Project 60 - "The First Fight Against Fascism" - Archives
May 1, 1942
Mandalay, Burma falls to the Japanese.
May 2, 1942
US Naval intelligence intercepts top
secret messages indicating that the Japanese have dispatched two naval task
forces into the Coral Sea. A minor force had as its goal a landing at Tulagi.
The larger and more serious threat was aimed at Port Moresby in New Guinea. The
loss of Port Moresby (only 500 miles from Australia would be a devastating blow
to the Allied war effort placing northeast Australia under a serious threat.
May 3, 1942
Japanese forces land at Tulagi in the
central Solomons in preparation for the invasion of Australia. The quickly
establish a sea plane base there which allowed reconnaissance flights deeper
into Allied waters. The opening actions of the Battle of the Coral Sea was
May 4, 1942
Admiral Fletcher orders the US carrier Yorktown
north to raid the Japanese landings at Tulagi. The attack has limited success
due to poor weather over the target area, but the navy planes fatally damage the
British forces abandon Akyab on the Bay
of Bengal as Japanese forces advance to within 100 miles of the Indian border.
British forces land in Madagascar,
encountering light resistance from the Vichy forces there.
The American "Flying Tigers"
abandon their airbase in Burma and move to Kunming, China.
Japanese forces in Burma capture Bhamo,
reinforcing their stranglehold on land communications between the Western Allies
May 5, 1942
Admiral Fletcher's carrier Yorktown,
rejoins the carrier Lexington and begins maneuvering against the
Japanese Covering Force now entering the Coral Sea.
Japanese forces land at Cavalry Point
on Corregador, establishing a secure beachhead.
A major Soviet Offensive is launched in
the Kursk and Kharkov area.
Karl Oberg, a vicious anti-Semite,
arrives in Paris to assume his new position as head of the SS and Police.
May 6, 1942
Japanese and American carrier forces
continue to maneuver, searching in vain for each other. At one point in the day,
the two forces were a mere 70 miles (15 minutes flying time) from each other,
but each was oblivious to the other.
Corregidor Island is surrendered to the
Japanese. 16,000 Filipinos and Americans were taken prisoner.
May 7, 1942
Battle of the Coral Sea: US
and Japanese scout planes took to the skies over the Coral Sea in the early
At 0800, Japanese scouts reported
spotting a "carrier and cruiser". However, the ships were actually the fleet
tanker Neosho and her destroyer escort Sims. Both vessels were
well away from the US carrier force and heading further away. Later in the
morning, two typically ineffective high altitude level bombing raids were
executed against the ships. At 1200, Japanese dive bombers hit the two ships,
sinking the destroyer outright with heavy losses and reducing the vital fleet
tanker to a floating hulk.
Meanwhile, scouts from Yorktown
spotted the Japanese light carrier Shoho and four heavy cruisers. The
message relayed back to the carriers was "two carriers and four heavy
cruisers" so Fletcher ordered an all out strike on what he thought was the
main body of the Japanese carrier force. Shoho was pummeled with bombs
and torpedoes and sunk in minutes.
Late in the day, the Japanese ordered
the amphibious force to clear the area and await the outcome of battle. Also, 30
scout planes were launched to seek out the American carriers. Most of these were
lost in combat or failed to make their night landings, thus depleting the
Japanese air reserves further.
other news of the day
Churchill announces to Parliament that
Diego-Suarez on Madagascar was captured by British forces. Also, he indicated
the the Vicy French forces had fought gallantly and regretted the need for the
action, but hoped that France would see this as a step toward liberation.
Chief Justice of the Philippines, Jose
Abad, after refusing to work with the Japanese military authorities, was
May 8, 1942
Battle of the Coral Sea: Before
dawn, Japanese and US naval forces launch scout planes. Both sides are spotted a
couple of ours later. The Japanese had their strike force already airborne, but
the American strike was also airborne by 0900. Both strikes reached the enemy
fleet at about 1100. The Japanese fleet was under low cloud cover, but the
Americans were under clear skies.
Both Yorktown and Lexington took
several bomb hits. Lexington was also struck by four torpedoes. Yorktown,
although badly damaged, remained operational. The damage on Lexington was
extensive as she took on an immediate 7o list, but damage control
parties seemed to have everything under control and she resumed flight
operations within and hour. However, at 1247, a major explosion caused several
fires and ships communications were destroyed. The fires soon raged out of
control. A second major explosion occurred two hours later. Lexington was
abandoned at 1600. Fires reached the hanger deck and at 1730 a spectacular
explosion detonated munitions, engulfing the ship in fire and smoke. Later a
destroyer fired torpedoes into the stricken ship and she sank at 2000.
