Project 60 - "The First Fight Against Fascism" - Archives

February, 1942


February 1, 1942

British forces continue to retreat in North Africa, moving toward the Gazala-Bir Hacheim area (west of Tobruk).

Zhukov is promoted to command all Soviet Fronts (army groups) in the Moscow area. His command includes West, Kalinn and Bryansk Fronts.

The Soviets launch a major offensive in the Vyazma area.

German U-boats begin using the “Triton” cipher, replacing the “Hydra” cipher. This move effectively silenced the intelligence take by the British for nearly a year.

February 2, 1942

Heavy fighting is reported in the Crimea as Russian forces retake Feodosiya.

February 3, 1942

German forces, regrouped and reinforced, launch attacks against the overextended Soviet spearheads in the Vyazma region. Several Soviet divisions are encircled in the attack.

Japanese aircraft hit Port Moresby and the naval base at Surabaya on Java.

February 4, 1942  

The Japanese request and the British refuse the surrender of Singapore. The Japanese launch massive air attacks against the city for the next four days.

The Africa Korps recaptures Dema as the British 8th Army continues its withdrawal to the Gazala line.

British forces in Egypt seized the royal palace of King Farouk, forcing the king to appoint a pro-British government.

An Indian troop transport, Empress of Asia, heading to reinforce Singapore, is sunk. Most of the soldiers were rescued, but all equipment and supplies were lost.

February 5, 1942

British efforts to assist the Yugoslavian partisans took a step forward as agents were parachuted into German occupied areas around Sarajevo to link up with the local partisan bands.

February 6, 1942

Japanese forces capture the oil facilities at Samarinda in Borneo.

Among the many killings on this (and every other day), 500 Jews were driven from their homes in Sierpc, Poland, marched toward Mlawa and gunned down on the road.

February 7, 1942

The Japanese launch a diversionary attack, landing a force on Pulua Ubin Island, east of Singapore. The British mistakenly move their force to counter a threat that did not exist.

Running low on supplies and reserves, the Afrika Korps counteroffensive comes to a halt as it approaches the Gazala-Bir Hacheim line. The British have constructed a series of interlocking defensive positions that Rommel is unable to deal with (at this time).

February 8, 1942

The Japanese, meeting little resistance, land on the western side of Singapore Island.

MacArthur informs FDR that the Bataan force has suffered 50% losses and was “near done”. FDR gives permission for MacArhur to surrender the Filipino troops but forbids the surrender of US forces.

The Soviet 11th and 1st Shock Armies link up along the Lovat River west of Demyansk, cutting off the last tenuous land link with the German rear for the 2nd and 10th Corps. In all 90,000 Germans are surrounded in the Demyansk area.

Fritz Todt’s plane crashed on takeoff at Rastenburg. Todt was the brainchild behind the Todt Organization”, which ruthlessly utilized slave labor throughout the Reich. The equally ruthless Albert Speer succeeded Todt.

February 9, 1942

The Japanese 5th and 18th Divisions, having established a secure beachhead on the island, move out to capture the city of Singapore. They succeed in capturing the Tengah airfield, insuring easy and quick resupply. The end for the British in Singapore is only a matter of time.

Japanese forces are hit by counter attacks in Luzon. Heavy casualties are reported, as well as some withdrawals.

Auguste Hirt, head of the Anatomy Institute at the University of Strasbourg wrote Heinrich Himmler indicating, “By procuring the skulls of the Jewish-Bolshevist Commissars, … one has a chance to obtain palpable scientific data. … Following induced death of the Jew, the head, which should not be damaged, should be separated from the body and sent in a hermetically sealed tin can filled with preservative fluid.” Himmler was all to pleased to assist Hirt, supplying 115 such skulls.

February 10, 1942

The 82,423 ton ocean liner Normandie, burned and partially capsized in New York harbor. Propagandists in Berlin attempted to claim they had sabotaged the ship, but investigations showed that a careless dockworker caused the fire.

All RAF personnel were ordered evacuated from Singapore while the other forces were extolled to fight to the last man.

February 11, 1942  

At 2300, the battle cruisers Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and the light cruiser Prinz Eugen, leave the port of Brest and, in a daring move into the English Channel, head for Keil.

 

French-Canadians riot in the streets of Montreal, protesting against the proposed draft by the government. Over a thousand demonstrators battled with local police. 

 

Australia called up all able bodied men up to 35 years and unmarried men up to 40 years for national service.

