Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 854 January 1, 1942

Malaya. Battle of Kampar. After yesterday’s failure on the East side of the road, Japanese attack Kampar Hill to the West at 7 AM, under an artillery barrage and aerial bombing. They are again targeted by artillery spotters on the 4000 foot high Gunong Brijang Melaka, this time bringing down 25 pounder shells from 88th (2nd West Lancashire) Field Artillery. There is fierce but inconclusive hand-to-hand combat all morning with heavy casualties on both sides. In the evening, Japanese 11th Regiment lands from small craft in the Bernam River, 35 miles Southwest of Kampar. They intend to move North cross-country to Telok Anson (now called Teluk Intan) and then cut inland to the main road behind the British positions. Churchill chastises First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound “This command of the western shores of Malaya by the Japanese without the possession of a single ship of war must be reckoned as one of the most astonishing British lapses in naval history”.

Luzon, Philippines. US/Filipino South Luzon Force retreats past Manila and joins the Northern group holding the approaches to Bataan. In the evening, a Japanese courier delivers a message to Mayor of Manila that Japanese forces will enter the city tomorrow.

At the Arcadia Conference in Washington, DC, Churchill and Roosevelt sign the “Declaration by United Nations”. Ultimately, 26 nations (USA, UK, USSR, China, British Commonwealth [Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa], 9 US allies in Central America/Caribbean and 8 Allied governments-in-exile) will sign the Declaration which is Roosevelt’s first step towards forming an international peacekeeping organisation after the war (that will become the United Nations).

Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 853 December 31, 1941

As the year ends, Germany and allies Italy, Vichy France and the Balkan states control Europe from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean and from the English Channel to deep in USSR (a line from Leningrad in the North to the Sea of Azov in the South).

Siege of Leningrad Day 115. 52,000 civilians died in December from starvation and cold.

On the West side of Malaya - Battle of Kampar. Japanese attack 4000 foot high Gunong Brijang Melaka on the East of the road. They are stopped by fire from 4.5 inch howitzers of the 155th Field Regiment (Lanarkshire Yeomanry) brought down by artillery spotters on the mountain. Appreciating the formidable defenses at Kampar, Japanese also take to the water off the West coast of Malaya to make landings further South (using 40 motor launches hauled overland from Songkhla, Thailand, as well as 20 boats left behind by the British at Penang). On the East coast of Malaya, Indian 9th Division at Kuantan withdraws South of Kuantan River to keep the vital airfield out of Japanese hands. Japanese are held trying to cross the River but then switch focus to the coast and meet less resistance advancing down the beach.

56 Japanese troop transports leave Formosa (now Taiwan), escorted by 3 cruisers and 16 destroyers, for landings in Malaya.

Civilians start evacuating Singapore to Australia on British troopship Orion and and to Capetown, South Africa, on Dutch passenger liner Marnix Van Sint Aldegonde (escorted by British destroyers HMS Thanet and HMS Tenedos).

Luzon, Philippines. Japanese Lingayen Force takes Sibul Springs at the East end of D5 line and reach Baliuag, 20 miles North of Manila, where they are held by US and Filipino forces withdrawing to Bataan. Citizens in Manila destroy alcohol, fearing the drunken Japanese rampage that occurred in Hong Kong.

At the Arcadia Conference, Churchill and Roosevelt agree on 'Germany First' strategy and form a Combined US/UK Chiefs of Staff.

Japanese submarines shell the Hawaiian islands of Kauai and Maui.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 852 December 30, 1941

On the West side of Malaya - Battle of Kampar. 8000 Japanese troops (9th Brigade, 5th Division under General Kawamura) approach Kampar defenses held by 1600 British and Indian troops (11th Indian Division under General Archibald Paris). Japanese begin probing attacks but cannot use their tanks on the jungle-covered mountains either side of the road or in the swamps West of Kampar. On the East coast, Indian 9th Division at Kuantan is distracted by warnings of an amphibious landing (which never comes) and Japanese troops coming overland from Kota Bharu overrun their defenses North of Kuantan River.

Luzon, Philippines. Japanese Lingayen Force captures Tarlac City, causing US and Filipino troops to retreat another 17 miles South to D5 line (Bamban to Sibul Springs, last defensive line North of Manila). Japanese 16th Division from Lamon Bay has now rounded the bottom of the massive lake Laguna De Bay and approaches Manila from the South.

Borneo. With Singkawang II airfield out of commission, 3 RAF Bristol Blenheims from Singapore drop containers with 900 pounds of food and ammunition for the British, Indian and Dutch defenders.

Eastern Front. Soviet troops capture Kaluga, 60 miles Northwest of Tula, precipitating a withdrawal by parts of German 4th Army.

Libya. Afrika Korps routs British 22nd Armored Brigade in the desert near El Haseiat. British lose 65 tanks (out of 100) against a force of only 30 German tanks.

Overnight, Japanese submarine I-1 surfaces and shells Hilo Bay, Big Island, Hawaii.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 851 December 29, 1941

Eastern Front. From Leningrad in the North to Rostov in the South, German troops are assailed by brutal cold, lack of supplies and Red Army attacks. The only German offensive is in the Crimea where Manstein’s 11th Army continues to assault Sevastopol, using siege mortars and howitzers. At 3.50 AM, Soviet 51st Army begin landing 40,500 troops, 236 artillery pieces and 43 tanks at Feodosiya (Western end of Kerch peninsula, on the South coast); this threatens to trap German 46th Infantry Division defending against the earlier landings further East on Kerch peninsula, forcing Manstein to relieve pressure on Sevastopol. General Hans Graf von Sponeck immediately begins withdrawing 46th Infantry Division, abandoning most heavy equipment including artillery. In January 1942, Sponeck will be arrested and imprisoned for 6 years as an example for disobeying Hitler's ‘no retreat’ order.

Luzon, Philippines. Japanese Lingayen Force capture Cabanatuan City at the East end of D4 line and push on South towards Manila, but US and Filipino troops hold Tarlac City on the West of D4. 40 Japanese bombers drop 200 and 500 pound bombs on Corregidor Island, damaging much of the military preparations.

Borneo. British and Indian troops and civilians from Kuching reach Singkawang II airfield, garrisoned by 750 Dutch troops, on the West coast. British and Indian troops are placed under Dutch command to defend the airfield. All civilians are sent by road 70 miles further South to Pontianak, where they are evacuated by ship on the January 25, 1942.

Japanese bombers again attack Rangoon, Burma, destroying the railway station and wharves. Most inhabitants have already left the city.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 850 December 28, 1941

Libya. British 22nd Armored Brigade and Afrika Korps skirmish in the desert near El Haseiat. British suffer greater losses although they outnumber Afrika Korps in tanks.

Overnight off Mersa Matruh, Egypt, U-75 attacks convoy ME-8, from Tobruk to Alexandria, sinking British SS Volo (24 killed, 14 survivors picked up by landing craft LCT-11 and landed at Alexandria). British destroyer HMS Kipling counterattacks and sinks U-75 with depth charges (14 dead, 30 survivors).

Luzon, Philippines. US and Filipino troops retreat from Japanese Lingayen Force another 10-20 miles to D4 line (Tarlac City to Cabanatuan City, 4th of 5 defensive lines North of Manila) as the main withdrawal to Bataan continues. Japanese again bomb Manila, sinking 4 freighters in Manila Bay. To the South, Japanese 16th Infantry Division captures Luisiana 15 miles inland from Lamon Bay.

Malaya. 22nd India Brigade is deployed at Kuantan on the East coast to protect the aerodrome (which will help Japanese operations in Southern Malaya) and to prevent threatened landings from the sea.

US destroyer USS Peary is evacuating from Philippines to Australia. At 2.20 PM, 4 Japanese aircraft drop 500-pound bombs and torpedoes but cause no damage. At 6 PM off Menado, Dutch East Indies island of Celebes, 3 RAAF Hudsons mistake USS Peary for a Japanese ship and bomb her. USS Peary is again damaged by near misses (1 killed and 2 wounded by bomb splinters).

