Sunday, September 6, 2020

April 11, 1942: The Sea War Heats Up

Saturday 11 April 1942

US tanker Gulfamerica sinking on 11 April 1942
US tanker Gulfamerica sinking off the Florida coast on 11 April 1942 after being torpedoed by U-123.
Battle of the Pacific: Another column of Allied POWs sets out from Bagac, the Philippines, in the Bataan Death March on 11 March 1942. Along the route, they join at Pilar the first column that set out from Mariveles on the 10th. Their shared objective is Camp O'Donnell, a march of about 60 miles (110 km) away (with a short train ride in between). Along the way, the prisoners are treated with increasing brutality as the Japanese captors tire of the march themselves. Little food or water is provided, and anyone who falls behind is shot, though a few prisoners manage to slip off into the forests to become guerillas. Men are beaten and killed for any specious reason or no reason under the blazing sun.
In Manila Bay, the Japanese continue pounding Corregidor with artillery moved to the shoreline. The remaining US troops in the area continue scuttling ships, including the 1074-ton Filipino passenger and cargo ship Apo.

In Tokyo, the Japanese fleet radio intelligence network continues picking up US Navy radio traffic between Pearl Harbor and ships heading west. These ships are Admiral "Bull" Halsey's Task Force 16, centered around USS Enterprise, and Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle's raiders aboard USS Hornet. The Japanese deduce that the Americans are heading toward Japan, but wait for picket ships to report that the Americans have gotten to within 300 miles of the coast. However, as a precaution, the Japanese do alert the 69 land-based bombers of the 26th Air Flotilla to be ready for action at any time.

US Navy submarine USS Trout torpedoes and sinks a Japanese fleet tanker west of Shionomisaki, Japan. Some A-20 Havocs of the US Army Air Force raids Lae, New Guinea, and bombs and destroys Japanese transport Taijun Maru (3 deaths).
TBD-1 Devastators on USS Enterprise, 11 April 1942
TBD-1 Devastators of VT-6 on the flight deck of USS Enterprise. The Enterprise is hurrying to catch up with USS Hornet, which is carrying the planes for the Doolittle Raid. April 11, 1942
Battle of the Indian Ocean: Using troops freed up from the capture of Singapore in mid-February, the Japanese launch a major offensive in Burma in the middle of a storm toward the Yenangyaung oil fields. The British have the 1st Burma Division and the 48th Indian Infantry Brigade defending, and these formations give good accounts of themselves and hold their ground. The British deploy the 2nd Royal Tank regiment at Thadodan and Alebo near Magwe. The British defense is hampered by heavy jungles that the Japanese can get through while they themselves, due to their equipment, are confined to the roads.

Eastern Front: After today's attacks on the German defenses along the Parpach Narrows in the Crimea fail, Soviet General Kozlov calls off this fourth offensive against the line. It has been a dismal failure. During these four offensives and the initial reconquest of the Kerch Peninsula, the Soviets have lost a staggering 352,000 men, including 236,370 just during the offensives. This is 40% of its manpower, 25% of its artillery, and 52% of its tanks. Stalin, however, is not dismayed by the losses and wants further attacks made.

On the German side, little note is made of Kozlov's attacks. In his war diary, General Halder dismissively writes, "New strong attacks on the Kerch peninsula were repulsed. A landing attempt on the west coast of the Crimea was thrown back." These abortive Soviet landings are at Eupatoriya, Crimea. General Manstein in command of the 11th Army is now free to plan his own offensive, which will begin in about a month.
NY Times, 11 April 1942
The 11 April 1942 NY Times carries news about the surrender on Bataan that focuses on the men holding out in the island fortress of Corregidor. There is not a hint about the Bataan Death March because the US government is not releasing any news about it.
The losses from these overly aggressive Soviet attacks will greatly aid the German summer offensive currently being planned at Zossen (General Franz Halder writes in his diary today, "Work on the orders for operation 'Blau."). At the daily situation conference, Hitler cancels all proposed offensives in the Army Group Center sector and orders division transfers to Army Group South and to the West.

Meanwhile, Halder notes that the German relief attempt toward the Demyansk pocket being mounted by General Seydlitz's men "is very tight. Seydlitz is making small advances." The trapped men at Demyansk and Kholm need to be rescued soon as they are drained from spending the entire winter in the pocket.

In the far North, the Soviets attack Finnish positions north of Lake Ladoga at Aunus (Olonets). As with many Soviet offensives, this hits at a "seam," namely, a boundary between two large Axis units. The Soviets break past the Finns in this wild and untamed region, but the Finns quickly regroup. They move in behind the advancing Soviets to cut them off. This turns another overly aggressive Soviet attack into a trap. The Soviets take heavy losses.

Even further north, the Red Air Force attacks the Luftwaffe airfield at Kirkenes, Norway. However, little damage is done.

