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.

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