Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 913 March 1, 1942

At dawn 300 miles South of Java near Christmas Island, US destroyers USS Whipple and USS Edsall transfer 453 survivors from USS Langley (which was sunk on February 27) to oiler USS Pecos. Whipple heads to Cocos Islands to escort a tanker while Edsall returns to Tjilatjap, Java, with 32 USAAC personnel to assemble and fly 27 P-40 fighters delivered on February 27 by freighter Sea Witch. At noon, 4 waves of Aichi D3A1 dive bombers from Japanese carriers Kaga and Soryu attack Pecos for several hours, scoring multiple hits on the undefended oiler. Pecos sinks at 3.48 PM. Whipple and Edsall receive distress signals and race back. Whipple picks up 232 survivors but leaves many men in the sea due to reports of 2 Japanese submarines in the area. However, Edsall is detected by the Japanese fleet and sunk by shellfire and divebombers from 4.03 to 5.31 PM (147 killed, 6 survivors picked up by Japanese cruiser Chikuma and treated well until handed over to Japanese Army on March 11 and decapitated).

Second Battle of the Java Sea. At 9 AM, British cruiser HMS Exeter and destroyers HMS Encounter & USS Pope 4 Japanese cruisers and 5 destroyers covering the Eastern Force and start evasive maneuvers. At noon 190 miles North of Soerabaya, Java, HMS Exeter (54 killed, 651 survivors) and HMS Encounter (7 killed, 166 survivors) are sunk by shellfire and torpedoes. At 12.50 PM, 12 dive-bombers from the aircraft carrier Ryūjō sink USS Pope (1 killed, 152 rescued and become POWs of which 29 die in captivity). Also in the Java Sea, US submarine USS Perch is damaged by depth-charges from Japanese destroyers Amatsukaze and Hatsukaze.

South of Java, Japanese warships and submarines cutting off the escape route to Australia sink 5 merchant ships including Dutch vessels Rooseboom, Pariji and Modjokerto.

Invasion of Java. Japanese Western force begins to close in on Batavia; 2nd Division from Bantam Bay move 10 miles inland and capture Serang, while 230th Infantry Regiment from Eretan Wetan captures Kalidjati airfield at Soebang (30 miles inland). Eastern Force (48th Division) moves 20 miles inland hampered by US B-17 bombers and strafing from Allied fighters. Japanese bombing of the Allied naval base at Soerabaja damages US destroyer USS Stewart (in dry dock for repairs following Battle of Badung Strait) and Dutch destroyer HNLMS Witte de With. Dutch minesweeper HNLMS A is scuttled by her crew to prevent capture by the Japanese.

Japanese submarine I-25 launches its floatplane to reconnoiter Hobart, Australia.

33 miles South of Cape Race, Newfoundland, a Lockheed Hudson patrol bomber (Naval Squadron VP-82) sinks U-656 on an anti-submarine sweep from Argentia (all 45 hands lost). VP-82 was equipped with 20 Hudsons diverted from Lend-Lease and claimed the first 2 U-boats ‘kills’ by US forces.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 912 February 28, 1942

At 10.57 AM 60 miles off Atlantic City, New Jersey, U-578 sinks US destroyer USS Jacob Jones with 2 torpedoes (138 killed, including many floating on rafts killed by primed depth charges exploding, 11 survivors picked up by patrol craft USS PE-56).

Burma. General Wavell relieves General Officer Commanding Burma Command General Hutton in public for planning to evacuate Rangoon (although the decision has already been made to replace Hutton with General Harold Alexander). Wavell orders Rangoon to be held, expecting reinforcements from the Middle East including Australian infantry.

Battle of Sunda Strait. At 7 PM Australian cruiser HMAS Perth and US cruiser USS Houston leave Batavia, Java, heading for the Indian Ocean through Sunda Strait to escape the Japanese Eastern Force fleet in the Java Sea. At 11 PM they run into Japanese Western Force landings at Bantam Bay. In the exchange of shells and torpedoes, HMAS Perth sinks at 11.42 PM (375 lost, 307 survivors) and USS Houston sinks 36 minutes after midnight (696 killed, 368 survivors). 1 Japanese minesweeper and 4 troop transports are also sunk, mostly by torpedoes from the Japanese cruisers. Dutch destroyer HNLMS Evertsen, which left Batavia at 8 PM, tries to avoid the fighting but is hit with several shells from 2 Japanese destroyers and then beached before the stern magazine explodes (9 killed, 159 get ashore safely and become POWs but 48 will die in captivity).

After emergency repairs following yesterday’s Battle of Java Sea, British cruiser HMS Exeter leaves Soerabaja, Java, at dusk, escorted by British destroyer HMS Encounter and US destroyer USS Pope. HMS Exeter will go to Ceylon for further repairs but they head North to go through the Sunda Strait as the nearby Bali Strait is too shallow.

Japanese submarines patrol South of Java to interrupt the escape route to Australia. I-153 sinks British freighter City Of Manchester (3 killed, 6 taken prisoner by I-153, 128 rescued by minesweepers USS Whippoorwill and USS Lark). I-4 sinks Singapore-based merchant steamer Ban Ho Guan.

Overnight, Japanese invade the North coast of Java. Western Force comes ashore at Bantam Bay, 50 miles West of the capital Batavia, and Eretan Wetan, 85 miles East of Batavia. Eastern Force lands 100 miles West of the main Allied naval base at Soerabaja. In all 35,000 Japanese troops come ashore and quickly overcome light resistance from Allied machineguns at all points.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 911 February 27, 1942

At 6.25 AM 20 miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, U-432 sinks American SS Marore carrying 23,000 tons of iron ore from Chile (all 39 crew rescued by Coast Guard vessels and tanker John D. Gill). At 6.36 AM 20 miles off Atlantic City, New Jersey, US tanker R.P. Resor is hit by one torpedo from U-578, despite steaming blacked out on a zigzag course. R.P. Resor carrying 78,729 barrels of crude oil from Houston, Texas to Fall River, Massachusetts, sinks (47 killed, 2 rescued by the Coast Guard). At 10.35 AM 20 miles North of the Dominican Republic, U-156 sinks British collier SS Macgregor with the deck gun (the barrel has been cut down since the explosion on February 16). 1 man is killed and 30 are rescued by a San Domingo Coast Guard cutter.

At 11.40 AM 58 miles South of Tjilatjap, Java, US seaplane tender USS Langley (carrying US P-40 fighters from Australia for the defense of Java) is attacked by 3 waves of Japanese dive bombers and immobilized with 5 bomb hits (16 killed). US destroyers USS Whipple and USS Edsall take off 308 and 177 survivors, respectively (and also sink USS Langley with shellfire and 2 torpedoes to prevent capture by the Japanese). However, US freighter Sea Witch arrives safely at Tjilatjap with 27 crated P-40s (these are never assembled and will be destroyed to prevent capture).

Battle of the Java Sea. At midday, Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman’s ABDA Combined Striking Force returns to Soerabaja, Java, but immediately sets out again, low on fuel, after a sighting of the Japanese invasion force. In a series of attempts to reach the Japanese troop transports from 4 PM to midnight, Doorman’s 5 cruisers (British HMS Exeter, American USS Houston, Australian HMAS Perth and Dutch HNLMS De Ruyter & HNLMS Java) and 9 destroyers (British HMS Electra, HMS Encounter & HMS Jupiter, Dutch HNLMS Kortenaer & HNLMS Witte de With and American USS Alden, USS John D. Edwards, USS John D. Ford, and USS Paul Jones) are outgunned by the Japanese cruisers Haguro and Nachi (each packing ten 8-inch guns) and 14 destroyers. From 4.30 – 6.30 PM, destroyer HNLMS Kortenaer is sunk by a torpedo (60 killed, 90 survivors), destroyer HMS Electra (136 killed, 42 survivors) is sunk in an exchange of shellfire and cruiser HMS Exeter is hit with a shell and returns to port. At 9.15 PM, destroyer HMS Jupiter sinks on a Dutch minefield laid earlier in the day near the coast of Java (83 killed, 100 survivors swim ashore). At 11.15 PM, torpedoes from the Japanese cruisers sink Dutch cruisers HNLMS De Ruyter (375 killed including Admiral Doorman, 115 survivors) & HNLMS Java (512 killed, 43 survivors). The last 2 cruisers HMAS Perth and USS Houston follow Doorman's last instruction and escape to Batavia, Java, without picking up survivors.