Operation Drumbeat. With Germany now at war with USA, there are no restrictions on U-boats sinking US merchant shipping. U-66, U-109, U-123, U-125 and U-130 are in mid-Atlantic en route to raid shipping on the East coast of America.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 849 December 27, 1941

Operation Anklet, Lofoten Islands, Northwest Norway. A German seaplane bombs cruiser HMS Arethusa which is damaged by near-misses requiring 14 weeks of repair. Without air support, Admiral Hamilton decides to re-embark the Commandos (no casualties during the raid) and return to Scapa Flow. They return with 200 Norwegian volunteers for the Free Norwegian Forces, in addition to 29 German POWs.

Operation Archery. At dawn, British cruiser HMS Kenya and 4 destroyers shell German defenses on Vaagso Island, Southern Norway. 560 British Commandos and 12 Norwegian troops land, despite stiff resistance from 150 German mountain troops on leave from USSR. They complete their mission to destroy fish-oil stores and production facilities (which the Germans use to manufacture high explosives) and, in addition, capture a complete German Naval Code plus 98 German POWs & Norwegian Quisling collaborators. British have 21 killed & 57 wounded and Norwegians 1 killed, while Germans lose 120 killed. Several Norwegians volunteers return with the Commandos to serve in the Free Norwegian Forces. Raids such as Archery and Anklet are of little military value but have significant psychological effect, convincing Hitler of an Allied attack through Norway; he will station up to 15 divisions (300,000 troops) there throughout the war.

Crimea. German 46th Infantry Division (11th Army) attempts to eliminate Soviet beachheads on the Kerch peninsula but Soviet 51st Army continues to bring reinforcements and supplies ashore.

Libya. British 22nd Armored Brigade attempts to outflank Rommel at Agedabia by crossing the desert to El Haseiat 30 miles inland, but they are attacked in their flank en route by Afrika Korps tanks.

Borneo. In the morning, British and Indian troops withdrawing from Kuching cross the border into Dutch Borneo. Japanese troops occupy tiny Tambelan Islands, between Borneo and Singapore, part of the Dutch East Indies (this is the first Dutch territory occupied by the Japanese).

Philippines. US and Filipino forces withdraw to D3 line (Santa Ignacia/Gerona/Guimba/San Jose) 30 miles South of the Japanese landings at Lingayen Gulf. This is the third of 5 defensive lines on the approach to Manila. Japanese continue bombing Manila and shipping in Manila Bay. 6 US Catalina flying boats bomb Japanese warships at the island of Jolo (4 Catalinas shot down by Japanese fighters).

Hong Kong. Japanese General Sakai, commander of Hong Kong Operation, parades 38th Infantry Division in triumph through Victoria, Hong Kong.

Malaya. While the main Japanese force approaches Kampar along the road from Ipoh on the West side of the peninsula, Japanese troops advance from Kota Bharu down the East coast toward Kuantan.

Day 848 December 26, 1941

Operation Anklet. 22 warships from Britain, Norway and Poland raid the Lofoten Islands (Northwest Norway, 100 miles inside the Arctic Circle). At 6 AM, 223 British Commandos and 77 Norwegian troops land on the island of Moskenesøya from British landing ship HMS Prins Albert (escorted by Norwegian corvettes HNoMS Andenes and Eglantine), take several German & Norwegian Quisling prisoners and destroy a radio transmitter at Glåpen. British destroyer HMS Bedouin shells a radio transmitter at Flakstadøya. In Vestfjord, British cruiser HMS Arethusa and destroyers HMS Somali, Ashanti, and Eskimo capture 2 Norwegian coastal steamers and sink a German patrol boat (after capturing the Enigma machine and code settings).

Libya. After all his infantry have arrived along the coast road, Rommel withdraws his armored rearguard to Agedabia (where his advance towards Egypt started in April). British 22nd Armored Brigade follows close behind, recently re-equipped with new tanks. At 2.29 PM 20 miles East of Tobruk, Libya, 1 torpedo from U-559 stops Polish SS Warszawa carrying Allied troops to Tobruk from Alexandria, Egypt (4 crew and 19 passengers killed). 445 survivors taken off by British corvette HMS Peony which attempts to tow the damaged ship. At 7.30 PM, U-559 sinks SS Warszawa with a coup de grâce.

British submarine H31 disappears on patrol in the Bay of Biscay, cause unknown (all 22 hands lost).

Moscow Counteroffensive. Northwest of Moscow, Konev’s Kalanin Front launches an attack on German 9th Army. Konev’s goals are to unhinge North end of the German defensive line along the Ruza & Lama rivers and also to drive a wedge between Army Group North & Army Group Center.

Crimea. While German 11th Army continues to assault Sevastopol, Soviet 44th Army lands 13,000 troops on the North and East coasts of the Kerch peninsula from ships of the Azov Naval Flotilla and the Kerch Naval Base.

Malaya. Japanese advance on Ipoh along the main road from the Northwest and down a broad valley from the North, where British and Indian troops fight a delaying action at Chemor. Due to the flanking risk, British decide to withdraw from Ipoh to better positions at Kampar, 25 miles South, with mountains to the East and swamps to the West.

Borneo. Dutch Army Glenn Martin B-10 bombers from Samarinda, Dutch Borneo, sink Japanese minesweeper W6 and collier Unyo Maru off Kuching.

Philippines. MacArthur declares Manila an open city to spare the populace. Japanese bombing continues nonetheless, sinking ships in Manila Bay and damaging US destroyer USS Peary.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 847 December 25, 1941

Hong Kong. Allied commanders realize their troops are isolated, without food and water. At 3.15 PM, British Governor of Hong Kong Sir Mark Young and Commander of British Forces in Hong Kong General Maltby agree to surrender. Sir Mark surrenders at the Japanese headquarters in the Peninsula Hong Kong hotel. River gunboat HMS Robin is scuttled to prevent capture. Allied casualties are 2113 killed, 2300 wounded and 12,000 taken prisoner, while Japanese lost 1,996 killed and 6,000 wounded.

Borneo. At 11.45 AM 70 miles Northwest of Kuching, Japanese submarine I 66 torpedoes Dutch submarine K-XVI (all 36 hands lost). At 4.40 PM, Japanese troops capture British airfield at Kuching, where they can bomb Singapore across the South China Sea.

Philippines. On Luzon, US troops retreat, delaying the Japanese advance. Marines demolish dock facilities, fuel and ammunition at Cavite Navy Yard. Submarine Sealion, damaged by bombing on December 10, is scuttled to prevent capture. Japanese land on the tiny Southern island of Jolo, with little resistance from the garrison of 300 Filipino constabulary.

Malaya. Allies withdraw to the town of Ipoh, 10 miles South along the main road from the previous positions on the Perak River.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 846 December 24, 1941

At 1.35 AM 50 miles Northeast of Mersa Matruh, Egypt, U-568 sinks British corvette HMS Salvia (all 106 hand lost, plus an unknown number of survivors rescued a few hours earlier from British passenger ship SS Shuntien transporting German and Italian POWs from Tobruk to Alexandria).

Borneo. Japanese troops sail 250 miles South from Miri (departed 2 days ago) to capture the British airfield at the district capital Kuching. 30 miles offshore, Dutch submarine HNMS K-XVI sinks Japanese destroyer Sagiri with 2 torpedoes (121 killed, 120 survivors rescued by destroyer Shirakumo and a minesweeper). At 11 AM, 20 Japanese landing craft run up the Santubong River and land at Kuching. Indian defenders (15th Punjab Regiment) sink 7 barges wi mortar and shellfire but are quickly overcome. At 4 PM, Japanese capture the town but they do not reach the airfield.

Philippines. Japanese reinforce their bridgehead at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, with another 10,000 troops. MacArthur realizes he is hopelessly outnumbered and cannot defend Manila or prevent the capture of Luzon. He orders a withdrawal to the Bataan Peninsula, with 5 defensive lines to delay the Japanese advance. Overnight, MacArthur and President of the Philippine Commonwealth Manuel Quezon, evacuate to the island of Corregidor, just South of Bataan.