On the other side, American planes hit
the Japanese fleet carrier Shokaku. Her flight deck was hit by three
bombs and large fires broke out, prevented the launching of planes. Shokaku withdrew from the battle area and headed back to Japan.
At the end of the day, both sides
withdrew from the battle area. The first naval battle fought solely from the air
was over. Tactically, the Japanese had won the battle due to the loss of Lexington.
However, and more importantly, the Japanese had decided to call off the Port
Moresby landing. This was their first strategic defeat of the war. The headlong
and uncheck expansion of the Japanese Pacific empire had come to an abrupt stop
in the Coral Sea.
In other events of the day
German forces in the Crimean Peninsula open the German summer offensive by attacking Soviet positions around Kerch and Sevastopol.
May 9, 1942Operation Bowery concludes as Malta receives 63 Hurricane fighters delivered from the Carriers Eagle and American Wasp. This turned out to be the turning point in the fight for air superiority in the central Mediterranean.
May 10, 1942
The Maly Trostenets
death camp opens outside Minsk.
May 11, 1942
A German U-Boat penetrated into the St.
Lawrence River in Canada and sunk a transport ship.
Japanese forces launch an offensive in
China's Chekiang province in order to prevent a repeat of the Doolittle raid.
US submarine S-42 torpedoed and sank
the Japanese minelayer Okinoshima in the Solomons.
German attacks at Sevastopol succeed in surrounding the Soviet fortifications in the Ak-Monay area in very heavy fighting.
German forces in the Crimea recapture Feodosiya in heavy fighting.
German aircraft, operating in the Mediterranean Sea, sink three British destroyers (Lively, Kiplin and Jackal) off Crete.
May 12, 1942
The Soviets, lead by Timoshenko, launch a major offensive out of their bridgehead at Izyum, aiming to capture Kharkov. The Germans had planned for a counterattack later in the month at the same location. The fighting was very heavy.
May 13, 1942
After heavy German
attacks, the Soviet positions on the Kerch peninsula collapse and the Soviets
are in panicked retreat. The Soviets are offensive in the Kharkov area
continues to push the Germans back in heavy fighting.
May 14, 1942
HMS Trinidad is torpedoed by German aircraft off Bear Island while escorting merchants heading for Murmansk. The ship would be scuttled the next day. Eighty sailors were lost, including 20 wounded men who were rescued off the cruiser Edinburgh, sunk two weeks earlier.
May 15, 1942
The German 11th
Army recapture Kerch in the Crimea.
May 16, 1942
Roosevelt ordered the release of US Communist party leader Earl Browder who had spent 14 months in prison on trumpeted up passport irregularities. Editor's Note: Sound familiar to anyone?
May 17, 1942
In an attempt to jump-start the Soviet attacks toward Kharkov, Southwest front commits it's armored forces to the attack. Simultaneously, the German 1st Panzer and 6th Armies begins operations against the Soviet 9th Army in the Kramatorsk area and the 28th Army in the Belgorod area. The Germans are poised to surround the over extended Soviet armies.
May 18, 1942
The Soviets continue
to send their 6th Army toward Kharkov, while 9th Army
begins a fighting withdrawal away from the German onslaught to the south and
British Air Fleet
units engage and damage the German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen forcing her
to return to Kiel for repairs.
May 19, 1942
Army completes the clearing of the eastern end of the Crimean peninsula, freeing
forces for the final assault on Sevastopol. The Germans took 100,000 prisoners
and captured hundreds of artillery pieces.
Army launches attacks on the northern flank of the Soviet salient pointed at
Kharkov. The Soviets are faced with disaster as both flanks crumble under the
onslaught and finally call off their attacks on Kharkov, turning their forces to
the threat to their rear.
May 20, 1942
US Naval Intelligence, operating from intercepted Japanese secret messages, orders the Navy to concentrate its defenses at Midway and not to react to the diversionary attack directed at Attu in the Aleutians.
May 21, 1942
With the inability of
the Luftwaffe or Italian air force to gain air superiority over Malta, Hitler
calls off the planned invasion of Malta.
