Monday, January 25, 2021

April 21, 1942: Germans Relieve Demyansk

Tuesday 21 April 1942

Soviet loudspeaker on Eastern Front 21 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Soviet soldier sets up a loudspeaker to broadcast propaganda to German soldiers somewhere in Russia, 21 April 1942 (AP Photo).
Battle of the Pacific: From a safe house in Chuchow (Quzhou), China, Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle manages to get a message out to Washington, D.C. on 21 April 1942. In the message, he tells his superior officer, General "Hap" Arnold, that:

[The] mission to bomb Tokyo has been accomplished. On entering China, we ran into bad weather and it is feared that all planes crashed. Up to the present five fliers are safe.

Hap Arnold himself is receiving other information that indicates that most of the other Doolittle crewmen are safe, but that the Japanese also had captured a few. Doolittle himself is apprehensive that he faces a court-martial when he returns to the States due to the likely loss of all of the bombers in the mission (only one survives intact but is interred in the Soviet Union near Vladivostok).

President Roosevelt finally addresses the press today about the Doolittle raid. He confirms that US planes indeed had bombed Japan but for national security reasons gives few details. When a reporter asks Roosevelt what "base" the bombers had flown out of, Roosevelt takes the advice of an aide (Samuel Rosenman) and replies, "They came from our new secret base at Shangri-La." Of course, everyone at the time realizes that this was the fictional location in James Hilton's recent best-selling novel "Lost Horizon." Doolittle himself is not mentioned and the public is not given any more details about the raid until April 1943.

In China, the Japanese occupation forces carry out a retaliatory action for the Doolittle Raid known as the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign. This leads to the deaths of an estimated 250,000 Chinese people over the course of the next month.
Chinese escorting Doolittle crewmen ca. 21 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Chinese civilians helping downed airmen of the Doolittle raid ca. 21 April 1942. The Japanese occupation authorities were not pleased with this sort of assistance and launched a retaliatory campaign that led to many Chinese deaths (AP Photo/US Army Air Force).
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The Japanese advance in Burma continues as the Allies slowly retreat northwest toward India. Kyidaunggan on the road to Mandalay falls to the Japanese 18th Infantry Division.

Eastern Front: A German relief force under General Seydlitz (Operation Brückenschlag) manages to push through fading Soviet resistance in Ramushevo and reach the Lovat River. This creates a corridor (over the river) to the besieged garrison of almost 100,000 troops in the Demyansk pocket for the first time in ten weeks. The men of SS "Totenkopf" trapped in the pocket have battled their way to the river through the deepening spring thaw ("Rasputitsa") that makes any troop movement through the woods extremely difficult. This is a major German victory that deepens Adolf Hitler's belief that surrounded troops can always be rescued given sufficient will within leadership to do so.

General Franz Halder, not yet informed of the success at Demyansk, notes blandly in his war diary, "On the whole quiet, except for new attacks on the Volkhov."

In Crimea, the enhanced Luftwaffe forces remain very active. General Wolfram von Richhtofen has built the air force's Fliegerkorps VIII presence there up to the standards of an entire air fleet as planes and pilots return from the Reich after being restored to top service over the winter. Planes of KG 55 today damage the Soviet minesweeper Komintern and sink 4156-ton transport ship Kalinin at Novorossiysk. These raids are greatly interfering with Soviet General Kozlov's attempts to supply and reinforce his troops on the Kerch peninsula.
U-471 and U-459 at sea on 21 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U-571 and U-459 at sea, with a supply submarine refueling another submarine using a fuel hose (which the crew is grabbing with a hook), 21 April 1942 (Jostling, Federal Archive Fig. 101II-MW-4835-12).
In a rare display of independence, the Soviet Stavka (military high command) notes the obvious trends in Crimea and asks Stalin to consider evacuating the Kerch position. Stalin refuses and today orders preparations for yet another offensive against the German 11th Army units holding the Parpach Narrows to break through to Sevastopol. Stalin also refuses to send any more reinforcements, considering the forces he already has allocated to Crimea to be adequate for the mission. General Kozlov now is placed in an impossible position, with inadequate forces for an offensive, no hope of getting any more, and orders to put his forces into an attack orientation that will make them vulnerable to an attack. German General Manstein is planning exactly such an attack for the earliest time after the Rasputitsa subsides.

