German battleship Tirpitz -
most powerful warship afloat in 1942

Project 60: A Day-by-Day Diary of WWII 

Remembering the First Fight Against Fascism

Rangoon abandoned and burnoing as the last Allied ship leaves the harbor   

March 3, 1942

RAF Bomber Command, under its new C-in-C, Air Vice Marshal Harris, attacks the Renault plant in the Paris suburb of Bilancourt with 235 bombers. Damage to the facility was extensive as 300 bombs were reported to have hit the factory, destroying 40% of the plant. 623 French workers were killed and over 1500 injured.

The "second" Pearl Harbor raid occurred as two "Emily" float plane bombers, flying out of the Marshall Islands, and having refueled en-route from a submarine, dropped their eight bombs in the vicinity of Hawaii. Heavy cloud covered hampered the effectiveness of the raid and the closest any bombs came to the naval base was four miles.

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March 4, 1942

US carrier based aircraft raided the Marcus Islands in the central Pacific. Damage to the Japanese base was heavy.

The only Allied surviving ships from the disastrous Battle of the Java Sea, the US destroyers Edwards, Alden, Ford, and Paul Jones, arrive in Freemantle, Australia.

Three-thousand Jews were taken out of the Baranowicze ghetto and killed, ending a two day orgy of killing which claimed 12,000 lives.

A German soldier in Paris was shot dead in a partisan attack. The Germans retaliated by rounding up 20 French Communist Party members and shooting them.

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March 5, 1942

Attacks by the Soviet Central Front succeed in liberating Yukhnov.

Japanese aircraft hit the harbor at Tjilatjap, sinking 17 ships and destroying the port.

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March 6, 1942

The evacuation of Rangoon begins in earnest as all facilities which may be of any use to the Japanese are ordered destroyed.

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March 7, 1942

The Government of the Dutch East Indies flees Java for Australia.

Japanese roadblocks at Taukkyan hamper British troops, attempting to retereat from Rangoon.

Japanese naval forces shell Christmas Island.

The German battleship Tirpitz sorties with three destroyers from her berth in Trondheim in Naorway. Her mission was to intercept an Artic convoy heading for Russia. The British Home Fleet sortied to meet the threat and for several days both sides attempted to hit the other. Both failed.

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March 8, 1942

Large-scale Japanese landings at Lae and Salamaua in New Guinea.

Rangoon falls to the advancing Japanese forces, cutting off the supply line between the Allies and the Nationalist Chinese forces. British forces were able to clear the roadblocks at Taukkyan and continue their retreat northward.

RAF Bomber Command launches a major attack (211 aircraft) in an attack against Essen in the Ruhr. This was the first raid to use the Gee navigational aide, which at least got the British bombers in the immediate vicinity of the city they were to attack. Ground haze from industrial pollution prevented accurate observation of the target area and the results were "disappointing".

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March 9, 1942

The last organized resistance to the Japanese on Java ends. 100,000 Dutch, British, Australian and American soldiers were taken prisoner and 80,000 Dutch civilians were intured. By the end of the war, 8,500 of the Dutch POWs and 10,500 of the civilian internees would be dead.

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1941 Archive:
June | July | August | September | October | November | December

1942 Archive:
  January |  February

Special Editions:
Pearl Harbor

Editor's Corner Archive:

Afghanistan and Vietnam: When the "war against terrorism" began, many knowledgeable people warned that our operations in Afghanistan would turn into another Vietnam.

Want to Win - Think Before You Lash Out - "If we are serious about taking the war to the enemy, it is time to look ..."

The First Fight Against Fascism - We must remember the Spanish Civil War also.

Arguing Victory - "... Each nation who fought against fascist tyranny in WWII brought with it part of whole needed to defeat that evil..." 

War, Glory, Honor and Remembrance - "War is a brutal and savage insult on human society..."

The First Casualty... in time of war, those in power are even more inclined to hide the truth, since that truth is often manifest in the most gruesome and terrible acts.  

Those wishing to contribute items. stories or comments should contact D.A. Friedrichs

Editor's Corner 

The items found in this section are comments from the editors of Project 60 and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of bartcop.

The Afghan War and the Geneva Convention

This is part three of a four-part essay on the application of the Geneva Convention toward the Afghan War. The importance of this issue is that the Bush administration, by its complete misreading of international law has left the United States vulnerable to charges of war crimes. Our nation is better than that and those who supposedly lead us, should not act in criminal manners. Bush, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld have managed, in their ridiculous declaration regarding POWs in this war, to lay waste to any pretext we have to be the guardians of human rights in the world today.

Part one discussed the status of those taken by our forces during the conflict. Part two looked at the Geneva Convention in more detail and clarifies the rights POWs have. Part three examines, in detail, cases of war crimes committed by our soldiers in the field. Part four concludes the essay by examining the ramifications of our actions. 

Part 3: Are US Soldiers Adhering to the Tenets of the Convention?

The Geneva Conventions also have wording regarding the actions of soldiers in combat situations. There are specific actions which are allowed and disallowed. Despite the news blackout from Afghanistan, a startlingly large number of "mistakes" have been reported. Two cases will be discussed in this section - the Hazar Qadam raid and the massacre at Mazar-i-Sharif. Both illustrate some of the potential problems the United States has in the conduct of the war.

Hazar Qadam - On the night of January 23/24, a US Special Forces team raided an arms stockpile outside Hazar Qadam. In the raid, 27 prisoners were taken and 15 people killed. In the days that followed, the Defense Department reported the success of the raid.

