Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 885 February 1, 1942

Aircraft from US carriers USS Yorktown and USS Enterprise attack Japanese bases in the Marshall and Gilberts Islands. US cruisers USS Northampton, USS Chester and USS Salt Lake City also shell atolls in the Marshall Islands. They sink Japanese gunboat Toyotsu Maru and transport Bordeaux Maru and damage cruiser Katori, submarine I-23, minelayer Tokiwa, and several other ships. Rear Admiral Yatsushiro Sukeyoshi is hit by a shell, becoming the first Imperial Japanese Navy flag officer killed in WWII. USS Chester is damaged by a Japanese dive bomber (8 killed, 21 wounded) while USS Enterprise is damaged by a Japanese kamikaze plane (1 killed, 3 wounded) and 13 US aircraft are lost.

Singapore. General Percival makes an uninspiring broadcast “The battle of Malaya has come to an end and the battle of Singapore has started. For nearly 2 months our troops have fought an enemy on the mainland who has had the advantage of great air superiority and considerable freedom of movement by sea. Our task has been both to impose losses on the enemy and to gain time to enable the forces of the Allies to be concentrated for this struggle in the Far East. Today we stand beleaguered in our island fortress. Our task is to hold this fortress until help can come—as assuredly it will come. This we are determined to do.”

Norway. Germans appoint a puppet government under Norwegian Nazi, Major Vidkun Quisling, whose name will become synonymous with traitor.

Libya. With British 1st Armored Division decimated and Indian troops retreating from the Benghazi bulge, General Ritchie orders the 8th Army to withdraw to the Gazala line to regroup.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 884 January 31, 1942

Malaya. Thousands of British, Australians and Indians cross the causeway in orderly fashion from Malaya to the island of Singapore, accompanied by the bagpipes of the 2nd Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. At 7 AM, the Argyll and Sutherlands are themselves piped across and their commander, Colonel Ian Stewart, is the last to leave Malaya. At 8.15 AM, Indian sappers blow naval depth charges on the causeway, blasting a 70-foot gap. Japanese troops, who have advanced 420 miles in 55 days using bicycles and captured boats, occupy Johore Bharu and begin aerial and artillery bombardment of Singapore. Allied casualties are 5000 killed, 5000 wounded and 20,000 taken prisoner. Churchill is not pleased but worse is to come.

Ambon. Japanese capture Batugong and Passo in the center of Ambon. There is confusion when a white flag is seen, leading Dutch troops to surrender despite orders from their commander Colonel Kapitz to continue fighting.

63 miles Southeast of Madras, India, Japanese submarine I-64 sinks Indian merchant ship Jalapalaka with the deck gun (13 killed, 54 survivors).

Burma. Japanese 55th Infantry Division captures Moulmein forcing Burmese 2nd Infantry Brigade across Salween River to Martaban in disarray.

Operation Drumbeat. At 4.45 PM 425 miles Southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U-107 sinks British tanker MV San Arcadio carrying 6600 tons of gas oil and 3300 tons of lubricating oil to Britain (41 killed, 9 survivors rescued by a Mariner flying boat from Bermuda). U-82 spots troop convoy NA-2 at 3.32 PM and sinks British destroyer HMS Belmont at 10.12 PM 655 miles East of Cape Cod (all 138 hands lost). U-82 will follow the convoy for 1000 miles and lead 3 other U-boats to it but no further ships are sunk.

In mid-Atlantic, U-333 sinks German freighter MV Spreewald, disguised as British Royal Mail steamer Brittany. MV Spreewald is returning to Bordeaux, France, from Port Arthur, China, carrying rubber as well as 86 British POWs transferred from Armed Merchant Cruiser Kormoran (41 crew and 31 POWs killed, 25 crew members and 55 POWs rescued from 3 lifeboats and 3 rafts by U-105 3 days later). U-333’s Captain Cremer will be court-martialled but exonerated.

At 11.31 PM 500 miles Southwest of Ireland, U-105 attacks convoy SL-98 sinking British Sloop HMS Culver with 2 torpedoes causing an explosion in the magazine (126 killed, 12 survivors).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 883 January 30, 1942

Libya. Rommel's improvised advance and audacious tactics have sent British 1st Armored Division out of the central desert withdrawing toward Gazala and driven Indian 4th Infantry Division from Benghazi. Panzer Army Afrika pauses to resupply at Benghazi and Mechili.

Mediterranean. At 9.39 AM 6 miles West of the Greek island of Lefkada, British submarine HMS Thunderbolt attacks a convoy (German freighter Thessalia escorted by the Italian torpedo boats Solferino and Generale Carlo Montanari) with 3 torpedoes that all miss. Solferino drops 29 depth charges but HMS Thunderbolt escaped undamaged. At 2.10 PM, British submarine HMS Thorn sinks Italian submarine Medusa which is running on the surface near the Italian Naval base at Pola, Istria, in the far north of the Adriatic (57 killed, 1 survivor).

45 miles East of Grimsby, England, German bombers heavily damage British minesweeping trawler HMS Loch Alsh which sinks while under tow.

Operation Drumbeat. At 6.05 PM 100 miles East of Norfolk, Virginia, U-106 sinks American tanker SS Rochester (4 dead, 31 survivors rescued by US destroyer USS Roe).

Malaya. Allied troops complete the withdrawal according to plan, covering the last 20 miles to the Straits of Johore in trucks that outpace the Japanese pursuit. Overnight, British, Australians and Indians stream South across the causeway linking the mainland of Malaya to Singapore. Royal Navy runs small craft across the Straits of Johore to bring in stragglers. Overnight, British gunboats HMS Dragonfly and HMS Scorpion make a final run to evacuate the last British troops trapped at Rengit on the West coast.

Borneo. 400 Japanese troops (Land Drive Unit) leave Balikpapan in transport ships and land at Adang Bay 60 miles South along the coast. Their goal is then to cross 155 miles of jungle to reach Bandjermasin, the capital of Dutch Borneo. Sea Drive Unit left Balikpapan 3 days ago in small boats, traveling only at night to land on the coast 50 miles South of Bandjermasin. They too will trek inland through jungle to reach the capital.

Burma. Japanese 55th Infantry Division captures the airfield at Moulmein. Japanese bombers can now attack Rangoon, 100 miles West across the Gulf of Martaban.

62 miles Southeast of Madras, India, Japanese submarine I-64 sinks Indian freighter Jalatarang with torpedoes and the deck gun.

Overnight, 820 Japanese marines and 4000 Army troops land on Ambon (a small island in the Dutch East Indies 635 miles North of Darwin, Australia), supported by aircraft from carriers Hiryū and Sōryū. Given the possible use of Ambon as an airbase to bomb Australia, the island is protected by 2800 Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) troops and Australian Army's 1,100-strong Gull Force, which arrived on 17 December. Due to the widespread landings at locations the Dutch had deemed untenable, Japanese make good progress inland and overrun small groups of defenders.

Day 882 January 29, 1942

Battle of Bataan. Japanese 20th Battalion (16th Division) penetrate several places on the West side of the Orion-Bagac line, where Philippine Army's 1st Regular Division is still digging trenches and stringing wire. Japanese breakthrough is sealed off by 45th Philippine Scout Division, held in reserve in this sector, forming in 2 pockets (“Big Pocket” and “Little Pocket”. In the South of Bataan, well behind the front line, Philippine Scout troops begin reducing Japanese beachheads at Longoskawayan Point and Quinauan Point.

Malaya. Allied retreat to Singapore continues, with most areas successfully disengaging from the Japanese. However, Australian 27th Infantry Brigade is engaged all day in a fighting withdrawal on the main trunk road (6 killed, 25 wounded). The remainder of British 18th Infantry Division (54th and 55th Brigades) arrives by sea to rejoin 53rd Brigade which arrived on January 13 and was attached to Indian 11th Infantry Division. However, they are too late to participate in the defense of Malaya. British civilians, colonial staff and medics evacuate Johore Bahru for Singapore, causing the Sultan of Johore to complain that they did not even say ‘goodbye’.

Japanese submarines begin disrupting vital British trade routes from India. I-164 sinks American passenger/cargo ship Florence Luckenbach, 10 miles off the Indian coast near Madras (all 38 crew reach Madras by lifeboat).

