Tuesday, August 11, 2020

April 4, 1942: Luftwaffe Attacks Kronstadt

Saturday 4 April 1942

Arab with rifle, 4 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Senussi Arab with rifle, Libya, 4 April 1942." That appears to be a captured Italian Carcano rifle (© IWM E 10186).
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The massive Kido Butai Japanese strike force that attacked Pearl Harbor now is operating in the Indian Ocean. So far, it has proceeded unobserved to a spot south of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). During the afternoon of 4 April 1942, a Catalina flying boat of RCAF Squadron No. 413 spots and reports Admiral Nagumo's large force 310 nautical miles (580 km) southeast of Ceylon. The Japanese quickly shoot the observation plane down before it can clarify the size of the fleet. The fleet's commander, Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, is secure in the belief that his ships have superiority over the British. So, he ignores the fact that the British have spotted his fleet and continues along his intended course. Nagumo does not even bother sending aerial reconnaissance ahead of the fleet. His plan is to attack the port of Colombo at dawn on 5 April.

The British, on the other hand, change plans immediately. Admiral James Somerville has withdrawn his fleet to Addu Atoll in the Maldive Islands. He now sends his Force A eastward in the general direction of the Japanese while Force B refuels. Admiral Geoffrey Layton, in command in Ceylon, directs heavy cruisers HMS Cornwall and Dorsetshire (which have just reached Colombo for maintenance and port defense) to turn around at 22:00 and rejoin Force A. Layton also orders old aircraft carrier Hermes to leave the port of Trincomalee and seek refuge to the northeast. The stage is set for a major confrontation, depending upon how aggressive Admiral Somerville chooses to be.

There is a preliminary action when two Japanese cruisers spot and sink Norwegian freighter Dagfred. The 40 Norwegian crew all survive after the Japanese allow them to take to the boats.

USS Hornet, accompanied by Task Force 18, continues sailing from San Francisco toward Japan. Its plan is to rendezvous with Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey's Task Force 16 and then proceed to a spot where it can launch the 16 B-25 bombers it is carrying to attack Tokyo. The US task force is following the reverse path of that followed by Kido Butai in December 1941 prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
US Navy Airship L-8 delivers supplies to USS Hornet on 4 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U.S. Navy non-rigid airship L-8 delivers spare parts for Doolittle’s B-25 bombers to USS Hornet (CV-8). Somewhere in the Pacific on the way to Tokyo. L-8 was the former Goodyear commercial blimp, Ranger. The pilot was Lieutenant Ernest DeWitt Cody, U.S.N. (U.S. Navy).
Battle of the Pacific: Japanese bombers attack Darwin, Australia again between 13:30 and 14:05. Previous daylight raids have not cost the Japanese much in terms of lost planes and pilots, but the Allies have been transferring units to northern Australia. This is beginning to pay off. The 9th Pursuit Squadron of the US Army Air Force shoots down seven "Nell" bombers and two Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighters.

In the Philippines, a critical section of the Allied Main Line of Resistance held by II Corps (eastern side of the line) collapses under assault by the Japanese 4th Division and 65th Brigade. The 21st and 41st Divisions of the Filipino Army are forced back again, as on the 3rd, and try to dig in around Mount Samat. This breach in the line causes flank problems for nearby Allied formations. To try to contain the breach, Luzon Force sends the US 31st and 45th Infantry to support II Corps. The Japanese attack is going better than planned, perhaps because the Allied troops are undernourished and inadequately armed after months of the Japanese blockade.

US Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet and Task Force 18 continue sailing west from San Francisco Bay bound for an attack on Japan. At noon, the Hornet rendezvouses with Navy blimp L-8 which lowers parts to complete modifications for the mission to the Hornet's flight deck. This is another step toward the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.
Panzer III towing a StuG III, April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A StuG III (right) of the Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 202 gets pulled out of the snow by a Panzer III (left, going in reverse). Eastern Front, 1942.
Eastern Front: Operation Bruckenschlag ("Bridge-building") resumes on 4 April 1942 after a short period to regroup and reorient its line of attack toward the Demyansk Pocket. The first objective of General Seydlitz's men is the Lovat River, which is only six miles away but which is heavily guarded by reinforced Soviet troops. Today begins a brutal slog toward the river through worsening weather conditions as the spring thaw ("Rasputitsa") accelerates. There is no subtlety to the German advance, it is straight down the road on the most direct route possible.

