Tuesday, April 13, 2021

May 5, 1942: British Invade Madagascar

Tuesday 5 May 1942

War at sea 5 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
This photo dated 5 May 1942 shows an unidentified ship being bombed or torpedoed. Perhaps taken by photographer and documentarian Nigel Henderson (Tate Gallery TGA 9211/9/6/3).
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The British 29th Infantry Brigade and No. 5 Commando land on Vichy Madagascar on 5 May 1942. This is Operation Ironclad and is conducted by Force 121. The troops land at Courrier Bay and Ambararata Bay, just west of Diego-Suarez, while a decoy attack is executed to the east.

The landing is covered by aircraft from Royal Navy aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious and Indomitable, with battleship Ramillies providing shore bombardment. Swordfish torpedo bombers quickly sink the French submarine Bévéziers at Diego-Suarez with depth charges (two killed, one wounded). They also sink 4504-ton Vichy armed merchant cruiser Bougainville and scout ship D'Entrecastreax (later raised, repaired, and used by the Free French). The British suffer a loss, too, when corvette Auricula (LtCdr S.L.B. Maybury) strikes a mine in Courrier Bay and eventually sinks (all crewmen survive but with some wounded).

The Vichy commander, Governor General Armand Léon Annet, has about 8,000 troops, about 6,000 of whom are local Malagasy tirailleurs and most of the rest Senegalese. Annet has 1500-3000 of his troops in the vicinity of Diego-Suarez, but they are poorly equipped with eight inadequate coastal batteries and 17 Morane-Saulnier 406 fighters.
HMS Hero, 5 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
It is payday aboard destroyer HMS Hero during its passage from Alexandria, Egypt, to Haifa, Palestine to refit. The men filing past the table receive their pay on the crown of their cap. 5 May 1942 (© IWM A 9123).
The 17th Infantry Brigade quickly seize the coastal batteries and barracks, then turn and take the port of Diego-Suarez. Other troops from the 29th Independent Brigade march 21 miles against light resistance to the naval base at Antisarane. There, they destroy Arrachart airfield and destroy five Morane fighters. They also damage two more Moranes, while also damaging two Potez-63 twin-engine fighters. By the end of the day, the invading British force have taken Diego-Suarez and are in place to attack heavily defended Antisarane.

In Burma, Japanese troops set out from the newly occupied Bhamo and drive toward the British base at Myitkyina. They encounter no organized resistance, though the roads are clogged with civilian refugees and fleeing Allied troops. To the east, some Japanese troops cross the border into China, but they have no intention of invading China from that direction across the Himalayas.
Japanese invasion of Corregidor, 5 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese troops landing on Corregidor on the evening of 5 May 1942. By this point, the defending Allied troops are already confined to Malinta Tunnel.
Battle of the Pacific: As 5 May dawns, the Japanese troops of the 61st Infantry Regiment, 14th Army, that late on 4 May invaded the last Allied bastion in the Philippines, Corregidor Island, have pinned the island's defenders from the 1st Battalion, Fourth Marine Unit, into Malinta Tunnel. Casualties on both sides are heavy, with the Allies losing about 800 US and Filipino troops and the Japanese about three times as many. The Japanese are having great difficulty crossing the channel and are low on landing craft, so the possibility of a stalemate exists.

However, Allied commander General Jonathan M. Wainwright recognizes the hopelessness of the situation. Among other problems, he only has a few days of potable water left. He orders to be scuttled his remaining vessels: US Navy patrol yacht Fisheries II, yacht Maryann, auxiliary patrol boat Perry, motor torpedo boat Q-111 Luzon (raised and repaired by the Japanese), 529-ton tug USS Vaga, and 688-ton tug USS Genesee scuttled (later salvaged, repaired, and used by the Japanese). Just before noon, Wainwright orders white flags of surrender to be flown and gives the order, "Execute Pontiac," which means surrender. Talks soon begin with victorious Japanese General Masaharu Homma, but General Wainwright does not officially surrender yet. 

On Tulagi, the Japanese garrison continues working on their new seaplane base amidst the devastation caused by Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher's three air raids on the 4th. Destroyer Kikuzuki, beached by its crew, is pulled off the Gavutu beach by the tide and sinks in Tulagi Harbor. A total fo 87 Japanese naval personnel perished in the 4 May attacks and 36 landing troops were seriously injured.

