Saturday, September 25, 2021

May 29, 1942: Japanese at Madagascar

Friday 29 May 1942

USS Yorktown in dry dock, 29 May 1942
USS Yorktown in Dry Dock #1 of the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, 29 May 1942 (Naval History and Heritage Command 80-G-13065).

Battle of the Pacific: Frantic repairs on USS Yorktown in a Pearl Harbor drydock continue on 29 May 1942 as two other US aircraft carriers, Enterprise and Hornet, approach Midway Island. The US Navy has only one other aircraft carrier in the Pacific, Saratoga, but it is undergoing repairs at San Diego and is unavailable for the expected battle about to occur at Midway.

US Navy submarine tender Thornton (AVD-11) arrives at the French Frigate Shoals to relieve minelayer Preble (DM-20). The Americans know that the Japanese have been using this location as a staging location for attacks on Hawaii. Japanese submarine I-123 arrives late in the day with fuel for a reconnaissance plane that is scheduled to arrive soon but is unable to set up the operation due to the US presence.

US Navy seaplane tender Ballard (AVD-10) arrives at Midway with eleven motor torpedo boats (PT boats) of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron MTBRon 1 (Lt. Clinton McKellar Jr.). They are there to supplement the local defense forces, which are under the command of Captain Cyril T. Simard.

Japanese naval intelligence (COMINT) is monitoring US naval communications and suspects from radio chatter there that a US naval task force has departed recently (TF 16 recently left for Midway). Admiral Yamamoto's strict radio silence order, however, prevents this information from being forwarded to Admiral Nagumo, whose carriers are approaching Midway.

Admiral Yamamoto sails out of the inland sea today with a support force for the Midway operation. His radio intelligence has identified six US Navy submarines nearby, but none are spotted.

US Navy submarine USS Swordfish (Lt Cdr Chester C. Smith SS-193) attacks a Japanese army convoy at the southwestern entrance to Balabac Strait, Philippines. It sinks 1946-ton freighter Tatsufuku Maru. Swordfish also damages freighter Rio de Janeiro Maru.

PBY-5 Catalinas based at Noumea, New Caledonia join RAAF Catalinas in bombing Tulagi Island, the site of a Japanese seaplane base near Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

Japanese submarine I-21 launches its E14Y "Glen" seaplane for an uneventful reconnaissance mission over Sydney, Australia.

HMS Illustrious, 29 May 1942
"The aircraft carrier HMS ILLUSTRIOUS is seen ahead of HMS WARSPITE." The photo was taken in the Indian Ocean on 29 May 1942. (© IWM A 10655).

Battle of the Indian Ocean: A large Japanese submarine force takes up station off Madagascar after a long and arduous journey across the Indian Ocean. They are there to launch mini-submarines to attack the British Far Eastern Fleet. This is "Divine Dragon Operation No. 2."

I-10 launches its E14Y "Glen" floatplane (crewed by Lt. (j.g.) Araki Toshio and Ito Yoshiharu) for a reconnaissance mission above the harbor at Diego Suarez. The men spot numerous targets in the harbor, including battleship HMS Ramillies and numerous destroyers, corvettes, troopships, a tanker, an ammunition ship, a freighter, and a hospital ship. Three submarines - I-16, I-18, and I-20 - attempt to launch a mini-sub attack today, but only two of the mini-submarines are launched properly. The other two proceed toward the harbor.

Unlike many other such flights, the British spot this one and sound the alert. The British battleship quickly changes its anchorage in the harbor. After the floatplane returns, I-10 Captain Ishizaki orders a mini-submarine attack of his own for 0230 on 31 May.

Four B-17 bombers of the 10th Air Force bomb Myitkyina Airfield in Burma.

Eighteen Japanese Zeros and 17 P-39 Aircobras have a furious dogfight over Hood Bay southeast of Port Moresby. The Japanese lose four planes to one P-39F. One of the Japanese pilots crash-lands and is shot and killed while resisting arrest.

USS Quincy in NYC, 29 May 1942
Heavy cruiser USS Quincy (CA-39) at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, 29 May 1942.

Eastern Front: The German victors at Kharkov count Soviet prisoners as mass surrenders continue. At Fuhrer Headquarters, General Franz Halder writes simply, "All quiet along the entire front (including Byeloi)."