Hong Kong. Japanese overcome Allied defenses on "The Ridge" by frontal assault and reach British HQ, Stanley Fort, deep on the Stanley peninsula. Japanese troops bayonet 56 wounded men plus doctors and nurses at St. Stephen's College Emergency Hospital and also rape many nurses. British destroyer HMS Thracian is damaged by Japanese aircraft and forced to beach.

Japanese submarines attack shipping off the Californian coast. I-17 shells freighter Absaroka 26 miles off San Pedro, while I-23 shells steamship Dorothy Philips off Monterey Bay.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 845 December 23, 1941

Invasion of Wake Islands. After their defeat on December 11, Japanese return with 1500 SNLF Marines, aircraft carriers Soryu and Hiryu, 6 cruisers, 6 destroyers and 2 patrol boats. The warships and carrier aircraft bombard the islands. Landings begin at 2.35 AM. Wake Island itself is overwhelmed by troops landing from barges and the 2 patrol boats which are run aground; American garrison surrenders at 8 AM. Marine Corps pilot Captain Henry Elrod, who sunk destroyer Kisaragi on December 11, dies fighting on the beach and is awarded the Medal Of Honor for his defense of Wake. On nearby Wilkes Island, 100 Japanese SNLF Marines are wiped ou by a determined counterattack by the 70 American Marines (US casualties, 11 killed, 5 wounded) - to no avail with the surrender of the main island.

Philippines. Japanese 48th Division from Lingayen Gulf advance 10 miles South towards Manila. Another 7,000 troops (16th Division) land at Lamon Bay, only 50 miles Southeast of Manila. These 2 forces form a pincer closing on the capital, where MacArthur has held most of his better troops. The 9 US B-17 bombers from Australia refuel and rearm on Mindanao then attack Japanese ships in Davao Gulf and Lingayen Gulf, damaging Japanese destroyer Kuroshio.

Hong Kong. Allied troops withdraw to the last fortified line "The Ridge", a large hill at the neck of the Stanley Peninsula. The island is lost but they intend to make stand in the vain hope of assistance from Chinese troops on the mainland.

Japanese submarines I-71 and I-72 shell US-held Palmyra Island, 1000 miles Southwest of Hawaii.

Siege of Leningrad Day 107. Trucks bring 786 tons of food across Lake Ladoga. Although many inhabitants still face death from inadequate rations and cold, the city is saved from starvation. The Road of Life can support railway freight cars which are towed out carrying machinery; 3677 railway cars haul out much of Leningrad’s industrial equipment between December 1941 and April 1942.

At 7.02 PM 29 miles East of Tobruk, U-559 sinks British passenger ship SS Shuntien carrying 1100 German and Italian POWs from Tobruk to Alexandria, plus 70 crew and 18 gunners (6 crew and 700 POWs killed). 64 crew and 400 POWS rescued by British corvette HMS Salvia and destroyer HMS Heythrop. In the same area, 40 miles North of Sollum, Egypt, British destroyers HMS Hasty and HMS Hotspur sink U-79 with depth charges (all 44 crew survive).

Late morning, 54 Japanese bombers and 24 fighters, flying from Thailand, bomb Rangoon, Burma (2000 killed and wounded).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 844 December 22, 1941

Philippines. At 2 AM, Japanese invasion of the island of Luzon begins in earnest. 43,000 troops (48th Division) and 90 tanks land in the Lingayen Gulf, 110 miles North of Manila. US submarine S38 enters the shallow shoals of Lingayen Gulf and misses 4 transport ships and 2 destroyers with 4 torpedoes at 7.10 AM. S38 then sinks Japanese freighter Hayo Maru at 7.58. The American defenses (North Luzon Force, composed mainly of poorly-trained and equipped Pilipino troops) are spread too thinly to put up more than token resistance. In addition to marching on Manila, Japanese troops will head North to link up with earlier landings at Aparri and Vigan. After flying 1350 miles from Darwin, Australia, 9 US B-17s bombers attack Japanese ships in Davao Gulf, Mindanao, and then land at Del Monte on Mindanao.

860 miles West of Hawaii, Japanese submarine I-68 shells US Navy airfield and seaplane base at US-held Johnston Island. 750 miles South of Hawaii, Japanese submarines I-71 and I-72 shell Naval Air Station on Palmyra Atoll.

Wake Island. 33 Japanese dive bombers and 6 fighters from aircraft carriers Hiryu and Soryu destroy the last American aircraft as well as bombing gun emplacements.

The first US Army troops to arrive in Australia, Task Force South Pacific lands at Brisbane escorted by cruiser Pensacola.

Siege of Leningrad Day 106. The ice on Lake Ladoga is 1 meter thick, enough to support 45-ton KV tanks which are moved along the Road of Life to aid in the defense of the city. Trucks bring in 687 tons of food, for the first time exceeding Leningrad’s daily consumption of 600 tons.

Churchill arrives in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, USA, aboard battleship HMS Duke Of York, for the First Washington Conference (Arcadia Conference was the code name).

Libya. Allied motorised infantry reach Beda Fomm but run into 30 new Panzers placed to prevent them cutting off the German/Italian infantry retreat along the coast. Axis forces begin evacuating Benghazi, sending small convoys by sea to Tripoli. A newly-laid Italian minefield off Misrata sinks German steamer Spezia and Italian steamer Umbra Cadamosto.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 843 December 21, 1941

Battle of convoy HG-76. At 7.23 PM 500 miles West of Cape Finisterre, Portugal, U-567 sinks Norwegian SS Annavore (34 dead, 4 survivors). A merchant ship fires a "snowflake" flare, silhouetting British escort carrier HMS Audacity which is hit at 9.37 PM by 3 torpedoes from U-751, igniting aviation fuel and destroying the ship in a massive explosion (73 killed, 407 survivors picked up by corvettes HMS Convolvulus, Marigold and Pentstemon). At 10.30 PM, U-567 approaches again but is sunk by sloop HMS Deptford and corvette HMS Samphire with depth charges (all 47 hands lost).

A British Swordfish aircraft of 812 Squadron sinks U-451 with depth charges off the coast of Morocco (44 dead, 1 survivor).

Malaya. After their success yesterday bypassing Scottish road blocks on the Grik Road by floating on rafts down the nearby Perak River, Japanese repeat the exercise on a grander scale. They launch rafts in Chenderoh Lake, floating 23 miles downstream to British defenses at Kuala Kangsar. British shoot up the rafts but many Japanese troops get ashore. Overnight, British begin withdrawing from their prepared Perak River positions. Dutch submarine HNMS XVII sinks on a Japanese mine 18 miles North of Tioman Island (all 36 crew lost).

Thailand and Japan formally sign an alliance, although they have collaborated since December 7.

Wake Island is heavily bombed by 29 Japanese Navy bombers from aircraft carriers Soryu and Hiryu, at 8.50 AM, and then again by 33 land-based bombers from Roi Island at 12.20 PM. The relief force is still 627 miles away moving at only 12 knots, the speed of the slowest oiler.

Hong Kong. Stalemate continues at Wong Nei Chong Gap. There is panic throughout the Island, as British civilians & Allied troops retreat to the Stanley Peninsula. Japanese bombers sink British river gunboat HMS Cicala (1 killed, 1 wounded).

Libya. While Indian 4th Division is grounded on the coast road at Derna for lack of fuel, Allied motorised infantry chase retreating German and Italian armor across the desert tracks South of Green Mountain towards Beda Fomm.

Eastern Front. Soviet 31st Cavalry Division attacks Kaluga, 60 miles Northwest of Tula, but they are held by German 137th Infantry Division. Both sides are ordered to hold the town at all costs, beginning a week of hand-to-hand fighting.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 842 December 20, 1941

Malaya. The main Japanese advance along the West Coast road nears the Allied defensive positions behind the River Perak. A separate Japanese infantry thrust South from Thailand along the Grik Road, a valley parallel to the West Coast, threatens to outflank these defenses. This attack is held by a battalion of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Lenggong but Japanese troops take to rafts and float down the River Perak to Kota Tampan and attack the Scots from the rear.