Fletcher's tasks Force 17 (USS Yorktown) rendezvouses with TF 11 (Lexington) and TF 44 at 08:16 320 nautical miles (370 miles, 590 km) south of Guadalcanal. As they assemble, four Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters from Yorktown intercept and shoot down a Kawanishi H6K reconnaissance flying boat from the Yokohama Air Group of the 25th Air Flotilla based at the Shortland Islands. The loss of this aircraft alerts the Japanese admirals to the presence of US Naval carriers in the general vicinity.

Admiral Chester Nimitz now informs Fletcher by radio from Hawaii of reliable information obtained from naval intelligence that the Japanese intend to invade Port Moresby on 10 May. Under Operation Mo, Nimitz says, the Japanese intend to join their Carrier Force (Zuikaku and Shōkaku) with the Tulagi Invasion Force at 14:00 on 6 May and then head for Port Moresby. It is very precise information, and Fletcher immediately decides to spend the rest of the day refueling and head for a certain confrontation with the Japanese fleet.

Admiral Takeo Takagi, meanwhile, spends most of 5 May sailing his carrier force south along the east side of the Solomon Islands. He then enters the Coral Sea between Guadalcanal and Rennell Island. He is, of course, sailing in the general direction of the US fleet, though they remain separated by hundreds of miles. A US B-25 sights a Japanese carrier off Bougainville as Takagi is sailing south but the report never makes it to the US Navy.

Japanese submarine I-21 torpedoes and sinks 7176-ton US Liberty ship John Adams off New Caledonia. There are five deaths and 45 survivors.
The Kholm pocket, 5 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
View of the entrance to the Kholm (Cholm) pocket across the Bailey Bridge with a wrecked vehicle in the foreground, ca. 5 May 1942 (Muck, Richard, Federal Archive Image 101I-004-3636-08A).
Eastern Front: Wehrmacht troops reach Kholm at 06:20, relieving the small garrison after a brutal siege lasting months. This caps off a brilliant recovery by the Germans in which they saved the troops at both Demyansk and Kholm by narrow margins. The Army orders special medals to be struck for the two garrisons.

At Fuhrer headquarters in East Prussia, General Franz Halder passes off the relief of the Kholm garrison in one terse sentence, followed by "All quiet on the rest of the front." However, this follows a summary of German casualties from the beginning of Operation Barbarossa through 30 April 1942 that is quite revealing of the true situation on the Eastern Front. The Heer (army) has incurred casualties of 36.49% of the troops, with 9,152 officers and 235,908 others killed and 875 officers and 54,218 others missing. These are unprecedented numbers and unsustainable if the summer offensive fails.

In Crimea, General Erich von Manstein and his 11th Army are preparing his long-planned assault on the Red Army line along the Parpach Narrows to clear the Kerch peninsula (Unternehmen Trappenjagd, or "Bustard Hunt"). The Luftwaffe's IV Fliegerkorps supporting Manstein receives new reinforcements today, including Gruppen of SchG 1 at  Itshki-Grammatikovo. These air units have been replenished back in the Reich over the winter and are in top condition. The intention is to establish such absolute dominance in the air that the Soviet troops will be paralyzed and unable to defend their very strong positions.

Major Siegfried Freytag of Stab II./JG 77 scores his 40th victory, which always is a cause for celebration within the Luftwaffe.
The Kholm pocket, 5 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German soldier eating amidst the ruins in the Kholm pocket (Muck, Richard, Federal Archives Image 101I-004-3637-35A).
European Air Operations: The Luftwaffe does not make any major raids today. However, the town of Exeter is still struggling with the aftereffects of the raid conducted on the night of 3/4 May. New fire outbreaks continue throughout the day, including at St. Stephens Church on Gandry Street and St. Mary Arches Church. Reinforcements from surrounding areas help to fight the fires.