Operation Biting. Overnight, 120 British commandos parachute onto the German radar station at Bruneval on the Northwest coast of France. They capture the Würzburg radar and escape across the English Channel by sea with the radar equipment and 2 German POWs. British lose 2 killed and 6 captured while Germans have 5 killed and 2 wounded. As a result of the raid, British develop countermeasures to protect their bombers from radar detection while Germans surround other radar stations with barbed wire making them more visible to British air reconnaissance.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 910 February 26, 1942

Invasion of Java. Following air reconnaissance reports of ABDA ships in the Java Sea, Japanese Eastern Force (41 troop transports) turns around while cruisers and destroyers cover the East end of the Java Sea. ABDA Combined Striking Force, under Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman, sets out again from Soerabaja to seek the invasion force but again they find nothing.

Japanese submarine I-25 launches its floatplane to reconnoiter Melbourne, Australia.

At 7.13 PM 230 miles East of Florida, U-504 sinks Dutch tanker MV Mamura, which is carrying gasoline and explodes (all 49 crew killed).

American citizens of Japanese descent are arrested by the FBI and forcibly relocated from their homes in East San Pedro, Terminal Island, Los Angeles, beginning the internment of Japanese-Americans by the US government.

Overnight, 49 RAF bombers attack Kiel. German battleship Gneisenau, in dry dock after repairs caused by a mine during the Channel Dash on February 12, is hit by a bomb which penetrates the armored deck, explodes propellant charges in the forward turret and burns out the entire bow section (112 killed, 21 wounded). Gneisenau will go to Gotenhafen on April 4 for repairs and to install six 38 cm guns but this is never completed and she will not return to service.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 909 February 25, 1942

“Great Los Angeles Air Raid”. Overnight, air raid sirens sound in Los Angeles and anti-aircraft guns fire 1400 shells from 3.16 to 4. 14 AM, following a false sighting of Japanese aircraft. Several buildings are damaged, 3 civilians are killed by falling shells and 3 die of heart attacks. This is attributed to “war nerves” caused by the shelling of Elwood the previous night.

Axis submarines continue targeting South American sea routes. 70 miles South of Puerto Rico, U-156 sinks British tanker SS La Carriere with the last torpedo (15 killed, 26 survivors). 525 miles East of Trinidad, Italian Torelli sinks Panamanian tanker MV Esso Copenhagen (1 killed, 38 rescued). 800 miles East of Guadeloupe, Italian Da Vinci sinks Brazilian SS Cadebelo (no survivors).

Having swept down through Malaya, the Philippines and Dutch islands of Borneo and Celebes, Japanese prepare to crown their conquest of Dutch East Indies with the capture of the oil-rich island of Java in a massive naval pincer. Western Force (56 troop transports, aircraft carrier Ryūjō, 7 cruisers and 19 destroyers) departed on February 18 from Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina, heading for the West tip of Java. Eastern Force (41 troop transports escorted by 5 cruisers and 16 destroyers) sails from Balikpapan, Borneo, to land on the East end of Java. In addition, aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryū and Sōryū, battleships Haruna, Kongo, Hiyei and Kirishima, 6 cruisers and 11 destroyers leave Kendari, Celebes, to patrol South of Java and prevent Allied ships escaping into the Indian Ocean. Allied submarines report these movements and ABDA surface ships set out at dusk from Batavia (now Jakarta) and Soerabaja to intercept the invasion force in the Java Sea. They find nothing and all ABDA warships converge overnight on the main naval base at Soerabaja.

Japanese submarines also swarm off the coast of Java, to intercept Allied naval and commercial shipping. At 10.15 AM, I-158 attacks Dutch freighter Boeroe, heading to Australia through the Sundai Strait, on the surface but I-158 is chased off by an escort warship. I-158 submerges and sinks Boeroe with 2 torpedoes at 11.30 AM South of Java (all 70 crew reach land safely).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 908 February 24, 1942

Overnight, E9W1 floatplane from Japanese submarine I-9 reconnoiters Pearl Harbor, Oahu, but cannot identify the ships in harbor due to poor visibility. Both wings of the plane are damaged during recovery onto the submarine.

Heading across the Atlantic to the US East coast, U-94 sinks British SS Empire Hail at 1.45 AM (all 42 crew and 7 gunners lost).

U-155 loses contact with convoy ONS-67 but calls in U-69, U-158, U-162, U-558, U-587 & U-588. Between 4.30 and 10.35 AM 525 miles Southeast of Newfoundland, U-158, U-162, U-558 & U-587 sink 5 ships and damage 1 more.

Soviet submarine SC-213 sinks passenger ship SS Struma, adrift in the Black Sea at the mouth of the Bosphorus carrying Jews from Romania to Palestine. SC-213 is under orders to prevent neutral ships carrying war material to German troops on the Black Sea. In the worst exclusively civilian naval disaster of WWII, 768 drown or freeze to death, including 100 children. 1 survivor is found clinging to wreckage next day. 19-year-old David Stoliar will get to Palestine, serve in the British Army during WWII and in the Israel Defense Force during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He is still alive today.

US cruisers USS Northampton & USS Salt Lake City and destroyers USS Balch & USS Maury shell Japanese installations on Wake Island. Douglas Dauntless dive bombers and Douglas Devastator torpedo bombers from carrier USS Enterprise plus Curtiss Seagull biplanes from the cruisers bomb Wake. Japanese guardboats No.5 Fukyu Maru and No.1 Miho Maru are sunk. 1 Dauntless is shot down (crew of 2 taken prisoner).

Dutch East Indies. As the Japanese prepare for invasion of Java, General Wavell’s ABDA HQ withdraws in anticipation of disbanding ABDACOM into local commands. Wavell plans to return to his post as Commander-in-Chief India to prepare the defense of India. Japanese air attacks on Java destroy 3 US B-17 bombers on the ground and the remaining 5th US Air Force B-17s evacuate to Australia.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 907 February 23, 1942

Trondheim, Norway. British submarine HMS Trident torpedoes German cruiser Prinz Eugen, destroying her stern. Prinz Eugen is towed to Lofjord, where her stern is cut away and plated over. She will be steered back to Kiel with 2 manually-operated rudders (out of service for nearly a year until January 1943).

At 10 AM 90 miles East of Tripoli, Libya, British submarine HMS P38 prepares to attack Italian supply convoy K7 but is spotted by Italian torpedo boat Circe which drops depth charges. At 10.50 AM, P38 bobs up with her stern out of the water and sinks (all 32 hands lost). K7 arrives at Tripoli with supplies for Rommel.

Turkish troops board the disabled passenger ship SS Struma (ferrying Jews from Romania to Palestine, via the Black Sea and the Aegean) which has been at Istanbul for 2 months with engine trouble. SS Struma is towed back through the Bosphorus and abandoned to drift 10 miles into the Black Sea. Nearby, Soviet submarine SC-213 sinks Turkish vessel Çankaya, under orders to prevent neutral ships carrying war material to German troops on the Black Sea.

Burma. Indian 17th Infantry Division holds the Sittang River Bridge overnight, but in the morning it seems that Japanese troops will take the bridge with a clear path to Rangoon. British General Smyth, decides to detonate charges placed on the bridge stranding two-thirds of 17th Division on the far side. Despite delaying the Japanese advance, Smyth is relieved of command by his superior General Hutton (who previously ordered Smyth to stand on the Bilin River rather than falling back and preparing defenses at Sittang River) and ABDA commander General Wavell. Smyth is never given a command again and will return to Britain and go into politics.