Hong Kong. 600 British troops fail to dislodge the Japanese from Wong Nei Chong Gap and withdraw with heavy casualties. Attempting to disrupt further Japanese landings, British motor torpedo boats MTB.12 & MTB.26 are sunk and MTB.7, MTB.11 & MTB.18 are damaged.

Wake Island. At 3.30 PM, US Navy Catalina flying boat brings news that a relief convoy is on the way (due December 24) but it will never arrive.

Eastern Front. Having pushed back the Panzer Armies to the North and South of Moscow, Zhukov turns his attention to the infantry in the middle (von Kluge’s 4th Army dug in behind the Nara River Southwest of Moscow). Soviet 5th, 33rd, 43rd & 49th Armies make a series of futile frontal assaults. Further South, a mobile group (31st Cavalry, 112th Tank and 154th Rifle Divisions) attacks West from Tula into a gap between Kluge’s stationary 4th Army and Guderian’s retreating 2nd Panzer Army, aiming for the German’s supply base at the rail and road junction of Kaluga. In Germany, Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels broadcasts an appeal for warm winter clothing for the German troops.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 841 December 19, 1941

Royal Navy has a bad day in the Mediterranean. Overnight, 3 manned torpedoes (maiali) from Italian submarine Sciré enter the naval base at Alexandria, Egypt. They plant limpet mines which explode at 6AM, sinking battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth (9 killed) in shallow water (out of service for 1 year). Destroyer HMS Jervis is also badly damaged by the explosion. All 6 Italian torpedo-riders are captured.

At 1 AM, British cruisers HMS Neptune, Aurora & Penelope and destroyers HMS Kandahar, Lance, Lively and Havock (seeking an Italian convoy bound for Tripoli) run into a new minefield 30 miles Northeast of Tripoli. HMS Aurora & Penelope are damaged immediately. Between 1 and 4 AM, HMS Neptune hits 4 mines and sinks (766 killed, 1 survivor Leading Seaman Norman Walton found by an Italian torpedo boat on December 24). HMS Kandahar hits a mine attempting to assist (79 killed, 104 taken off) and will be scuttled next day.

Battle of convoy HG-76. After sinking 2 U-boats in the last 2 days, British destroyer HMS Stanley’s luck runs out when she is sunk at 4.15 AM by U-574 with 3 torpedoes, 435 miles West of Lisbon, Portugal (136 dead). British sloop HMS Stork counterattacks with depth charges, sinking U-574 by ramming 12 minutes later (28 dead, 16 survivors taken prisoner). HMS Stork and corvette HMS Samphire pick up 25 survivors from HMS Stanley. At 6.15 AM, U-108 damages British SS Ruckinge (3 dead, 39 survivors) which is shelled and sunk by HMS Samphire.

Libya. Indian 4th Division, chasing the retreating German and Italian infantry along the coast road to Benghazi, captures Derna too late as most Axis troops have already passed through. Rommel gets some good news, as a shipment of 30 tanks arrives at Benghazi to reinforce Afrika Korps.

Hong Kong. Japanese quickly take control of the Northeast of Hong Kong Island and Allied troops begin retreating to Stanley Peninsula in the Southeast corner. Japanese reach Wong Nai Chung Gap, a narrow pass in the hills in the middle of the Island, where they are stopped by Canadian and Hong Kong troops (600 Japanese casualties). WWI veteran Sergeant Major John Osborn (Winnipeg Grenadiers) will be awarded Canada’s first VC of WWII for tossing back several Japanese grenades before falling on one to save 6 of his comrades. 7 Royal Navy ships (river gunboat HMS Tern, minelayer HMS Redstart, boom vessels HMS Watergate, Barlight & Aldgate, tugs HMS Poet Chaucer & Alliance) and several merchant ships are scuttled in the harbor to prevent capture.

Philippines. Japanese troops continue pushing out of their beachheads on the main island, Luzon. On the Southern island of Mindanao, Japanese come ashore near Davao City at 4 AM, capturing the city and airfield by 3 PM.

Malaya. 25 miles east of Kota Bharu, Dutch submarine HNMS O.20 is depth charged by Japanese destroyers Ayanami and Yugiri from 11 AM and 5.30 PM. Damaged, O.20 surfaces after dark and is shelled by destroyer Uranami. In the ensuing panic, O.20 is scuttled by diving suddenly and Uranami drops more depth charges (7 killed, 32 taken prisoner by Uranami).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day 840 December 18, 1941

Battle of convoy HG-76. At 9.45 AM 560 miles West of Gibraltar, British destroyers HMS Stanley and HMS Blankney bring U-434 to the surface with depth charges. U-434 crew places scuttling charges and abandons ship (42 survivors taken prisoner by HMS Blankney, 2 killed in Blankney‘s propellers during maneuvering). U-434 explodes and sinks before HMS Blankney can get a boarding party aboard.

Invasion of Hong Kong Island. Japanese bombardment continues, setting fire to an oil refinery which casts a pall of dense smoke over the North shore. Fog and rain also reduce visibility. At 10 PM, Japanese 3500 soldiers cross the Lye Mun Channel and establish a bridgehead at North Point, followed by another 4000 troops at midnight. In the confusion, senior Allied officers at HQ are unaware that the invasion has begun. Japanese massacre 20 Hong Kong Volunteer Defense Corps anti-aircraft gunners who have surrendered at Sai Wan Hill and they shoot or behead 26 male medical staff & 2 wounded soldiers at the Salesian Mission Advanced Dressing Station (female staff are forced to watch and then set free).

Philippines. Japanese troops capture the town of Naga, 50 miles North up the main road from their landing site at Legaspi on the Bicol Peninsula, Southeast Luzon. They repair roads and bridges blown yesterday by retreating US forces.

Operation Crusader. Rommel has so few tanks operational (Afrika Korps has 8, Italian Ariete Division has 30) that he decides to retreat all the way to strong defensive position at Mersa Brega, whence he launched his attack in April. The infantry will follow the coastal road while the tanks will cut across the desert South of the Green Mountain (Jebel Achdar). British 4th Armored Brigade is slow to get going from Bir Halegh el Eleba, (wary of previous maulings by Rommel's anti-tank guns when they chased the Afrika Korps) and reaches Mechili, 25 miles West, too late to catch the retreating tanks. Operation Crusader has achieved the objectives of pushing Rommel back out of Eastern Libya and relieving the siege of Tobruk but, in doing so, the British have used up all their reserves of tanks. Rommel's Afrika Korps has survived, barely, and will soon receive fresh supplies of tanks.

Red Army fails to keep contact with the retreating German forces Northwest to West of Moscow, allowing 3rd Panzer Army to fall back over the Lama River while 4th Panzer Army gets behind the Ruza River. Although the rivers are frozen, Soviet troops will fail to cross and allow the Germans to dig in and establishes defensive positions.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Day 839 December 17, 1941

At 1 AM, 650 Dutch and Australian troops invade Portuguese East Timor to prevent Japanese occupation as forward base for attacking Australia. They sail 200 miles from Koepang, Dutch West Timor, and land unopposed at Dili.

Hong Kong. At 11.30 AM, the shelling stops and a Japanese delegation cross the harbor, under a white flag, and demand the surrender of Allied Forces in Hong Kong. At 2.30 PM, Sir Mark Young, Governor of Hong Kong, replies in a letter that he "declines absolutely to enter into negotiations for the surrender of Hong Kong and he takes this opportunity of saying he is not prepared to receive any further communications on this subject". The bombardment recommences.

Off Miri, Borneo, Dutch bombers sink Japanese destroyer Shinonome (all 219 hands lost).

Malaya. British and Indian troops retreat 65 miles from Penang to defensive positions where the main road crosses the River Perak. Beyond this line, mountains give way to broad coastal plains with numerous roads.

Philippines. Anticipating a Japanese invasion of Luzon, about 1200 civilians flee Manila for Mindanao aboard American steamer SS Corregidor (formerly a British seaplane carrier HMS Engadine, which took part in the Battle of Jutland in 1916). SS Corregidor sinks on a mine laid by Japanese submarine I.124 in Manila Bay. 4 American PT boats save 275 survivors.

