Wednesday, April 7, 2021

April 30, 1942: U-Boats Attack!

Thursday 30 April 1942

Soviet freighter Ashkhabad sinking, 30 April 1942
Convoy escorts scuttle Soviet freighter SS Ashkhabad off Cape Lookout, North Carolina, after it was torpedoed by U-402 on 30 April 1942.
Battle of the Pacific: The Japanese put Operation Mo, the projected capture of Port Moresby, into gear on 30 April 1942. They send carriers, Shokaku, Zuikaku, and Shoho, now replenished and rested after the Indian Ocean raid, to start the operation from the fleet base at Truk (Chuuk Lagoon).

RAAF P-39 fighters flying over the Stanley Mountain Range strafe Japanese planes and installations on the north coast at Lae and Salamaua. They lose one P-39F (41-7128).

Two Consolidated PBY-4 Catalinas of Patrol Squadron 101 (VP-101), based in Perth, Western Australia, fly a hazardous, lengthy, and circuitous route to the Philippines. They rescue 30 nurses from Corregidor Island, the lone Allied position holding out in the region, without incident. Many nurses, however, still remain on the fortified island, along with thousands of trapped soldiers. All are suffering deprivations and constant shelling from the Japanese artillery on the mainland and bombing attacks.

US Navy submarine USS Greenling (SS-213) stalks Japanese ammunition ship Seia Maru off Eniwetok. It fires torpedoes four separate times today and tomorrow. However, the torpedoes are faulty (a common problem during this period due to faulty fuses). The chase continues into 1 May 1942 but, despite even attempting a surface night attack, cannot sink it.
Borger, Texas, Daily Herald, 30 April 1942
The Borger (Texas) Daily Herald headlines the Japanese capture of Lashio, Burma, in its 30 April 1942 edition.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: Having taken Lashio, the Japanese send troops north toward Bhamo on the Irrawaddy River. They encounter opposition at a bridge across the Shweli River at Manwing by troops of the Northern Shan States Battalion, Burma Frontier Force. This defensive force left Lashio when the Chinese departed on 29 April. It manages to hold up the Japanese there for several days.

The Chinese Sixty-Sixth Army, still a powerful force although levered out of Lashio, withdraws along the Burma Road into China via Kutkai and Wanting. The Chinese 200th Division, which is isolated to the south and finds the way back to China blocked at Lashio, turns in the other direction and heads for Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin) in the direction of Mandalay. While this sends them in the general direction of the remaining British forces, the ultimate goal is to return to China as well. Doing so, however, will entail a lengthy detour around the advancing Japanese forces.

The British, meanwhile, continue to prepare for the inevitable loss of Mandalay as they retreat. Engineers destroy the bridge at Ava, the former capital of Burma, near the confluence of the Irrawaddy and Myitnge rivers just south of Mandalay. Their ultimate fall-back position, of course, is across the border in India.
German defensive line in Russia, April 1942
A German defensive position on the Eastern Front, April 1942.
Eastern Front: The Soviet Lyuban offensive is generally defined as ending on 30 April 1942. In reality, this effort ceased posing a threat to the Wehrmacht weeks ago due to the German response Unternehmen Raubtier ("Operation Wild Beast") that encircled the large Soviet force. It is estimated that the Volkhov Front loses 308,367 (95,064 killed or missing) out of an initial force of 327,700 during the operation - which is comparable to the later German losses at Stalingrad. General Andrey Vlasov, commander of the 2nd Shock Army, remains trapped in the dwindling pocket to the west of the Volkhov River. He cannot leave it without orders from Stalin - who habitually does not give such orders to failed commanders and troops. In any event, the spring thaw ("Rasputitsa") has stopped almost all operations for the time being.

