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.

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