At 8.20 PM 25 miles Southwest of Wake Island, Japanese submarines RO-62 and RO-66 simultaneously surface to charge their batteries. In a heavy squall, RO-62 rams and sinks RO-66 (63 killed, 3 lookouts thrown overboard by the collision picked up by RO-62)

U-67, U-107, U-108, U-131 & U-434 stalk a convoy (HG-76) returning from Gibraltar to Britain. At 9.25 AM 230 miles Northeast of Madeira, a Martlet aircraft from escort carrier HMS Audacity spots U-131 shadowing HG-76. British destroyers HMS Stanley, HMS Exmoor and HMS Blankney, corvette HMS Pentstemon and sloop HMS Stork, attack with depth charges. At 12.47, U-131 is brought to the surface and shoots down the Martlet (first Allied aircraft downed by U-boat anti-aircraft fire) but is then hit by shellfire from the British ships and finally scuttled at 1.30 PM (all 47 hands taken prisoner).

In the evening, British Royal Navy and Italian Regia Marina fight an inconclusive battle in the Gulf of Sirte, 185 miles Northwest of Benghazi, Libya. Both are escorting freighters (Italians to Libya; British to Malta), so neither side wants a major engagement. Italian battleships Littorio, Andrea Doria and Giulio Cesare fire inaccurately from 32 km, beyond the range of the British cruisers. British destroyer HMS Kipling (1 killed) and Australian destroyer HMAS Nizam are damaged by near misses.

Crimea, Black Sea. German General Manstein finally launches his attack on Sevastopol, but his 4 infantry divisions only muster 15,551 troops. Manstein leaves only 46th Infantry Division and 2 Romanian brigades to protect 150 miles of coastline from Yalta to Kerch.

Hitler begins to purge the Generals he feels have failed him in Russia. After the failure of Operation Typhoon to capture Moscow, Hitler relieves von Bock from command of Army Group Center, officially citing “health problems”.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 838 December 16, 1941

Invasion of Burma begins. Japanese infantry (who infiltrated across the border from Thailand on December 12) capture Victoria Point on the Southern tip of Burma, from a platoon of the Burma Frontier Force.

Invasion of Borneo begins. 10 Japanese troop transports left Cam Ranh Bay, French Indo-China, 2 days ago, escorted by 3 cruisers and 6 destroyers. At 5 AM, Japanese troops come ashore at British protectorates on the North shore of Borneo meeting minimal resistance. They quickly capture oilfields at Miri & Seria and the refinery at Lutong, beginning to execute the major Japanese war aim of securing oil supplies.

Malaya. British and Europeans evacuate Penang Island for the safety of Singapore, leaving behind the local inhabitants. Demolition parties destroy artillery and anti-aircraft guns, ammunition and supplies but the radio station is left intact and will be used for Japanese propaganda. Many ships in the harbor are not scuttled and will be used by the Japanese to outflank British defenses on the West coast by sea.

Operation Crusader. British 4th Armored Brigade at Bir Halegh el Eleba misses their opportunity to attack Afrika Korps from behind. Most of the Brigade heads 20 miles South to refuel while a small detachment goes North, only serving to alert the Germans. By the afternoon, Afrika Korps begins to withdraw West along the coast, covered by an anti-tank screen which tears up the main British armor when it finally arrives. Rommel is so desperate for supplies that Italians send 4 battleships, 5 cruisers 20 destroyers and a torpedo boat to escort a convoy of 4 freighters from Taranto, Italy.

At 9.44 PM 18 miles West of Crete, Italian torpedo boat Orione rams and sinks U-557, mistaking it for a British submarine (all 43 hands lost). Orione is damaged and returns to Suda Bay, Crete.

In the quadrant North to West of Moscow, Red Army has pushed 3 German Armies back 50 miles after 12 days of fighting. Germans are in full retreat, demoralized and facing temperatures as low as −42°F (also −42°C). Soviet forces recapture Kalinin from German 9th Army.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 837 December 15, 1941

Hong Kong. At 3 AM, Japanese reconnaissance party of 300 cross the Lye Mun Channel from Kowloon but they are slaughtered by the Allied defenders as they come ashore on Hong Kong Island. Japanese begin artillery and aerial bombardment of the North shore of Hong Kong lasting 3 days, to soften up the defenses.

Malaya. Japanese attack again at dawn, with tanks, and overrun British and Indian defenses at Gurun. Allied troops retreat to safety across the Muda River, leaving the main road to Penang open to the Japanese. RAF abandon Butterworth airfield in Penang, evacuating the remaining aircraft to Singapore.

At 2.30 AM, Dutch submarine HNMS O16 sinks on a Japanese mine 22 miles Northeast of Tioman Island, Malaya (41 killed, 1 survivor Boatswain Cornelis de Wolf swims ashore 44 miles South on Aur Island after 35 hours in the water).

Japanese submarine I-1 shells Kahului, Maui, Hawaii. 860 miles West of Hawaii, I-22 shells US Navy airfield and seaplane base at US-held Johnston Island, destroying a 1,200-gallon oil tank.

Operation Crusader. Rommel uses his remaining tanks to plug the hole at Point 204, the inland end of the Gazala line (1000 Allied troops killed, only 71 escape with a battery of field artillery). At 3 PM, 4th Armored Brigade arrives at Bir Halegh el Eleba, 15 miles West of Point 204, but they lay up for the night instead of pushing on to encircle Afrika Korps at Gazala.

U-127, trying to enter the Mediterranean, is sunk by depth charges from the Australian destroyer HMAS Nestor 200 miles West of Gibraltar (all 51 hands lost).

North of Moscow, Soviet tanks cut the road West of Klin isolating 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th Panzer and 14th Motorised Infantry Divisions (3rd Panzer Army). German troops take the only route out, cross-country to the Southwest, to avoid encirclement but leave most of their equipment. Klin is abandoned at 9.30 PM.

Day 836 December 14, 1941

Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto, which left Naples yesterday to engage British ships after Battle of Cape Bon, is promptly torpedoed by British submarine HMS Urge in the Strait of Messina, Sicily. Vittorio Veneto is seriously damaged by a torpedo hit to the magazine (out of service for several months) but steams to Taranto escorted by 4 destroyers and 2 torpedo boats.

After searching for Italian supply convoys, British cruiser HMS Galatea is returning to base at Alexandria, Egypt. After entering a mine-swept channel, the destroyer screen is sent forward to Alexandria but HMS Galatea is attacked by Italian submarine Dagabur at 7.55 PM and then again by U-557 just before midnight, causing HMS Galatea to sink within 3 minutes 35 miles West of Alexandria (470 killed, 154 survivors picked up by destroyers HMS Griffin and HMS Hotspur).

Malaya. British and Indian troops regroup at the best defensive line in Northern Malaya at Gurun, a 4 mile gap on the coastal plain between Kedah peak (4000 ft) and Malayan mountain foothills. At 3 PM, Japanese make a frontal attack along the main road with tanks and artillery, overrunning forward defenses and brigade HQ, but are prevented from reaching the town of Gurun by 2 companies of British East Surrey Regiment.

Thailand. Prime Minister Plaek Pibunsongkhram signs a secret agreement with Japan, allowing Japanese troops to operate from Thailand and committing Thai support for the planned invasion of Burma.

Hong Kong. 50,000 Japanese troops occupy Kowloon and face 12,000 Allied defenders on Hong Kong Island across Victoria Harbor, less than a half mile wide at the narrowest point. British refuse Japanese demands for surrender.

Philippines. 3 B-17s from US Del Monte airfield, Mindanao, bomb the Japanese beachhead at Legaspi, Luzon. They are attacked by 12 Zero fighters, presumably from a Japanese aircraft carrier. Lieutenant Hewitt T. Wheless wins the Distinguished Service Cross for returning with over 1,000 bullets holes in his B-17. The remaining B-17s in the Philippines will be sent to Australia next day.