At 4.10 PM 20 miles West of Reykjavik, Iceland, U-132 torpedoes American Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Alexander Hamilton escorting damaged US store ship USS Yukon (32 dead, 83 survivors picked up by Icelandic fishing trawlers and taken to Reykjavik). USCGC Alexander Hamilton sinks next day while under tow.

Britain and USSR sign a treaty with Iran to allow shipment of Lend-Lease supplies from Gulf ports overland through Iran to USSR, providing an alternative route to the hazardous Arctic convoys.

Libya. Indian 4th infantry Division is pushed out of Benghazi by 50 German tanks in 2 columns. Rommel captures a cornucopia of vehicles and supplies which had been laid in store for a never-realised British drive to Tripoli. At 9.46 PM 25 miles Northeast of Bardia, U-431 sinks British minesweeping whaler HMS Sotra (all 22 hands lost, including 6 Norwegians).

London. Churchill’s concern is not that he will lose a Vote of Confidence in the House of Commons but there is so much support that a vote won’t happen at all. James Maxton leader of the Independent Labour Party (which holds only 3 seats in Parliament) kindly challenges the Motion of Confidence and Churchill wins the vote by 464-1.

Overnight, 16 RAF bombers attack German battleship Tirpitz at Trondheim without success.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 881 January 28, 1942

Malaya. During the withdrawal South to Singapore, Japanese move through rubber plantations to outflank and destroy Indian 22nd Brigade at Layang Layang. 9th Division commander General Barstow and 2 Australian staff officers go forward to find 22nd Brigade but run into a Japanese ambush. Barstow is killed. Japanese attempt a similar outflanking of Australian 27th Infantry Brigade 10 miles West on the main road, but are held in hand-to-hand fighting in the rubber plantations of the Namazie Estate. US Far East Air Force B-17 bombers from Dutch airfields on Java attack Kuala Lumpur (as well as Kendari on Celebes Island, Dutch East Indies). Overnight, British gunboats HMS Dragonfly and HMS Scorpion return to Rengit and evacuate more trapped British troops.

Battle of Bataan. Japanese begin small group attacks on what they believe are US/Filipino outpost but instead they run into dug-in machinegun positions in the main Orion-Bagac line. Japanese charge the American gun pits but make no progress for 100 dead.

Burma. Japanese 55th Infantry Division continues moving towards Moulmein which is defended by Burmese 2nd Infantry Brigade.

Dutch Borneo. On the West coast, Japanese land at Pemangkat near Singkawang II airfield and threaten to surround the Indian & Dutch troops at Ledo who decide to retreat to Sanggau.

Libya. Rommel’s improvised counteroffensive continues and Panzer Army Afrika rolls on towards Benghazi. Rommel’s thrust yesterday towards British command centre and supply dumps at Mechili (which was only a feint) causes Indian 4th Division at Benghazi to panic, believing the city will be cut off. Instead of striking South to meet the Panzer threat, they prepare to abandon Benghazi and Derna by withdrawing non-combat personnel and destroying port facilities.

At 11.21 AM in the Adriatic Sea 1 mile off Cape Planka, Yugoslavia, British submarine HMS Thorn sinks Italian tanker Ninuccia with the deck gun and torpedoes (which mostly miss).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 880 January 27, 1942

Operation Drumbeat. Just after midnight off Newfoundland, U-754 sinks Greek SS Icarion (9 dead and 20 survivors). At 9.43 AM 35 miles Southeast of Ocean City, New Jersey, U-130 sinks American tanker SS Francis E. Powell (4 dead, 28 survivors) and damages American tanker SS Halo with shellfire.

Battle of Endau, East coast of Malaya. At 3.18 AM, destroyers HMS Thanet and HMAS Vampire run into the troop convoy escorted by Japanese cruiser Sendai and 6 destroyers. Both sides exchange torpedoes and shellfire, badly damaging Japanese troop transports Kansai Maru and Kanbera Maru. At 4 AM, HMS Thanet is hit in the engine and boiler rooms, explodes and sinks (38 killed). 67 survivors drift away on life boats (rescued by British patrol vessel HMS Giang Bee and taken to Singapore) and 31 are taken POW by Japanese destroyer Shirayuki (4 die in captivity). HMAS Vampire is outnumbered and heads South back to Singapore.

Malaya. ABDA commander General Wavell gives permission for a withdrawal to the island of Singapore. Allied troops start the difficult process of disengaging from the Japanese to retreat. British aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (escorted by destroyers HMS Napier, Nizam and Nestor) flies off 48 Hurricane fighters to Java, Dutch Borneo, to be flown on to Singapore. British tanker MV Harpa, carrying a full cargo of aviation fuel to Java, hits a British mine and explodes in Singapore Strait (37 crew and 2 gunners killed, 1 survivor rescued by patrol vessel HMS Hua Tong). Overnight, British gunboats HMS Dragonfly and HMS Scorpion begin evacuating 1500 British troops trapped at Rengit, taking them to Singapore.

Dutch Borneo. Japanese capture Singkawang II airfield from the Indian/Dutch garrison. In the evening, Indian & Dutch troops withdraw to high ground at Ledo, 15 miles Southwest of the airfield. 70 troops of the 15th Punjabi Regiment cover the withdrawal causing 500 Japanese casualties (killed or wounded) before their ammunition runs out and they are overrun (3 Punjabis escape; the rest are put to death).

Battle of Bataan. Following the landings on January 23, Japanese land more troops to reinforce the beachhead at Point Quinauan on the Southwest coast of Bataan, behind the Orion-Bagac line. The Americans are expecting more landings and have strengthened their coastal defenses.

260 miles West of Midway Atoll, US submarine USS Gudgeon’s radar detects Japanese submarine I-73 running on the surface. USS Gudgeon fires 3 torpedoes but I-73 dives with open vents and disappears (all 68 hands lost). I-73 is the first warship ever sunk by US submarines.

Libya. At Msus, Rommel sends a small column East across the desert towards Mechili but this is a feint, which draws in the remnants of British 1st Armored Division. Meanwhile, the main Panzer force heads Northeast towards Benghazi.

In London, Churchill opens a 3 day Parliamentary debate on the course of the war by asking for a Vote of Confidence. He details the failure to defend territories in the Far East from Japanese attack and warns that worse is to come. Describing Rommel’s counterattack in Libya, Churchill says “We have a daring and skillful opponent against us and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great General”.

Eastern Front. Soviets attempt to isolate German 9th Army at Rzhev. 11th Cavalry Corps reaches Vyazma but is unable to take the road in the face of stiff German resistance and withdraws. Soviet 2nd Parachute Battalion begins landings West of Vyazma but they are too spread out to be effective. There are insufficient aircraft to deliver the whole force, so they are dropped over several days.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 879 January 26, 1942

Siege of Leningrad Day 141. Trucks bring in 2000 tons per day on Road of Life across frozen Lake Lagoda and the bread ration has doubled, but civilians are still dying at the rate of 4000 per day. Scurvy is a problem so pine needles are extracted to produce vitamin C. Road of Life capacity now allows civilians to be evacuated from Leningrad (440,000 will be transported out before the Ice Road melts on April 15).

Malaya. All along the Batu Pahat-Ayer Hitam-Jemaluang line, British, Indian and Australian troops begin to withdraw, in many cases taking to the jungle to avoid Japanese road blocks behind the Allied positions (an indication of the disintegrating defenses). 1500 troops of British Brigade (part of Indian 11th Division) are cut off at Rengit on the East coast. Adding to the British woes, Japanese land reinforcements on the East coast from the Gulf of Siam. At 11 AM, Japanese 18th Division comes ashore at Endau, 80 miles North of Singapore, from troop transports Kansai Maru and Kanbera Maru escorted by cruiser Sendai and 6 destroyers. They are spotted by RAF air reconnaissance and attacked without success at 3 PM by 12 Vickers Vildebeest (ancient single-engine biplane torpedo bombers of RAF 100 Squadron and 36 Squadron from Singapore). Despite escort from Brewster Buffalo and Hurricane fighters, 5 Vildebeests are shot down. At 5.30 PM, 9 Vildebeests and 3 Fairey Albacores attack, again unsuccessfully (another 6 Vildebeests, 2 Albacores and 1 Hurricane shot down). At 4.30 PM, WWI-era destroyers HMS Thanet and HMAS Vampire leave Singapore to make a night attack on the troop transports at Endau.