4300 Jews from Chelm were deported to the Sobibor death camp and gassed. 2100 Jews from Korzec were marched into fields outside town and murdered. The German synthetic oil and rubber factory run by the firm of IG Farben open at Monowitz, just outside Aushwitz. The few people who were not gassed were tattooed and sent as slaves to work in the factories.
May 22, 1942
German attacks continue in the Kharkov area as 28th Army is pushed back to it's start line it left 10 days area.
May 23, 1942
The German 6th
(Paulus) and 1st Panzer (Kleist) Armies complete the surrounding of
Timoshenko's forces which earlier in the month had attacked with some success
May 24, 1942
The Germans launch
Operation Hanover, an attempt to clear Soviet partisans from the Bryansk-Vyaazma
railway. 45,000 troops are involved in the operation.
May 25, 1942
one of the most brutal an vicious sadists in the Gestapo, is mortally wounded by
Czech patriots. His miserable life would hang on until June 4.
Britian and the Soviet Union sign an agreement not to sign a separate peace with Germany or her allies.
May 26, 1942
The Battle for the
Gazala Line: After a two-month
lull in the action to build-up, Rommel attacks the Gazala Line. The Italian
Infantry hits the northern portion of the line along the coastal road. The
Italian mobile forces (Trieste and Ariete divisions) strike at the southern
extreme of the line at the Free French position at Bir Hakeim. Meanwhile, the
bulk of Rommel's force (15 Panzer, 21 Panzer and 90 Light Divisions swing in a
deep arc beyond the British lines south of Bir Hakeim. Rommel's plan was to
cut off the Gazala Line from Tobruk with his Panzers and surround Tobruk with
the 90th Light Division. The mobile forces took off with enough fuel
for 300 miles of movement, a bare minimum if they became entangled in extended
combat with the British.
The US carriers Enterprise
and Hornet arrive at Pearl Harbor for immediate refueling after their
aborted attempt to join the battle in the Coral Sea. They are ordered to move
out to Midway when replenishment is completed.
260 German aircraft
operating out of Norway hit the Murmansk Convoy PQ16, sinking 7 merchant ships,
but the remainder of the convoy sailed on and delivered desperately needed war
material to the Russians.
The British and Soviets signed a twenty-year alliance against Germany.
May 27, 1942
The Battle for the
Gazala Line: In the early morning hours, Rommel's tanks (21 Panzer and
Ariete) made contact with the 3rd Indian Motorized Brigade (7th
Armored Division) southeast of Bir Hakeim. The Brigade was roughly handled and
lost 440 men before retreating.
Later in the morning,
90th Light Division contacted 7 Motorized Brigade (7th
Armored Division) operating 15 miles east of the 3rd Brigade. They
were able to withdraw in good order.
The British 4th
Armored Brigade (7th Armored Division) moved south to support the 3rd
Motorized and ended up getting hit in the flank by the 15th Panzer
Division advancing from the west. Both sides took heavy losses and the 4th
Shortly before noon,
reconnaissance elements of the 15th Panzer Division overran the
headquarters of the 7th Armored Division, capturing most of the
The next British unit
to blunder into the attack was the 22 Armored Brigade (1st Armored
Division). It was moving to support the 4th Armored Brigade and got
hit by elements of the 21st and 15th Panzer Division. In a
brief action, 40 tanks were lost and they too retreated.
In other fighting
along the Gazala Line, little success was achieved by the Germans and Italians.
Ariete hit the 1st Free French Brigade at Bir Hakiem and were
During the afternoon,
Rommel rashly pursued the retreating forces north during the afternoon. By
evening, he was behind the center of the Gazala Line. The British regrouped and
struck both flanks of Rommel's spearhead. The attacks were made by 1st
Armored Division (1st Armored Brigade from the west and 2nd
Armored Brigade from the east) in the vicinity of Knightsbridge. The Germans
took some serious losses before night fell and ended the days action. By the end
of the day, 7th British Armored had been routed, but 1st
Armored had rallied and hit back. The Germans had lost about a third of their
armor and fuel reserves were badly depleted.
In other news
The infamous (and
arguably the most vicious sadist in Nazi Germany) SS Commander Reinhard Heydrich
is ambushed near Prague by partisans. His spine is severed by a grenade
Admiral Nagumo's carrier force (Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu) left port for Midway. Escorting the force were two battleships, three cruisers and a swarm of destroyers. The victors of Pearl Harbor, the scourge of the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, headed to destiny.