Following a mission by a dozen Boston bombers of RAF No. 226 Squadron to Zeebrugge coke ovens and an aborted mission to a Lille power station, tonight's mission for RAF Bomber Command again is Stuttgart. This time, 77 bombers (49 Wellingtons, 13 Stirlings, 11 Halifaxes, and 4 Lancasters) attempt to bomb the Robert Bosch factory. This mission goes even worse than yesterday's attack. The RAF loses three Wellingtons and a Stirling while none of the bombs fall in Stuttgart. Many of the bombers are attracted to the Lauffen decoy site and most of the bombs fall harmlessly in the woods. In subsidiary operations, the RAF sends 19 bombers to Nantes, four Blenheims make Intruder missions to Schiphol Airport outside Amsterdam, and ten bombers drop leaflets, all without loss.

RAF Coastal Command planes sink 5843-ton German freighter Konsul Carl Visser at Ålesund, Norway.
US freighter Afoundria, sunk on 5 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
US freighter Afoundria, sunk by U-108 off Haiti on 5 May 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-106 (Kptlt. Hermann Rasch), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 7985-ton Canadian passenger ship Lady Drake 90 nautical miles (170 km) north of Bermuda. There are 12 deaths and 256 survivors, who are rescued by the minesweeper USS Owl. 

U-103 (Kptlt. Werner Winter), on its seventh patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5966-ton British freighter Stanbank in the general vicinity of Bermuda. There are nine deaths and 39 survivors, who are rescued by British freighter Rhexenor.

U-564 (Kptlt. Reinhard Suhren), on its fifth patrol out of Brest, torpedoes and damages 3478-ton US freighter Delisle 15 nautical miles (28 km) from Jupiter Inlet, Florida. There are two deaths and 36 survivors. The crew abandons the ship but reboards her on the 6th. A US Navy tug later tows Delisle to Miami, where the tanker is repaired and returned to service.

U-108 (KrvKpt. Klaus Scholtz), on its seventh patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 5010-ton US freighter Afoundria (Master William Arthur Sillars)  about eight miles north of Le Male, Haiti. All 46 people on board survive and are rescued by USS Mulberry (AN 27) and taken to Guantanamo.

In poor weather, 1383-ton Norwegian freighter Magnhild runs aground on Virgin Rocks, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. The ship eventually is written off. All 20 crewmen are rescued by the minesweeper USS Brant.

German 3288-ton minesweeper Sperrbrecher 36 Eider hits a mine and is badly damaged off Heligoland. She makes it back to port but this ends her service.

German 6233-ton tanker Zabern hits a mine and sinks in the Bay of Kiel.
Look magazine of 5 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Look magazine of 5 May 1942 is full of helpful suggestions on "What We Must Do Now - to Win the War."
Battle of the Mediterranean: At Malta, the government announces a cut in the bread ration to 10 1/2 ounces per person per day. This follows previous cuts in other daily food item rations. The daily air raids begin shortly after noontime and continue into the night.

POWs: At Stanley Internment Camp in Hong Kong, there has been an outbreak of beriberi. Dr. Percy Selwyn-Clarke adds a weekly dose of thiamin to the internees' soup. This later is changed to a daily dose of 3 milligrams. This prescription ends the epidemic by August 1942.

Holocaust: The German government will no longer report concentration camp deaths to next of kin.

American Homefront: The Los Angeles Times wins a Pulitzer Prize for 1941 due to five editorials it ran supporting the right of publications such as the Times to comment on notable court cases. Also on 5 May, the court case brought against it to squelch these editorials that went to the United States Supreme Court also ends in its favor.

Future History: Virginia Wynette Pugh is born in Tremont, Mississippi. From a poor background, she sings on the Country Boy Eddie show on a local Birmingham, Alabama, television station in 1965 and gets some attention. After moving to Nashville, she wins a recording contract from producer Billy Sherrill of Epic Records, who induces her to adopt the stage name Tammy Wynette (her legal name only changes with her marriages). Her first single makes the Country charts at No. 44 and her second rises to number three, leading to a string of successes. Her biggest hit is "Stand By Your Man" in 1968, a somewhat ironic tune considering that she had left her husband to pursue her recording career. After that, Tammy Wynette's singing career is assured. She goes on to become recognized as the "First Lady of Country Music." Tammy Wynette passes away on 6 April 1998 in Nashville.
WACs in a Jeep, 5 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The original photo taken on 5 May 1942 in Florida of eleven WACs in a US Army Willys Jeep. This photo was later used in a well-known ad campaign (US Army).

2021

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