Japanese aircraft again attack Allied airfields on Java, while 6 American B-17 bombers fly from Australia to bomb the airfield held by the Japanese at Rabaul, New Britain, in the Australian Territory of New Guinea.

Dutch West Timor. At 9 AM, Australian 2/40th Battalion led by Colonel William Leggatt (part of Sparrow Force) surrenders, ending Allied resistance around the capital Koepang. The Australians are trapped between the main Japanese force advancing with tanks and artillery from Koepang and Japanese paratroops landed at Usua 14 miles inland. At 10 AM, 2 waves of Japanese aircraft bomb both sides causing many casualties. The rest of Sparrow Force and other Australian units will conduct a guerilla war in West and East Timor for a year until February 10, 1943.

Caribbean. 125 miles southeast of Trinidad, U-129 sinks 3 small freighters. Off Martinique, U-161 sinks US freighter SS Lihue carrying 5000 tons of supplies and war material for British troops in Egypt. U-502 sinks Panamanian tanker Thalia and damages 1 tanker near Aruba. U-504 sinks US tanker W.D. Anderson off the coast of Florida.

At 7.10 PM, Japanese submarine I-17 surfaces off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. I-17 fires 17 shells from the deck gun at Ellwood oil fields, doing $500 damage to an oil rig and denting refinery equipment. I-17 departs at 7.35 PM, still on the surface.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day 906 February 22, 1942

Overnight 675 miles East of Newfoundland, U-155 locates convoy ONS-67, sinking British tanker MV Adellen (36 killed, 12 survivors) and Norwegian MV Sama (19 dead, 20 survivors) at 7.03 AM.

U-boats feast on unescorted shipping off the US East coast and in the Caribbean. 20 miles South of Halifax, Nova Scotia, U-96 sinks Norwegian SS Torungen (all 19 hands lost) and British tanker MV Kars (50 killed, 2 picked up by Canadian minesweeper HMCS Melville). Off the East coast of Florida, U-504 sinks US tanker SS Republic (5 dead, 29 survivors many badly burned) and U-128 sinks US tanker SS Cities Service Empire (14 dead, 36 survivors). In the Caribbean 225 miles West of Aruba, U-67 sinks US tanker SS J.N. Pew (33 killed, 2 survivors in a lifeboat make land in Colombia 3 days later and 1 man out of 10 in another lifeboat survives 20 days at sea until found 500 miles West near the coast of Panama on March 14).

In the morning, German battleship Admiral Scheer, cruiser Prinz Eugen and 5 destroyers arrive at Bergen, Norway. They are located by RAF reconnaissance but attacks by 17 Fairey Albacore (FAA 817 & 832 Squadrons) from aircraft carrier HMS Victorious are unsuccessful (3 Albacore shot down). The German warships leave for Trondheim, Norway, overnight before bombers from RAF coastal command can find them.

Acting Commander-In-Chief of RAF bomber command J.E.A. Baldwin is replaced by Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, who says "The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naïve theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind”.

Burma. Leading elements of Indian 17th Division cross the Sittang River Bridge, but 16th and 46th Indian Brigades are cut off 10 miles East when Japanese troops reach the Bridge. Indian troops manage to hold the bridge in heavy fighting.

Dutch East Indies. American and Japanese bombers make tit for tat raids on each other’s airfields. US 5th Air Force attacks de Pasar Airdrome, Bali, destroying Japanese aircraft. On Java, Japanese aircraft destroy 4 B-17 bombers on the ground at Pasirian Airdrome and 1 LB-30 Liberator at Jogjakarta Airdrome. South of Java, Japanese submarine I-58 sinks Dutch passenger ship SS Pijnacker Hordikj. US seaplane tender USS Langley (previously used as an aircraft carrier) and freighter Sea Witch depart Fremantle, Southwest Australia, carrying 59 American P-40 fighters to reinforce Java 1700 miles North.

Philippines. With a renewed Japanese attack on Bataan imminent and no chance of sending reinforcements, President Roosevelt orders General MacArthur to leave for Australia and assume command of Allied forces in Australia.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 905 February 21, 1942

U-boats take a toll on Allied traffic through the Caribbean. At 1.23 AM 125 miles Southeast of Ocean City, Maryland, U-432 sinks US freighter Azalea City carrying 7806 tons of linseed from Trinidad to Philadelphia (all 38 hands lost). At 3.32 PM 7 miles off Dutch island of Curaçao, U-67 sinks Norwegian tanker Kongsgaard (38 killed by burning oil, 8 survivors). At 10.44 AM 300 miles Southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, U-107 torpedoes empty Norwegian tanker Egda, which counterfloods to correct a list to port and proceeds to Halifax under her own power. At 11.13 PM 20 miles West of Trinidad, U-161sinks British tanker Circe Shell (1 killed, 57 survivors).

German battleship Admiral Scheer, cruiser Prinz Eugen and 5 destroyers sail from Brunsbüttel (at the mouth of the Kiel canal), Germany, to Bergen, Norway. They are spotted in the North Sea off Denmark by a British reconnaissance aircraft which is shot down by German fighters. RAF coastal command dispatches bombers but only 1 bomber finds the ships and this is shot down by anti-aircraft fire.

Mediterranean. Italian resupply convoy K7 for Rommel leaves Messina, Sicily, and the Greek island of Corfu for Tripoli, Libya (5 freighters and a tanker escorted by 3 cruisers, 13 destroyers and 2 torpedo boats).

200 miles West of the Japanese island of Kyūshū, US submarine USS Triton encounters 2 Japanese freighters, sinking Shokyu Maru before being chased off by an aircraft.

Burma. As Indian 17th Division retreats to the Sittang River, in danger of being cut off by Japanese troops, British 7th Armored Brigade arrives at Rangoon by sea from Egypt.

Singapore. Japanese begin Sook Ching massacre, machinegunning Chinese nationals to impose order on the civilian population. Japanese claim 5000 Chinese are slaughtered but estimates range up to 100,000.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Day 904 February 20, 1942

Battle of Badung Strait continues. At 1.30 AM, Dutch cruiser HNLMS Tromp and 4 US destroyers USS John D. Edwards, Parrott, Pillsbury, and Stewart arrive in Badung Strait. In another an exchange of torpedoes and gunfire, USS Stewart is temporarily immobilised and HNLMS Tromp is badly damaged by 11 5-inch shells (10 killed, 30 wounded), while Japanese destroyers Asashio (4 killed) and Oshio (7 killed) are both hit. At 2.20 AM, 2 Japanese destroyers Arashio and Michisio join the fray. Michisio is pummeled by shells from all 4 US destroyers (13 dead, 83 wounded), which then retire to get away from the danger and confusion, allowing Michisio to be towed to safety.

Dutch East Indies. At dawn, Japanese troops land at Dili in Portuguese Timor and Koepang in Dutch Timor. The small Allied garrison at Dili is overrun but Koepang remains in Allied hands. At 10.45AM, 323 Japanese paratroops land near Koepang airfield but they are badly dispersed and Australian defenders kill 245. At Balikpapan, Borneo, Japanese are still angry over destruction of oil facilities by the Dutch, despite prior dire warnings to leave them intact. As threatened, they massacre all Dutch POWs (72 including 8 wounded men removed from the hospital). 2 civil administrators are beheaded first on the beach then the rest are forced into the sea and shot.

American aircraft carrier USS Lexington, en route to launch airstrikes on Rabaul escorted by 4 cruisers and 10 destroyers, is sighted by Japanese reconnaissance flying boats 450 miles East of Rabaul. At 4PM, 18 Japanese bombers from Rabaul attack but 16 are shot down by fighters from USS Lexington (Lieutenant Edward “Butch” O'Hare wins the Medal of Honor for destroying 3 bombers and damaging 2 more).

Burma. Indian 17th Division is harassed along the 30 mile retreat to the Sittang River (and in danger of being cut off) by Japanese troops who had moved past them during the brief stand on the Bilin River.

In the Indian Ocean, 30 miles North of the Maldive Islands, Japanese submarine I-65 sinks British merchant Bhima (all 68 crew and 2 passengers rescued).

