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.

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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