February 12, 1942

“The Channel Dash”  - Low clouds and rain shroud the German battle cruisers Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and the light cruiser Prinz Eugen, as they move northeast through the English Channel. Because of the bad weather, British aerial patrols did not spot the group until 1100 when a Spitfire from Fighter Command spotted the squadron of Le Touquet, as they entered the Straits of Dover. All available air and naval assets were mobilized to strike at the German ships. The first response came from British Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) which attacked at 1200. Due to the heavy defensive firepower of the German ships, the MTBs were forced to engage from extreme range and missed. At 1300, six British Swordfish Torpedo planes (a venerable biplane affectionately called the “Stringbag”) attacked the ships. Five of the planes were shot down and no torpedoes hit the Germans. By 1430, the Germans were being engaged nearly continuously. Destroyers from Harwich and aircraft from Coastal Command engaged the German ships. Even Bomber Commands heavy strategic bombers flew 242 sorties against the enemy before darkness came. All of these attacks came to naught. In the end, the only damage came when Gneisenau hit a mine at 2035 and Scharnhosrt did the same at 2055.

Japanese forces capture Bandjermasin, capital of Borneo and Macassar, capital of Celebes.

A three ship British convoy from Malta to Alexandria was sunk.

February 13, 1942

Advancing Soviet units cross into Belorusssa as the Winter Offensive continues. German resistance is stiffening and advances are limited.

The “Channel Dash” ends as Scharnhorst puts into Wilhelmshaven and Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen put in at Kiel in the early morning darkness.

Japanese forces at Singapore destroy the massive 15” coastal artillery batteries, eliminating the last major obstacle to their overrunning the island.

February 14, 1942

Japanese paratroops land at Palembang, opening the invasion of Sumatra. 

February 15, 1942

Singapore surrenders to the Japanese. 16,000 British, 14,000 Australian, and 32,000 Indian troops were surrendered after taking 9,000 casualties. The Japanese also lost 9,000 killed and wounded in the campaign. Most of those captured would end up working on the notorious Burma-Thai Railway (remember “Bridge over the River Kwai”?) where half would die before the end of the war.

Japanese forces land at Muntok in Sumatra.

February 16, 1942

German submarines, using their deck cannons, bombard the Dutch oil storage tanks and refineries on Aruba and Curacao in the Caribbean.

In Malaya, 65 Australian nurses and 25 British soldiers surrendered to the Japanese. They were all taken to the beach where the men where bayoneted and shot. The nurses were marched into the sea and a machine gun shot them. Two of the men and one of the nursing sisters survived the slaughter.

February 17, 1942

New soviet attacks in the Rzhev area begin. The attacks are augmented by the dropping of over 7000 paratroops in the German rear area.

Despite the need for troops to stop Rommel’s advance in Libya, Churchill orders two divisions to the Far East (only one, the 70th Infantry, would actually go).

February 18, 1942

Japanese forces cross the Bilin River in Burma forcing the British to order the evacuation of Rangoon.  

February 19, 1942

In attempts to prevent the landing on Bali, Allied naval forces engage the Japanese at the Lumbok Strait. The Japanese defeat the Allied force, sinking two Dutch cruisers and a destroyer and damaging a US destroyer.

Japanese carriers launch a 150-plane air raid on Darwin in northern Australia. Damage to the port facility is heavy. All 17 ships in port were sunk including the US Navy destroyer Peary. 22 Australian and American planes were shot down while the Japanese lost 5.Huge quantities of stores destine for the defenders of Java were destroyed, ruining any chance of holding there. 

Mandalay comes under Japanese air attacks for the first time. British forces in Burma are ordered to retreat as the defense of the Bilin River line crumbles.

February 20, 1942

Japanese forces at Bataan suspend offensive action as their attacks, along with losses from disease take their toll. Philippine president Quezon is evacuated from Bataan by a US submarine.

On Amboina Island, Lt. Nakagawa ordered 120 Australian bound and blindfolded POWs to kneel down. They were then either beheaded or bayoneted.

Japanese forces land on Timor.

Hitler received an accounting of losses on the eastern front since the beginning of the campaign last June. The report indicated 199,448 killed, 708,351 wounded, 44,342 missing, and 112,627 cases of severe frostbite. Despite the huge losses, Hitler responded by saying “Now that January and February are past…[we can] switch over to squaring the account. What a relief.”

US Navy Lt. Edward “Butch” O’Hare shot down five Japanese bombers in a single mission, becoming the first navy ace of the war. O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named for this man.