The Wehrmacht requests Italian naval forces for an unusual mission that will go under the code name Operation Hobgoblin. This is an attempt to interdict Soviet naval traffic across Lake Ladoga that is keeping Leningrad from surrendering. The Soviets are believed to have a large force of 6 gunboats, 2 large and 5 small torpedo boats, 32 armed minesweepers, 9 armed transport ships, 17 armed tugboats, and one submarine, plus another 25 other boats on the lake. The Italians are renowned for their small-boat force and immediately agree to supply four torpedo boats (MAS 526 to 529) of the 12th MAS Flotilla, commanded by Capitano di Corvetta (Lt-Commander) Bianchini. He has four officers, 19 NCO's, and 63 other ranks. These forces will be supplemented by Kriegsmarine Siebel ferries once the ice on the lake melts.
Personal aircraft of C-I-C Western Approaches on 21 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Commander-in-Chief Western Approaches Admiral Sir Percy Noble's personal aircraft, photographed on 21 April 1942. "The Admiral's plane, An Airspeed AS 6J Envoy III (P5629). Note the Admiral's flag on the nose." Note the overcast skies and rainwater on the airstrip, foul weather that day on the Channel Front (© IWM A 8386).
European Air Operations: For the second day in a row, there are no operations due to ground haze and light rain.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-576 (Kptlt. Hans-Dieter Heinicke), on its fourth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 5102-ton US freighter Pipestone County about 475 (880 km) miles east of Cape Henry, Virginia. The U-boat stops and gives provisions to one of the four lifeboats after questioning the survivors. All 46 aboard survive, rescued by USCGC Calypso, fishing vessel Irene and May, and Norwegian freighter Tropic Star.

U-201 (Kptlt. Adalbert Schnee), on its sixth patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and sinks 2027-ton Norwegian freighter Bris about 475 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. There are 4 deaths and 21 survivors.

U-84 (Oblt. Horst Uphoff), on its fourth patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and sinks 3014-ton Panamanian freighter Chenango about 60 nautical miles (110 km) southeast of Cape Henry, Virginia. There are 31 deaths and one survivor who is picked up by a Consolidated PBY Catalina of the US Coast Guard.
Duke of Gloucester on 21 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"The Duke of Gloucester inspects the Royal Marine Guard of Honour onboard HMS CLEOPATRA." Alexandria, Egypt, 21 April 1942 (© IWM A 8773).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Heavy Luftwaffe attacks on Malta continue. Of the 47 Spitfire fighters flown to the island from USS Wasp (CV-7) in Operation Calendar on the 20th, already about 30 have been destroyed and many others damaged. The Axis planes also sink 392-ton Royal Navy trawler HMT Jade in Grand Harbor, Malta.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, noting Malta's crumbling defenses, asks Hitler to take the island using paratroopers (Fallschirmjaeger). This is something that Luftwaffe General Albert Kesselring has been urging as well. Hitler, however, refuses to use paratroopers in an offensive role due to the heavy losses on Crete. This may be a wise decision because the British intelligence services could prepare a hot welcome for paratroopers dropping on British-controlled territory just as they did on Crete due to the secret Enigma codebreaking team.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Torbay shells and sinks 170-ton Kriegsmarine patrol boat 13V2 Delpa II off Cape Drepano near the Corinth Canal.
Sherman tank assembly line on 21 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Assembly line for the M4A1(75) at Pacific Car & Foundry of Renton, Washington, 21 April 1942. The completed tanks first rolled off the line in May of 1942, and the tank nearest to the camera was the pilot tank. PCF was the only West Coast manufacturer of Sherman tanks, with many used for training purposes in California and others sent overseas to fight the Japanese.
Special Forces: No. 4 Commando, in conjunction with 50 men from the Canadian Carleton and York Regiment, (2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade) and some Royal Engineers conduct Operation Abercrombie. This is an overnight reconnaissance in force begun after dark on 21 April 1942 in the vicinity of the French coastal village of Hardelot. Continuing a pattern of widely varying results of these commando raids, the raid accomplishes very little after a great deal of effort and planning. Among other issues, the Canadian contingent loses its way in the night and has to completely abort its participation in the mission. 

While no meaningful opposition is encountered, the Commandos lack time to accomplish minimal mission objectives such as destroying a nearby searchlight array. There are no casualties on either side. The raid is most notable for being the first time that the new LCS (Landing Craft Support) is used, providing valuable experience for future missions.