Battle of Bataan. Overnight, US and Filipino troops complete their withdrawal from the Abucay-Mauban line. MacArthur states there will be no further retreat from the Orion-Bagac line "With its occupation, all maneuvering possibilities will cease. I intend to fight it out to complete destruction."

Northern Ireland. Convoy AT10 arrives carrying the first US troop sent to Britain (3900 troops of US 34th Division).

Operation Drumbeat. At 5.56 AM 100 miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, U-125 sinks American SS West Ivis (all 45 hands lost). At 8.42 AM 325 miles Southeast of Nova Scotia, U-106 sinks British SS Traveller carrying 600 tons of explosives which detonates as Traveller sinks (all 52 hands lost). At 6.58 PM 200 miles South of Newfoundland, U-582 sinks British tanker SS Refast (10 killed, 32 survivors rescued by British SS Mariposa). Of note, SS Refast was the first American ship attacked in WWI (then SS Gulflight of Gulf Oil Co, New York) when damaged by torpedoes from U-30 on May 1, 1915.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 878 January 25, 1942

Dutch Borneo. Japanese Assault Unit, which landed East of Balikpapan, captures the airfield by dawn. They make slow progress towards Balikpapan city due to destruction of bridges by the Dutch defenders. 1000 Dutch troops retreat North only to be overwhelmed by Japanese Surprise Attack Unit attacking from their river landings. In the evening, both Japanese units arrive in the city which is now undefended. Japanese are incensed at the prior destruction of the oil facilities by the Dutch, leading to a massacre next month.

Malaya. Australian 8th Division, having withdrawn successfully through Yong Peng, and British 53rd Brigade hold a line from Batu Pahat on the West coast, via Ayer Hitam on the main highway, to Jemaluang on the East coast. Malaya commander General Percival hope reinforcements will arrive at Singapore in time to bolster the line. However, Japanese Imperial Guards capture Batu Pahat unhinging the whole line and Percival decides to make the final withdrawal to the island of Singapore. Convoy BM10 arrives at Singapore from Bombay, India, with 4745 Indian 44th Infantry Brigade troops (plus vehicles and supplies for 53rd Brigade that arrived on January 13).

Battle of Bataan. Overnight, additional US and Filipino troops withdraw from the Abucay-Mauban line to the Orion-Bagac line.

Burma. In Rangoon, ABDA commander General Wavell orders the defense of Moulmein and its airfield, as Japanese 55th Infantry Division prepares to attack Moulmein.

Thai government declares war on Britain and USA. Seni Pramoj, Thai ambassador in Washington, refuses to deliver the declaration of war and defects to organise a Free Thai movement.

Overnight, Japanese submarines I-24 and I-18 shell U.S. Marine positions on Midway Island. The Marines return fire, forcing both submarines to submerge.

Operation Drumbeat. At 9.25 AM off Newfoundland, U-754 sinks Greek SS Mount Kitheron. At 10.02 AM 28 miles Southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, U-130 Norwegian tanker MV Varanger carrying 12,750 tons of fuel oil from Curacao to New York (all 40 hands escape in 2 lifeboats). U-123, in mid-Atlantic returning from Operation Drumbeat out of torpedoes, sinks British SS Culebra (all 45 hands lost).

German destroyer Z8 Bruno Heinemann (sailing from Kiel with Z4, Z5 and Z7 to Brest, France, to escort battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau), hits 2 British mines and sinks in the Strait of Dover, English Channel (98 killed, 229 rescued).

30 miles South of Messina, Sicily, British submarine HMS Ultimatum sinks Italian passenger ship Dalmatia L.

Libya. Germans overrun British tanks, capturing 30 Valentines (heavily-armored British “Infantry” tanks) parked in formation and part of the Divisional HQ, at the key road junction at Msus. The road runs Northeast of Msus to Benghazi, while a track heads East across the desert towards Egypt. British 1st Armored Division, which arrived from Britain in November, has lost 100 of its 150 tanks in 5 days.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 877 January 24, 1942

Japanese invasion of the oil-rich islands of Dutch East Indies begins in earnest. On the island of Celebes, Japanese Sasebo Combined Special Naval Landing Force lands at Kendari and quickly overwhelms 400 Dutch defenders to capture the airfield. Off Kendari, US submarine USS Swordfish sinks Japanese gunboat Myoken Maru. Off Borneo, Dutch bombers attack Japanese troop ships all day as they approach the oil town of Balikpapan. Dutch submarine K-18 damages Japanese patrol boat P37 (K-18 is counterattacked and damaged by depth charges, returning to the Dutch naval base at Soerabaja, Java, unable to dive). Overnight, 5500 Japanese troops land unopposed at 2 sites North and East of Balikpapan and converge on the city. US destroyers USS Paul Jones, USS Parrot, USS Pope and USS John D. Ford attack the anchored Japanese flotilla with torpedoes overnight, sinking 3 transport ships (Kuretake Maru, Sumanoura Maru and Tatsukami Maru) and the damaged patrol boat P37.

Battle of Bataan. Overnight, US and Filipino troops begin withdrawing from the Abucay-Mauban line to the new Orion-Bagac line but some of the artillery is left behind. The plan is to withdraw under cover of darkness for 3 nights until all troops reach the new position. Japanese land reinforcements behind their lines at Subic Bay on the Northeast coast of Bataan.

Troop convoy MS2 arrives at Singapore, carrying a Machinegun Battalion and 1900 untrained Australian soldiers.

Burma. Japanese troops from Tavoy in the South and from the Thai border to the East begin converging on Moulmein to secure the airfield.

Operation Drumbeat. At 2.40 AM 20 miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, U-66 sinks British tanker MV Empire Gem (carrying machinery and 10,692 tons of motor spirit to Britain) and American freighter SS Venore. At 6.53 AM 430 miles Southeast of Nova Scotia, U-106 sinks British SS Empire Wildebeeste. At 3.25 PM off Newfoundland, U-333 sinks Norwegian MV Ringstad.

American submarine chaser USS PC-460 mistakes US submarine USS S-26 for an enemy at night in the Gulf of Panama. USS PC-460 rams and sinks USS S-26 (46 dead; 3 survivors - the captain, his executive officer and a look-out, who are all on the conning tower).

Libya. Afrika Korps continues advancing across towards Benghazi. Rommel supply convoy T18 reaches Tripoli with a complete cargo except the 391 killed yesterday in the sinking of Italian troopship Victoria.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 876 January 23, 1942

At 3.19 AM 70 miles Southwest of Kauai, Hawaii, Japanese submarine I-72 sinks US Oiler USS Neches with 3 torpedoes (57 killed). USS Neches is en route to refuel Task Force 11 (including aircraft carrier USS Lexington) which left Oahu yesterday to bomb Wake Island. Task Force 11 cannot reach Wake without fuel and returns to Pearl Harbor.

Borneo. Japanese landing force (Sakaguchi Detachment from Tarakan) approaches the town of Balikpapan. Dutch submarine K-18 sinks Japanese transport ship Tsuruga Maru. 9 Dutch Martin B-10 bombers and 20 Brewster Buffalo fighters sink Japanese transport ship Nana Maru and damage Tatsugami Maru.

Celebes. Japanese Sasebo Combined Special Naval Landing Force sails from Manado for the small town of Kendari, 450 miles further South. Kendari has an airfield in striking distance of Darwin, Australia, and the main Dutch naval base at Soerabaja, Java.

Japanese bombers attack Palembang (Sumatra, Dutch East Indies) for the first time. Japanese aircraft also bomb raid Rangoon, Burma, but 6 bombers are shot down by American Volunteer Group and RAF fighters.

Japanese Maizuru Special Naval Landing Force lands at Kavieng, New Ireland, and 55th Infantry Regiment lands at Rabaul, New Britain, in the Territory of New Guinea. They overwhelm the Australian defenders through numerical superiority and landing at unopposed sites, although there are pockets of Australian resistance. Australian soldiers are ordered to scatter into the jungle ("every man for himself") where most quickly surrender or die.

US destroyer USS Edsall attacks a submarine contact in the Vernon Islands, 30 miles Northwest of Darwin, Australia, but is damaged by one of her own depth charges.