European Air Operations: Despite continued poor weather, the RAF sends planes on patrols late in the day. RAF planes bomb and sink 1839-ton Danish (German) freighter Niels R. Finsen, carrying a load of coke, west of Borkum. They also sink 750-ton German minesweeper Sperrbrecher-150 (Viriato) near the Dutch West Frisian island of Ameland. The RAF planes also sink 285-ton German patrol boat V-1103 off Ameland (three deaths). An RCAF sweep over Cap Gris-Nez to Dunkirk encounters heavy flak.
British freighter Allister, sunk on 29 May 1942
British banana boat Allister, sunk on 29 May 1942.

Battle of the Atlantic: As it continues toward the Soviet Union, Convoy PQ-16 divides in half with six ships making for Archangel and the rest for Murmansk. The Germans, having sunk seven of its ships, have no more success against it.

U-504 (KrvKpt. Hans-Georg Friedrich Poske), on its third patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 1597-ton British banana boat Allister 54 miles south of Grand Cayman Island. The ship breaks in half and sinks quickly. There are 15 dead and 8 survivors, who spend eight days at sea before being picked up by an unidentified passing ship and landed at Port au Prince, Haiti.

U-156 (Kptlt. Werner Hartenstein), on its third patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 1913-ton British freighter Norman Prince 70 miles west of Martinique. Hartenstein chased the ship for eight hours before getting into firing position. There are 16 dead and 33 survivors, who are picked up by Vichy French freighter Angoulême and interned at Martinique. While on the island, they meet Lt.z.S Dietrich von dem Borne, who was injured in a gun explosion on U-156 in February and put ashore for humanitarian reasons. One survivor clings to a door for three days before being picked up by USCGC Unalga (WPG 53).

U-107 (Kptlt. Harald Gelhaus), on its sixth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 2599-ton British freighter Western Head in the Windward Passage 50 miles east of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are 24 deaths and six survivors, who are picked up by a US Navy patrol ship and taken to Guantanamo Bay.

Italian submarine Barbarigo, on patrol in the South Atlantic near Brazil, torpedoes and uses its deck gun to sink 4836-ton British freighter Charlbury.

German 750-ton Sperrbrecher (literally, mine barrage breaker, or minesweeper)  150 Viriato hits a mine and sinks off Dunkirk.
Kansas City Star, 29 May 1942
Kansas City Star, 29 May 1942. One of the headlines states, "Smash Deep Axis Thrust" at Tobruk, which is a bit of an overstatement.

Battle of the Mediterranean: With the Afrika Korps advance into the British Gazala Line stalled at Bir Hakeim, badly needed supply trucks of the Trieste and Ariete divisions reach the Axis forces after clearing a path through minefields. The British Desert Air Force (DAF) is active, intercepting two raids by Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers and also attacking Axis supply vehicles.

The Free French men in the fortress of Bir Hakeim also need supplies. However, the Axis forces have them surrounded and one breakout attempt already has failed. A detachment led by Capitaine Gabriel de Sairigné sorties out and destroys three German tanks today.

General Erwin Rommel, having lost the initiative and still facing supply issues, cleverly uses Allied minefields to protect his flanks and assumes a defensive posture even as his forces continue to reduce Bir Hakeim. Uncoordinated British attacks achieve nothing. A British armored brigade attacks the Ariete Division near the fortress, but the Italians beat them off. This becomes known as "The Cauldron."

British destroyers HMS Hero, Eridge, and Hurworth, after being alerted to a U-boat's presence by a patroling Blenheim bomber of RAF No. 203 Squadron, use depth charges to sink U-568 (Kptlt. Joachim Preuss), on its fifth patrol out of La Spezia, northeast of Tobruk. All 47 crewmen survive.

British submarine Turbulent has a big day, sinking two ships. It torpedoes and sinks 3175-ton Italian freighter Capo Arma 70 miles northwest of Benghazi. Casualties are unknown.

Turbulent also torpedoes and sinks Italian destroyer Emanuele Pessagno 85 miles northwest of Benghazi. There are 140 deaths and 85 survivors.