Partisans: The German authorities in France shoot 20 French hostages in retaliation ("complicity") for the successful British Commando raid on St. Nazaire in March 1942. Shooting hostages for attacks on German soldiers already has become an established practice by the occupation authorities.
Grumman Martlet on 21 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A British Royal Navy Grumman Martlet IV (Grumman F4F-4B) at Naval Air Station, Anacostia, Washington D.C. (USA), on 21 April 1942, after application of British markings. Official U.S. Navy photo NH 89676 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.
POWs: French General Henri Giraud reaches the presumed safety of Switzerland after a daring escape from the high-security POW camp at Königstein Castle near Dresden. Giraud accomplished his escape by using bedsheets and other articles to make a 150-foot (46 m) rope to lower himself down from his prison cell. Giraud had the advantage that many other POWs did not of having established a simple code in his letters home to inform his family of his plans. A Special Operations Executive (SOE) officer then met him and escorted him to Switzerland.

Giraud is stopped at the border by two Swiss border guards. At times these guards are known to have returned POWs to the German authorities, but these guards take this prize prisoner to Basel instead. News of Giraud's escape creates a sensation in France. Giraud then becomes a murky figure in murky French politics, remaining loyal to Pétain and the Vichy government but refusing to cooperate with the German authorities. Heinrich Himmler eventually tries to have the Gestapo assassinate Giraud but fails. Giraud refuses Pierre Laval's attempts to force him to cooperate with the Germans, but Laval does not turn Giraud over to the Gestapo when he has the chance. The Allies give Giraud the codename Kingpin and plan to make use of him when they invade French North Africa. After a long series of important appointments and politically charged events, they find out that Giraud is a loose cannon and cut their ties with him.
O'Hare receives Medal of Honor on 21 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
President Roosevelt awards Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward H. O'Hare the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony, 21 April 1942. In the background are Secretary of the Navy William Franklin Knox, Admiral Ernest J. King, U.S. Navy, Chief of Naval Operations, and Mrs. O’Hare (US Navy).
US Military: US Navy aviator Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare becomes the first naval recipient of the Medal of Honor. O'Hare receives the award for exploits on 20 February 1942 that his commanding officers, including Vice Admiral Wilson Brown (commander of Task Force 11) and Captain Frederick C. Sherman, believed may have saved his aircraft carrier USS Lexington from destruction. O'Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois, is named after Lt. O'Hare, who later went missing near the Gilbert Islands on 26 November 1943 and was declared dead exactly one year later.

US Government: President Roosevelt orders the seizure of all patents owned or controlled by enemy nations. This action is mainly directed against Germany, which has close ties to several important US industries.

The Roosevelt administration okays the "Big Inch" pipeline from Texas to New York. This is in response to the recent loss of many oil tankers off the US east coast during German Operation Drumroll (Paukenschlag).

The wife of the last US ambassador to Vichy France, Louise Leahy, passes away unexpectedly of an embolism. Admiral Leahy already has been ordered to return to the United States at the end of the month and this is a crushing experience to him. He will leave France at the beginning of May 1942.
Japanese-American internees at Puyallup camp in 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese American evacuees, Camp Harmony (Puyallup Assembly Center), 1942 Photo by Howard Clifford, Courtesy UW Special Collections (UW526).
American Homefront: In Seattle, Washington, evacuation announcements are posted on telephone poles, bulletin boards, and other highly visible public places. These direct Japanese-American to leave the city in three groups on the following Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The Japanese population of Seattle is around 7,000 people, with about another 7,000 living in the remainder of Washington State. Of these 14,000, a total of 12,892 persons of Japanese ancestry wind up in internment camps, first in the Puyallup assembly center and then to Minidoka in Idaho. The FBI already is arresting members of this community.

The San Francisco News on 21 April 1942 prints a report by Harry Ferguson of United Press giving an eyewitness account of the Manzanar internment camp. Ferguson reports that newcomers "found comfortable wooden buildings covered with tar paper, bathhouses and showers and plenty of wholesome food." He quotes an internee who calls Manzanar a "Nice place to live" that is "better than Hollywood." However, "Those whose sympathies lie with Japan are keeping quiet about it."