Battle of Bataan. While the Abucay-Mauban line continues to crumble, Japanese make amphibious landings on the far Southwest coast of Bataan. These are contained by a naval battalion of American sailors and marines.

Operation Drumbeat. At 8.12 AM 20 miles off Nova Scotia, U-109 sinks British SS Thirlby carrying 7600 tons of maize to Britain (5 killed, 41 survivors picked up by American steamer Belle Isle). At 1.40 PM 400 miles East of Newfoundland, U-82 sinks Norwegian tanker MV Leiesten (6 killed, 29 survivors picked up by Greek steamer Agios Georgios).

Libya. Afrika Korps’ rapid advance continues causing panic in the British rearguard, elements of which run East for safety. In the Gulf of Sirte, a British Fairey Albacore torpedo bomber (FAA 826 Squadron from Libya) sinks Italian troopship Victoria in supply convoy T18 (391 killed, 1064 crew and troops taken off by Italian destroyers Aviere and Camicia Nera).

260 miles Northwest of Moscow, Soviet 3rd Shock Army surrounds 5500 German troops in the small town of Kholm.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 875 January 22, 1942

Malaya. Overnight, ambulances held hostage by the Japanese at Parit Sulong bridge escape back to Colonel Anderson’s trapped column. In the morning, 2 RAF Fairey Albacores from Singapore drop supplies and then bomb the Japanese holding the bridge. The Japanese positions are not weakened and easily repel Anderson’s probing attacks. With attacks on the column intensifying and no hope of relief from Allied troops at Yong Peng, Anderson at 9 AM orders the walking to make for Yong Peng through the jungle to avoid annihilation (Anderson will win the VC but only 900 of the 4000-strong Bakri garrison escape to safety). Japanese massacre 110 Australian and 40 Indian wounded and medics by machinegunning, bayoneting, beheading with swords and burning alive with petrol. Lieutenant Ben Hackney of Australian 2/19th Battalion and 2 other survivors will testify after the war against Imperial Guards commander General Takuma Nishimura who is executed by hanging on June 11, 1951.

Battle of Bataan. With the Abucay-Mauban line disintegrating, MacArthur decides to withdraw 5 miles to a new defensive line from Bagac on the West coast to Orion on the East.

Eastern Front. German 9th Army is in danger of encirclement in the Rzhev salient as Soviets converge on Vyazma (29th and 39th Armies from the North and General Pavel Belov’s 2nd Cavalry Corps from the South). At 10 AM, 9th Army’s General Model attempts to break up the encirclement by attacking out of Rzhev with tanks and Stuka dive-bomber support into the extended flank of Soviet 29th Army. Further North, Soviet 3rd Shock Army reaches the town of Kholm, held by German 218th Infantry Division.

Libya. Exploiting the gaps in British 1st Armored Brigade, Afrika Korps tanks rush forward to capture Agedabia and Antelat. The equally inexperienced British 2nd Armored Brigade is thrown in piecemeal and picked off by the massed Panzers. Italian transport ships Ravello, Monviso, Monginevro, Victoria and Vettor Pisani (convoy T18) leave Messina, Sicily, and Taranto for Tripoli, carrying 97 tanks, 271 trucks, 11,823 tons of material and 1467 troops for Rommel. They are escorted by Italian battleship Duilo, 3 cruisers, 14 destroyers and 2 torpedo boats, indicating the importance of this shipment.

Operation Drumbeat. U-66, U-82, U-135, U-333, U-553 and U-754 each sink 1 merchant ship off the coast of North America (mostly near Newfoundland). 4 survivors in a lifeboat from British tanker MV Athelcrown board the drifting wreck of tanker Diala, which was torpedoed by U-553 on January 15. They will be rescued 8 days later by Swedish tanker MV Saturnus and landed on the Faroe Islands.

Day 874 January 21, 1942

Battle of Bataan. With the East side of the Abucay-Mauban line crumbing, Japanese get behind the West side of the line by crossing the undefended slopes of Mount Natib. They establish a roadblock on the Mauban ridge, cutting off the Philippine Army 1st Regular Division and preventing resupply of US and Filipino troops at the front.

Malaya. At 9.30 AM, Indian/Australian troops (under Australian Colonel Anderson) withdrawing South from Bakri finds the Parit Sulong bridge blocked by the Japanese, while their rear is still under Japanese attack. Anderson’s column is compressed into 400 yards of road and attacked all day. At 5 PM (with heavy casualties and almost out of food, water and some ammunition), Anderson sends 2 ambulances of wounded forward to the Japanese but instead of receiving care, the ambulances are held hostage.

Singapore. RAF Hurricane fighters again attack Japanese bombers over Singapore but Zero fighters escorting the bombers shoot down 5 Hurricanes.

25 miles off the coast of Burma, 125 miles Southwest of Rangoon, Japanese submarine I.66 sinks British SS Chak Sang (5 killed, 61 survivors) and Panamanian SS Nord.

Dutch Borneo. Japanese Sakaguchi Detachment (under General Shizuo Sakaguchi) departs the island of Tarakan for the oil town of Balikpapan, on the mainland 265 miles further South. US cruisers USS Boise and USS Marblehead plus 4 destroyers sail from Koepang, Timor, to intercept. USS Boise hits a rock and USS Marblehead suffers engine trouble, so the destroyers proceed alone.

Operation Drumbeat. At 10.21 PM 200 miles East of Rhodes Island, USA, U-130 sinks Norwegian tanker MV Alexandra Høegh (all 28 hands picked up in 2 lifeboats 38 hours later by Boston fishing trawler Grand Marshall). At 7.22 PM off Newfoundland, U-754 sinks Norwegian SS Belize (all 24 hands lost).

Rommel launches a "reconnaissance in force" from El Agheila, Libya, sending his new tanks forward to find and engage the British tanks. The inexperienced British 1st Armored Brigade arrived recently to replace the battle-hardened 7th Armored Brigade (sent to protect British interests in Malaya and Burma). This counterattack from the “beaten” Afrika Korps surprises the thin defensive line of 1st Armored Division.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 873 January 20, 1942

In Berlin at 56-58 Am Grossen Wannsee, SS General Reinhard Heydrich informs 15 German government administrators that the “Final Solution to the Jewish question" would be deportation of Jews to Eastern Europe for extermination or use as slave labour.

Eastern Front. 180 miles West of Moscow, Soviet 11th Cavalry Corps pushes South from Rzhev towards Vyazma, attempting to isolate German 9th Army at Rzhev. 50 miles further West, Soviet 4th Shock Army finally reaches the German supply dumps at Toropets after several days without food. They attack and capture 6 tanks, 723 trucks, artillery with 450,000 shells, small arms with millions of rounds of ammunition, 1000 drums of fuel and much food.

Malaya/Singapore. Indian and Australian troops withdraw South from Bakri but their retreat is cut off by a Japanese flanking move and the column covers only 3 miles against a series of Japanese road blocks while harassed from the flanks and rear. Overnight, they approach the bridge at Parit Sulong. Japanese land more troops at Endau on the East coast, further threatening the Allies in Southern Malaya. Recently arrived RAF Hurricanes see action for the first time and shoot down 8 Japanese bombers during an air raid on Singapore. With Singapore open to Japanese attack across the Strait of Johore, Churchill instructs ABDA Commander General Wavell; “every inch of ground to be defended, every scrap of material for defenses to be blown to pieces to prevent capture by the enemy, and no question of surrender to be entertained until after protracted fighting among the ruins of Singapore“.

Burma. As Japanese begin advancing North from Tavoy, more Japanese troops (55th Infantry Division) cross the border from Thailand towards Moulmein (which has port facilities and an airfield). They are engaged by Indian 16th Infantry Brigade.

In preparation for landings, 100 carrier-based Japanese aircraft bomb Rabaul at the Northeast tip of the island of New Britain, part of the Territory of New Guinea.

At 4 AM, US submarine S-36 is stranded on Taka Bakang Reef in the Makassar Strait, British Borneo. The crew cannot refloat the submarine and are rescued by the Dutch motor launch Attla next day.

