Saturday, April 3, 2021

April 28, 1942: Brewing Clash in the Arctic

Tuesday 28 April 1942

Rommel in North Africa 28 April 1942
General Erwin Rommel, leader of the Afrika Korps, receives an Italian military decoration (Italian Colonial Order of the Star, Grand Officer's Cross) on 28 April 1942 (Federal Archive Image 101I-784-0212-34).
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese 22nd Infantry Division, Thirteenth Army, continues advancing in the Shanghai sector on 28 April 1942. Yesterday it captured Lungyu, today it takes Chinlan (Quinlan). while the island invasions across the Pacific Ocean are important to Imperial Japan, its top priority remains the eternal conflict in China.

Air battles continue over Port Moresby, New Guinea. The Japanese send eight bombers escorted by Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters over the port. During the fighting, death claims the commander of RAF No. 75 Squadron, John Francis Jackson, 34, when his P-40E is shot down and it crashes into a mountainside. The Australians also lose another P-40, while the Japanese lose a Zero piloted by Yoshimitsu Maeda, who is taken as a prisoner.

Jackson has been a stalwart in the aerial defense of the area. His body is identified only by his boots and his personal pistol. John Francis Jackson winds up with 8 aerial victories and he is interred at Moresby's Bomana War Cemetery. Moresby's airport is named Jacksons International Airport in his honor, and there is a monument honoring him and another RAAF pilot, Len Waters.

US Navy submarine USS Seal torpedoes and sinks Japanese freighter Tatsufuku Maru in the South China Sea.
British scout car in North Africa 28 April 1942
"Daimler scout car of 5th Royal Tank Regiment, 4th Armoured Brigade in the Western Desert, 28 April 1942." © IWM E 11092.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: Japanese troops, temporarily scared off by an unexpected encounter with the Chinese 28th Division, Sixty-Sixth Army, on the 27th, resume their drive north to the Chinese stronghold of Lashio. They run into Chinese defenders of the 28th Division and others. Fierce fighting breaks out. The Sixty-Sixth commander, General Chang, however, already is sending everything that can move back toward China through Kutkai and Wanting.

Eastern Front: Things are so quiet on the Eastern Front that General Franz Halder has given himself leave in Berlin to attend War Academy lectures and, among other things, visit the dentist. Among other things, he attends a lecture by General Walther Wenck and has lunch with the Commandant of the Hungarian War Academy, General Laszlo.
Auschwitz victim 28 April 1942
Polish naval officer Zenon Waczyński, executed at Auschwitz on 28 April 1942 after arriving on 5 April.
European Air Operations: After dark, the Luftwaffe switches targets again. After bombing Exeter, Bath, and Norwich, now it bombs York. While the attack causes limited damage, 79 people perish. There has been an unusually high death toll during these "Baedeker Raids" despite the relatively small number of planes involved, perhaps because residents of Great Britain have developed a false sense of complacency after many months without air attacks. They thus are not taking proper precautions such as sleeping in shelters. This is the last of these raids until the night of 3 May 1942.

RAF Bomber Command continues its heavy raids as well. During the day, six Boston bombers attack the St. Omer railway yards without loss. After dark, the main target is Kiel. The RAF sends 88 bombers (62 Wellingtons, 15 Stirlings, 10 Hampdens, and a Halifax), with five Wellingtons and a Hampden failing to return. The attack produces mediocre results, with damage to the city's shipyards and the Naval Academy hospital. There are 15 deaths and 74 injured.

The RAF also sends yet another raid to Trondheim, Norway, in an attempt to sink the Tirpitz. This ties in with mounting Allied fears, discussed below, of danger on the Arctic Convoy route. The attack by 23 Halifax and 11 Lancaster bombers fails to hit the battleship, though the pilots claim some successes.

There also are subsidiary operations by six Blenheim bombers to the Langenbrugge, Germany (northeast of Hanover), power station, four Blenheim Intruders, and six minelayers off the north German coast. The only aircraft lost is one Blenheim from the Langenbrugge raid.

The Germans are furious about the recent raids on Rostock. They admit that the raids caused great damage but deny that the Baltic port was a legitimate military target. The Börsen Zeitung newspaper states:

Probably British agitators will again assert that the airmen attacked only military targets; but that the real purpose is to terrify the German population is too clear to be denied.

Of course, terror raids are have been common in World War II since 1939. They can have quite unintended effects on enemy morale.
HMS Columbine 28 April 1942
Corvette HMS Columbine in port at Tilbury on 28 April 1942. © IWM A 8422.
Battle of the Atlantic: A potential major naval conflict is brewing in the Arctic off the Norwegian coast. If all the units from both sides are brought to bear, it could be a cataclysm of destruction. However, in the Arctic, the weather usually has the last word on such matters, especially during this time of year.

Adolf Hitler has ordered a huge buildup in air and naval units in the north of Norway. This includes a large force of Heinkel torpedo bombers and large surface ships. Battleship Tirpitz also is available for duty at Trondhem. Hitler's goal is to interrupt the Arctic convoys that have been passing mostly unmolested near North Cape, Norway, on their way to and from Murmansk. In addition to planes and surface ships, the Germans have seven U-boats (U-88, U-251, U-405, U-456, U-589, and U-703) in a patrol line waiting for the next convoy.

With these forces now in position, an opportunity to use them arises when German aircraft spot Allied Convoy PQ-15 about 250 nautical miles (463 km) southwest of Bear Island. The German forces prepare to attack in the coming days.