In another article in the San Francisco News today, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is reported as suggesting "rehabilitation" of "Little Tokio." This "rehabilitation" actually means obliterating it. The article states:
All parties concerned have endorsed the idea of slum clearance programs for the section, but there have been differences over whether Federal or private money should be used.
The article suggests that there is some urgency to the matter as other minorities are quickly moving into the areas abandoned by the Japanese-Americans.
Look magazine 21 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Look magazine, 21 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

April 20, 1942: The Operation Calendar Disaster

Monday 20 April 1942

Hitler's birthday 20 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A military parade in honor of Adolf Hitler's birthday organized by Reichskommissar Koch in Rovno, Ukraine on 20 April 1942 (Federal Archive B 162 pic-04246).
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese high command is still furious on 20 April 1942 about the Doolittle raid and orders the massive Second Fleet, recently returned from its Indian Ocean Raid, to hunt down the American carrier task force. Nobody has any idea where the US ships are, and Admiral Nagumo aboard his own carrier, the Akagi, thinks they may be within striking distance of his ships near Formosa and attack them. The fact that the US Navy used land-based bombers in the attack further confuses the Japanese. Meanwhile, USS Enterprise and Hornet have long since departed the scene as they return to Pearl Harbor. The US high command, mirroring Japanese concerns, also remains deeply worried about a Japanese attack on the west coast.

In the Philippines, Japanese artillery continues to pound the last US island outpost of Corregidor. The Japanese have overrun US positions on Cebu and Panay, and US and affiliated Filipino garrisons throughout the northern and central Philippines have fled into the hills to operate as guerilla forces on Leyte, Samar, Negros, and Bohol.

Soviet freighter Turksib is wrecked in bad weather in the Unimak Strait, Alaska Territory. The USSR and Japan are not at war, so Soviet ships may pass more-or-less freely between their home ports and the United States, though they are subject to search for military goods by Japanese patrol vessels.
Hitler's birthday 20 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Reich Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop congratulates Adolf Hitler on his 53rd birthday, 20 April 1942 (Source: National Digital Archives, Poland).
Battle of the Indian Ocean: Chinese General Sun Li-Jen, having successfully rescued trapped British forces on the 19th, continues attacking south toward the Yenaungyaung oil fields. The small Chinese force makes some progress and inflicts heavy casualties on the Japanese, but this success is only temporary and the Chinese soon begin retreating back to the north. The British 1st Burma Division that barely had escaped destruction due to the Chinese advance finds vehicles to take it north to Mount Popa.

Eastern Front: The spring thaw ("Rasputitsa") is rapidly increasing, causing extensive flooding and muddy conditions that make operations difficult. General Franz Halder notes in his war diary:

Curiously quiet. Enemy is seemingly anticipating a German red-letter day attack. Enemy propaganda. Good progress on the Lovat River. The gap has been almost closed. Consolidation of the situation on the Volkhov River.

The two operations that Halder mentions, on the Lovat and Vokhov rivers, are of utmost importance to both sides as large numbers of troops are at risk. The former is the relief operation to rescue the huge German forces trapped at Demyansk and Kholm, and the latter is a large Soviet force including the Second Shock Army that is trapped west of the Volkhov. While the outcome of both operations has been in doubt for months, the Germans gradually are gaining the upper hand in both sectors.

The Soviet Stavka (high command) officially ends the Rzhevsk-Vyazma Operation and orders forces in the area over to the defensive. This follows a partially successful breakout of trapped Soviet forces in the area east of Smolensk. The operation was a failure in its objective to encircle and destroy large Wehrmacht forces, but the Soviets claim that it succeeded in forced German forces back 100-250 kilometers.

European Air Operations: There are no operations today due to some very thick ground haze. A circus over a French port is briefly planned but scrubbed at 12:15 local time. 
Time magazine 20 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Time magazine features German Admiral Karl Raeder on its cover on 20 April 1942 (Cover Credit: BORIS ARTZYBASHEFF).
Battle of the Atlantic: U-572 (Kptlt. Heinz Hirsacker), on its fourth patrol out of Brest, torpedoes, and sinks 7164-ton British freighter Empire Dryden about 240 nautical miles (440 km) northwest of Bermuda. There are 25 deaths and 22 survivors, who are picked up by the US freighter City of Birmingham.

U-752 (Kptlt. Karl-Ernst Schroeter), on its fifth patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes, shells, and badly damages US freighter West Imboden about 200 miles off the Nantucket lightship. The freighter was an easy target due to an accidental fire in its stack that gave away its position. The U-boat captain has a conversation with the survivors in their lifeboats and says "That's good" when told there have been no casualties. West Imboden later sinks.

