: Japan Attacks In Burma
March 19, 1942: Soviets Encircled on the Volkhov
March 20, 1942: "I Shall Return," Says MacArthur
March 21, 1942: Germans Attack Toward Demyansk
March 22, 1942: Second Battle of Sirte
March 23, 1942: Hitler's Insecurity Builds
March 24, 1942: Bataan Bombarded
March 25, 1942: Chinese Under Pressure in Burma
March 26, 1942: Win Or Die, Vows MacArthur
March 27, 1942: The Battle of Suusari
March 28, 1942: The St. Nazaire Commando Raid
March 29, 1942: The Free Republic of Nias
March 30, 1942: Japanese-Americans Off Bainbridge Island
March 31, 1942: Japanese Seize Christmas Island

2020

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

March 29, 1942: The Free Republic of Nias

Sunday 29 March 1942

U-160 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U-160 in a photo taken from U-177 on 19 April 1943. U-160 sank US passenger ship City of New York on 29 March 1942, causing the deaths of 26 men.
Battle of the Pacific:  In one of the weirder incidents of the war, 67 freed German prisoners (missionaries, doctors, and other random Germans arrested by the Dutch) from the bombed prison ship SS Van Imhoff make it to shore on the Indonesian island of Nias. There, they observe a vacuum of power because the Dutch have left and the Japanese have not arrived in force yet. So, on 29 March 1942, they decide to fill the power vacuum and form their own government - the Free Republic of Nias. This they do in the name of Adolf Hitler. Ernst Leo Fischer becomes the first prime minister, with Albert Vehring as the foreign minister.

The Germans scavenge the island for weapons, form armed patrols, and attempt to contact their allies the Japanese. After many adventures, including the "capture" of two Dutch ships in Japanese service, the Germans peacefully turn the island over to arriving Japanese troops on 17 April 1942, greeting them from shore with Hitler salutes. One could say that this is the Reich's wartime possession that is further east - or west - from Berlin.

In Burma, Reinforced Japanese troops of the 55th Divison push back Chinese troops of the 200th Division at the city of Toungoo. After nightfall, the Chinese begin withdrawing east across the Sittang River. The withdrawal continues through the night.
Superman Comics, 29 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Superman Comics, 29 March 1942.
Eastern Front: The Soviet Stavka, alarmed at the progress of the German relief force toward the Demyansk pocket, reorganizes its command in the area. It removes Politburo member N.A. Bulganin from any military authority and places the entire area around the pocket under the sole command of General Leytenant N.F. Vatutin. The Northwest Front commander, General Kurochkin, who is nominally Vatutin's boss, is reduced to being responsible solely for the defense against the German relief operation. In addition, the Stavka sends Kurochkin five regiments of antitank guns and the equivalent of four divisions of light antiaircraft artillery. Vatutin has been Kurchkin's chief of staff but now solely controls the area of highest interest to Stalin.

This command rearrangement at Northwest Front shows some understanding at the highest levels of the Soviet command that political commanders like Bulganin are a liability during important operations. The USSR is unique in having a dual command track at this point, with political operatives such as Bulganin being able to meddle in military operations. It is not a system that is beneficial to the conduct of military operations because the political apparatchiks don't have military training and like to throw their weight around just because they can. Eventually, the Stavka strips them of all military authority, but at this point, they remain a constant irritant for the generals who must seek their input and approval prior to any big operations.

The Germans, meanwhile, are having more difficulty with the weather than with the Soviet defense. The Rasputitsa, or spring thaw, is in growing in intensity. General Seydlitz knows his troops are exhausted from their advance to the Redya River and needs to regroup.

At the Battle of Suursari, Finnish troops capture the last Soviet holdouts on the island of Gogland. Some Soviet troops make a desperate march across the ice to the nearby Moshchny Island to escape capture and are strafed on the way by Finnish Air Force fighters. This completes the Axis capture of Gogland.
Lubeck Raid of 29 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A type 1 Manchester bomber of RAF No. 83 Squadron embarking from Scampton on the Lubeck raid of 28-29 March 1942. This photo was taken at about 19:30 on Saturday as the plane departed.
European Air Operations: Bombers stream back to England in the early morning hours from the most devastating raid on the Reich of the war to date. Incensed at this devastating attack on the port city of Lubeck on the night of 28 March 1942, Adolf Hitler orders reprisal raids. These are duly launched against mid-sized British cities and become known as the "Baedeker Raids" because they hit cities that feature in the famous tourist guidebooks. The British jokingly conclude that is how they are picked as targets.