Operation Crusader. British 4th Armored Brigade begins a long trek South to the desert crossroads at Bir Halegh el Eleba, 30 miles West of Gazala, to outflank Afrika Korps and cut off their lines of retreat along the coast or through the desert.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Day 835 December 13, 1941

Just after midnight, Dutch submarine O.16 enters the shallow harbor at Mueang Patani, Thailand, where Japanese are unloading troops and equipment to move into Malaya. O.16 badly damaged 4 Japanese freighters with 6 torpedoes and then escapes, although the ships will be raised and returned to service.

Malaya. At 2 AM, Indian troops blow up the bridge at Jitra and Allied forces begin a headlong retreat 33 miles South to the next defensive line at Gurun. Japanese cross the river at Jitra and, 12 miles South, find the British airfield at Alor Setar abandoned. British have destroyed all the aircraft but Japanese capture bombs and fuel that will be used against the retreating Allies. The commander of 1st battalion /14 Punjab Regiment Major Mohan Singh is taken POW and will, with Japanese encouragement, form First Indian National Army to fight against the British.

Hong Kong. After conducting a fighting retreat, the last Allied troops evacuate Kowloon at 9.30 AM, destroying boats and equipment, and cross to Hong Kong Island.

The 90 mile strait between Cape Bon, Tunisia, and Sicily is the busiest intersection in the Mediterranean. 3 British destroyers HMS Sikh, HMS Maori & HMS Legion and Dutch destroyer HNLMS Isaac Sweers sailing East from Gibraltar to Alexandria encounter 2 Italian cruisers Alberto da Giussano & Alberico da Barbiano plus torpedo boat Cigno sailing South from Palermo carrying fuel and troops to Tripoli for Rommel. At 3:25 AM, British use the well-worn tactic of attacking at night using radar (which the Italian ships lack), sinking both cruisers in 5 minutes (1020 killed, 645 survivors rescued by torpedo boat Cigno or swim to shore).

In the Gulf of Taranto, Italy, British submarine HMS Upright sinks Italian steamers Fabio Filzi & Carlo del Greco, escorted by Italian destroyers Da Recco and Usodimare.

Operation Crusader. Allied troops attack Afrika Korps at Gazala. 5th New Zealand Brigade are held by Germans covering the coast road but 5th Indian Brigade overcomes Italian troops on the inland flank, allowing British tanks to move 15 miles behind the Gazala line where they are halted by 39 German tanks.

British battleship HMS Duke Of York departs the Clyde carrying Winston Churchill to USA, escorted by destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Foresight & HMS Matabele.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 834 December 12, 1941

Malaya. Colonel Saeki’s troops (an advance party of Japanese 5th Division) make gradual progress against 11th Indian Division at Jitra. At 7.30 PM, 11th Indian Division receives permission from commander of Indian III Corps, General Lewis “Piggy” Heath, to fall back to positions at Gurun. The overnight withdrawal is confused due to poor communications and many forward units are left behind.

Philippines. 2500 Japanese troops land at Legaspi in the Southeast corner of Luzon (from Japanese-held Palau, 500 miles East). American General Douglas MacArthur, commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, recognizes this as a diversion (along with yesterday’s landings); he retains the bulk of his 31,000 US and Filipino Scout troops near Manilla.

Italian cruisers Alberto da Giussano & Alberico da Barbiano depart Palermo, Sicily, for Tripoli, Libya, carrying 135 troops, 900 tons of food and fuel in large drums on deck (100 tons of gasoline, 250 tons of diesel fuel & 600 tons of fuel oil) for Rommel.

Romanian Zionists charter a passenger ship to ferry Jews to Palestine (via the Black Sea and the Aegean). SS Struma sails from Constanţa carrying 790 Jews but the engine, which had been salvaged from a Danube River wreck, breaks down repeatedly. SS Struma will be towed to Istanbul and remain there for several weeks as the British and Turkish governments argue over the fate of the ship.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 833 December 11, 1941

In one of WWII’s most controversial decisions, Hitler declares war on USA although not obliged by treaties with Japan. USA declares war against Germany and Italy in response, fulfilling Churchill’s goal of bringing America into the European war.

At dawn, 450 Japanese Marines in 2 transport ships (escorted by 3 cruisers, 6 destroyers & 2 patrol boats) attack the tiny US-held atoll of Wake Island, an important staging post to the Philippines (1500 miles East of Guam, 2300 miles West of Hawaii) defended by 447 US Marines and 75 Army & Navy personnel. Waiting until the invasion force is within 2.5 miles, six 5-inch naval guns (taken from a WWI-era battleship) sink Japanese destroyer Hayate with a direct hit to her magazine (all 168 hands killed), seriously damage Cruiser Yubari with 11 shells and hit another cruiser, 2 destroyers and a troop transport. Captain Henry Elrod flying a Navy Grumman Wildcat sinks destroyer Kisaragi, dropping a 100 pound bomb on her store of depth charges which explode (all 150 hands killed). After 45 minutes, Japanese warships steam away without attempting a landing.

Malaya. Japanese infantry under Colonel Saeki outflank a 14th Punjab Regiment ambush between Changlun and Asun, forcing a withdrawal, and then overrun the retreating troops with tanks. When Japanese tanks arrive at the bridge at Asun, 1st Gurkha Rifles disable 2 tanks with a Boys anti-tank rifle blocking the bridge. However, Japanese infantry ford the stream at 7 PM and capture the Gurkhas’ positions (350 killed or captured). At 8.30 PM, Saeki's tanks reach the town of Jitra but are held up by the main defenses of 11th Indian Division.

British troops withdraw onto the island of Hong Kong from the New Territories peninsula, after the collapse of the main defensive Gindrinkers Line.

Moscow counteroffensive. German 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies continue their retreat North of Moscow. Although 3rd Panzer holds onto Klin, Soviet 16th Army captures Istra and 20th Army reaches Solnechnogorsk. South of Moscow, Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Army is also in retreat as Soviet capture Stalinogorsk.

Mediterranean. At 4.21 AM, U-374 sinks British antisubmarine trawler HMS Lady Shirley in the Straits of Gibraltar (all 33 hands lost). British patrol yacht HMS Rosabelle tries to locate the U-boat and is also sunk at 4.42 AM (30 killed, 12 survivors picked up by patrol yacht HMS Sayonara). British submarine HMS Truant fires 2 torpedoes at Italian tankers in Suda Bay, Crete, but instead hits Italian torpedo boat Alcione which is beached but unsalvageable (20 dead). 30 miles Northeast of Bardia, Libya, British destroyer HMS Farndale brings Italian submarine Caracciola to the surface with depth charges and sinks her with shellfire (53 survivors rescued but an Italian General, a passenger on Caracciola, drowns).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 832 December 10, 1941

At 3.40 AM, British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse are spotted by Japanese submarine I-58 which misses the ships with 5 torpedoes. From 11.17 AM to 12.40 PM, 50 miles East of Kuantan, Malaya, waves of Japanese bombers and torpedo bombers sink HMS Repulse at 12.33 PM (513 killed) and HMS Prince of Wales at 1.18 PM (327 killed). Destroyers HMS Electra, Express and Vampire rescue 1862 survivors.

Malaya. After the failure of Krohcol and Laycol to impede the Japanese advance from Thailand into Northwestern Malaya, British hurriedly prepare the half-finished defensive line at Jitra (10 miles inside Malaya). They send 1st Battalion/14th Punjab Regiment and 2nd Battalion /1st Gurkha Rifles to stall the Japanese at Changlun and Asun, halfway between Jitra and the Thai border. At 9 PM, 14th Punjabis ambush Japanese troops at Changlun, destroying 2 tanks with anti-tank guns, and then pull back South towards Asun.

At 4 AM, Japanese land 5000 troops at 3 sites on the American-held island of Guam, an important staging post 1300 miles East of the Philippines. At 6 AM, Naval Governor of Guam, Rear Admiral McMillin, surrenders by sounding a car horn 3 times.