February 21, 1942

British forces continue their retreat in Burma, abandoning the Sittang River line. Reinforcements from the Middle East start arriving at Rangoon (just in time to leave).

February 22, 1942

Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, takes command of British Bomber Command, ushering in a new, and unprecedented, era of unrestrained and devastating terror bombing. Editor’s note: Harris (along with Curtis LeMay), in my opinion, is one of the most heinous and vicious thugs NOT brought to justice after the war. He allowed his unrestrained hatred of all things German to cloud his humanity. His strategy of deliberately targeting civilian centers was simply a war crime.

Roosevelt orders MacArthur to leave the Philippines.

The US Tenth Air Force begins operations to interdict Japanese shipping. B-24s drop mines at the mouth of the Rangoon River in Burma.

February 23, 1942

The British submarine Trindent torpedoes the cruiser Prinz Eugen while it was attempting to move to Norway from Kiel. It returned to port to repair the damage. 

The Japanese submarine I-17 shelled the Elwood oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California. It is reputed that the attack occurred because the captain of the submarine, Capt. Mishino had visited the site before the war and during the visit, slipped and fell butt first into a cactus patch. As the thorns were being picked out of his backside, riggers working nearby laughed at the visitor’s distress. Mishino vowed he would never forget the slight to his honor. Apparently he didn’t.

The Soviet Winter offensive, although beginning to lag, continues to score success against the Germans. Russian forces recaptured Dorogobuzh on the Dnierpr River.

US bombers raid Rabul, the first of many visits to the new Japanese airbase and naval facility during the war.

February 24, 1942

Soviet attacks near lake Illmen succeed in surrounding the German II Corp at Starryy Russa.

America’s first aircraft carrier, now converted to a fling boat tender, the venerable Langley, is sunk 50 miles off Tjilatjap, Java by Japanese aircraft. She was delivering 32 P-40 fighters to the beleaguered defenders. All were lost.

February 25, 1942

Japanese attacks in Burma break the British lines at Pegu, threatening to cut the Rangoon-Mandalay railroad.

February 26, 1942

British bombers hit the Gneisenau while she was undergoing repairs in the Kiel drydock. The damage was extensive and she would not put to sea again during the war.

The Japanese submarine I-23 was sunk. I-23 was involved in the Pearl Harbor attack and became the first Japanese vessel from the attack to be destroyed.

February 27, 1942

The first major surface action of the Pacific war , the Battle of the Java Sea, opened. Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman, leading a rag tag band of Allied war ships attempted to intercept the Japanese invasion fleet heading for Java.  At 1620, contact was made between the two fleets. The Japanese fleet, scored first, hitting the British cruiser Exeter with an 8-inch shell. She lost most of her power, and was knocked out of the battle. The next catastrophe for the Allies came when the Dutch destroyer Kortenaer was hit midship by a torpedo, broke in half and sank. Soon afterward, the British destroyer Electra was sunk by three Japanese destroyers. Allied fire managed to damage the Japanese Asagumo forcing her out of the battle. As dusk approached, Doorman withdrew to regroup his scattered fleet and attempt to swing around the Japanese screen to hit the enemy transports. At 2125, the British destroyer Jupiter struck a mine and blew up. At 2300, the Japanese spotted Doorman’s cruisers and succeeded in sinking Java and De Ruyter. The Perth and Houston withdrew to Batavia. The Japanese had won handily.

British paratroops make a daring raid into France. The Germans had erected a radar station at Bruneval, near Le Havre and the British wanted to get a hold of the new German equipment. The raid was more than successful. Only two British paratroops were killed. The radar sets were captured intact and as a bonus, one of the German operators was captured and brought back to England.

Japanese aircraft hit Indian territory for the first time in the war, raiding the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, south of Burma.

February 28, 1942

Elements of the Japanese 16th Army land on the north coast of  Java. The main body of the invasion force heads for Batavia, capital of the Dutch East Indies.

Upon making repairs, the British cruiser Exeter, escorted by the destroyers Encounter and Pope, leave Surabaya. At 0930, they were spotted by the Japanese and sunk.

The cruisers Perth and Houston, attempting to evade the Japanese, steam straight into the Japanese transports, debarking at Bantam Bay in the Sundra Strait. The two ships immediately attacked and in the hour and half battle managed to cause heavy damage to the Japanese (3 destroyers damaged, a minesweeper and transport destroyed and three other transports wrecked) before they were sunk. Evertsen, a short way off attempted to join the battle, but was spotted by Japanese cruisers and destroyed.

 

 

 

 

 

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