After several consecutive nights of heavy attacks against Lubeck, Essen, and St. Nazaire, RAF Bomber Command gives the crews and planes an easy night. The only activities are minelaying by 18 Hampdens and 8 Manchesters in the Frisian Islands and off Denmark, and half a dozen bombers on leaflet missions over France. Two Manchester bombers fail to return.
Broken church bells from the Lubeck Raid of 28-29 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Broken bells from St. Mary's Church in Lubeck, destroyed during the 28-29 March 1942 RAF air raid. These remain as a monument to the highly destructive raid.
Battle of the Atlantic: Three German destroyers - Z24, Z25, and Z26 - that are attacking Arctic Convoy PQ-13 already have sunk the freighter Bateau on the 28th. However, doing so brought them to the attention of the convoy's escorts. In the early hours of the 29th, Royal Navy cruiser HMS Trinidad and destroyer Fury track them down and badly damage Z26 (it later sinks). Trinidad is damaged when one of its own torpedoes fired at the destroyers circles back and hits it - a common problem with torpedoes at the northern latitudes in this part of World War II. The remaining ships all survive the action unscathed, and Trinidad makes it to port at Kola Inlet on 30 March.

This is the end of the battle around PQ-13, and fourteen ships (of the original 19) make it to Murmansk and Archangel. However, more of the ships from this convoy will be bombed in port.

U-571 (Kptlt. Helmut Möhlmann), on its fourth patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes and sinks 10,923-ton British refrigerated freighter Hertford about 200 miles south of Halifax. The ship sinks after being hit by three torpedoes at 21:35. There are four dead and 58 survivors.
Hampton Auxiliary Police Hampton 29 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Members of the Hampton (New Hampshire, US) Auxiliary Police, 29 March 1942.
U-160 (Oblt. Georg Lassen), on its first patrol out of Helgoland, torpedoes 8272-ton US passenger ship City of New York at 19:36 about 50 miles east of Cape Hatteras. This does not immediately sink the ship. The ship's crew spot the U-boat's periscope and get off a dozen shots with the 4-inch gun on the poop deck but score no hits. After taking another torpedo hit, the ship finally sinks at about 20:15. The armed guard continues firing the deck gun until the decks are awash and several of them perish. The ship's crew and passengers have enough time to take to the boats, so 106 men survive while 26 perish, almost half of them from exposure in the bitter and rough weather. This incident is unique in that a Yugoslav passenger gives birth to a son in a lifeboat. She names it Jesse Roper after the destroyer, USS Roper, that finds them. 

Italian submarine Pietro Calvi, operating out of Bordeaux, France, torpedoes and sinks 4589-ton British freighter Tredinnick between the Canary and Azores islands. All 46 men on board perish.

Battle of the Mediterranean: A major German objective is to take Tobruk, and the Luftwaffe begins softening it up with an air attack.

Royal Navy MTB-215, missing in action somewhere in the Mediterranean, is written off today. This is one of those mystery ships with no records of the sinking and no survivors.
Japanese evacuating San Francisco, 29 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
 Evidence of the Forthcoming Evacuation of Residents of Japanese Ancestry, San Francisco, March 29, 1942. Clem Albers (Photographer), Courtesy The Bancroft Library.
US/Australian Relations: General MacArthur, known for maintaining a somewhat reclusive lifestyle for a top general despite his prominence in Allied propaganda, takes rooms on the top floor of the Menzies Hotel in Melbourne. For the first time, he meets with General Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander-in-Chief of Australian Military Forces. 

Anglo/Indian Relations: A day after publication of the proposed settlement with the Indian nationalists in both London and India, Sir Stafford Cripps meets with leader Mahatma Gandhi. They discuss the plan that promises nothing now, but Dominion status after the war. This means virtual independence "under the Crown."