U-boats start raiding shipping in the Lesser Antilles, following their success in the tanker lanes off Venezuela. At 4 AM 30 miles East of Trinidad, U-129 sinks Norwegian SS Nordvangen carrying bauxite from Paramaribo, Suriname, to USA (all 24 hands lost). At 11.31 AM 60 miles West of Martinique, U-156 damages American SS Delplata with 3 torpedoes (all 40 crew and 13 gunners abandon ship in 4 lifeboats & 3 rafts, picked up next day by WWI-era minesweeper converted to small seaplane tender USS Lapwing which also shells and sinks SS Delplata). U-156 then stops at Vichy French Martinique to put ashore Leutnant zur See von dem Borne wounded by the deck gun explosion 4 days ago (causing a minor diplomatic rift between USA and Vichy France). Italian submarine Torelli joins the Antilles cruise, sinking British SS Scottish Star (4 killed, 69 survivors) 770 miles East of Martinique.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day 903 February 19, 1942

Overnight, Japanese troops land unopposed at Denpasar, Bali. At 7 AM, 13 US heavy bombers and 7 dive bombers attack the 4 Japanese destroyers and 2 transports in raids lasting all day (transport ship Sagami Maru is badly damaged by a bomb in the engine room). At 10 PM, Japanese destroyers Asashio and Oshio escort the crippled Sagami Maru through the Badung Strait when Dutch cruisers HNLMS De Ruyter and HNLMS Java and 3 destroyers arrive. In an exchange of torpedoes and gunfire, Dutch destroyer HNLMS Piet Hein is hit with torpedoes and sinks (64 killed). Cruisers De Ruyter & Java and US destroyers USS John D. Ford & USS Pope retire.

At 8.45 AM, Japanese aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryū and Sōryū launch 71 dive bombers and 81 bombers escorted by 36 Zero fighters. From 9.58 to 10.40 AM, they bomb the RAAF airfield, port facilities and ships in harbour at Darwin, Australia, sinking US destroyer USS Peary (93 killed, 49 are rescued or swim to shore), transport ships USAT Meigs, SS Zealandia & SS Mauna Loa, freighter MV Neptuna, tanker MV British Motorist and coal storage hulk Kelat. 7 Japanese aircraft and 4 American P-40 fighters are shot down (3 more P-40s destroyed on the ground). A second wave of 54 Japanese medium bombers from Kendari, Celebes, pummels the RAAF airfield, destroying 6 RAAF Hudson light bombers, a US B-24 Liberator bomber and 2 P-40 fighters.

Washington. President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9066 authorizing exclusion of all persons from military zones, leading to internment of Japanese-Americans.

Day 902 February 18, 1942

German bombers sink British minesweeping trawler HMT Botanic in the North Sea.

WWI-era US destroyer USS Truxton runs aground and disintegrates in heavy weather on Ferryland Point, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. Despite the help of locals, 119 crew die (33 survivors).

In the Gulf of Mexico 95 miles North of the Panama Canal, the massive Free French submarine Surcouf (an "underwater cruiser" armed with two 8-inch guns), en route for Tahiti via the Panama Canal, collides with American merchant ship Thomson Lykes and sinks (all 130 hands lost).

Dutch East Indies. Allied air reconnaissance spots Japanese troop convoys on the move towards Bali and Timor. ABDA Naval forces are scattered around Indonesia following their sortie into the Bangka Strait 3 days ago, so Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman orders them to converge in the Java Sea. Japanese bombers attack Surabaya harbor, Java. Dutch WWI-era coastal defense ship Surabaya (a pantserschip sporting a 75mm mortar and 2 Krupp 11-inch guns) is sunk in shallow water but will be raised by the Japanese and used as a floating battery. Dutch submarine K7 is submerged as protection from the bombs (unfortunately this does not work, K7 is destroyed with all 13 hands lost).

Burma. General Hutton, GOC Burma Command, visits the rapidly disintegrating defenses of Indian 17th Infantry Division along the Bilin River. He gives 17th Division’s commander General Smyth permission to fall back 30 miles to better defenses on the Sittang River.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 901 February 17, 1942

At 4.30 AM, Warrant Flying Officer Nobuo Fujita flies a two-seater Yokosuka E14Y floatplane from Japanese submarine I-25 over Sydney Harbour for reconnaissance of the airfield. By 7.30 AM, the floatplane is stowed and I-25 heads South towards Melbourne.

Dutch East Indies. At 8 AM, 9 Japanese troop transports depart Ambon for Timor, escorted by cruiser Jintsu and 8 destroyers.

In the Bangka Strait 67 miles West of Billiton Island, Dutch destroyer HMNS Van Nes, escorting Dutch troopship Sloet van Beele carrying troops from Billiton to Batavia (Jakarta), is sunk by Japanese bombers from aircraft carrier Ryujo (69 killed, 60 survivors).

Singapore. 3000 British civilians are sent to Changi prison while 50,000 British and Australian troops march to nearby Selarang Barracks to be interned as POWs (10,298 British and 7777 Australian POWs will die in Japanese work camps, many building the Burma Railway from Rangoon, Burma, to Bangkok, Thailand). Indian POWs are taken to playing fields at Farrer Park and addressed by Captain Mohan Singh who is collaborating with the Japanese. Thousands are persuaded to rebel against British rule and join the Japanese, leading to the formation of the Indian National Army (40,000 will join by the end of 1942).

Burma. Japanese cross Bilin River in strength and begin to encircle Indian 17th Infantry Division.

At 10.17 PM 250 miles South of Iceland, U-136 sinks British MV Empire Comet (all 38 crew and 8 gunners killed).

180 miles West of the Japanese island of Kyūshū, US submarine USS Triton sinks Japanese freighter Shinyo Maru No.5 and damages another.

Frequent bad weather at Kendari, Celebes, has frustrated Japanese bombing of Java causing them to seek alternative airfields on the island of Bali. Capture of Bali would also prevent air reinforcements to Java from Australia but an invasion fleet is vulnerable to attack due to proximity to ABDA air and sea forces on Java. Overnight, Japanese transports Sasego Maru and Sagami Maru escorted by cruiser Nagara and 7 destroyers depart Makassar, Celebes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 900 February 16, 1942

In 71 days, Japanese have captured Hong Kong, advanced down the Malay peninsula and captured Singapore, invaded Southern Burma and threaten Rangoon, occupied most Philippines island and compressed the American defenders into the Southern Bataan peninsula, captured Borneo and several minor islands in the Dutch East Indies (although Sumatra and Java are still in Allied hands), captured Wake Island and occupied other outlying islands in the middle of the Pacific.

The island of Timor is important to ABDA as a staging post for flights from Australia to Java, Dutch East Indies. A troop convoy (4 transport ships carrying a battalion of Australian infantry, 1 anti-aircraft battery and US 147th/148th Field Artillery, escorted by US cruiser USS Houston & destroyer USS Peary plus Australian sloops HMAS Swan & HMAS Warrego but with no air cover) departed yesterday from Darwin, Australia to reinforce defenses on Timor. In the morning, the convoy is attacked in the middle of the Timor Sea by 36 Japanese bombers and 10 seaplanes flying from Kendari, Celebes. The convoy scatters and anti-aircraft fire from USS Houston keeps the bombers at a distance. Near misses damage US troop transport Miegs and US freighter Mauna Loa (2 killed, 18 wounded). Fearing further attack from Japanese aircraft carriers known to be in the vicinity, the convoy turns back to Darwin.

Following the success of Operation Drumbeat raiding shipping off the East coast of USA, U-67, U-129, U-156, U-161 and U-502 start coordinated attacks on Dutch and Venezuelan oil ports in the Southern Caribbean (Operation Neuland). U-156 torpedoes 3 tankers laying at anchor off the Dutch island of Aruba (sinking 2) and also shells the Lago oil refinery at San Nicolas, Aruba. The deck gun explodes because the gun crew forgets to remove the water plug (Matrosengefreiter Heinrich Büssinger is killed while gunnery officer Leutnant zur See Dietrich von dem Borne loses his right foot and will be dropped off at the French island of Martinique on February 21). U-502 sinks 3 small tankers in the Gulf of Venezuela.