European Air Operations: After many days of relentless attacks, both the RAF and Luftwaffe take the day off from major attacks. RAF Bomber Command does send 24 Boston bombers on escorted raids against Le Havre and Flushing docks, the Abbeville railway yards, and Morlaix airfield. These are all common targets and the raids are accomplished without loss. This begins a period of several days without major RAF attacks, though subsidiary operations such as minelaying continue.
HMS Edinburgh after being torpedoed on 30 April 1942
"A photograph clearly showing the severe damage to the stern of HMS EDINBURGH caused by a German torpedo whilst traveling with convoy QP11. The damage was so great that HMS EDINBURGH had to be sunk by a torpedo of the British destroyer HMS FORESIGHT." © IWM MH 23866.
Battle of the Atlantic: Today is a great day for U-boats in the Barents Sea, off the US coast, and near the United Kingdom.

The brewing confrontation in the Barents Sea heats up on 30 April 1942. Two Allied convoys - PQ 15 and QP 11 - are converging in opposite directions north of Norway and the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe are ideally situated to wreak havoc. The Germans begin attacking, with U-88 and U-436 attacking freighters but missing, but score few successes. The main forces have not been committed pending further developments by advanced units already in place.

U-456 (Kptlt. Max-Martin Teichert), on its fourth war patrol out of Kirkenes, begins the battle when it torpedoes and damages the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Edinburgh (13 deaths), which is escorting QP 11. Edinburgh was a late addition to the convoy escort and is hit soon after it arrives. The U-boat scores two hits, one in the forward boiler room and the other at the stern. Under half power, with the rudder and two of four propellers destroyed, Edinburgh heads back toward Murmansk scored by destroyers Foresight and Forester. Other ships leave Murmansk to aid the stricken cruiser, including British minesweepers Gossamer, Harrier, Hussar, and Niger, the Soviet destroyers Gremyashchy and Sokrushitelny, the Soviet guard ship Rubin, and a tug. 

While the cruiser does not sink (yet), its damage causes the Allies problems. The attack exposes more Allied ships to attack and reduces the convoy escort by three ships. The Kriegsmarine attempts to take advantage of this favorable change in circumstances by dispatching the three destroyers of Zerstörergruppe "Arktis" (Z7 "Hermann Schoemann" (KptzS Schultze-Hinrichs), Z24, and Z25), under the command of Kapitän zur See Alfred Schulze-Hinrichs, to attack QP 11 and finish off the Edinburgh. It will take them until the afternoon of 1 May 1942 to reach the convoy.
German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer on 30 April 1942
German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer is spotted by RAF reconnaissance while warming up for a potential dash to the Arctic convoys from its base at Trondheim, Norway, 30 April 1942 (Naval History and Heritage Command NH 110804).
U-402 (Kptlt. Siegfried Freiherr von Forstner), on its third patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and badly damages Soviet freighter Ashkhabad south of Cape Lookout, North Carolina. The 47 crewmen abandon the freighter and are rescued by HMT Lady Elsa. The Ashkhabad remains afloat and naval authorities decide to salvage her. However, before tug USS Relief can make it to the location, two escorts (USS Semmes and HMT St. Zeno) scuttle Ashkhabad as a hazard to navigation.

U-552 (Kptlt. Erich Topp), on its eighth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks Canadian troop transport SS Nerissa In the Atlantic northwest of Ireland about 200 miles (320 km) from Liverpool. Topp is on the surface when he spots the transport approaching from the northwest and then stalks the ship for almost two hours. One of three torpedoes hits the Nerissa astern, and Topp soon closes to pump another torpedo into it. There are 84 survivors and 207 (124 passengers and 83 crew) deaths. The survivors are picked up at first light by HMS Veteran. The Nerissa is remembered as the only troopship to have Canadian casualties en route to England during World War II.
SS Nerissa, sunk on 30 April 1942
SS Nerissa, sunk by Erich Topp's U-552 on 30 April 1942.
U-162 (FrgKpt. Jürgen Wattenberg), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 8941-ton British freighter Athelempress about 180 nautical miles (330 km) east of Barbados. There are three deaths and 47 survivors, who are picked up by Norwegian freighter Atlantic.