US Military: The 22nd BG (Medium), 19th Bombardment Squadron, 5th Air Force, transfers its B-26 bombers from Ipswich to Townsville. The 19th BG (Heavy transfers its B-17s from Melbourne to Cloncurry, Australia.
Hukbalahap 29 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Formation of the Hukbalahap on 29 March 1942. Holding the newspaper is El Supremo Ka Luis Taruc. Notice that he appears to be wearing Converse sneakers.
Philippines:  A group of 300 Filipino peasant leaders forms a peasant army that they call the Hukbalahap, or Huks for short. The Huks organization grows quickly and there are plentiful weapons to collect from depots and dead soldiers from both sides. The Huks become a popular fixture in local villages and protect them from the Japanese occupiers. After the occupation, they turn against all forms of central authority - including the Filipino government and the United States military - and remain a factor in Filipino life until 1954.

American Homefront: The Palm Sunday Blizzard hits the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Areas around Baltimore, Maryland, receive up to 32 inches of snow in total accumulation and 22 inches in 24 hours. The snow is heavy and wet and falls on trees and crops that are already blossoming, causing major losses. It is a freak late-winter storm, and temperatures almost immediately return to spring-like conditions afterward, melting the snow quickly. The event is long-remembered, particularly due to its association with the holiday, and is not matched until 1958.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "for the first time in 81 years, not a single Japanese is walking the streets of San Francisco." While not completely accurate, that sums up the accelerating progress of the evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry from the Western Defense Region.
Baltimore, Maryland, on 29 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Palm Sunday Snowstorm" of March 29-30, 1942: Main Street Westminster MD after a heavy and historic 32-inch snowfall March 29-30, 1942. The photo has been attributed to renowned Westminster photographer Charles Magee. (Courtesy Kevin Dayhoff via The Baltimore Sun).

March 1942

March 1, 1942: Second Battle of Java Sea
March 2, 1942: Huge Allied Shipping Losses at Java
March 3, 1942: Japan Raids Western Australia
March 4, 1942: Second Raid On Hawaii
March 5, 1942: Japan Takes Batavia
March 6, 1942: Churchill Assaults Free Speech
March 7, 1942: British Defeat in Burma
March 8, 1942: Rangoon Falls to Japan
March 9, 1942: Japanese Conquest of Dutch East Indies
March 10, 1942:US Navy attacks Japanese Landings at Lae
March 11, 1942: Warren Buffett's First Stock Trade
March 12, 1942: Japan Takes Java
March 13, 1942: Soviets Attack In Crimea Again 
March 14, 1942: The US Leans Toward Europe
March 15, 1942: Operation Raubtier Begins
March 16, 1942: General MacArthur Gets His Ride
March 17, 1942: MacArthur Arrives in Australia
March 18, 1942: Japan Attacks In Burma
March 19, 1942: Soviets Encircled on the Volkhov
March 20, 1942: "I Shall Return," Says MacArthur
March 21, 1942: Germans Attack Toward Demyansk
March 22, 1942: Second Battle of Sirte
March 23, 1942: Hitler's Insecurity Builds
March 24, 1942: Bataan Bombarded
March 25, 1942: Chinese Under Pressure in Burma
March 26, 1942: Win Or Die, Vows MacArthur
March 27, 1942: The Battle of Suusari
March 28, 1942: The St. Nazaire Commando Raid
March 29, 1942: The Free Republic of Nias
March 30, 1942: Japanese-Americans Off Bainbridge Island
March 31, 1942: Japanese Seize Christmas Island

2020

Sunday, July 26, 2020

March 28, 1942: The St. Nazaire Commando Raid

Saturday 28 March 1942

Dry dock at St. Nazaire, March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The dry dock at St. Nazaire was the target of the 28 March 1942 raid by British Commandos.
Special Operations: In Operation Chariot, British Commandos land in the early morning hours of 28 March 1942 at the French port of St. Nazaire, a major U-boat base. They almost experience disaster when key vessel HMS Campbelltown scrapes the bottom twice along the way but works its way loose. At about 01:30, the German defenders open fire with every weapon within range. Two assault teams, five demolition teams, and a mortar group disembark and help to silence some of the German fire. The navy then rams the Campbelltown into the large 'Tirpitz" dry dock that is the attack's main objective. It is packed with explosives controlled by a timer set to explode just after the British leave. As dawn approaches, the Commandos and navy withdraw as best they can. At noon, Campbelltown explodes (over seven hours late), destroying the dry dock, some nearby ships, and killing 360 men, including a large party of German officers on board to inspect the "captured" Royal Navy ship.