European Air Operations: It is a light day for both sides, probably because of the weather. No major actions.
US tanker Harry F. Sinclair Jr. burns off Cape Lookout, North Carolina, 11 April 1942
US tanker Harry F. Sinclair Jr. burns off Cape Lookout, North Carolina after being torpedoed by U-203, 11 April 1942 (National Archives).
Battle of the Atlantic: Both sides have begun allocating more resources to the Arctic Convoy route around northern Norway. The Soviets send five submarines (K-1, K-2, K-3, S-101, ShCh-401) to the area to ward off any surface attacks (K-2 lays mines today off Vardø), while the German destroyers Z.24 and Z.25 are at sea searching for a convoy. The Germans already have noticed Convoy QP 10 heading back to Iceland from Murmansk which left port yesterday. A Luftwaffe attack by Junkers Ju 88 medium bombers bombs and sinks 7161-ton British freighter Empire Cowper in the Barents Sea. There are nine deaths.

U-160 (Oblt. Georg Lassen), on its first patrol out of Helgoland, torpedoes and sinks 14,647-ton British passenger ship Ulysses about 45 nautical miles (83 km) south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. All 290 people on board are rescued by destroyer USS Manley. Ulysses escaped from Hong Kong prior to the takeover, but her luck ran out in the Atlantic when she collided with another vessel and then had to head to Newport News for repairs.

U-123 (Kptlt. Reinhard Hardegen), on its eighth patrol out of Lorient, continues its reign of terror along the east coast of the United States. It torpedoes and sinks 8081-ton US tanker Gulfamerica about five miles off Jacksonville, Florida. there are 19 dead and 29 survivors. While the ship is abandoned and clearly an unrepairable derelict, Gulfamerica does not completely sink until 16 April. this sinking is a little unusual in that Hardegen surfaces to sink the derelict, but realizes that because it is so close to Jacksonville, some of his salvoes may overshoot the ship and hit the city. So, he circles around to the west and then begins firing. This delay enables a US destroyer, USS Dahlgren, to arrive on the scene, disrupt the attack, and damage U-123. However, Hardegen and U-123 escape. Hardegen receives praise after the war for this humanitarian gesture.

U-130 (KrvKpt. Ernst Kals), on its third patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5393-ton Norwegian freighter Grenanger northeast of the West Indies. The crew abandons the ship in lifeboats and are spotted by British freighter Almenara - but incredibly, in what may be a unique incident, they turn down the offer of rescue and sail on in their lifeboats with some supplies. The three lifeboats make it to St. Thomas, taken in tow the last part of the way by USS Courier (AMc 72).
HMS Kingston in a Malta drydock after being destroyed there on 11 April 1942
HMS Kingston in a Malta drydock after being hit by bombs there. She was written off.
U-203 (Kptlt. Rolf Mützelburg), on its sixth patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and damages 6151-ton US tanker Harry F. Sinclair, Jr. about seven miles (11 km) off Cape Lookout, North Carolina. The crew has to abandon ship immediately because the fuel cargo catches fire and turns the ship into a blazing torch. The flames catch one of three lifeboats as it is being launched, killing the men inside. There are 10 dead and 26 survivors. The ship refuses to sink, so it is eventually taken in tow by HMS Senateur Duhamel (FY 327) to Baltimore. It is rebuilt and returns to service in 1943 as Annibal.

US Navy anti-submarine trawler St. Cathan collides with another ship that also sinks (Dutch freighter Heße) off South Carolina and sinks. There are 31 deaths and eight survivors. the lost men are Royal Navy members because the Royal Navy has lent the St. Cathan to the US Navy due to the growing threat of U-boats off the east coast of the United States.

United Kingdom freighter Trongate catches fire at Halifax, Nova Scotia and has to be scuttled. Trongate was part of Convoy SC-79.

German tanker Eurosee hits a mine in the North Sea off Terschelling, Friesland and breaks in two, sinking quickly.
HMS Jervis using depth charges in an attack, 11 April 1942
HMS Jervis attacking a submarine with depth charges in the Mediterranean, 11 April 1942 (© IWM A 8928).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Luftwaffe attacks continue with ferocity on Malta. Today, they bomb and sink Royal Navy destroyer HMS Kingston, which was in dry dock for repairs after already being bombed.

The Luftwaffe also bombs and badly damages Egyptian transport Kawsar near Port Said. She is towed to port but written off.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Torbay (Cdr. A.C.C. Miers) uses his deck gun to sink Italian schooner Gesu Crocifisso about 16.5 miles northeast of Fano Island (northwest of Corfu).

Special Forces: British Commandos mount Operation J V. This is a raid by two Commandos, Captain Gerald Montanaro and Trooper Preece. They are brought close to Boulogne Harbor and then released in a canoe to paddle into the harbor. They quietly plant a limpet mine on a tanker there and paddle back out without issue.

American Homefront: The Office of Civilian Defense, Civil Air Patrol, issues Training Directive No. 25. This sets forth the requirements for inclusion in the CAP program, including the number of hours flying time required as pilots (200) and other factors. In addition to simple reconnaissance missions, the pilots are to become proficient at formation flying, picking up messages that are suspended between two poles, dropping supplies by parachute, radio communications, and similar topics. The CAP is intended to be a major asset in the fight against the U-boat menace.
Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare (far plane) and LDMDR Thach flying their F4F-3A Wildcats on 11 April 1942 off Hawaii. O'Hare is the namesake of the airport in Chicago. He would be awarded the Medal of Honor not long after this picture was taken.

April 1942

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


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