Hitler is not the only one with his thoughts on the Arctic Lend-Lease route, however. A joint Royal Navy-United States Navy task force, code name "Force Distaff," sails today from Scapa Flow in the Orkneys. Force Distaff will provide escort protection to PQ-15 northeast of Iceland. This force includes battleships HMS King George V and USS Washington, aircraft carrier Victorious, and heavy cruisers Wichita and Tuscaloosa. U.S. Rear Admiral Robert C. Giffen is in overall command.

In addition to Force Distaff, British submarines Truant, Unison, Free French submarine Minerve, Norwegian submarine Uredd, and Polish submarine Jastrzab are patrolling off the Norwegian coast. Both sides are prepped and ready to rock and roll at any time.
HMS Lance 28 April 1942
HMS Lance, hit by Luftwaffe Ju 87 Stuka bombers on 5 and 9 April, shown at the Malta jetty where she was sunk. Attempts were made to salvage Lance but they failed and she was written off. 28 April 1942. © IWM A 9516.
The Russian North Fleet understands the potential for a disaster in the Arctic and makes a diversionary attack in Titovka Bay. The Soviets want to convince the Germans that the threat is not out at sea, but an invasion. Soviet destroyers Remyashchi, Gromki, and Sokrushitelny lead a force of nineteen TSCH auxiliary minesweepers, 32 SKA boats, and two patrol boats (Rubin and Smerch) in the deception.

Unknown yet to the Germans, Convoy QP-11 departs from the Kola Inlet today. Its thirteen ships are escorted by two Soviet destroyers (Sokrushitelny and Kuibyshev) and four minesweepers, with additional escorts waiting to join en route. Thus, the sea north of North Cape could get very crowded very soon with all these ships and naval units in play.

U-136 (Kptlt. Heinrich Zimmermann), on its second patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks 5163-ton Dutch tanker Arundo about 15 nautical miles south of the Ambrose Lightship at the entrance to New York Harbor. The ship, traveling independently perhaps due to speed issues, is loaded with war supplies including 5000 crates of Canadian beer and sinks within five minutes. There are six deaths and 37 survivors, who are rescued by the destroyer USS Lea (DD-118). 

Yard patrol craft USS YP-77 (private yacht "Edmar" requisitioned for war duty) sinks in the Atlantic after a collision. The US Navy is still learning how to organize convoys and there are a number of mishaps (such as the sinking of USS Sturtevant on 26 April) as the navy officers sort things out.
British Stuart tank in North Africa 28 April 1942
British tank on display in North Africa. "An official photographer takes shots of a Stuart tank of 5th Royal Tank Regiment, 4th Armoured Brigade, 28 April 1942." © IWM E 11074.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Heavy Axis air attacks continue at Malta. They sink 161-ton Royal Navy tugboat HMS West Dean. People on the island lately have claimed that the Axis forces have been focusing on unexpected targets such as hospitals. Today, the area around St. Publius Parish Church in Floriana is devastated. Thirteen people taking shelter in the church's crypt are killed and another five seriously injured. This is known as the "blackest day for Floriana."

Axis Politics: The Axis leaders have been cultivating the support of Arab nations and ethnic groups. While that hasn't always worked out well, as in the abortive pro-Axis coup in Iraq, the Axis leaders still hope for a general uprising against the British. Also, there are hopes for large numbers of Arab troops within the Wehrmacht. Today, Italian Foreign Minister Count Galeazzo Ciano extends another inducement by promising that Italy will give formal recognition to the independence of Arab States. Since Britain and France exert political control throughout the region, this is a subtle way of encouraging uprisings that would aid the Axis powers. 
Brooklyn Eagle 28 April 1942
The 28 April 1942 Brooklyn Eagle is full of news about President Roosevelt's fireside chat.
American Homefront: James M. Landis, national director of the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense, institutes nightly blackouts of the Atlantic coast in the New York City area. These cover a fifteen-mile strip of the coast. These are to counter U-boat activities in the area, as city lights make it easier for submarines to spot ships silhouetted against background lights.

President Roosevelt gives another of his famous "fireside chats." The title is "On Our National Economic Policy and Sacrifice," and it lasts for just under 33 minutes. He attacks the issue of rationing head-on:

As I told the Congress yesterday, ‘sacrifice’ is not exactly the proper word with which to describe this program of self-denial. When at the end of this great struggle we shall have saved our free way of life, we shall have made no ‘sacrifice.’…

The Office of Price Administration "freezes prices."
Motion Picture Magazine April 1942
Paulette Goddard and John Wayne promoting "Reap the Wild Wind" on the cover of Motion Picture magazine, April 1942.
The FBI under special agent N.L.J. Pieper raids homes and businesses in the San Francisco Bay area and apprehends 24 enemy aliens. Among other contraband, short wave radios are discovered during the sweep. Meanwhile, "several hundred" internees depart from San Francisco today for processing at the Tanforan race Track assembly center. The San Francisco News reports that "It appeared more to be the start of an outing than on "ousting."" Area Commander Lieutenant General DeWitt orders the evacuation of Japanese-Americans from Portland and surrounding areas by May 5.

Some sources claim that the Gallup polling organization releases the results of a poll about the proper name of the current war on 28 April 1942. The preferred name, these sources claim, is "World War II." However, Gallup does not list such a poll anywhere, though it may exist anyway. In any event, what to call the current war varies from nation to nation. Americans have taken to calling it "World War II," but Russians call it "The Great Patriotic War," people in the UK prefer "The Second World War," and so on. 

Just to be clear, the United States does not formally adopt "World War II" as the proper name until after the war's conclusion. This is done at the recommendation in a 10 September 1945 letter from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal to the President. This name, after approval by then-President Harry S. Truman, enters the Federal Register on 11 September 1945 (not 28 April 1942) as the official U.S. name of the conflict. This name has been used in many subsequent United States laws.

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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