10 miles off the coast of Virginia in the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, US tanker E.H. Blum hits a US mine and breaks in two (all 40 hands picked up from 4 lifeboats by Coast Guard cutter Woodbury). Both halves of the ship remain afloat and will be towed to Philadelphia and rejoined, allowing E.H. Blum to return to service.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 899 February 15, 1942

Singapore. Churchill gives General Wavell “discretion to cease resistance”, which Wavell passes on to Malaya commander General Percival. At 9.30 AM, Percival meets with senior military and civilian leaders. Low on ammunition, with dead and wounded piling up and no fresh water supply, they agree that further resistance is futile. Percival dispatches a delegation at 11.30 AM with a white flag and a Union Jack, following Japanese instructions, but they are sent back by the Japanese who want Percival to surrender in person. At 5.15 PM, Percival returns with the white flag and Union Jack to meet General Yamashita in the Ford Motor Factory at Bukit Timah. After 50 minutes of one-sided negotiations, Percival agrees to an 8.30 PM ceasefire and surrender. Japanese have 5092 casualties (1714 killed) but capture 500 mortars, artillery, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns. 65,000 Indian, 35,000 British, 15,000 Australian and 15,000 Malay troops go into captivity, where many will die. Numerous Allied troops escape overnight on small boats including Australian General Gordon Bennett who will be reprimanded for not seeking permission from Percival, his superior officer. To impose order on the island, Japanese will slaughter 5000 Chinese civilians as an example.

Sumatra, Dutch East Indies. British tug HMS Yin Ping is sunk by Japanese naval gunfire in Bangka Straits (50 killed, 25 survivors). Japanese aircraft from Malaya and the carrier Ryūjō attack the ABDA fleet of 5 cruisers and 11 destroyers forcing them to return to Batavia, Java. Dutch destroyer HNMS Van Ghent runs aground on the Bamidjo reef off Billiton Island and is abandoned (all hands taken off by destroyer HNMS Banckert). The departure of the ABDA warships allows the Japanese amphibious landings to go ahead entering the mouth of the Musi River (40 miles North of Palembang). RAF send 22 Hurricanes, 35 Blenheims and 3 Hudsons to attack the landing craft, sinking 20 (100 Japanese killed). Another 100 Japanese paratroopers reinforce yesterday’s landing and prevent destruction of the oil refinery at Palembang by retreating Allied soldiers. British troop transport ship, the liner Ocrades, arrives at Oosthaven on Sumatra carrying Australian 3,400 troops but is sent on to Java without disembarking the troops

Burma. Japanese attack Indian 17th Infantry Division defenses on the Bilin River and immediately begin infiltrating across the narrow waterway.

Japanese submarine I-165 sinks Danish SS Johanne Justesen off the Southern tip of India (1 killed).

U-432 and U-566 each sink 1 merchant ship off the East coast of USA.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 898 February 14, 1942

At 3.37 AM Southeast of Nova Scotia, U-576 sinks British catapult armed merchant ship Empire Spring (all 53 hands lost).

At 8.17 AM in the Bay of Bengal 2 miles off the East coast of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Japanese submarine I-166 sinks British freighter SS Kamuning, carrying rice from Burma to Ceylon (6 killed, 63 survivors rescued by HMT Balta).

Hawaii. Japanese submarine I-23 disappears while patrolling South of Oahu (cause unknown).

Philippines. 91 miles East of Davao, Mindanao, US submarine USS Swordfish sinks Japanese transport ship Amagisan Maru.

Singapore. Mindful of Churchill’s orders (“fight to the bitter end, at all costs”), ABDA commander General Wavell refuses Percival’s request for permission to surrender, replying “you must continue to inflict maximum damage on the enemy as long as possible by house-to-house fighting if necessary…continued action essential”. Japanese push back 1st Malay Brigade on the coastal perimeter and reach the Alexandra Barracks Hospital at 12.30 PM (323 staff and patients massacred, including patients bayoneted on operating tables or in their beds).

The evacuation ships which left Singapore yesterday for Java run into the Japanese invasion fleet heading to Sumatra. Japanese cruiser Yura, destroyers Fubuki and Asagiri sink river gunboat HMS Scorpion. Japanese bombers from carrier Ryujo sink tugs HMS Pengawal, HMRT St. Breock and HMS St. Just, minelayer HMS Kung Wo and river gunboats HMS Grasshopper and HMS Dragonfly (Dragonfly’s mascot Judy, a pointer dog, is captured becoming the only dog registered as a Prisoner of War. Judy will be awarded the Dickin Medal, the animal VC). Auxiliary armed patrol vessel Li Wo rams a Japanese transport ship before being sunk by shellfire (74 killed including the captain Temporary Lt. Wilkinson who wins the VC, 10 rescued but 3 of those will die as POWs). The launch carrying Admiral Spooner and RAF Chief in Malaya Air Vice Marshall Pulford runs aground on a malarial island where both men will die in a few weeks. SS Vyner Brooke carrying wounded soldiers and Australian nurses is sunk by Japanese bombers in the Banka Strait (125 killed). 21 nurses and some injured men reach Bangka Island and surrender to the Japanese, who machinegun them on the beach (a nurse, Sister Lt Vivian Bullwinkel, is the only survivor).

Sumatra, Dutch East Indies. Japanese invasion begins with 360 paratroopers of 1st Airborne Division landing at Pangkalanbenteng airfield and oil facilities near the capital, Palembang. ABDA fleet of 5 cruisers and 11 destroyers sails from Batavia, Java, to meet the Japanese invasion fleet and prevents planned amphibious landings.

Burma. Indian 17th Infantry Division is ordered to stop the Japanese advance North towards Rangoon at the Bilin River. Their commander General George Smyth VC considers the river “a ditch” and has plans to hold the line at better defensive positions further North on the 1 mile-wide Sitttang River. However, he is overruled by General Thomas Hutton, GOC Burma Command, (a career staff officer and previously Wavell’s Chief of Staff in India).

Overnight, British submarine P38 sinks Italian steamer Ariosto which is carrying 410 men including 294 Allied POWs from Tripoli, Libya, to Palermo, Italy (252 survivors rescued by Italian destroyer Premuda and torpedo boat Polluce).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 897 February 13, 1942

At 3 AM in the Gulf of Taranto, Italy, Italian torpedo boat Circe spots British sub HMS Tempest on the surface and attacks. HMS Tempest dives but suffers repeated damage from multiple depth charges, finally surfacing at 9 AM due to chlorine gas leaking from a cracked battery. Tempest’s crew abandons ship but 39 men are lost (24 rescued and taken prisoner). Tempest sinks as Circe is preparing a tow.

Singapore. While the bombardment of the city continues, Japanese make small gains in the Western perimeter and dislodge British 55th Brigade (18th Division) from the last reservoir to deprive the city of water. General Percival confers with his senior Generals (Bennett, Heath and Key) who all recommend surrender. Percival loses their respect when he refuses adding “I have my honour to consider”. General Heath is openly contemptuous in reply “You need not bother about your honour. You lost that a long time ago up in the North (Malaya)”. Percival gives in and wires ABDA commander General Wavell for permission to surrender. British Admiral Spooner orders the final evacuation of Navy and merchant ships to Batavia (now Jakarta) on the island of Java, with estimated space for 3000 key military and civilian personnel. At 6.30 PM, a convoy of 44 ships leaves Singapore, including SS Vyner Brooke with wounded and 64 Australian nurses of the 2/13th Australian General Hospital. In their path lies a large flotilla of Japanese submarines and warships (1 aircraft carrier, 8 cruisers, 12 destroyers, 1 frigate, 5 minesweepers and 3 submarine chasers) preparing for the invasion of Palembang on Sumatra, Dutch East Indies. Japanese bombers (shore-based and from carrier Ryujo) sink freighter SS Subador, tankers Manvantara & Merula and numerous other ships.