60 miles Northwest of Darwin, Australia, US destroyer USS Edsall and Australian minesweeper HMAS Deloraine sink Japanese submarine I-124 with depth charges (80 killed).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 872 January 19, 1942

Operation Drumbeat. At 7.43 AM 150 miles off Cape Hatteras, U-66 sinks Canadian passenger ship SS Lady Hawkins (86 crew, 1 gunner and 164 passengers killed, 22 crew and 49 passengers survive 5 days in a lifeboat until picked up by American passenger ship Coamo and landed at Puerto Rico). Nearby, U-123 sinks Latvian SS Ciltvaira, American steamers SS Norvana and SS City of Atlanta, and also damages American tanker SS Malay.

Eastern Front. 225 miles Northwest of Moscow, 3rd and 4th Shock Armies continue widening and deepening the gap between German Army Group North and Army Group Center. 4th Shock Army continues it progress Southwest towards Toropets while 3rd Shock aims West for Kholm having overcome initial German resistance.

Malaya. Despite losing their tanks yesterday, Japanese infantry manage to surround and bypass the Allied positions at Bakri overnight. In confused fighting during the day, Japanese pick off isolated Indian and Australian groups although an Australian counterattack wipes out 140 Japanese (10 Australian dead). Japanese air raid destroys 45th Indian Brigade HQ concussing the commander General Duncan and killing all his staff at 10 AM. To make matters worse, a Japanese flanking move along the coast threatens the critical road junction at Yong Peng, forcing Australian 8th Division to withdraw from Gemas to avoid being cut off.

Singapore. Churchill learns from ABDA Commander General Wavell that there are no defences protecting Singapore against Japanese attack from Malaya across the Strait of Johore. Coastal batteries face out to sea and cannot be turned landward.

Burma. Japanese overcome 6th Battalion Burma Rifles and capture the British airfield at Tavoy in Southern Burma, which they can use for air support for the advance North (and also to bomb Rangoon).

Borneo. At 7 AM, Japanese troops land unopposed at Sandakan, the capital of British North Borneo.

Battle of Bataan. Japanese still hold deep penetrations on the Abucay-Mauban line East of Mount Natib, despite counterattacks by US and Filipino troops of II Philippine Corps.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 871 January 18, 1942

Siege of Leningrad Day 133. Soviet 54th Army breaks through German defenses at Pogost’e, 25 miles Southwest of Leningrad. However, Germans experiment with Gr.38 High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds and, over the next 3 days, destroy four Kv-1 and five T-34 Soviet tanks which have previously been impervious to ant-tank fire. 30 miles further South, Soviet 2nd Shock Army breaches German line on the Volkhov River near Spasskaya Polisk.

Malaya. At 6.45 AM on the road North of Bakri, 9 Japanese tanks rush ahead without infantry and are all destroyed by Australian anti-tank guns but, overnight, Japanese Imperial Guards get through the jungle around the Allies at Bakri. Further South, Japanese threaten to turn the whole Allied position on the West coast by advancing along the coast undetected and also landing troops at Batu Pahat. They can now move inland to cut off the general Allied retreat.

Following the capture of the island of Tarakan, Dutch Borneo, on January 12, Dutch implement their destruction plan to deny Japanese use of oil installations at Balikpapan (265 miles further South on the mainland of Dutch Borneo).

US submarine USS Plunger sinks Japanese freighter Eizan Maru 23 miles off the coast of Honshu, Japan.

Operation Drumbeat. Off Newfoundland, U-86 sinks Greek SS Dimitrios G. Thermiotis at 6.13 AM (all 33 hands lost) and U-552 sinks American SS Frances Salman at 6.44 AM (all 28 hands lost). At 8.33 AM off Diamond Shoals, North Carolina, U-66 sinks American tanker SS Allan Jackson carrying 72,870 barrels of crude oil (22 killed; 13 survivors, 8 injured, rescued from the burning oil by US destroyer USS Roe).

In Gibraltar harbor, a bomb planted by Spanish saboteurs or Italian manned torpedoes sinks British anti-submarine trawler HMS Erin and minesweeping trawler HMS Honjo (8 killed) and badly damages another anti-submarine trawler HMS Imperialist.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 870 January 17, 1942

Operation Drumbeat. At 3.59 AM, U-87 sinks Norwegian tanker Nyholt with 8 torpedoes and 120 rounds from the deck gun. All 41 crew abandon ship but 1 lifeboat is never found. 23 survivors in the other lifeboat are rescued after 10 days on the freezing ocean (2 later die of exposure). At 11.21 AM off Nova Scotia, U-203 sinks Norwegian SS Octavian (all 17 hands lost).

At 7.35 AM, U-133 hits British destroyer HMS Gurkha, escorting Malta convoy MW-8B, with 1 torpedo (9 killed). HMS Gurkha spills burning oil on the water and is towed clear by Dutch destroyer HNMS Isaac Sweers which also takes off 240 survivors.

Operation Crusader. 5000 German and Italian troops at Halfaya Pass, isolated since November 23, 1941, surrender to South African 6th Infantry Brigade.

At 10.21 PM, British destroyer HMS Matabele (escorting convoy PQ-8 in the Kola Inlet near Murmansk) is hit with 1 torpedo from U-454, causing the magazines to explode. HMS Matabele sinks within 2 minutes and her primed depth charges detonate (238 killed by the explosions or freeze to death in the Arctic waters). 2 survivors are picked up by minesweeper HMS Harrier. U-454 also sinks soviet trawler RT-68 Enisej and hits British SS Harmatris with a torpedo starting a fire which is extinguished (SS Harmatris reaches Archangel safely).

German armed merchant cruiser Thor departs La Rochelle, France, for her second raiding cruise.

Malaya. 45th Indian Brigade withdraws to hastily-prepared defenses at Bakri, 6 miles East of Muar (with added support from Australian 2/19th & 2/29th Battalions), leaving a covering force to protect the Muar-Bakri road. Japanese Imperial Guards prepare to assault Bakri as well as sending a flanking group along the coast towards the Kuala Lumpur-Johor Bahru highway to cut off the retreat of the troops at Bakri as well as Australian 8th Division at Gemas.

65 miles West of Krakatoa, Dutch East Indies, British destroyer HMS Jupiter brings Japanese submarine I.60 to the surface with depth charges. They exchange 4.7 inch shells and machinegun fire but HMS Jupiter (3 killed, 9 wounded) finally sinks I.60 with a depth charge set shallow (85 killed, 2 survivors taken prisoner by HMS Jupiter).

Day 869 January 16, 1942

Malaya. Overnight, Japanese 4th Imperial Guards Regiment crosses Muar River undetected in small native Malay boats and infiltrates 45th Indian Brigade defenses, which are picked off piecemeal. 5th Imperial Guards Regiment crosses the river further inland, outflanking the town of Muar and threatening to surround 45th Brigade. Indians withdraw from the town overnight. Japanese capture of Muar threatens the main Kuala Lumpur-Johor Bahru highway, which would cut off Australian 8th Division inland at Gemas, 40 miles North.

Japanese troops cross the border from Thailand into Southern Burma heading for the British airfield at Tavoy (now Dawei) only 30 miles away. They are engaged in the mountainous terrain by Burmese troops of the 6th Battalion Burma Rifles (a regiment of the British Army).

Eastern Front. 215 miles Northwest of Moscow, Soviet 3rd Shock captures Andreapol, opening a gap between German Army Group North and Army Group Center. The need for food drives the starving Red Army onwards towards the massive German supply dumps at Toropets. In Moscow, Stalin publishes the notorious “Reichenau Order” from German 6th Army commander Field Marshal von Reichenau, a copy of which was found in German documents at Klin.

At 11.15 AM North of the Azores, U-402 blows the rudder off British troopship Llangibby Castle in convoy WS15 from Britain to Egypt, via the Cape of Good Hope (only 26 troops killed from 181 crew, 11 gunners, 1168 troops on board). Llangibby Castle reaches Horta in the Azores, under attack by German Fw200 bombers, and will eventually return to Britain for repairs having sailed 3400 miles without a rudder.

German bombers sink British minesweeping trawler HMS Irvana off Yarmouth, England (2 killed).

Day 868 January 15, 1942

At 5 AM off Dutch Borneo, US Submarine USS S-36 is badly damaged by 7 depth charges from a Japanese destroyer while preparing to attack the destroyer.

