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”.

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