U-654 (Oblt. Ludwig Forster), on its third patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and sinks 4569-ton Swedish freighter Agra about 280 nautical miles (520 km) northwest of Bermuda. There are six deaths and 33 survivors, who are picked up by Norwegian freighter Tercero. Torpedoing neutral shipping obviously is improper, but all ships are transiting in blackout conditions and it is largely impossible to tell neutral shipping from legitimate targets.

U-654 also torpedoes and sinks 6176-ton US freighter Steel Maker about 350 nautical miles (650 km) east of Wilmington, North Carolina. There are one death and 47 survivors, who are rescued by British freighter Pacific Exporter and USS Rowan. The one crewman rescued by the Rowan is in the water until 18 May 1942.

U-109 (Kptlt. Heinrich Bleichrodt), on its fifth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5719-ton British freighter Harpagon about 150 nautical miles (280 km) northwest of Bermuda. There are 41 deaths and eight survivors, who are picked up by Argentinian freighter Rio Diamante.
Hitler's birthday 20 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Adolf Hitler and his personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, on 20 April 1942.
U-154 (KrvKpt. Walther Kölle), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5587-ton Canadian freighter Vineland in the mid-Atlantic. There are 34 survivors and one death.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Trident torpedoes and sinks 5386-ton German freighter Hödur northwest of Namsos, Norway.

Royal Navy destroyers Cotswold and Quorn, operating as escorts for Convoy FS 80 in the North Sea, hit mines off Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Quorn (two deaths) is towed by patrol sloop Shearwater to Chatham and requires 17 weeks of repairs, while Cotswold (five dead, 23 wounded) is towed Shotley Spit and beached. Refloated later, Cotswold re-enters service on 8 May 1943.

British 1498-ton freighter Plawsworth and Belgian 1829-ton freighter Vae Victis, members of Convoy FS 80, also hit mines and sink in the North Sea off Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

Swedish 569-ton coaster Arete hits a mine and sinks in the Danish Great Belt strait. There are four deaths.

German 470-ton trawler/minesweeper M 4006 Neuwerk hits a mine and sinks in the English Channel off Morlaix, Finistère, France.
Hitler's birthday 20 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Walther Buhle, Chief of Organizations Section, OKH, congratulates Adolf Hitler for his 53rd birthday, 20 April 1942 (Source: National Digital Archives, Poland).
Battle of the Mediterranean: Aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) flies off 48 Spitfire fighters of RAF No. 601 and 603 Squadrons to land in Malta, which has had no operational fighter cover recently. The Wasp's Grumman F4F Wildcats provide air cover. Operation Calendar has resulted from a personal request from Winston Churchill to President Roosevelt for the use of a US carrier for this purpose.

The Luftwaffe has been alerted to the joint US-British operation and times an air raid to coincide with the landing of the Spitfires at Malta's Ta'Qali airfield. The RAF fighters, low on fuel after their shuttle flight, cannot defend themselves and must land immediately, leaving them vulnerable. The German bombers, facing no air opposition, destroy most of the incoming fighters immediately and virtually all of them within days (some sources say within two days, others within four days).

The British military command and Churchill are aghast at this disaster. They set in motion plans to replace the island's longtime governor, Lieutenant General Sir William Dobbie, who blames the failure on the intense bombardment that the island has faced over the past month from German General Albert Kesselring's continuing air offensive.

Battle of the Black Sea: Soviet icebreaker Ledokol No. 7 hits a mine laid by the Luftwaffe and sinks between Novorossiysk and Kerch. There are 25 dead and 11 survivors.
Hitler's birthday 20 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Turkish Ambassador to the Reich Hüsrev Gerede signs the list congratulating Adolf Hitler on his birthday in the Reich Chancellery on 20 April 1942 (Schwahn, Federal Archive Image 183-J01196).
Partisans: The Italian and German security services in eastern Bosnia under the overall command of General der Artillerie Paul Bader begin Operation Trio. The operation targets all insurgents between Sarajevo and Drina. Bader gives the Italians military control over civil affairs in the areas of operation, a key Italian goal for expanding their zone of control in the Balkans despite their continuing difficulties with the partisans. The first phase of Operation Trio, an advance east toward the Drina, begins today, but this is a massive operation using regular army troops as well as auxiliaries that is intended to last for throughout the spring. Italian, German, Croatian, and Chetnik forces take part.