U-752 (Kptlt. Karl-Ernst Schroeter), on its fifth patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes and sinks 4956-ton Norwegian freighter Bidevind about 74 miles southeast of Ambrose Lightship in the Atlantic east of Delaware and south of Long Island. All 36 crewmen survive (three injuries). The wreck, at 190 feet (58 m), becomes a popular deep-dive site for advanced local sport divers.

U-507 (KrvKpt. Harro Schacht), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 2881-ton US tanker Federal about 5 nautical miles (9.3 km) north of Gibara, Cuba. There are five deaths and 28 survivors, some of whom are picked up by a Cuban fishing trawler while others make it to shore in a lifeboat.

U-576 (Kptlt. Hans-Dieter Heinicke), on its fourth patrol out of St. Nazaire, torpedoes and sinks Norwegian freighter Taborfjell about 95 nautical miles (176 km) east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The ship is carrying unrefined sugar from Matanzas, Cuba. There are 17 deaths and three survivors, who are picked up by HMS P552.
SS Taborfjell, sunk on 30 April 1942
SS Taborfjell, sunk by U-576 on 30 April 1942.
Battle of the Mediterranean: The Axis air offensive against Malta continues on 30 April 1942. The Germans and Italians have averaged 200 bomber sorties over the island since Luftwaffe General Albert Kesselring began the offensive in March 1942. Today's attacks begin at 11:20 and continue throughout the day as usual. The Luftwaffe's rescue operations have become increasingly brave and a Dornier Do 24 flying boat is seen offshore rescuing a downed German pilot. While rescue operations under prewar agreements are considered humanitarian operations immune from attack, in reality, they have been deemed game since the Battle of Britain for alleged reconnaissance operations.
Hitler and Mussolini at Schloss Klessheim on 30 April 1942
Hitler and Mussolini at Schloss Klessheim for their two-day meeting at the end of April 1942 (National Digital Archives Poland).
Axis Relations: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini continue their summit meeting at Schloss Klessheim in Salzburg, Germany. Hitler unleashes a monologue lasting an hour and forty minutes on the Duce covering a wide variety of military, economic, social, and philosophical topics but noticeably silent about the future Franco-Italian frontier and similar topics of particular interest to Italy. Hitler is quoted as saying "Soon the laughter of the Jews will fall silent forever," "The Aryan is the Prometheus of mankind," and "Violence is the mother of order and the source of all true greatness - I have restored to violence its true meaning." Anticipating the final collapse of the Soviet Union by the fall, he elaborates on his post-war plans, many of which revolve around social engineering.

The Salzburg meeting marks the first time at these conferences that Hitler talks about a definitive end to the war due to a decisive summer campaign in the Soviet Union. He convinces Mussolini to agree to send more Italian troops to the Eastern Front, but his plans for the Mediterranean that is of much more urgent concern to Mussolini are left vague. Hitler reveals the Wehrmacht, in conjunction with Italian forces, plans to invade Malta in Operation Hercules (Unternehmen Herkules), with a tenuous launch date of mid-July 1942. The plans have been approved but are on hold pending developments in North Africa.

However, Operation Hercules is a divisive issue within the German hierarchy. While local Wehrmacht commanders including Generals Albert Kesselring and Erwin Rommel, both in attendance, strongly support Operation Hercules, They believe it would secure the Mediterranean for Axis shipping (which has taken heavy losses from the Royal Navy). Luftwaffe boss Hermann Goering is concerned. He believes that invading Malta could turn into a near-disaster like the ultimately successful but costly paratrooper (Fallschirmjäger) invasion of Crete (Operation Mercury) in May 1941. Hitler himself is very hesitant about the operation for the same reasons and wants to focus on the Eastern Front. The operation is never launched.
USS Peto being launched on 30 April 1942
USS Peto (SS-265) side launching at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co, Manitowoc, WI, 30 April 1942. It will be commissioned on 21 November 1942 after becoming the first submarine to use the mid-western waterways to reach New Orleans, LA. It has a distinguished career in the Pacific Theater of Operations (US Navy photo).
US/Vichy France Relations: US Ambassador to France Admiral William Leahy bids farewell to his Embassy staff in Paris before beginning the long journey back to the United States. No new ambassador is slated to replace him, effectively ending diplomatic relations. The U.S. Embassy will remain open, run by Charge d’Affaires Pinckney Tuck, until the landing of US troops in French North Africa in November 1942 ("Operation Torch").