Bataan. Japanese again attack General George Parker’s II Philippine Corps on the Abucay-Mauban line East of Mount Natib. Philippine Army 51st Division withdraws allowing Japanese to advance and occupy a hill in the Salian River valley. This and numerous other infiltrations will turn the East end of the Abucay-Mauban line by January 22nd and precipitate a withdrawal (along with other penetrations on the West side).

Malaya. By 10 AM, Japanese cross the repaired Gemencheh Bridge over the Kelamah River and engage Australian troops at Gemas. Japanese advance is held by Australian anti-tank guns, which destroy 6 tanks. In typical fashion, Japanese infantry then work around through the jungle behind the Australians who decide to withdraw across a second river (Gemas River). On the West coast at Muar, Japanese Imperial Guards (4th and 5th Regiments) overrun 4 companies from 45th Indian Brigade on the North side of Muar River (placed as forward defenses while the main bulk of 45th Brigade waits South of the river).

Operation Drumbeat. At 9.41 AM 47 miles South of East Hampton, Long Island, U-123 sinks British tanker Coimbra, carrying 9000 tons of lubricating oil which goes up in a massive explosion (36 killed, 10 survivors). Off Newfoundland, U-552 sinks Dayrose at 1.38 AM (32 crew & 6 gunners killed, 4 crew picked up by destroyers USS Ericsson and USS Stack), U-203 sinks Portuguese trawler Catalina at 11.34 AM (no survivors) and at 11.17 PM U-553 blows the bow off tanker Diala which remains afloat on her empty tanks and drifts Northeast (57 dead, 8 survivors picked up by British merchant Telefora de Larrinaga).

3900 troops of US 34th Division depart New York City for Britain on board transport ship Chateau Thierry and converted liner RMS Strathaird, escorted by 5 American destroyers (convoy AT10).

580 miles west of Gibraltar, U-93 attacks convoy HG78 on the surface. British destroyer HMS Hesperus spots U-93 on radar and rams, throwing U-93’s captain and 1st lieutenant out of the conning tower onto the HMS Hesperus's deck. U-93 is abandoned and sinks after HMS Hesperus attacks again with the deck gun and depth charges set shallow (6 dead, 40 survivors). HMS Hesperus is repaired at Gibraltar and Falmouth until April.

60 miles North of Sollum, Egypt, a British Swordfish aircraft (815 Squadron) sinks U-577 with depth charges (all 43 hands lost).

Day 867 January 14, 1942

Operation Drumbeat. At 8.34 AM 60 miles from Montauk Point, Long Island, U-123 sinks Panamanian tanker MV Norness (2 dead, 39 survivors picked up by American destroyer USS Ellyson, Coast Guard cutter USCGC Argo and fishing boat Malvina).

450 miles Northwest of Ireland, U-43 attacks convoy ON 55 sinking Greek SS Maro (all hands lost), British SS Empire Surf (45 killed, 6 survivors) and Panamanian SS Chepo (17 killed, 21 survivors).

Malaya. At 4 PM, Japanese infantry on bicycles and a few tanks stream across the Gemencheh Bridge over the Kelamah River into an Australian ambush. Australians dynamite the bridge, slaughter the trapped Japanese troops with machinegun and small arms fire and then withdraw through the jungle. Japanese have killed 140-700 (estimates vary) while Australians lose 1 killed plus 6 captured by the Japanese and executed. Japanese have the bridge repaired by midnight. On the West coast, Japanese Imperial Guards occupy the town of Malacca unopposed and prepare to assault Muar held by the novice 45th Indian Brigade.

At 11 PM, German battleship Tirpitz leaves Wilhelmshaven, Germany, and sails to Trondheim, Norway, escorted by 4 destroyers. RAF is unable to attack during the journey due to bad weather and Royal Navy Home Fleet responds too slowly.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 866 January 13, 1942

Operation Drumbeat. Off Nova Scotia, U-130 sinks Norwegian steamer Frisco at 1.16 AM and Panamanian SS Friar Rock at 9.48 AM.

Malaya. Having withdrawn 100 miles Southwest from the capital Kuala Lumpur, Allied troops establish new defensive positions from Muar River on the West coast 40 miles inland to the town of Gemas, where B company 2/30th Australian Battalion (Australian 8th Division under Australian General Gordon Bennett) prepares an ambush at Gemencheh Bridge over the Kelamah River.

Convoy DM1 arrives at Singapore from Durban, South Africa, with 9100 troops (including British 53rd Brigade), 3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns and 52 RAF Hurricane fighters. There are only 24 pilots for the Hurricanes which are quickly demolished by Japanese Zero fighters within 2 weeks.

Eastern Front. Red Army meets stubborn German resistance in towns Northwest and West of Moscow. Both sides are immobilised by lack of equipment and supplies and by the extreme cold, leading to fierce hand-to-hand fighting. Soviet 11th Army and German 18th Motorised Division contest possession of Staraya Russa. Soviet 29th and 39th Army fail to penetrate German 9th Army defenses around Rhzev, leading to the creating of a German salient. Soviet 11th Cavalry Corps charge is held up Southwest of Rzhev, allowing Germans to maintain a corridor West from Rzhev along the main highway to Vyazma and Smolensk. The railway goods yard at Sychevka is contested in frenzied close quarter combat.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 865 January 12, 1942

U-boat war on American coastal shipping (Operation Drumbeat) claims its first victim. At 1.49 AM off Nova Scotia, U-123 sinks British SS Cyclops (40 crew, 46 passengers and 1 gunner killed; 56 crew, 33 passengers and 6 gunners rescued by Canadian minesweeper HMCS Red Deer). 5 U-boats are already patrolling off US East coast and another 10 are on their way across the Atlantic.

Mediterranean. At 2.38 AM off Tobruk, U-77 blows the stern off British destroyer HMS Kimberley (3 killed) which is towed to Alexandria by destroyer HMS Heythrop. HMS Kimberley will be repaired at Bombay and return to service in January 1944. At 10.30 AM, U-374 is heading to Messina, Sicily, to repair damage from British and Dutch destroyers 2 days earlier. U-374, travelling on the surface unable to submerge, is hit by 2 torpedoes from British submarine HMS Unbeaten, 50 miles South of Messina, and sinks immediately (42 dead, Matrosengefreiter Johannes Ploch survives).

Operation Crusader. South African 1st Division attacks German and Italian garrison at Sollum, Egypt, which surrenders quickly after being isolated since November 23, 1941. Meanwhile, Rommel in Libya is planning to use his newly-arrived tanks to launch a local counterattack on Allied forward positions.

Eastern Front. Field Marshal von Reichenau, commander of German 6th Army, collapses from a stroke after his morning run in the bitter cold at Poltava, Ukraine. He is flown to Germany for treatment but dies when his plane crash lands on a refueling stop at Lemberg, Ukraine. von Reichenau’s Chief of Staff, General Friedrich Paulus, is promoted to take over 6th Army despite being a career staff officer with no previous command experience.

Tarakan, Dutch Borneo. Japanese troops, who landed yesterday, overwhelm the 1300 Dutch defenders (although coastal batteries hold out and sink Japanese minesweepers W.13 and W.14). Dutch troops who have surrendered are massacred in retaliation for the destruction of the oil wells and refinery.

Battle of Bataan, Philippines. Fierce hand-to-hand combat as Japanese attack the Abucay-Mauban line. US Philippine Scouts Second Lieutenant Alexander Nininger is the first US soldier to win the Medal of Honor in WWII, leading a counterattack.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 864 January 11, 1942

Japanese invasion of Dutch East Indies begins.
Tarakan. At midnight, 6500 Japanese troops land on the tiny oil-rich island of Tarakan, 1 mile off Dutch Borneo. They come ashore on the sparsely defended East side of the island and fight their way across. Japanese destroyer Yamakaze and patrol boat P38 sink Dutch minelayer HrMs Prins van Oranje, which is trying to escape from Tarakan.
Celebes. At 3 AM, 2,500 Japanese marines land on the island of Celebes, at Menado and Kema, swiftly overcoming the Dutch defenders. At 9 AM, 334 Japanese paratroops (flown 380 miles from Davao, Philippines) capture the seaplane base at Kakas and the airfield at Menado. Paratroops at Menado react to their heavy losses (35 killed, 90 wounded) and murder several Dutch POWs. Japanese have already occupied most of British Borneo on the North coast of the island.