The 718th Infantry Division advances from Sarajevo, Olovo, and Tuzla. The initial goal is to relieve an embattled Croatian garrison at Rogatica in an area swarming with partisans in the surrounding countryside. The Axis forces advance without much difficulty, but the effort is hampered by intra-Axis hostilities between the royalist Chetniks and the Ustaše Black Legion led by Jure Francetić.

In Rennes, France, the French Resistance makes an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate French fascist Jacques Doriot. He is a founder of the Légion des Volontaires Français (LVF), a French unit of the Wehrmacht. Doriot has fought in the Soviet Union as part of Operation Barbarossa and is highly esteemed by the Germans. Separately, German security troops in Rouen shoot 30 hostages in reprisal for an attack on a German troop train.
Hitler's birthday 20 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Adolf Hitler accepts congratulations on his birthday, 20 April 1942 (Source: National Digital Archive, Poland).
German Military: At lunch with Hitler and other top generals, Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler broaches the idea of using SS troops extensively on the Eastern Front in regular military formations. This has been done very sparingly so far, usually only in emergency situations, as the SS is considered more of a "special operations" force. General Franz Halder notes in his diary that he takes "sharp issue" with this idea, perhaps realizing that this would introduce an entirely separate military command outside of the normal Wehrmacht chain of command. This would reduce both Halder's own control of operations and introduce problems in coordinating attacks.

US Military: US Army Air Force Major General George H. Brett assumes command of all Allied Air Forces in Australia and nearby areas. This includes units in Port Moresby, New Guinea.
Hitler's birthday 20 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Berlin Philharmonic puts on a concert for Hitler's birthday, 20 April 1942. He is not in attendance, as he remains at his Fuhrer Headquarters in East Prussia.
German Homefront: It is Adolf Hitler's birthday, always marked during the Third Reich with celebrations and speeches. Today's celebration is relatively low-key, and Hitler's main event is having lunch at Fuhrer Headquarters in Rastenburg with his top generals such as Halder and Himmler. New French leader (under figurehead Petain) Pierre Laval lavishes praise on Hitler ("He is a conqueror who did not abuse his victory") and characterizes the war as an attack on "Bolshevism."

Holocaust: Fritz Sauckel, the Reich Plenipotentiary General for Labor Mobilization, sends a memo to Alfred Rosenberg, Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, about forced labor. It details a program of abduction and enslavement, focused mainly on Rosenberg's sphere of authority in Eastern Europe. Approximately 5 million men and women will be forced to work for the Reich as slave labor under this program. The document states that the program is necessary "for the armament of the Armed Forces and also for the nutrition of the Homeland" and " to the profit of Germany and her allies."

American Homefront: The San Francisco News reports that "The Army today ordered two more Los Angeles areas cleared of 2000 Japanese by noon of April 29." General De Witt also announces that the army is building a new "reception center" for internees at Tula Lake. All internees are urged to deposit large sums of money and valuables for safekeeping before going to the camps, as there will be no banks or other repositories there. The Army also announces that evacuations will "proceed at a rapid rate from now on."
Life magazine 20 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The 20 April 1942 Life magazine features a cover story about women's slacks.

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, January 20, 2021

April 19, 1942: British in Burma Escape

Sunday 19 April 1942

USS Nevada leaving Pearl Harbor April 19, 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
USS Nevada leaves Pearl Harbor for a trial run on April 19, 1942, after hurried repairs from the 7 December 1941 air raid (U.S. Navy).
Battle of the Pacific: The Doolittle raiders end their mission in the early morning hours of 19 April 1942 by crashing in China or ditching their B-25 bombers in the sea. Ultimately, 15 of the 16 planes are destroyed in crashes. One crew lands near Vladivostok, Russia, where the crew is interned because the USSR is not at war with Japan (they escape in 1943). The Japanese capture eight crewmen, of whom three are executed as "war criminals." One crewman dies of disease in prison. Most of the remaining crewmen are helped by Chinese civilians and manage to return home via Burma and India. Colonel Doolittle, who lands in a rice paddy near Chun Chow and is helped by local civilians, is promoted (in absentia) to Brigadier General.