The Luftwaffe launches heavy air attacks in the Murmansk area in northern Russia. The III/KG 30 attacks Zyp Navolok and sinks 1130-ton Russian Trawler RT-103. It also attacks Iokanka and damages Russian minesweepers T-58/RT-94/Zhadanov, T-4/RT-84/Golfstrem, T-60/RT-410/Pelikan, and patrol boat SKR-78/RT-57/Smela. Meanwhile, at Murmansk, emergency repairs are being completed to destroyer HMS Eclipse.
Soviet battleship OKTYABRSKAYA REVOLUTSIYA, attacked on 4 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.cmo
"OKTYABRSKAYA REVOLUTSIYA (Soviet battleship, 1911-1956). Photographed in the Baltic during 1946. Note anti-aircraft guns on forecastle and turret roofs, added during World War II." Naval History and Heritage Command NH 78290.
Battle of the Baltic: Operation Eisstoß (Ice Assault) begins. This is a Luftwaffe operation by Generaloberst Alfred Keller's Luftlotte I against the Soviet fleet at Kronstadt, a fortified island near St. Petersburg. This is one of a series of such attacks against Vitse Admiral Vladimir F. Tributs’s Baltic Fleet. Like the others, this operation accomplishes little. The Luftwaffe sends 62 Stuka dive bombers and 70 medium bombers (33 Junkers Ju 88s and 37 Heinkel He 111s), escorted by 59 Bf 109 fighters of Oberstleutnant Hannes Trautloft’s Jagdgeschwader 54. The plan is for the Heinkels to bomb the anti-aircraft defenses while the Stukas and Junkers attack the ships. 

After dark, a smaller force of 31 He 111s return. In the two attacks, the Germans score hits on 13 warships but do not sink any. Battleship Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya (formerly Gangut) takes four hits, the cruiser Maksim Gorky is hit seven times, the cruisers Kirov and Petropavlovsk and destroyer Silnyi each suffers one serious hit each, and the destroyer Grozyashchiy, minelayer Marti and training ship Svir each takes less serious hits. Assorted smaller vessels also are hit.

This operation and the subsequent "Götz von Berlichingen" and "Froschlaich" continue throughout April without meaningful results. Overall, the Luftwaffe flies 590 sorties at the loss of 29 aircraft, a fairly high loss rate. Hitler is worried that the Soviet fleet will steam out when the ice melts and "make a fool of me," but it has no plans to leave port.
SB2U Vindicator in England ca. 4 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
SB2U Vindicator code 72-S-4 of VS-72 England April 1942. This plane probably came over on USS Wasp, which arrived in Great Britain on 4 April 1942. The Wasp pilots then flew their planes to Hatson in Orkney (UK).
European Air Operations: The weather is poor for flying operations, but the RAF tries a few missions anyway. All this accomplishes is showing that bombing success depends on the weather. Out of 21 Hampdens sent to lay mines in the Frisian Islands, only two manage to complete the mission while the rest return to base.

RAF Bomber Command also sends a dozen Boston bombers and 4 Wellingtons to attack the railway yards at St. Omer. The mission is a nullity because the bombs drop in open fields and there are no losses or destruction on either side.

The RAF sends 4 Wellington bombers to bomb different German targets, but low cloud cover forces three of them to abort their missions. The fourth bomber turns south when it finds its primary target of Emdem covered with clouds, but it later finds a target of opportunity in the Essen region.
Rear Admiral S S Bonham Carter, 3 or 4 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Rear Admiral S S Bonham Carter, Commanding 18th Cruiser Squadron, aboard his flagship HMS Edinburgh, 3 or 4 April 1942. He has welcomed the arrival of powerful US naval forces to Great Britain (© IWM A 9241). 
Battle of the Atlantic: US Navy aircraft carrier USS Wasp leads a large fleet of warships to join the British Home Fleet. Rear Admiral Robert C. Giffen, flying his flag in the heavy cruiser Wichita, assumes command of TF 39. The American ships were met at sea by a Royal Navy force including the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh on 3 April. Those British ships have escorted the American ships to Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.

U-505 (Kptlt. Axel-Olaf Loewe), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5759-ton Dutch freighter Alphacca 154 miles south of Cape Palmas, Ivory Coast. There are 15 deaths and 52 survivors.