Malaya. British flee the capital, Kuala Lumpur, heading South by road towards Singapore (200 miles away). At 8 PM, Japanese occupy Kuala Lumpur unopposed, capturing more large stocks of supplies and ammunition.

500 miles southwest of Oahu, Hawaii, Japanese submarine I-6 torpedoes US aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (6 killed), which reaches Pearl Harbor for repairs under her own steam despite 3 flooded boiler rooms (her 4 double 8-inch gun mounts are also removed for use as shore batteries).

Eastern Front. Soviet 39th Army continues advancing West and South around Rhzev, capturing large German supply dumps at Sychevka. Konev sends 11th Cavalry Corps charging on horseback through this gap in German 9th Army defenses, hoping to achieve a rapid encirclement of Rhzev.

Mediterranean. 30 miles North of Tobruk, Libya, a British Swordfish aircraft (815 Squadron) damages U-577 with depth charges.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 863 January 10, 1942

At 7.22 AM 75 miles North of Murmansk in the Barents Sea, U-584 sinks soviet submarine M-175 (all 21 hands lost).

Eastern Front. Germans are unprepared for the Soviet offensive, not realizing the extensive Russian reserves of manpower, with little or no winter clothing and thin defenses in many places. Konev’s Kalanin Front begins to surround German 9th Army at Rhzev; 29th Army attacking from the North while 39th Army makes a deep penetration in the flank Northwest of Rhzev.

Mediterranean. From 5 PM to 8 PM 40 miles Northeast of Sidi Barrani, Egypt, British destroyer HMS Legion and Dutch destroyer HrMs Isaac Sweers drop 43 depth charges on U-374, which escapes but is damaged and unable to submerge. In the Ionian Sea 120 miles West of Patras, Greece, British submarine HMS Thrasher sinks Italian steamer Fedora (from Brindisi, Italy, to Patras).

Malaya. Japanese tanks and infantry again rout Indian 11th Division at Serendah on the road 15 miles North of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. British evacuate Kuala Lumpur. In the Gulf of Siam, Dutch submarine O-19 sinks Japanese freighters Akita Maru and Tairyu Maru running supplies from French Indochina to Thailand. Troop convoys MS1 and MS2 leave Australia, carrying Australian soldiers to Singapore and Dutch East Indies.

Philippines. Battle of Bataan, Japanese attack again but are held at the Abucay-Mauban line. Bataan peninsula, Luzon (15-20 miles wide and 30 miles long North-South) is packed with 65,000 Filipino troops, 15,000 US troops and 26,000 civilians. They have a plentiful supply of ammunition for a protracted siege but only enough food for a month and precious little medicine, especially quinine to prevent malaria that will become endemic. US submarine USS Pickerel sinks Japanese gunboat Kanko Maru off Davao Gulf, Mindanao.

A Dutch Dornier Do 24K flying boat spots the Japanese invasion fleet from Mindanao, Philippines, approaching the tiny oil-rich island of Tarakan, 1 mile off Dutch Borneo. Dutch troops begin destroying oil wells, refinery and airfield.

In South China Sea, US submarine USS Stingray sinks Japanese cargo ship Harbin Maru 40 miles South of Japanese naval base on Hainan Island.

First US troop convoy to Britain (convoy NA1; 2 troop transports escorted by British destroyers HMS Beverley, Hamilton and Rockingham) departs Halifax, Nova Scotia, for Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 862 January 9, 1942

Battle of Bataan, Luzon, Philippines. Japanese 48th Division is withdrawn, having fought down from Lingayen Gulf since December 22, 1941, and replaced by raw recruits of 65th Brigade. At 3 PM, the Battle begins with an attack on the Abucay-Mauban line East of Mount Natib that is repelled by 25,000 US & Filipino troops of General George Parker’s II Philippine Corps.

Java Sea between Java and Borneo. Japanese submarine I.65 damages a tanker which escapes and sinks Dutch freighter SS Benkoeln (101 survivors on rafts rescued by American destroyer USS Paul Jones next day). Japanese submarine I.58 sinks Dutch SS Camphuijs (survivors also rescued by USS Paul Jones next day).

US submarine USS Pollack sinks Japanese merchant ship Teian Maru near Tokyo Bay, Japan.

Mediterranean. Italian mines sink British submarine HMS Triumph, returning to the Greek island of Milos to pick up British agents dropped off on December 26, 1941 (all 59 hands lost). 70 miles Northwest of Mersa Matruh, Egypt, a British Sunderland aircraft (230 Squadron) depth charges U-568 causing minor damage.

200 miles Northwest of Moscow, Soviet Northwest Front is fully engaged. 3rd and 4th Shock Armies (read: hastily-assembled, poorly-trained troops with little equipment, ammunition or food) cross the icy marshes of Lake Seliger in waist-deep snow. 4th Shock, attacking Southwest towards Andreapol, is decimated by German machineguns at Peno but sheers weight of numbers overcomes the Germans. 3rd Shock fails to make progress attacking West towards Kholm. Further North, Soviet 11th Army approaches the town of Staraya Russa, defended by the experienced but exhausted German 18th Motorised Division, resting after the battles at Tikhvin.

WWI-era British destroyer HMS Vimiera sinks on a mine in the Thames estuary while escorting a coastal convoy (96 killed, 14 survivors).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 861 January 8, 1942

Following the damning Butt Report on the accuracy of RAF bombing (August 1941), Air Marshal Sir Richard Peirse is relieved from command of RAF Bomber Command. He is replaced temporarily by Air Marshal John Baldwin.

Malaya. Indian 11th Division falls back 35 miles from Slim River to Serendah on the road (only 15 miles North of the capital, Kuala Lumpur) and the Kuala Selangor river on the coast, where they repel another attempted Japanese landing from a flotilla of small boats. British General Wavell travels to the front, after arriving in Singapore yesterday as head of the new American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDA). Wavell finds 11th Indian Division in tatters, unable to resist further Japanese attacks, and orders Australian 8th Division (under General Gordon Bennett) to relieve them. After the disastrous fighting withdrawal so far, Wavell also orders a retreat to Southern Malaya where better defenses can be prepared but giving up central Malaya including the capital Kuala Lumpur.

On Luzon, Philippines, Japanese forces prepare to attack the first US defensive line (Abucay-Mauban) on the Bataan peninsula. 47,500 US and Filipino troops are spread 18 miles from Mauban in the West to Abucay in the East with the 4,111 foot Mount Natib in the middle.

Japanese submarine I.56 sinks Dutch freighter SS Van Riebeeck and SS Van Rees off Cilacap, Java, Indonesia. Another Japanese submarine I.19 launches a reconnaissance seaplane to reconnoiter Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.

Eastern Front. Following the start of the Northern arm of the general offensive yesterday, Zhukov’s Soviet West Front (whose area includes Moscow) attacks towards Mozhaysk which is defended by the rested and well-dug in infantry of German 4th Army.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 860 January 7, 1942

Malaya. Japanese tanks rout Indian 11th Division defenses at Slim River before breakfast. At 3.30 AM, mortar and artillery bombardment cuts communication lines preventing British artillery from ranging on Major Shimada's tanks and a battalion of motorised infantry as they advance 15 miles and cross both road and railway bridges by 9.30 AM (Japanese have 17 killed and 60 wounded). Shimada probes another 3 miles beyond until stopped by 2 howitzers of 155th Field Artillery Regiment. Allied rearguard areas are stampeded, abandoning 50 armored cars and many trucks. Unsuspecting troops are shot up as they are assembling and Indian 11th Division is decimated (500 killed and 3200 taken prisoner) although some units take to the jungle and remain active until the end of the war and beyond (1 Gurkha will be found in 1949).

Mindanao, Philippines. Japanese invasion force moves on to the next engagement, departing Davao Bay to land on the tiny island of Tarakan for the invasion of Dutch Borneo.

In Washington, President Roosevelt submits his budget to Congress; $29,000,000,000 (29 billion dollars) to build 60,000 planes, 45,000 tanks and 8,000,000 tons of shipping.