The St. Nazaire raid is a huge success for the British Commandos despite the force losing 394 of 622 men (169 killed, 215 taken prisoner). The dry dock is obliterated and 89 decorations including five Victoria Crosses (two posthumously). Adolf Hitler fires Generaloberst Carl Hilpert, chief-of-staff to the OB West (Commander in Chief West) and reinforces Hitler's growing insecurity (as evidenced by the 23 March 1942 Fuhrer Directive No. 40 entitled (somewhat prophetically) "Competence of Commanders in Coastal Areas") about the so-called Atlantic Wall.
Collier's 28 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Collier's of 28 March 1942 features a classic depiction of Adolf Hitler by artist Arthur Szyk.
European Air Operations: Tonight's RAF Bomber Command target is Lübeck. While the RAF bombed Essen twice in the last three days, the bombers mostly missed that Ruhr Valley city and caused minimal damage. Lübeck, however, is a major port that is easier to locate. The 234 bombers (146 Wellingtons, 41 Hampdens, 26 Stirlings, and 21 Manchesters) have good visibility, including reflected moonlight off of ice near the city. Defenses at the city are light, allowing the bombers to drop to 2,000 feet, which greatly improves accuracy.

Attacking in three waves, the bombers drop over 400 tons of bombs aimed at the Altstadt central section of the town. The raid is an outstanding success for Bomber Command and causes the first firestorm in a German city. The medieval section of Lübeck is destroyed and many buildings of cultural significance are consumed by flames. There are about 320 deaths, 136 people seriously and 648 moderately injured, and 62% of the buildings in Lübeck are either destroyed or damaged. The RAF loses a dozen aircraft (7 Wellingtons, 3 Stirlings, 1 Hampden, and one Manchester).

There is only one consolation for the people of Lübeck, which is that the RAF never again sends a full-scale raid against the city. This is at least partly due to the port's use for the shipment of Red Cross supplies. As Joseph Goebbels writes in his diary:

The damage is really enormous. I have been shown a newsreel of the destruction. It is horrible. One can well imagine how such a bombardment affects the population.

It is clear to everyone that Lübeck Raid marks an ominous turn in the air war for the Reich.

In subsidiary air raids, two Blenheims attack targets in Holland (Schipol and Soesterburg), seven Hampdens lay mines in the Frisian Islands, and 14 bombers drop leaflets over France (9 over Paris, 5 over Lens) without loss.
HMS Campbelltown at St. Nazaire, 28 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HMS Campbelltown sometime before noon on 28 March 1942 after it crashed into the dry dock at St. Nazaire. Unbeknownst to the German officers standing on it to the left, the Campbelltown was loaded with 24 depth charges (4.5 tons of explosives total) packed inside Campbeltown's bows - right where they are standing. The explosives detonated shortly after this photograph was taken.
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese Imperial Guard completes Operation T (the occupation of Sumatra) when Dutch Major-General R.T. Overakker surrenders his 2,000 men near Kutatjane in North Sumatra. Tentative plans for a guerilla war collapse due to hostility from the native population and a Muslim uprising. The conquest of Sumatra has been a great victory for the Empire of Japan Vice-Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa, Rear-Admiral Shintarō Hashimoto, Rear-Admiral Kakaji Kakuta, Lt-Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, and Lt-Gen. Hitoshi Imamura.

General Overakker is one of the tragic figures of World War II. He does not survive the war because the Japanese shoot him and other Dutch officers in 1945 as defeat approaches. The Japanese force the captured Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) soldiers to work on the construction of a railway line between Pekanbaru and Moera. This finds echoes in "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" (1957).

In Burma, the Japanese beef up their attacks against the Chinese defending Toungoo. The 3rd Heavy Field Artillery Regiment arrives and helps to break up Chinese resistance in various strongpoints. The Chinese are helped by heavy fog, however, that grounds Japanese bombers until after 15:00. The Japanese have sent for more reinforcements who arrive around noontime. These new troops attack from the east, which is the rear of the Chinese defenses, and a vicious fight takes place within the city itself. Ultimately, though, the Chinese defenders - who have nowhere to retreat - hold their ground. The Japanese forces are worn out by these failed attacks but continue attacking with declining force.