Dutch Borneo. Japanese Land and Sea Drive Units converge on the capital Bandjarmasin, which is taken unopposed as 500 Dutch troops have orders to take to the jungle to fight a guerilla war. Japanese lose only 9 killed to Dutch fire but have 80% of their troops infected with malaria after the march through the jungle

Bataan. Battle of the Points. Despite a fierce counterattack yesterday by the remaining 200 Japanese troops, US/Filipino forces clear the last Japanese beachhead in Southern Bataan at Anyasan and Silaiim Points. 80 Japanese escape North heading to their own lines but are detected and annihilated 4 days later. 2 Japanese infantry battalions have been wiped out since the first landings behind US lines on January 23 (1800 killed). Battle of the Pockets. Big Pocket is finally eliminated as 500 Japanese troops break out North to return to their own lines, leaving behind 450 dead.

Java, Dutch East Indies. At 9 PM in the Java Sea 80 miles Northwest of Batavia, Japanese submarine I-55 sinks British ammunition ship Derrymore (9 killed, 236 cling to wreckage overnight and are rescued at 4PM next day by Australian minesweeper HMAS Ballarat or reach a nearby island and picked up 3 days later by Dutch minesweeper Cheribon). On board is injured Australian RAF pilot John Gorton who will go on to be Prime Minister of Australia from 1968-1971.

Day 896 February 12, 1942

At 2 AM, German bombers sink British destroyer HMS Maori (at anchor in Malta’s Grand Harbour) with a bomb that explodes in the engine room (2 killed, 6 wounded but most crewmen are asleep ashore). Destroyer HMS Decoy moored nearby is damaged by the explosion (2 killed).

Channel Dash. At 10.42 AM in the English Channel off Dieppe, France, 2 RAF Spitfires on patrol spot German battleships Scharnhorst & Gneisenau and cruiser Prinz Eugen, escorted by 6 destroyers, 13 torpedo boats, 26 Schnellboot (motor torpedo boats) and heavily guarded by dozens of Luftwaffe fighters. British are taken completely by surprise (as they expect an overnight run through the Channel, under cover of darkness). Coastal 9-inch guns at South Foreland fire 33 rounds, scoring no hits as the German ships are too close to the French coast to spot the falling shells. Uncoordinated attacks by Fleet Air Arm Swordfish torpedo bombers, RAF medium bombers, Royal Navy motor torpedo boats and destroyers are all unsuccessful. 37 British aircraft are shot down (23 killed including FAA Lieutenant Commander Esmonde who wins the VC for leading the suicidal Swordfish attack). Destroyer HMS Worcester is pounded by Gneisenau’s 8-inch and 11-inch guns but does not sink (27 killed, 45 wounded, under repair until August). Scharnhorst hits 2 mines & Gneisenau hits 1 mine but the damage is repaired and all German ships reach their home ports safely.

In the Gulf of Taranto, British submarine HMS Una mistakenly sinks Italian tanker Lucania which had been given safe passage to refuel ships repatriating Italian civilians from Eritrea.

Singapore. Japanese are not prepared for a final offensive but probing attacks make some dents in the Allied line West of the city. General Percival takes the lull as an opportunity to give up more ground, abandoning the majority of the island to defend the city perimeter. He pulls back the rest of British 18th Division from the Northeast and brings in Malay and Singapore Volunteer forces from their pointless defense of the Southeast shore. Japanese concentrate bombing, strafing by fighters and long-range artillery (across the Johore Strait) on the city, flooding hospitals with civilians in addition to wounded soldiers from the perimeter. Cruiser HMS Durban, destroyers HMS Stronghold & HMS Jupiter and steamers Empire Star & Gorgon depart before daylight, carrying many Royal Navy personnel to Batavia (now Jakarta), Java. HMS Durban is attacked 17 times by Japanese bombers, losing her forward 6 inch gun (8 killed) and Empire Star is also hit by 3 bombs.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 895 February 11, 1942

At 1.33 AM South of Iceland, U-136 fires 4 torpedoes at convoy SC-67 sinking Norwegian MV Heina (all 30 hands picked up by Canadian corvette HMCS Dauphin) and Canadian corvette HMCS Spikenard (57 killed, 8 survivors on a raft picked up 19 hours later by British corvette HMS Gentian).

Dutch East Indies. At 1.37 AM in the Molucca Sea 20 miles West of the island of Halmahera, Japanese destroyer Yamakaze spots US sub USS Shark on the surface and sinks her with shellfire from the 5" guns (all 54 crew lost as survivors are left to drown). Japanese invasion force departs Cam Ranh Bay, French Indo-China, for Palembang on the island of Sumatra, Dutch East Indies.

Singapore. ABDA commander General Wavell, who visited Singapore yesterday, provides this encouragement “There must be no thought of sparing troops or the civil population. There must be no question or thought of surrender. Every unit must fight it out to the end”. Japanese lack artillery shells for a major offensive so General Yamashita bluffs by dropping 29 copies of a demand for the British surrender. General Percival, chastened by Wavell’s order, does not respond. Australian and British forces are thrown in piecemeal to retake the village of Bukit Timah, but they are picked off one-by-one by the Japanese (a scratch force “X Battalion” is surrounded and annihilated, with 150 killed). Although Percival finally brings the fresh British 18th Division into the action, Japanese probing attacks gradually push the Allied line back towards the city of Singapore. Australian troops, who have borne the brunt of the fighting so far, start abandoning the line and even boarding boats carrying civilians off the island.

US forces arrive to reinforce Dutch islands Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba in the Southern Caribbean.

Operation Cerberus. At 11.30 PM, German battleships Scharnhorst & Gneisenau and cruiser Prinz Eugen leave Brest, France, heading for the English Channel (the “Channel Dash”). They are escaping regular RAF bombing, which has been ineffective so far, to safety in the German ports of Wilmshaven and Kiel (via the Kiel Canal). They set out on a moonless night to achieve surprise and get as far into the Straits of Dover before the British can attack.

Day 894 February 10, 1942

Singapore. In a series of organizational and communication disasters, Allied troops give up successive defensive positions despite limited Japanese pressure. As they fall back to the Jurong Line, Australian 22nd Brigade’s General Taylor misinterprets contingency plans and orders a retreat past Jurong Road. This exposes the flanks of neighbouring Indian units and precipitates an uncoordinated series of withdrawals to Woodland Road (the main road running South across the island from the causeway). Overnight, the pursuing Japanese outflank Woodland Road positions and capture the vital high ground at Bukit Timah, dominating the city of Singapore and 2 reservoirs on which the residents depend for water. Indicating the speed of the retreat, Japanese find a large cache of food and petrol in what had been considered an Allied rearguard area earlier in the day.

Battle of Bataan. Although the Japanese have halted their offensive on the Orion-Bagac line, 500 troops are still in the “Big Pocket”. US forces attempt to destroy the pocket, while Japanese try to extricate the trapped force.

Eastern Front. Luftwaffe begins flying supplies into the 2 airfields inside the Demyansk Pocket to feed and supply the 100,000 encircled German troops. A much smaller German force is also surrounded 55 miles Southwest at Kholm.

Merchant ships on the American East coast continue to sail individually along marked routes with normal lights ablaze, instead of grouping in convoys and dimming lights. Also, there is no shore blackout, easily silhouetting ships at night. To aid US defenses against the havoc being caused to East Coast shipping by U-boats, Britain offers to transfer anti-submarine ships to US Navy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 893 February 9, 1942

U-85 and U-654 attack convoy ON-60 450 miles East of Cape Race, Newfoundland. Just after midnight, U-654 torpedoes Free French corvette Alysse, which was launched as HMS Alyssum for the Royal Navy and loaned to the Free French in June 1941 (36 killed, 34 survivors rescued by Canadian corvettes HMCS Moosejaw and HMCS Hepatica. HMCS Hepatica attempts to tow Alysse which sinks next day). At 8.20 PM, after a 7 hour chase, U-85 sinks British SS Empire Fusilier (9 killed, 32 crew and 6 gunners were picked up by Canadian corvettes HMCS Barrie).