US Military: Admiral Harold R. Stark assumes command of U.S. Naval Forces Europe. This is actually a demotion, as Stark has been Chief of Naval Operations since August 1939. Stark is under a cloud due to the losses at Pearl Harbor and eventually must face a court of inquiry over this with negative findings for him. However, Stark makes the best of a bad situation and oversees the buildup of US naval forces from his headquarters in London, culminating in the successful D-Day landings.

The US Navy commissions 35,000-ton battleship USS Indiana at Newport News, Virginia. She will serve primarily in the Pacific Theater of Operations and be decommissioned in 1947.

Two Vought SB2U Vindicator aircraft collide during training exercises off Sandy Point, Block Island. The two-man crew of one plane survives, the other two men (Ensign David Kauffman and Lt. (Jg.)  Howard Lapsley) perish.
USS Indiana, commissioned on 30 April 1942
USS Indiana on 27 January 1944 (Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-222923).
US Government: The House naval committee rejects a bill to raise the statutory workweek from 40 hours to 48 hours, limit war profits, and freeze the status quo of open and closed workplaces for the duration of the war. This bill is likely in response to a recent US Supreme Court decision allowing reasonable profits from the manufacture of goods for the United States military during World War I. President Roosevelt is against the bill, which elicits strong passions on both sides.
Hollywood Victory Caravan at the White House on 30 April 1942
Eleanor Roosevelt (center, dressed in white) poses with members and organizers of the Hollywood Victory Caravan on the White House lawn, 30 April 1942 (Gene Lester, Library of Congress Digital ID# bhp0124).
Holocaust: In Dzyatlava, Western Belarus, German soldiers wake up resident of the Zdzięcioł Ghetto with gunshots. The Judenrat issues a statement from the German authorities that all Jewish residents are to assemble at an old cemetery on the fringes of the ghetto. Those who refuse are brought by force to that location by Germans and their local Belarusian and Lithuanian collaborators. After a typical Holocaust selection process where some victims are selected for execution based on age and gender, these roughly 1000 people, perhaps more, are marched to nearby Kurpiasz (Kurpyash) Forest and shot and buried know unmarked graves (about 100 are given reprieves based on documents they carried). Another similar massacre takes place on 10 August 1942 and subsequent days for a total of about 3000 victims or more. This is known as the Dzyatlava massacre and a plaque commemorates it.

Japanese Homefront: The Imperial Rule Assistance Association, which supports the government and its goals of his Shintaisei ("New Order") movement, dominates local elections. it wins 381 out of 466 seats.
Evacuations of internees in California on 30 April 1942
Evacuation of the Santa Maria Japanese to Tulare Assembly Center from the Christ United Methodist Church, 219 N. Mary Dr., Santa Maria, California on April 30, 1942 (University of California).
American Homefront: Lieut. Gen. John DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command, issues new evacuation orders for 5100 additional people of Japanese descent from Alameda, Contra Costa, and Los Angeles Counties. Evacuations will continue until 20 May 1942.

Film studio 20th Century Fox releases "My Gal Sal," a musical directed by Irving Cummings starring Rita Hayworth and Victor Mature. It profiles 1890s composer and songwriter Paul Dresser. The biopic is a typical mixture of reality and Hollywood artifice, with some of the songs having no connection to Dresser. The film features comedian Phil Silvers and Terry Moore (later girlfriend, maybe wife, of Howard Hughes and still alive as of this writing in 2021) in early roles.
Napa Register 30 April 1942
The big news in The Napa Register on 30 April 1942 is the defeat of the 48-hour workweek (Napa Valley Register).

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

May 1942


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