The Japanese search hard for the Doolittle crews and while doing so execute an estimated 250,000 Chinese civilians in reprisal. In Tokyo, the raid takes the military command by surprise and alarms it even though the attack actually caused little damage. The danger is that it has exposed shortcomings in the sea "outfield" defensive perimeter. It recalls some units to the home islands for defense and beefs up sea patrols. Admiral Yamamoto speeds up spans for the invasion of Midway in order to provide better security on the sea approaches to Japan. Because the life of the Emperor was placed in jeopardy by the raid, the official position is that it is unpatriotic to argue against the adoption of a more defensive strategy.
Bataan April 19, 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Sunday Tribune of 19 April 1942 has many pictures of the recent surrender of Bataan.
In Washington, D.C., there are wild rumors of a raid (due to Japanese radio reports that "Enemy bombers appeared over Tokyo for the first time in the current war"), but the White House and War Department issue no statements. President Roosevelt is in Hyde Park, New York, and finally is informed about the raid. Advisor Samuel Rosenman suggests that if any reporters ask where the raid originated, he could tell them it came from "Shangri-La," a fantasy Himalayan city in James Hilton's novel "Lost Horizon."

In the Philippines, the Japanese complete the capture of Cebu Island. A Japanese submarine shells and sinks 1406-ton Philippine freighter El Cano off Corregidor. The Japanese lose guard boat No. 21 Nanshin Maru (scuttled) and No. 1 Iwate Maru (sinks) as a result of the air attacks from the USS Enterprise in preparation for the Doolittle raid.
San Francisco Chronicle 19 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The press is full of reports of a daring air raid on Japan, but there is no official word yet and the details are only provided by Japanese radio broadcasts. San Francisco Chronicle, 19 April 1942.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The British 1st Burma Division, about 7000 men, crosses the Pin Chaung River in Burma on 19 April 1942, meeting up with an advancing Chinese relief column. The Chinese attack at 08:00 and make little progress, but attack again in the afternoon and make contact with the British around 16:00 after the Japanese pull back to the south and east. The British under the command of Captain J.A. Clifford thereby avoid being trapped and save the troops. Clifford stays in the vicinity to collect stragglers, some of whom have escaped after being captured.

The Chinese leader, General Lo Cho-Ying, had refused to rescue the British, but subordinate commander General Sun Li-Jen responded favorably to a telephone appeal from British commander Major General James Bruce Scott and led 1121 men to help the British. The 1st Burma Division is in poor condition, having lost its heavy equipment and with many Burmese troops having deserted. King George VI will award General Sun with the Commander of the Order of the British Empire medal and also some of his subordinate commanders with other awards. The Chinese remain in the area to attack south toward the Yenangyaung oil fields but face heavy Japanese opposition. All told, the Japanese have lost 700 killed in the battle around the Yenangyoung oil fields while the Allies have lost roughly 550 men - and control of the installation.
Finnish 2nd Lieutenant 19 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Finnish Second Lieutenant takes a break, April 1942 (SA-Kuva).
Eastern Front: Lieutenant General Mikhail Grigoryevich Yefremov, commander of the Soviet 33rd Army, commits suicide to avoid being taken prisoner by the Germans near Vyazma. He does so while personally leading a failed breakout attempt across a highway out of a pocket south and east of Smolensk that had formed during a Soviet attempt to take Vyazma in February 1942. The Germans had found a copy of orders for the breakout in the uniform of a dead Soviet soldier and were ready and waiting at the crossing point. They form three lines of defense at the road and destroy the remnants of the 33rd Army with withering machine-gun and artillery fire.

A separate breakout attempt by General Pavel Belov's 1st Guards Cavalry Corps from the Smolensk/Vyazma pocket is undetected by the Germans and succeeds in crossing the road to reach the Soviet 10th Army. A monument to Yefremov is later placed in Vyazma and he posthumously is awarded the Order of the Red Banner. Belov, on the other hand, gains greatly in prestige and soon will be awarded command of the 61st Army.

In Crimea, the battles along the Parpach Narrows have died down, but the Luftwaffe is making its enhanced presence known. Today, German bombers damage tanker I. Stalin along with three other transport ships. General Manstein has managed to keep his casualties relatively low during the battles while General Kozlov's Crimean Front has lost 40% of its manpower, 52% of its tanks, and 25% of its artillery during its failed offensives. Manstein now begins planning a final offensive (Unternehmen Trappenjagd or "Bustard Hunt") to clear the Soviets out of the Kerch Peninsula once the spring thaw arrives in early May. The Soviet Stavka asks Stalin to consider withdrawing from the exposed position but the commander in chief is undecided.