Philippines. Japanese troops land at Aparri on the North coast of Luzon and Vigan on the East side of the island. Bombing of Cavite Navy Yard, near Manila, Luzon, damages US submarine USS Sealion (4 killed) and sinks US minesweeper USS Bittern. USS Sealion will be scuttled on December 25.

Moscow counteroffensive. South of Moscow, Soviet troops complete the encirclement of German 45th, 95th and 134th Infantry Divisions at Livny. The Germans will eventually breakout after several days, despite heavy casualties and the suicide of General Conrad von Cochenhausen, commander of 134th Infantry Division.

Just before midnight 200 miles Southwest of Ireland, U-130 sinks 3 steamers in convoy SC-57 (British SS Kurdistan and SS Kirnwood and Egyptian SS Star of Luxor.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 831 December 9, 1941

German U-boats have a bad day. At 2 PM 50 miles South of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, U-652 sinks Vichy French steamer Saint Denis (3 killed). At 9 PM, U-134 sinks German steamer Steinbek in a convoy 20 miles off the coast of Northern Norway in the Barents Sea (12 survivors).

Moscow counteroffensive. North of Moscow, Soviet 30th Army continues outflanking 3rd Panzer Army, so General Reinhardt pulls his panzers back into Klin, abandoning his trucks and artillery. South of Moscow near Tula, Soviets recapture Venev as Guderian pulls back 2nd Panzer Army. Further South, Soviet cavalry recapture Yelets and continue the encirclement of German 45th, 95th and 134th Infantry Divisions at Livny.

Malaya. British in Northern Malaya send Laycol and Krohcol, small columns of Indian troops in armored cars, over the border into Thailand to destroy roads and railway lines. They meet stiff resistance from Thai police units and later from Japanese 5th Division advancing South from Pattani. British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse are spotted off the East coast of Malaya by Japanese reconnaissance aircraft and Japanese submarine I-65. Their mission compromised, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse turn South to return to Singapore. Overnight, Japanese torpedo bombers from Saigon try but fail to find the British warships.

Hong Kong. At 9 PM, Japanese troops stealthily attack the British defensive line across the New Territories at "225 High Ground". Overnight, they breach the British defenses, take 27 British POWs and capture this high ground dominating the Western end of the Gindrinkers Line.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Japanese bomb and then invade Tarawa and Makin in the Gilbert Islands, beginning their strategy of establishing forward naval and air bases to defend their conquests in Asia.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 830 December 8, 1941

At 12.30 PM in Washington, President Roosevelt makes his "a date which will live in infamy" speech to Congress, declaring war on Japan. Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands and the Free French will follow suit.

70,000 Japanese in French Indochina and Thailand face 88,000 British, Australian, Indian and local Malay troops in Malaya. Titiwangsa Mountains divide the Malay peninsula, running North-South to the Thai border. Japanese landings on the East coast of Malaya and Thailand convince the British to mass their defenses East of these mountains to meet the perceived threat; however, Japanese troops at Songkla and Pattani in Thailand cross the peninsula to advance down the Western side of Malaya. Japanese aircraft arrive at Songkla airfield, Southern Thailand, to begin air raids on Malaya and Singapore. British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse depart Singapore to prevent further landings from the Gulf of Siam (escorted by destroyers HMS Electra, HMS Express, HMS Tenedos and HMAS Vampire but no aircraft carrier is available and land-based air support has been destroyed).

US minesweeper USS Penguin is damaged by Japanese bombing in Agana Harbor, Guam, while directing anti-aircraft fire (1 killed, 60 wounded). USS Penguin is scuttled in 200 fathoms to prevent capture. The crew escape in liferafts and will serve ashore in the defense of Guam.

Moscow counteroffensive. North of Moscow, Soviet 30th Army cuts the Klin/Kalinin road, threatening to surround 3rd Panzer Army which is gathering at Klin. Soviet 16th Army attacks Istra causing Hoepner’s 4th Panzer Army to fall back to prevent being trapped. South of Moscow, Soviet cavalry units slice into both flanks of 2nd Panzer Army, beginning to encircle 3 infantry divisions at Livny. Although Germans around Moscow are in general retreat, Hitler issues Fuhrer directive 39 officially halting the Moscow offensive but ordering Army Group Center to hold its ground.

Operation Crusader. British allow Rommel to make an orderly retreat to the Gazala line. British tank crews are too weary after 19 days of battle and too wary of Rommel’s anti-tank gun traps to pursue.

German bombers sink British minesweeping trawlers HMT Milford Earl (5 dead) and HMT Phineas Beard off the East coast of Scotland.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 829 December 7, 1941

Without declaring war, Japan launches a series of highly-coordinated attacks on British and American territory (spanning the International Date Line). The opening move is a landing of 5500 troops from Gulf of Thailand to capture the airfield at Kota Bharu on the Northeast corner of British-held Malaya. This is followed by several larger landings further up the coast in Thailand, meeting stiff Thai resistance until midday when Thai government agrees an armistice.

200 miles North of Oahu, Hawaii, 6 Japanese carriers launch 360 aircraft (104 bombers, 135 dive bombers, 40 torpedo bombers and 81 fighters) to attack US Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor. Torpedo bombers in the 1st wave (7.55-8.25 AM) followed by high-level & dive bombers at 8.40 AM sink 4 US battleships & 3 destroyers while 4 other battleships and 3 cruisers are badly damaged (2,402 servicemen & 57 civilians killed, 1,247 servicemen & 35 civilians wounded). Japanese lose 5 torpedo bombers, 15 bombers, 9 fighters and 5 midget submarines (55 killed). However, the attack does not find any US aircraft carriers (which are not at Pearl Harbor) and fails to destroy shore facilities.

Japanese bombers from Formosa (now Taiwan) bomb US airfields on the main island in the US-held Philippines, Luzon, destroying US Boeing B-17 bombers on the ground (ironically, sent as a deterrent to threaten Japanese airbases on Formosa) along with their Curtiss P-40 fighter support. Having established air superiority, Japanese Navy captures the tiny island of Batan, 120 miles North of Luzon.

China. 12 battalions of Japanese troops attack from the Chinese mainland across the New Territories towards Hong Kong. British defenders are forced to fall back to the Gindrinkers Line, the main defensive line protecting Hong Kong. In Shanghai, Japanese marines capture US river gunboat USS Wake and Japanese cruiser Izumo sinks British river gunboat HMS Peterel.

Siege of Leningrad Day 91. The day after the completion of ‘corduroy’ road to Lake Ladoga, Soviets recapture Tikhvin.

Moscow counteroffensive. North of Moscow, Soviet 30th Army advances on 3rd Panzer Army at Klin. South of Moscow, Soviet 50th Army attacks out of Tula, trying to link up with 10th Army to cut off parts of 2nd Panzer Army.

Operation Crusader. Africa Korps, with fewer than 40 tanks operational, is unlikely to receive many more due to British success against Italian shipping in the Mediterranean. In contrast, British are able to bring up fresh tanks from Egypt. Rommel realises he cannot persevere around Tobruk and withdraws 25 miles to prepared positions at Gazala. The siege of Tobruk is over, lasting 241 days since April 11.

U-208, trying to enter the Mediterranean, is sunk by British destroyers HMS Harvester and HMS Hesperus 115 miles West of Gibraltar (all 45 hands lost).

Canadian corvette HMCS Windflower, escorting convoy SC-58 off Newfoundland, collides with Dutch freighter Zypenberg in dense fog and sinks (23 crew lost).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 828 December 6, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 90. Soviets finish the ‘corduroy’ road of logs 200 miles through the forest from the railhead at Zabor’ye to Lake Ladoga, bypassing the German-held railhead at Tikhvin. Thousands of local peasants have died as forced labor during the 1 month construction.

