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.