Singapore. Japanese capture Tengah airfield, having secured 14 square miles on the West side of the island in 24 hours, then pause as 10,000 reinforcements pour onto their beachheads. British General Percival still believes a further attack will fall on the Northeast corner so he fails to move British 18th Division into the fight. At 9 PM, 4th Imperial Guard Regiment crosses Johore Strait and lands at Kranji in the middle of Singapore’s Northern shore, aiming to capture (and then repair) the damaged causeway. They are decimated by machinegun and mortar fire from Australian 27th Brigade as well as oil from opened storage tanks which ignites and incinerates the boats. Overnight Australian 27th Brigade unexpectedly pulls back 3 miles from the waterfront allowing subsequent waves of Japanese to land unopposed.

Celebes. At dawn, Sasebo Combined Special Naval Landing Force lands at Makassar. They capture the city almost unopposed as most Dutch forces have moved 50 miles inland to make a last stand at the fortifications at Tjama. Dutch native troops defending a bridge at Makassar are tied in groups of three after being captured and thrown into the water to drown.

In the Bangka Straits between the Dutch East Indies islands of Sumatra and Bangka, British river gunboat HMS Scorpion is damaged by Japanese bombers.

US submarine USS Trout torpedoes and sinks the Japanese auxiliary gunboat Chuwa Maru 50 miles Northeast of Formosa (Taiwan).

Japanese submarine I-69 shells Sand Island, Midway, but is strafed and damaged by US Marine Brewster Buffaloes of VMF 221.

In New York, French luxury liner SS Normandie (impounded by USA in May 1941) is being converted to troopship USS Lafayette. At 2.30 PM, a fire starts which spreads out of control. Lafayette capsizes at midnight.

In the Mediterranean, British cruiser HMS Cleopatra is damaged by a bomber (en route from Gibraltar to Malta) and destroyer HMS Farndale is heavily damaged by Luftwaffe aircraft off the coast of Egypt. Italian aircraft raid Alexandria, Egypt.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 892 February 8, 1942

Singapore. 30,000 Japanese face an Allied force of 90,000 (40,000 combat veterans, 35,000 poorly-trained and untested troops plus 15,000 rearguard non-combatants) across Johore Strait. The best landing sites are mangrove swamps in Northwest Singapore where the Strait is 600 yards wide. Contrarily, General Percival expects the attack to come on the Northeast side where the water is twice as wide (a notion reinforced by landings yesterday on the island of Pulau Ubin); consequently, a thick concentration of trained and rested British troops of 18th Division defends this sector. At 10.30 AM, Japanese artillery opens up on the entire North shore of Singapore and 5th & 18th Divisions begin loading into 300 small rubber boats with outboard motors plus some larger, slower barges. At 10.30 PM, shelling stops and first wave of 4000 troops gets ashore on the Northwest coast defended by Australian 22nd Brigade. Allied artillery is not called down on the landing fleet due to overground wires cut by Japanese shells; however, Australian machinegunners open up on 2nd and 3rd waves as the landing craft return. Searchlights placed to illuminate the mangrove swamps fail to come on, hindering defensive firing and allowing Japanese to infiltrate through the jungle and bypass the defenses. Overnight, Australian 22nd Brigadeis surrounded and overrun and 13,000 Japanese push towards their objective of Tengah airfield.

Battle of Bataan. At 8 AM, Filipino troops on top of the cliff lower sheets to mark the Japanese positions and 2 US naval motor launches wipe out the few remaining Japanese troops at Quinauan Point with 37mm shellfire and machineguns. Japanese have 600 killed (plus another 300 killed previously at Longoskawayan Point) while US/Filipino forces have 82 casualties at Longoskawayan and 500 casualties at Quinauan Point. Japanese General Homma meets with his commanders at San Fernando to discuss lack of progress on Bataan. He decides to withdraw his troops from the Orion-Bagac line, rest and reorganize his Army and call on Tokyo for reinforcements.

Dutch Borneo. Japanese Sea Drive Unit lands 50 miles Southeast of the capital Bandjarmasin, having sailed down the coast from Balikpapan moving only at night and hiding in river banks during the day camouflaged with mangrove branches. They will advance overland to the Martapoera airfield.

Celebes, Dutch East Indies. Japanese invasion force from Kendari arrives off Makassar. US submarine S-37 cannot reach the troop transports and attacks the destroyer screen at 8.36 PM, firing 1 torpedo at each of 4 destroyers. Destroyer Natsushio is hit, breaks in 2 and sinks immediately (10 killed, 229 survivors rescued by destroyer Kuroshio). S-37 dives and is depth charged by the other destroyers without damage.

Soviet 11th Army and 3rd/4th Shock Army meet at Zaluch’e, 30 miles West of Demyansk, encircling 100,000 German troops (12th, 30th, 32nd, 123rd and 290th Infantry Divisions and SS-Division Totenkopf plus auxiliary units) in the Demyansk Pocket.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 891 February 7, 1942

Siege of Leningrad Day 153. Eastern Front. Soviet offensive Northwest of Moscow to relieve Leningrad is also stalling out. Germans hold another salient South of Lake Ilmen, from their railhead at Staraya Russa to Demyansk. Soviet 11th Army, 34th Army, and 3rd Shock Army press in on the German defenses.

Dutch East Indies. Japanese aircraft bomb Palembang on Sumatra destroying 34 RAF aircraft. 30 miles off the North coast of Java, Japanese submarine I-55 sinks Dutch passenger ship Van Cloon with shellfire (all 187 on board rescued by American yacht USS Isabel). I-55 is attacked by USS Isabel and a PBY Catalina floatplane. Van Cloon will be raised and commissioned into Japanese Navy as transport ship Tatebe Maru. USAAF B-17 bombers from Java unsuccessfully attack Japanese shipping off Balikpapan, Borneo.

Singapore. Japanese shelling is getting heavier. In the evening, 400 Japanese Imperial Guards Division troops land unopposed on the island of Pulau Ubin in the Strait of Johore separating Singapore from Malaya. Pulau Ubin lies Northeast of Singapore and the landings are a feint for the main assault to come at the Western end.

Japanese submarine I-25 launches its floatplane to reconnoiter Sydney, Australia.

Libya. Panzer Army Afrika reaches the British defensive line running from Gazzala on the coast 30 miles inland to the fort at Bir Hacheim. Neither side has the resources and spirit to attack so here they will wait, recover and resupply. Despite losing many ships in recent months to German submarines and air attack, Royal Navy continues efforts to disrupt Rommel’s supply lines across the Mediterranean. British destroyers HMS Zulu and HMS Lively from Malta seek Italian merchant ships running to Libya but sink only trawler Grongo and tiny steamer Aosta (survivors rescued by Italian motor torpedo boats).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Day 890 February 6, 1942

Eastern Front. Soviet counteroffensive is running out of steam in a series of ragged engagements West of Moscow. German Gruppe Scherer continues to hold Kholm, supplied by airdrops, in the rear of Soviet 3rd Shock Army which is held up at the town of Velikie Luki. Germans hold a giant salient from Vyazma to Rzhev but Soviet infantry, cavalry and parachute attacks all fail to cut the supply route through Vyazma. Moreover, Model’s German 9th Army at Rzhev has cut off Soviet 29th and 39th Armies, which were themselves trying to surround Rzhev.

Battle of the Atlantic. Near Bermuda, U-106 sinks British MV Opawa (carrying 8575 tons of refrigerated food and 3000 tons of lead) and U-109 sinks Panamanian SS Halcyon. 420 Northeast of the Azores, U-82 (returning from operations off the US East Coast) attacks convoy OS-18. British sloop HMS Rochester and corvette HMS Tamarisk counterattack with depth charges and sink U-82 (all 45 hands lost).