The US carrier Yorktown, still showing the scares of battle from the Coral Sea, enters Pearl Harbor's dry-dock to undergo emergency repairs.
May 28, 1942
The Battle for the Gazala Line: Rommel continues to drive his forces north in order to cut off the Gazala Line forces from Tobruk. In very heavy fighting, his forces take the "Commonwealth Keep", a small outpost next to the trail atop the Solard Escarpment, 3 miles short of the coastal highway. Elsewhere, British forces fight the enemy to a standstill as 2nd Armored Brigade duels with Ariete and 4th Armored Brigade stops the 90th Light Division. But most ominous for Rommel, the Italian Pavia and Trieste Divisions, designated to breach the British minefields at Sidi Muftah to secure a supply line for the mobile forces to the east, run into the previously unspotted 150th Infantry Brigade, and are stopped cold.
Elsewhere in the
Task Force 16 sets
sail for Midway Island to meet the Japanese invasion force. The force of two
carriers (Enterprise and Hornet), six cruisers and nine destroyers
set sail to do battle with nearly 90 Japanese warships. The slow battleships
were intentionally left behind and ordered to protect America's west coast.
Nimitz had fully grasped the concepts of modern naval warfare where speed
triumphs over firepower, and the supremacy of airpower in naval action,
something his counterpart Yamato was yet to learn.
On the other side of
the Pacific, the Japanese Midway attack force sets sail. Included in the massive
armada is the new battleship Yamaato. This ship, the most powerful
battleship in the world, carried 18" guns. The fleet includes two other 16"
battleships and a swarm of cruisers and destroyers, as well as troop transports
and support ships.
May 29, 1942
The Battle of the
Gazala Line: Rommel, fuel and now, more importantly water supplies nearing
exhaustion, abandons the original plan for the battle and concentrates his
forces near Sidi Muftah. After ordering the move, Rommel personally takes off in
the early morning darkness to find the lost supply columns, which were
attempting to infiltrate through the British lines to the west. He found one
column, jumped up on the running board of the lead truck and personally directed
the driver through the swirling dust storms and night darkness to his starving
By 0600, the DAK was
resupplied, but only for a day. The Italian infantry hit the 1st South African
Division along the coastal road in the north again and were bloodily repulsed.
2nd and 22nd Armored Brigades engaged DAK in a wild melee. By the end
of the day, both had fought each other to a standstill. Rommel's forces were
still cut off and supplies were out.
The last remnants of
the Soviet forces trapped in the Kharkov area are destroyed. Reminiscent of the
previous summer's debacles, the Soviets loose 214,000 men, 1,200 tanks and
May 30, 1942
Battle for the Gazala Line: Supplies, especially water, were in desperately
short supply. Rommel admitted to an officer on his staff that, "If we don't
get a convoy [of water] through tonight, I will have to ask General Ritchie for
surrender terms." In the early morning hours, engineers were able to clear a
single path through the British minefields, giving DAK one tenuous supply route.
However, the path was close to the positions of the 150th Brigade
defensive perimeter and aggressive patrols on their part made the route very
While they held off
the feeble British attacks in the east, the Germans turned their remaining
offensive power against the 150th Brigade "Box". Six major
attacks were made during the day and as night fell, the Brits had been forced to
abandon some positions, but still held. Their position however was desperate, as
they had expended all of their artillery ammunition and resupply was impossible.
other war news
launches the first "1000-Bomber Raid" against Germany. Every serviceable
aircraft was committed. A total of 1064, were sent to Cologne while 50 bombers
were sent to harass German airfields along the route. In all 898 of the bombers
succeeded in dropping 1455 tons of bombs (1000 tons of incendiaries) on the
luckless town. 2500 fires started, consuming 18,432 buildings, damaging 40,000
more. 486 people were killed, 5027 injured and nearly 60,000 made homeless. 328
factories were destroyed or badly damaged along with half of the city's power
supply. 600 acres of the city were gutted. The British lost 42 planes over
May 31, 1942
A Japanese midget submarine penetrated the harbor defenses of Sydney, Australia, attacking the US cruiser Chicago. The torpedo missed, hitting a converted ferry, the depot ship Kuttabul, killing 20 sailors.