Italian 1160-ton freighter Penelope, torpedoed on 19 May 1942 by British submarine Thrasher, finally sinks.

Supermarine Wlarus, 29 May 1942
"A Supermarine Walrus taxiing up to WARSPITE after returning from anti-submarine patrol. In the background are HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and the destroyer HMS LOOKOUT, 29 May 1942." Note the crewman on top of the plane to attach the hook to lift it.

Battle of the Black Sea: Soviet submarine SHCH-214 rams and sinks 90-ton Turkish sailing vessel Hudavendiar east of Cape Igneada, Turkey. This is one of several sinkings of neutral Turkish vessels in the Black Sea during 1942, but they do not provoke a diplomatic crisis.

Soviet submarine A-3 torpedoes and sinks 3595-ton Romanian freighter Sulina off Odessa.

Partisans: Reinhard Heydrich remains in critical care in a Prague hospital following an assassination attempt by British/Czech agents. Heinrich Himmler's personal physician, Dr. Karl Gebhardt, assumes responsibility for Heydrich's care, which includes large doses of morphine for the pain. Gebhardt does not (according to his own account) administer the antibacterial drug sulfanilamide despite its recommendation by Hitler's personal doctor, Theodor Morell.
Newlywed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 29 May 1942
A newlywed, Mrs. Robert Cramer, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 29 May 1942 © The Ann Arbor News.

German Military: Adolf Hitler issues Fuhrer Directive No. 42. This cancels Operation Isabella, a wishful plan to invade Spain and Portugal. It also refines a projected plan to invade Vichy France, Operation Attila, and replaces it with Case Anton (which ultimately is executed). Fuhrer Directive No. 42 is issued due to a "continual shifting of our forces in the West." It suggests that Spanish leader Francisco Franco's appeasement of Hitler by sending troops to the Eastern Front is working and that he views the lukewarm support offered by the Vichy government and French partisan activities as a growing nuisance.

The directive also states that "The Italians may also, if the situation requires, have to take action in Tunisia." The situation will require this later in 1942, but the Germans will take care of matters themselves.

Australian Military: Today is the first flight of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-12 Boomerang fight. It is the only Australian-produced plane of World War II.

Holocaust: The Germans extend their requirement that Jews over six years of age wear a yellow badge to Paris. This is the eighth German decree on the subject of anti-Jewish measures and comes into effect on 7 June 1942.

US Army soldiers, 29 May 1942
African-American US Army 2nd lts. Henry Harris, Frank Frederick Doughton, Elmer B. Kountze, and Rogers H. Beardon pinning on their new brass rank insignias, Ft. Benning, Georgia, US, 29 May 1942 (National Archives).

American Homefront: Warner Bros. premiere "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in New York City. Featuring songs by George M. Cohan and starring James Cagney, Joan Leslie, and Walter Huston, the film is a huge success and the company's biggest box-office success to date. Cagney wins the Academy Award for Best Actor, and the film wins other awards for its music and sound recording. Congress selects it for preservation in 1993. In a patriotic gesture, Warner Bros. sells war bonds for entrance to the premiere ranging in value from $25 to $25,000.

Future History: Actor John Barrymore, born John Sidney Blyth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (and buried there), passes away in Los Angeles, California from illness. Barrymore is known as one of the great stage and film actors of the early 20th Century and is sometimes referred to as "The Great Barrymore." However, he is probably best remembered most these days for his wildly eccentric life that involved alcoholism, bankruptcy, four marriages, and a life largely led in the pages of tabloid magazines. He also founds the "Barrymore family of actors" that continues down to the present day with his granddaughter, Drew Barrymore.

Yosano Akiko passes away in Tokyo, Japan, from a stroke. She is remembered as a poet and feminist. While sometimes called a pacifist, in fact, many of Akiko's later works support the wars against China, the United States, and the United Kingdom. One of her poems even praises Bushido, or the samurai code urging men to die in battle for the Emperor. Akiko has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years.

Traffic accident in San Francisco, 29 May 1942
A traffic accident at Folsom and Army Streets in San Francisco, 29 May 1942 (San Francisco Police Department Photograph Bureau Negatives / Bureau of Accident Investigation and Prevention, San Francisco Police Department Records, via San Francisco Public Library).

May 1942


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