However, the real story was somewhat different. Apparently, the raid, executed on information from a disgruntled warlord, was executed against a group of local militia who support the US installed Karzai administration and were involved in disarming the locals.

Upon discovering the error, the "prisoners" were released, with no apology or explanation. Also, the CIA moved in and started distributing cash to the relatives of those killed in the raid.

However, the story didn't die there. When the "prisoners" returned home, they reported that they had been severely beaten. Many had broken ribs and noses. One elderly man has potential kidney and liver damage from his beatings. The "prisoners" had been stripped of their cloths, held in open air cages and subjected to intense and abusive interrogations by their American captors.

More information came out from the raid itself. A report from an eyewitness said that he saw men shouting "We surrender" and then gunfire cut them down. Testimony from the locals indicates that several of the victims in the attack had been found at dawn with their hands bound and fatal wounds to the back of their heads and shoulders. Others were found, simply riddled with bullets or shell fragments.

Mazar-i-Sharif - On the night of November 23/24, Taliban forces in Kunduz surrendered to the Northern Alliance. The Afghan nationals were allowed to return to their villages, but at the insistence of the US government, the foreign Taliban were taken to the fortress at Qala-I-Janghi outside Mazar-i-Sharif. The next day, the Northern Alliance troops started binding the POWs hands behind their backs. About 250 of the 600 POWs had been tied up when two CIA agents came to the fortress-prison to interrogate the captives.

Upon seeing the CIA agents, the prisoners panicked and charged their guards. One of the CIA agents killed four of the prisoners before he and the rest of the armed guards were also killed. The second CIA agent fled and called in US and British Special Forces. 

Over the course of the following days, the fortress was bombed by US aircraft. Reporters photographed gleeful Northern Alliance soldiers pouring magazine after magazine of fire into the compound from the enclosing walls. US Special Forces snipers were engaged to hit those hiding in the fortress buildings. In order to force the "rioting prisoners" out, diesel fuel and water were poured into underground passages.

In the end, only a handful of prisoners survived. The fortress grounds were covered with bodies and parts of bodies. Fifty of the dead were recovered with their hands still bound behind their backs. In all, the "rioting prisoners" were armed with 30 captured rifles, two rocket launchers and two grenade launchers.

The Problems - The common thread in both of these cases is that prisoners, hands bound were attacked by various elements of the US armed forces. This is a war crime.

Article 3 of the Geneva Convention states

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a)     Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture

(b)    Taking of hostages;

(c)     Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d)   The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

In both of these cases, the enemy was rendered defenseless by binding their hands behind their backs. In both cases, defenseless people were killed. They were killed by the armed forces of the United States. That is the problem.

The case of the Hazar Qadam raid is a clear-cut case of war crimes. Nothing can justify the actions of the US Special Forces in this case, assuming the allegations are true. However, the case of the massacre at Qala-I-Janghi fortress deserves a closer look.

In the weeks before the incident, Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, made a number of provocative comments. At various times he indicated that he was "not inclined to negotiate surrender". He also said, "if people will not surrender, then they've made their own choice". In other statements, he made it clear that any foreign troops captured in Afghanistan were not to be released. The Middle-east press was incensed by these incendiary statements, calling Rumsfeld's comments a "green light for wholesale slaughter."

When Mazar-i-Sharif fell to General Dostum's Northern Alliance forces, the capture was accompanied by an orgy of killing and summary executions. These actions were well known and in keeping with General Dostum's methods from his rein of terror from 1992-96. He had succeeded in showing what would happen if anyone resisted his forces.

The Taliban, according to their own statements, surrendered Kunduz, in large part, because of the statements of Rumsfeld and the actions of Dostum. By surrendering, they thought they could avoid the killings. For the Afghans, that was the case. The foreign troops however, were somewhat taken aback by not being released. Many actually killed themselves in preference to being a captive of Dostum. The situation became tense when Dostum's troops started tying up the prisoners and the situation simply exploded when the CIA agents showed up,

Parties to an action are responsible. Rumsfeld's comments and more importantly his insistence that non-Afghan prisoners be held had a great deal to do with this incident. The prisoners were being held because of our desires, they were bound for the safety of our operatives and they were being interrogated by our agents. The violation of the POWs rights by Dostum's "soldiers" and the illegal interrogations by the CIA are what caused the prisoners to their feeble uprising. We bare no small portion of the responsibility for the riot.

Once the prisoners gained arms, our responsibility to them was not at an end. A small handful of men were actually armed yet we chose to kill everyone we could. Article 42 of the Geneva Convention states

The use of weapons against prisoners of war, especially against those who are escaping or attempting to escape, shall constitute an extreme measure, which shall always be preceded by warnings appropriate to the circumstances.

The vast majority of the prisoners killed were still prisoners. They were not under arms, some were bound and defenseless. All, including the armed rioters, were enclosed in a walled fortress, surrounded by thousands of enemy soldiers. There was neither hope for, or attempts to escape. Our response to the uprising was not proportional to the threat that existed. Soldiers of the United States participated willingly in the massacre. This constitutes a war crime and the magnitude of the killing only makes it worse.

In short, some of our soldiers are acting far outside the law. These are the best trained, most disciplined, most capable and finest troops for this type of mission in the world. Yet, these "mistakes" happen. This mission is beyond the capabilities of any armed force and it is wrong for our national command authority to be placing these fine troops in the situation in Afghanistan.


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