Eastern Front. In the first phase of Stalin’s new offensive, Northern arm of the planned giant encirclement of German Army Group Center around Rzhev-Vyazma-Smolensk gets underway. Soviet Volkov Front attacks German 18th Army towards Leningrad. Soviet Northwest Front attacks the town of Demyansk and Staraya Russa 50 miles away where German 16th Army has a large supply depot. Konev’s Kalanin Front attacks German 9th Army toward Rhzev.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 859 January 6, 1942

Operation Kitbag. At 3 AM British cruiser HMS Sheffield and destroyers HMS Inglefield and HMS Intrepid leave Scapa Flow, Scotland. 11 RAF Coastal Command bombers raid Sola Airfield at Stavanger to prevent Luftwaffe attack. In the evening, the warships shell Florø, Norway, destroying trawlers and fish processing facilities, and then return to Scapa Flow overnight. A Commando raid of the same name in December was cancelled due to the accidental explosion of hand grenades during embarkation (6 killed, 11 wounded).

RAF aircraft sink Italian freighter SS Perla returning from Tripoli, Libya, to Trapani, Sicily, near the Italian island of Pantellaria off the Tunisian coast.

Malaya. Japanese 42nd Regiment commander Colonel Ando plans to outflank Indian 11th Division defenses at Slim River by moving through the dense jungle. However, Major Shimada persuades Ando to allow his company of tanks to attack straight down the road. The attack will go in overnight.

On Luzon, Philippines, US and Filipino forces continue falling back onto Bataan and prepare a defensive line across the neck of the peninsula from Mauban in the West to Abucay in the East.

Japanese aircraft again bomb Rabaul on the Australian-held island of New Britain, New Guinea.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 858 January 5, 1942

At 5.42 AM North of Mesina, Sicily, British submarine HMS Upholder torpedoes Italian submarine Admiral Saint-Bon carrying 155 tons of petrol and ammunition from Taranto, Italy to Tripoli, Libya. The gasoline explodes and Saint-Bon sinks rapidly (82 killed, 3 survivors picked up HMS Upholder). However, Italian convoy M.43 arrives safely at Tripoli later in the day, with 54 tanks, armored cars, artillery, ammunition and fuel for Rommel.

At 8.00 AM 73 miles Northwest of Patras, Greece, British submarine HMS Proteus torpedoes Italian troopship Citta Di Palermo (carrying 600 Italian troops from Brindisi, Italy, to Patras). Palermo sinks in 6 minutes, killing almost everyone on board.

Flushed by the success of the Moscow counteroffensive in driving German forces from the gates of Moscow, Stalin orders a General offensive along the entire front from Leningrad to the Crimean. The main goal is to encircle and destroy German Army Group Center (which previously threatened Moscow) in the Rzhev-Vyazma-Smolensk area. In the Crimea, while German 11th Army is busy containing the Soviet landings on the Kerch peninsula, Soviet warships shell German positions around Sevastopol and the Sevastopol garrison attempts a breakout.

Malaya. Indian 11th Division defenses stretch from the river crossings at Slim River to Trolak, 9 miles North, where the road cuts through hills covered with dense jungle. In the afternoon, Japanese probing attacks at Trolak are repelled (60 Japanese killed).

On Luzon, Philippines, US and Filipino forces continue to fall back towards the Bataan peninsula.

60 miles South of the Indonesian island of Java, Japanese submarine I.56 sinks British freighter SS Kwantung. 98 crew and 35 military personnel abandon ship but I.56 rams a lifeboat and machineguns the others (98 killed, 35 survivors picked up next day).

100 miles South of Tokyo, US submarine USS Pollack torpedoes Japanese cargo ship Heijo Maru.

Overnight, 154 aircraft from RAF Bomber Command to attack German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in dock at Brest, France, but do little damage.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 857 January 4, 1942

Crimea. Soviet cruiser Krasnyi Kavkaz, returning from delivering troops and supplies to the Soviet bridgehead on the Kerch Peninsula, is badly damaged by German Ju87 dive-bombers. Krasnyi Kavkaz reaches the Caucasus port of Novorossiysk, escorted by destroyer Sposobnyi, and will be under repair until October at Poti, Georgia.

Philippines. On Luzon, a massive Japanese aerial and artillery bombardment displaces US and Filipino troops from the Guagua-Porac line, allowing Lingayen Force to capture Guagua and the US Del Carmen Airfield (a rudimentary dirt airstrip). Off the island of Mindanao, USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress bombers (based at Darwin, Australia, staging via Dutch airfields on Borneo) attack Japanese ships at anchor in Malalag Bay, Davao Gulf. Japanese cruiser Myōkō is hit by a 500lb bomb causing minor damage.

Malaya. 11th Indian Infantry Division withdraws 40 miles South from Kampar to new positions at Slim River, where road and railway bridges cross the Sungai Bemama river. These are the last good defenses before the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

In preparation for landings, Japanese aircraft bomb Rabaul at the Northeast tip of the island of New Britain, part of the Territory of New Guinea (a League of Nations-mandated territory of Australia since WWI).

Day 856 January 3, 1942

Rommel is so desperate for supplies that 4 Italian battleships, 5 cruisers, 19 destroyers and 5 torpedo boats escort convoy M.43 of 5 freighters and 1 tanker from Messina (Sicily), Brindisi and Taranto to Tripoli, Libya. They carry 1200 troops, 54 tanks, artillery, armored cars, 1000 tons of ammunition, 5400 tons of fuel.

Malaya. Japanese attempt another leap down the West coast of Malaya, sailing 45 miles South from Bernam River to Kuala Selangor (reusing their 40 motor launches and the 20 small boats from Penang), but Indian troops are waiting for them and repel the landings. On the East coast of Malaya, Japanese troops cross the Kuantan River forcing Indian 9th Division to withdraw South and leave the Kuantan airfield in Japanese hands. Colonel Arthur Cummings (Indian Army 12th Frontier Force Regiment) wins the VC for holding the rearguard overnight despite being bayoneted in the stomach and shot in the arm.

Luzon, Philippines. US and Filipino troops fall back to the hastily-organised Guagua-Porac defensive line, 15 miles from Bataan.

Australian 39th and 53rd Battalions arrive at Port Moseby, New Guinea, from Sydney. They join 49th Battalion to form 30th Infantry Brigade to defend New Guinea from the expected Japanese invasion.

In the Java Sea between Indonesia and Borneo, Japanese submarine I.158 sinks Dutch SS Langkoeas off Bawean Island. All 94 crew abandon ship, but I.158 rams 1 lifeboat and machineguns the others. Only 3 survivors reach Bawean Island and will be rescued by American destroyer USS Paul Jones.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 855 January 2, 1942

At 6.48 AM in the Barents Sea 300 miles North of Norway, U-134 sinks British steamer Waziristan carrying 3700 tons of lend-lease supplies, including 410 Ford trucks, from USA to Murmansk, USSR. 37 crew & 10 gunners abandon ship but are not found. Waziristan is the first ship sunk in the Arctic convoys to Arkhangelsk and Murmansk, USSR.

Libya. 7,000 German & Italian troops surrender at Bardia, near the Egyptian border, to 2nd South African Division. The Bardia garrison has been isolated since November 23, 1941.

Malaya. Overnight, Japanese troops (4th Imperial Guard Regiment) sail down the Perak River to Telok Anson to join 11th Regiment which landed yesterday in the Bernam River. To counter this, Indian 12th Infantry Brigade arrives at Telok Anson but cannot hold the Japanese advance. Further North on the ridges of Kampar Hill, there is more hand-to-hand combat between Japanese and British/Indian troops, including a bayonet charge by 60 Sikhs and Gujars. British General Archibald Paris, in command of 11th Indian Infantry Division, fears encirclement from Telok Anson and decides to abandon the excellent Kampar defenses which have held out well. Casualties in 4 days of fighting at Kampar are 150 British & Indian and 500 Japanese killed.

Luzon, Philippines. At 9 AM, Japanese march triumphantly into Manila and occupy the ruined US Cavite Navy Yard. Further North, the West end of D5 line collapses at Bamban; Japanese Lingayen Force pushes on to Angeles and San Fernando, 20 miles from Bataan, capturing the US Clark Airfield relatively intact which they will use to bomb to Bataan and Corregidor Island. Only a narrow corridor above the Pampanga River delta remains open for US and Filipino forces withdrawing to Bataan.

Singapore is bombed from Malaya in the North and Borneo to the East.