The British attempt to take some of the pressure off the Chinese at Toungoo by launching a relief attack that takes Paungde. Japanese troops consolidate nearby, however, placing the future of the attack in jeopardy.

Japanese bombers attack Darwin as they have several times already, but Allied air defenses are firming up. The P-40s of the 9th Pursuit Squadron, USAAF, shoot down three of the twin-engine bombers.

In the Philippines, the Japanese continue to bombard Allied forces in the Bataan Peninsula as they prepare for a final assault. The Japanese have reinforced the 14th Imperial Army under General Homma with heavy artillery that is focusing on Mount Samat in the center of the line.
Liberty ship SS William C.C. Claiborne launched on 28 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Liberty ship SS William C.C. Claiborne launched on 28 March 1942 at the Delta Shipbuilding Co. in New Orleans, Louisiana. This was the first of 187 Liberty ships launched by this shipyard during World War II out of a total of 2710 built by US industry.
Eastern Front: Two Finnish infantry battalions mop up Soviet holdouts on the island of Gogland in the frozen Gulf of Finland. In the very early morning hours, many of the remaining Soviet troops retreat back across the frozen ice. Some Soviet troops resist fiercely and force the Finns to use satchel charges to blast them out of their positions. The Finnish Air Force assists with the operation, proving especially handy at strafing Soviet soldiers attempting to retreat across the ice during daylight hours.

Fierce fighting continues northwest of Moscow at two separate pockets, one German and the other Soviet. General Seydlitz continues to grind toward the Demyansk pocket, while the German 18th Army is desperately trying to prevent the Red Army from opening a supply lane to the trapped men in the Volkhov pocket. The ongoing spring thaw is complicating both situations, turning the marshy ground into mush that slows all movement. Seydlitz regroups along the Redya River, while the Soviets use tanks to reopen a small supply corridor to their pocket. At the moment, it looks as if the Soviets are in a better position in both places, but the situation is precarious for both sides.
Freighter Howick Hall, sunk south of Bear Island on 28 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
US Freighter Howick Hall, sunk south of Bear Island by the Luftwaffe on 28 March 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: German aircraft and U-boats begin attacking the Arctic Convoys with great ferocity recently as the hours of daylight increase. Many convoys have gotten through unscathed during the short winter days, but that is about to change. At sea is Convoy PQ-13. Luftwaffe aircraft spot the convoy today south of Bear Island and soon attack. The planes sink two freighters, 4815-ton Panamanian-flagged Raceland, 8097-ton US freighter Howick Hall, and 7008-ton British freighter Empire Ranger. Survivors of these ships sometimes have to row to shore, a brutal ordeal suffered by the men of the Howick Hall

The Kriegsmarine also gets into the fray with surface ships, a rarity even in the Arctic. Three German destroyers (Z24, Z25, and Z26) sortie from Kirkenes under the command of KzA G. Ponitz. The destroyers sink 4687-ton Panamanian-flagged freighter Bateau around midnight, but Royal Navy escorts spot them and set off in hot pursuit.

Battle of the Mediterranean: An Italian convoy from North Africa to Italy carrying a battalion of soldiers ordered to join the Italian Army in Russia runs into Royal Navy submarine Proteus (Lt Cdr Philip Stewart Francis) near Cape Ducali. The Proteus sinks 8040-ton Italian transport SS Galilea. There are 991 deaths and 284 survivors, the deaths including some Greek prisoners of war. 
Pix Magazine, 28 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Pix Magazine, 28 March 1942.
German/Japanese Relations: Despite the commitment of Japanese forces to the south against the British, United States, and the Netherlands, the Germans continue to hold out hope that they will assist in conquering the Soviet Union. Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop asks Japanese Ambassador Oshima, considered a stalwart supporter of the Reich, to have his government commit forces to an attack north toward Vladivostok in conjunction with the Wehrmacht's upcoming "crushing blow" on the Eastern Front. Nothing comes of this, as Japanese ambitions currently extend not north into the Soviet Union, but west into the Indian Ocean.

Anglo/Indian Relations: The British publish a "Draft Declaration of Discussion, with Indian Leaders" simultaneously in Great Britain and India. This is the culmination of Sir Stafford Cripps' mission. The draft Declaration promises Dominion status to India that will provide equal status to India with "common allegiance to the Crown." The Indian nationalists, however, want something to happen immediately, not at some undetermined point after the war that may take quite some time to realize.
Pix Magazine 28 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Pix magazine for 28 March 1942 includes a gripping story about the crew of a down Short Sunderland - with many photos, of course.
US Military: Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier, US Navy acquires operational control of US Army Air Force bombers engaged in anti-submarine patrols off the East Coast of the United States.