Near Demyansk, General Seydlitz's relief force continues slowly grinding toward the pocket where almost 100,000 German troops are trapped. The Soviets are resisting bitterly but have nowhere to retreat between the relief column and the Lovat River. General Halder notes casually in his war diary, "Still all quiet on the front."
Hitler Youth induction ceremony 19 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Hitler Youth induction ceremony for ten-year-olds in Berlin, 19 April 1942 (Federal Archive Image 183-J01181).
European Air Operations: It is a quiet day on the Channel Front. The only activity is minelaying overnight in the Frisian Islands, during which the RAF loses one Hampden and one Wellington bomber.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-130 (KrvKpt. Ernst Kals) shells the Royal Dutch Shell refineries at Ballen Bay on Curacao in the Netherlands West Indies. A total of twelve shells cause minimal damage.

U-136 (Kptlt. Heinrich Zimmermann) torpedoes and sinks armed US freighter Steel Maker west of Bermuda. The submarine stops to question the survivors in their life boats, and Captain politely says, "I am sorry to have to sink you and do this to you, but this is war." He promises to inform the Allies of their position. Although only one crewman perishes and 36 men survive, the survivors drift in the current and the last man is not rescued until 18 May 1942. (Sources conflict on U-136's activities today but this is according to the US Navy Chronology).

U-136 also torpedoes and damages freighter Axtell J. Byles (named for a football player) off Wimble Shoals, North Carolina. The tanker makes it to Hampton Roads under its own power with no injuries to the crew.

German auxiliary cruiser Michel (formerly Polish freighter Bielsko and then hospital ship Bonn), under the command of FK (later KzS) Helmuth von Ruckteschell, shells and sinks 7468-ton British tanker Patella in the South Atlantic. There are five dead. The Germans take 60 crewmen as prisoners. This is Michel's first victory after breaking out through the English Channel and sailing on 20 March 1942.

US 7500-ton freighter Exminster collides with freighter Algic at the entrance to Cape Cod Canal, Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, and sinks. Algic suffers minimal damage. Exminster later is raised and towed to New York but ultimately scrapped in 1946.

US Navy destroyer Broome (DD-210) rescues 27 survivors from freighter Alcoa Guide, sunk by U-123 on 16 April 1942.

Convoy PQ-14 arrives at Murmansk, USSR.
Lima news 19 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Lima, Ohio, News headlines the Doolittle Raid on 19 April 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: U-81 (Kptlt. Friedrich Guggenberger), on its fifth patrol out of La Spezia, rams and sinks 90-ton Egyptian sailing vessel Hefz el Rahman off the coast of Palestine. Royal Navy destroyer HMS Umbra torpedoes and sinks 4219-ton Italian freighter Assunta de Grigori off Sfax, Tunisia.

There are heavy air raids on Malta, as there have been since mid-March. The RAF has no planes in service on the island, so the Luftwaffe has complete control of the skies aside from anti-aircraft fire. The bombers drop 436 tons of bombs (442,376 kg) and single out anti-aircraft batteries for special attention, hitting 15 of them and killing 13 gunners. Also suffering damage are all major airfields and Grand Harbour. In Hamrun, 34 civilians perish when a bomb strikes St. Paul's Home for the Elderly, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

German Military: At his hunting lodge at the Rominten Heath in East Prussia, Hermann Goering gives a speech to his top Luftflotte commanders about the war in the East. "The Russian is an enemy of barbarous methods. They ought not to be initiated by us, but we've got to show a sterner face." While Goering is reticent about saying exactly what this "sterner face" means, his meaning is clear.

US Military: Battleship USS Nevada leaves Pearl Harbor for a trial run after extensive repairs from torpedo and bomb damage suffered during the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid. She will proceed to Puget Sound Navy Yard for major repairs and modernization.

American Homefront: Bernard Joseph Smith wins the Boston Marathon with a new record time of 2:26:51.

Warren Spahn makes his major league debut for the Boston Braves, retiring the two batters he faces.

Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau encourages Americans to spend 10 percent of their income on war savings bonds.

Reserve Cavalry officer Lt. Ronald Reagan (he enlisted in 1937) is called to active duty. His first assignment is with the San Francisco Port of Embarkation at Fort Mason, California, as a liaison officer of the Port and Transportation Office. He is unable to serve overseas because the army has classified him as fit only for limited service due to his poor eyesight.
Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman 19 April 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ronald Reagan bids farewell to wife Jane Wyman in Los Angeles on April 19, 1942. He is off to report for duty as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army (AP Photo).

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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