Moscow counteroffensive. At 6 AM, Red Army attacks Reinhardt’s 3rd Panzer Army around the Klin bulge, North of Moscow. Reinhardt’s Panzers are on the Moskva/Volga canal near Yakhroma and Soviet 1st Shock Army fixes these with a frontal assault, while Soviet 30th Army (3 rifle divisions and 56 light tanks) crushes the 60 km left flank held by only 2 German infantry divisions. At midday, Reinhardt orders a withdrawal to Klin. Around Tula, South of Moscow, Soviet 10th Army attacks Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Army. Further South, Soviet 3rd and 13th Armies (Southwestern Front) attack German 2nd Army, threatening to outflank 2nd Panzer Army. Field Marshal von Bock is confused by the Soviet action (describing it as ‘unpleasant’) and does not realize his whole Army Group Center is under attack

British submarine HMS Perseus hits an Italian mine while recharging her batteries on the surface, 2 miles off Greek island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea, and sinks to 170 feet (all 59 crew and 1 passenger killed). Navy Stoker John Capes, a passenger en route to Alexandria, Egypt, escapes the sunken wreck in a Davis Submarine Escape Apparatus and swims to Kefalonia. He will be hidden by Greek islanders until he is taken off the island by the Royal Navy in May 1943 and finally returned to submarine duty in Alexandria.

A Bulgarian aircraft sinks Soviet submarine ShCh-204 in the Black Sea, 24 miles South of Varna, Bulgaria.

In the North Atlantic, South of Iceland, U-131 sinks British SS Scottish Trader with 6 torpedoes (all 37 crew and 6 gunners lost).

Japanese aircraft cruiser Ryujo, 4 cruisers and 9 destroyers depart Palau, heading for the Philippines 500 miles West.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day 827 December 5, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 89. German forces still hold Tikhvin 110 miles East of Leningrad (the main railhead for supplies to come by ship across Lake Ladoga) despite continuous attack since November 12. German defenses start to wither, isolated and only able to resupply by air, and Soviet General Meretskov launches a final assault.

Operation Crusader. Rommel continues to confound the British with his unorthodox thrusts and parries. 4th Armoured Brigade remains near the Egyptian border, confused by the cancellation of Rommel’s infantry expedition to Bardia, Sollum and Halfaya Pass. Meanwhile, Afrika Korps gets 49 tanks back in action, sending them at dusk to raid 11th Indian Brigade fighting Italian troops near the Tobruk breakout. British air and sea attacks on Axis shipping is choking off Rommel’s supply line. As Operation Typhoon is over, Hitler transfers Luftwaffe 2nd Air Corps from USSR to regain control of the Mediterranean.

Red Army has reinforced 3 Fronts (Kalinin Front under Konev, Western Front under Zhukov, Southwestern Front under Timoshenko) with newly-raised “shock” divisions as well as veteran troops moved from Central Asia and Far East, to push the Germans back from Moscow. Northwest of Moscow, Kalinin Front launches the counteroffensive at 3 AM, attacking German 9th Army.

American aircraft carrier USS Lexington departs Pearl Harbor to fly aircraft to Midway Island, escorted by cruisers USS Indianapolis, Astoria, Chicago & Portland and 5 destroyers. The fly-off will not happen but these warships will be away from Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attack.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 826 December 4, 1941

Operation Typhoon is over as German Army Group Center moves to the defensive. West of Moscow, von Kluge pulls 4th Army back across the Nara River, returning to their Winter quarters. South of Moscow, Guderian’s attempt to encircle Tula fails as Kampfguppe Eberbach (2nd Panzer Army) is dislodged from the Tula/Moscow rail line. Guderian too pulls back his forces around Tula which are exposed in forward positions they cannot hold.

Operation Crusader. British send 4th Armoured Brigade East to counter Rommel’s threat to Bardia and Sollum. This exposes 70th Division's 14th Infantry Brigade from Tobruk which is still holding Ed Duda ridge and they are duly attacked by Rommel although with no success. With Panzer divisions still repairing their tanks, Rommel realizes he cannot simultaneously prevent a Tobruk breakout and relieve the isolated garrisons, so he turns around the motorized infantry heading to Bardia, Sollum and Halfaya Pass and sends them back towards Tobruk.

18 Japanese troop transports escorted by 2 cruisers and 12 destroyers leave Japanese-occupied Hainan Island, China (at the head of the South China Sea). They are carrying 26,640 troops for landings in Malaya. Meanwhile, Japanese carrier fleet approaches Hawaii undetected from the North.

British submarine HMS Perseus sinks Italian freighter Eridano 6 miles off the island of Lefkada, Greece, in the Ionian Sea.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 825 December 3, 1941

Siege of Leningrad Day 87. Overnight, Soviet evacuation convoy from Hango runs into the Corbetha minefield in the Gulf of Finland. 1 minesweeper is sunk and several more damaged. Troop transport ship Josif Stalin is unable to follow the narrow channel cleared by the remaining minesweepers and hits 4 mines in quick succession. Many of the troops on board abandon ship although Josif Stalin does not sink (4000 drown or freeze to death, 1830 picked up by various small ships in the convoy). The wreck of Josif Stalin drifts South and is captured by German ships near the Estonian coast 2 days later with 2000 survivors on board.

Operation Typhoon. West of Moscow, German 4th Army’s advance around Naro-Fominsk peters out in the face of Soviet counterattacks. 4th Army also fails to support Guderian’s flank for 2nd Panzer Army’s attack on Tula which consequently fails. Guderian and others will blame von Kluge’s defensive posture for the failure of Typhoon.

Operation Crusader. Rommel’s attempt to reach the garrisons at Bardia, Sollum and Halfaya Pass is blocked by Allied infantry and artillery.

At 9.47 PM 1250 miles West of South Africa, U-124 sinks unarmed neutral American SS Sagadahoc despite the US flag visible on the side (1 killed). 34 survivors in 2 lifeboats are questioned by the Germans and rescued a week later by Allied merchant ships. SS Sagadahoc is the 4th and final American merchant ship sunk by U-boats prior to America joining the war.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 824 December 2, 1941

Near the Azores at midnight, U-43 misses unarmed neutral American tanker SS Astral with a torpedo despite a visible US flag painted on the side. At 9.24 AM, 2 torpedoes from U-43 hit SS Astral which explodes and spreads burning gasoline & kerosene on the water, killing all 37 hands.

At 1.19 AM 2 miles of the Atlantic coast of Morocco, U-562 sinks British SS Grelhead carrying 6900 tons of iron ore (41 killed, 2 survivors make land). At 8.33 PM just East of Gibraltar, U-557 sinks Norwegian SS Fjord carrying 5900 tons of iron ore (14 killed, 22 survivors reach the Spanish coast on 2 rafts).

Operation Typhoon. Overnight, a motorcycle patrol from 62nd Panzer Engineer Battalion (2nd Panzer Division) penetrates the flimsy Soviet defensive line, in the morning reaching the small town of Khimki on the Moskva/Volga canal 11.5 miles Northwest of the Kremlin. This is the closest German forces will come to Moscow. They return to report the route to Moscow is open but 2nd Panzer lacks the strength to exploit this gap. West of Moscow, Zhukov sends reinforcements to Naro-Fominsk to counter the advance of German 4th Army. South of Moscow, Guderian makes one last attempt to encircle Tula. Motorcycle infantry from Kampfguppe Eberbach attack West from Venyov and finally cuts the Tula/Moscow rail line. Since the beginning of Barbarossa on June 22, German losses are 195,334 killed or missing and 572,000 wounded.

Siege of Leningrad Day 86. During November, 11,000 civilians have died of starvation and cold. Overnight, Soviet troopships Josif Stalin and Maya with various destroyers, minesweepers and other ships leave Hango Peninsula, Finland, carrying the last 12,000 troops.

Operation Crusader. Rommel repairs his tanks, having again separated Tobruk from the attacking Allied force, and sends motorized infantry East to try to relieve his garrisons isolated at Bardia, Sollum and Halfaya Pass.

British battleship HMS Prince of Wales, battlecruiser HMS Repulse and 4 destroyers arrive in Singapore, on Churchill’s suggestion to act as a deterrent against Japanese aggression. It is too late as Japanese forces are in motion. Japanese carrier force heading to Hawaii receives code message 'Niitaka yama nobore' (Climb Mount Niitaka) confirming that no agreement has been reached with USA and the attack on Pearl Harbor is to proceed.