U-154 (KrvKpt. Walther Kölle), on its second patrol out of Lorient,  torpedoes and sinks 5034-ton US tanker Comol Rico about 225 miles (417 km) north of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The tanker sinks within seven minutes after being hit with a second torpedo. The 39 survivors (against three deaths) spend two days at sea before being picked up by US destroyer USS Sturtevant (DD 240). This is the first victory for U-154.
HMS Stonehenge, laid down on 4 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
HMS Stonehenge (P232), shown, is laid down on 4 April 1942. It will be launched on 23 March 1943, commissioned on 15 June 1943, and presumed sunk on or about 15 March 1944.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Luftwaffe General Albert Kesselring's II Fliegerkorps sustained air offensive against Malta continues wreaking massive damage all across the island. The planes today sink Greek Hellenic Navy submarine Glavkos (two dead) and Royal Navy Fleet Auxiliary tanker RFA Plumbleaf. The Plumleaf, next to Parlatorio Wharf in Grand Harbor, is raised after the war and scrapped in Sicily. Damaged in the attacks are cruiser Penelope and destroyer Lance.

The air attacks take a heavy toll today on land, too. Around Grand Harbour, numerous buildings are destroyed. A bomb lands on the north end of Coronado Tunnel, which is being used as a shelter. It kills 16 men and injures 50 others, including eight men from HMS Kingston.

British 4782-ton tanker SS Turbo, a ship heavily damaged by Italian bombers on 20 August 1941, is being towed to Karachi when its old damage suddenly causes it to break in two. The forepart is shelled and sunk about 15 miles north of Ras Banas, while the stern section just drifts off, never to be seen again.
Prisoner exchange between Italy and Great Britain, 4 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"An Italian stretcher case being carried up the gangway of the LLANDOVERY CASTLE at Alexandria." Italian prisoners in Alexandria boarding a transport for an exchange for British prisoners, 4 April 1942 (© IWM A 8715).
POWs:  The British begin an exchange of 917 seriously wounded Italian prisoners for 129 British prisoners by loading the Italians on a ship. Hospital ship Llandovery Castle is used to make the prisoner exchange at Smyrna. This operation has been very difficult to transact because the Italians prefer a "one-for-one" exchange to preserve their dignity.

US/ French Relations: The United States grants official recognition to the Free French government in Equatorial Africa. It sends a Consul General to Brazzaville.

US/South African Relations: The South African government permits the Unites States Army Air Force to use the airfield at Point Noire, Congo. In exchange, the United States gives South Africa eight Lockheed Hudson bombers.

Japanese Military: The High Command has plans to invade both Midway and the Aleutian Islands. Neither is particularly strategically important but would expand the defense perimeter further away from Japan. The preliminary plan has been to invade them in sequence. Today, after a hearty debate, the Chief of the Navy, General Staff, Admiral Nagano, agrees to combine them. This will require a complex series of fleet movements and a full naval commitment.

US Military: The 5th Air Force USAAF transfers the 36th Pursuit Squadron, 8th Pursuit Group, from Lowood to Townsville, Australia. It is equipped with P-39s and P40s.

Winnipeg Free Press 4 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Winnipeg Free Press, 4 April 1942. Note the article at the lower left, "Hitler is Goaded by Need for Oil."
American Homefront: Warner Bros. releases "I Was Framed," a remake of the 1939 James Cagney crime drama "Each Dawn I Die." It stars Tod Andrews, Julie Bishop, and Regis Toomey. "I Was Framed" is a typical programmer for wartime audiences eager for any distraction. It clocks in at a brisk 61 minutes, also typical, and is only designed to make money, not be subtle or pretend to be high art.

Future History: James Louis Fregosi is born in San Francisco, California. He becomes a Major League Baseball shortstop in 1961 and later a well-traveled manager. Fregosi is notable for having been the most popular player of the California Angels franchise early in its history and still holds the franchise record with 70 career triples. Fregosi also is notorious in some circles for having been involved in the famous 1971 trade that sent Nolan Ryan from the New York Mets to the Angels. Jim Fregosi passes away on 14 February 2014 in Miami, Florida.
Saturday Evening Post 4 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.cmo
Saturday Evening Post, 4 April 1942.

April 1942

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

2021

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