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.

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