The 4th Defense Battalion of the Marines arrives at Vila on Efate Island, New Hebrides. Their mission is to build an airstrip.

The USAAF 28th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) transfers from Melbourne to Cloncurry, Queensland, Australia. Some operate out of Perth. The ground echelon remains trapped in the Philippines. Meanwhile, the 63rd and 65th Bombardment Squadrons complete their transit across the Pacific and arrive at Sydney, Australia. The 80th Pursuit Squadron, 8th Pursuit Group, transfers its P-39s from Brisbane to Lowood, Australia.
National Free Browder Congress, 28 March 1942
The National Browder Congress of 28 March 1942 sought the release of Earl Browder, General Secretary of the Communist Party USA, from prison. Browder had been convicted of passport fraud in early 1940 and the US Supreme Court upheld his conviction around this time in 1942. Browder served 14 months (of a four-year sentence) in federal prison and was released in 1943 in a gesture of wartime unity. However, he lost his position of leadership in the CPUSA after the war due to changing views of communism.  
American Homefront: Stanford defeats Dartmouth 53-38 in the NCAA Basketball Tournament Final.

Future History: Neil Kinnock is born in Tredegar, Monmouthshire, Wales. He becomes a leader of the Labour Party. Among his top positions is serving as the Vice-President of the European Commission from 1999 through 2004. He also was Leader of the Labour Party from 1983 until mid-1992 and was introduced to the House of Lords on 31 January 2005. Neil Kinnock remains interested in politics as of this writing, including being strongly opposed to Brexit.

Gerald Eugene Sloan is born in McLeansboro, Illinois. He excels as a college basketball player and is picked by the Baltimore Bullets with the fourth pick overall of the 1965 NBA draft. Jerry Sloan ultimately plays most of his career with the Chicago Bulls before retiring in 1976 (and having his number retired). Sloan then goes on to an outstanding career as an NBA coach, compiling a 1221-803 record as a coach and leading the Utah Jazz to the playoffs to 15 consecutive playoff appearances from 1989 to 2003 before retiring in 2011. Jerry Sloan passes away on 22 May 2020.
Saturday Evening Post, 28 March 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Saturday Evening Post for 28 March 1942 features the provocative article, "The Case Against the Jew" by Milton Mayer.

March 1942

March 1, 1942: Second Battle of Java Sea
March 2, 1942: Huge Allied Shipping Losses at Java
March 3, 1942: Japan Raids Western Australia
March 4, 1942: Second Raid On Hawaii
March 5, 1942: Japan Takes Batavia
March 6, 1942: Churchill Assaults Free Speech
March 7, 1942: British Defeat in Burma
March 8, 1942: Rangoon Falls to Japan
March 9, 1942: Japanese Conquest of Dutch East Indies
March 10, 1942:US Navy attacks Japanese Landings at Lae
March 11, 1942: Warren Buffett's First Stock Trade
March 12, 1942: Japan Takes Java
March 13, 1942: Soviets Attack In Crimea Again 
March 14, 1942: The US Leans Toward Europe
March 15, 1942: Operation Raubtier Begins
March 16, 1942: General MacArthur Gets His Ride
March 17, 1942: MacArthur Arrives in Australia
March 18, 1942: Japan Attacks In Burma
March 19, 1942: Soviets Encircled on the Volkhov
March 20, 1942: "I Shall Return," Says MacArthur
March 21, 1942: Germans Attack Toward Demyansk
March 22, 1942: Second Battle of Sirte
March 23, 1942: Hitler's Insecurity Builds
March 24, 1942: Bataan Bombarded
March 25, 1942: Chinese Under Pressure in Burma
March 26, 1942: Win Or Die, Vows MacArthur
March 27, 1942: The Battle of Suusari
March 28, 1942: The St. Nazaire Commando Raid
March 29, 1942: The Free Republic of Nias
March 30, 1942: Japanese-Americans Off Bainbridge Island
March 31, 1942: Japanese Seize Christmas Island

2020