Battle of Bataan. Filipino troops attempt to dislodge Japanese holed up in caves at the end of Quinauan Point by tossing sticks (or even whole 50-lb boxes) of dynamite on time fuzes over the cliff to the mouth of the caves. Despite continued assaults by both sides, a stalemate is developing at the Orion-Bagac line and around the Japanese “Big Pocket”.

Island of Celebes, Dutch East Indies. Japanese landing force (6 troop transports, escorted by cruiser Nagara, 11 destroyers and 2 minesweepers) leaves Kendari on the East coast heading for Makassar, the capital, on the West coast.

Singapore. Japanese artillery and aerial bombardment continues. Commercial vessels and Allied warships start leaving Singapore, many evacuating Western civilians while the Chinese and Indian populations are left to suffer the bombs and shells.

Overnight, 60 aircraft from RAF Bomber Command attack German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in dock at Brest, France, but do little damage.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 889 February 5, 1942

Soviet submarine Shch-421 sinks German steamer Konsul Schulte in the Porsanger Fjord, off Honningsvaag (Northernmost point of mainland Norway).

Battle of Bataan. Japanese continue to assault the Orion-Bagac line. However, the US-Filipino defenses hold out but cannot eliminate the Japanese “Big Pocket” behind their own lines.

Bali, Dutch East Indies. 25 USAAF Curtiss P-40 Warhawks (20th Provisional Pursuit Squadron), flying from Darwin Australia, to Java, stop to refuel in Bali. They are attacked by Japanese aircraft (4 P-40s destroyed on the ground, 4 P-40s and 4 Japanese shot down). Only 17 P-40s will reach Java.

Singapore. Japanese artillery and aircraft inflict heavy bombardment on docks and defenses. In the Strait of Singapore, 9 Japanese divebombers sink British troopship RMS Empress of Asia (1 crewman and 15 troops killed). Empress of Asia is sailing alone, carrying troops and supplies from Liverpool via Africa and Bombay, India, having fallen behind the rest of convoy BM12. Australian sloop HMAS Yarra comes alongside and takes off 1804 survivors but all the weapons and equipment are lost.

20 miles Southeast of Cape May, New Jersey, U-103 uses torpedoes and the deck gun to sink 2 large Mobil tankers (each carrying over 80,000 barrels of fuel); India Arrow at 1.53 AM (26 dead, 12 survivors picked up next day by 2 men out fishing in a 24-ft boat) and China Arrow at 6.08 PM (all 37 crew picked up from 3 lifeboats 3 days later by US Coast Guard cutter USS Nike).

At 10.36 PM 330 miles West of Ireland, U-136 sinks British corvette HMS Arbutus escorting convoy ON-63 (43 killed, 47 survivors).

Libya. Rommel’s Panzer Army Afrika captures Derna and Tmimi. They are only 20 miles from the British defenses on the Gazzala line.

Day 888 February 4, 1942

Siege of Leningrad is in its 150th day.

At 9.49 AM, ABDA Strike Force (sailing to intercept Japanese troop convoy in the Makassar Strait) is spotted in the Bali Sea by Japanese aircraft heading to bomb Allied naval base at Surabaya on Java, Dutch East Indies. Japanese bombers instead attack the Allied cruisers. USS Marblehead is damaged by 2 direct hits destroying the steering and a near miss leaving a hole near the waterline (15 crew killed). With USS Marblehead immobilized, the attack switches to USS Houston (hit once near the aft gun turret, 48 killed) and then Dutch cruiser HNLMS De Ruyter (minor damage, 7 killed). 4 Japanese aircraft are shot down. The planned interception of the troop convoy is abandoned and ABDA Strike Force returns to bases on Java for repairs.

Celebes Island, Dutch East Indies. US submarine USS Sculpin torpedoes Japanese destroyer Sukukaze at mouth of Staring Bay near Kendari. Sukukaze sustains major damage (9 killed), returns to Staring Bay and then sails to Sasebo, Japan, for repairs until July 23.

On the island of New Britain, Territory of New Guinea, Japanese troops murder 130 Australian POWs at the Tol Plantation, Rabaul.

Battle of Bataan. At dawn, American tanks move forward into Japanese beachhead at Quinauan Point, spraying the area with machinegun fire and knocking out strong points. Japanese troops, forced back into an area 100 yards wide at the cliff edge, jump into the sea or climb down to the rock ledge below to continue the defense rather than surrender.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Day 887 February 3, 1942

At 3 AM, 6 Japanese flying boats bombed Port Moresby in Southern New Guinea, only 250 miles from the Northern tip of Australia (1 civilian killed).

Ambon, Dutch East Indies. Remaining Australian troops of “Gull Force” surrender the tiny island to the Japanese. Mistreatment of wounded Australian and Dutch prisoners at Laha airfield begins immediately and about 100 will die over the next few days. Japanese will soon press the airfield into use.

Java, Dutch East Indies. Japanese bombers attack Allied naval base at Surabaya and other targets, destroying 5 USAAF B-17 bombers. Allied air reconnaissance reports a Japanese invasion force (20 troop transport, escorted by 3 cruisers and 10 destroyers) off Balikpapan, Dutch Borneo, possibly heading across the Makassar Strait to Makassar on the West coast of the island of Celebes. Allied warships (2 Dutch cruisers HNLMS De Ruyter and HNLMS Tromp, 2 US cruisers USS Houston and USS Marblehead, escorted by 3 Dutch and 4 US destroyers) leave Surabaya to intercept.

Burma. Burmese 2nd Infantry Brigade and the rest of 17th Indian Division conduct a fighting withdrawal 80 miles North from Martaban to new defensive positions on the Bilin River, to prevent Japanese advance on Rangoon. Chiang Kai-shek sends Chinese 5th and 6th Armies into Northern Burma to aid the defense of the Burma Road supply line to China.

Allied withdrawal from Rommel continues in Libya. British 1st Armored Division abandons Mechili in the desert and Indian 4th Division retreats from Derna on the coast.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 886 February 2, 1942

At 7.46 AM, U-751 hits Dutch tanker Corilla, carrying 10.500 tons of aviation fuel, with 1 of 3 torpedoes. Corolla does not explode, there are no injuries and the tanker returns to Halifax for repairs.

Near Pico Island in the Azores, British destroyer HMS Westcott (escorting troopship Llangibby Castle to Gibraltar) sinks U-581 with depth charges (3 killed, 37 taken POW by HMS Westcott). Leutnant zur see Walter Sitek swims 6 km to shore and returns to Germany through neutral Spain. He will go on to command 3 U-boats (U-17, U-981 and U-3005) and survive the war.

Off the East coast of England, German bombers sink British minesweeping trawlers HMT Cloughton Wyke and HMT Cape Spartel.

Soviet 3rd Shock Army attack Kholm. The 5500 German troops, Gruppe Scherer, encircled are being supplied by airdrops on the tiny town.

President Roosevelt and Army Chief of Staff George Marshall confirm American General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell to oversee cooperation with China as Chief of Staff to Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek.

Luzon, Philippines. Overnight, just North of Lingayen Gulf, US submarine Seadragon attacks a Japanese supply convoy and sinks transport ship Tamagawa Maru. Also overnight, Japanese amphibious landing to reinforce the earlier landing at Quinauan Point in the South of Bataan is foiled by combined attack of artillery, infantry weapons and bombing by 4 Curtiss P-40 Warhawks with 100 lb antipersonnel bombs (Americans have prior warning from documents found on a dead Japanese soldier). During the day, American troops with tanks fail to dislodge Japanese beachheads at Quinauan Point. On the Orion-Bagac line, US-Filipino II Corps clears Japanese troops from the Little Pocket.

Singapore. Japanese bombing of docks and naval base forces Allied warships to leave for safer harbours in the Dutch East Indies.

Ambon, Dutch East Indies. Japanese minesweeper W-9, W-11 and W-12 are damaged by Dutch mine while minesweeping in Bay of Ambon (W-9 sinks). Pockets of Australian “Gull Force” start surrendering under shellfire from Japanese warships in the Bay plus bombing and strafing from the air.