1940 Heavy fighting is reported at the outskirts to Viipuri, as the Red Army continues its attempt to capture the city. This prompts the Finns to seek an immediate armistice, which the Russians refuse. Therefore the Finnish delegation in Moscow is instructed to sue for peace.
1941 The US Senate passes the ‘Lend Lease’ bill by 60 votes to 31.
Martial law is proclaimed in Holland in order to extinguish any anti-Nazi protests.
1942 The RAF use GEE for the first time for target marking during a raid on Essen. The technique was known as ‘Shaker’ and consisted of aircraft marking the target with flares, allowing aircraft further behind to see the target more clearly. However the results of the raid were disappointing.
Rangoon falls to the Japanese as the British forces escape to the north. The 17th Indian Division was now holding the Irrawaddy area and the 1st Burma Division the upper Sittang valley. The Chinese Expeditionary Force were farther north, with the Fifth Chinese Army defending Mandalay and the 6th Chinese Army was at Toungoo and defending the Burmese province of Shan.
Japanese make unopposed landings at Lae and Salamaua on New Guinea.
The Dutch on Java surrender to Japanese.
1943 Over 1,000 Germans wives of Jewish men deported to concentrations camps are now protesting in Berlin. To prevent this kind of protest from spreading, Joseph Goebbels orders the release of the 1,500 Jewish men.
Japanese forces attack American troops on Hill 700 in Bougainville. The battle will last five days.
1944 The US 8th Air Force carries out a heavy attack against Berlin. The primary target is the ball bearing plant at Erkner, a suburb of Berlin; enemy opposition is fierce and 37 bombers and 16 fighters are lost.
1945 British and Canadian troops involved in Operation ‘Blockbuster’ enter Xanten on the Rhine after several days of heavy fighting further to the South U.S. troops enter Bonn.
Beginning of secret negotiations at Bern, Switzerland, between representatives of the American OSS (Allan Dulles) and the German High Command in Italy (General von Vietinghoff and SS General Wolff) for an early surrender of German forces in Italy.
The Red Army penetrates into the ssouthern suburbs of Breslau.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: September 20 WWII Today: December 23 WWII Today: May 31
1936 Hitler sends German troops into the Rhineland, breaking the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact.
1941 British and Commonwealth troops begin to arrive in Greece.
German Jews ordered into forced labour.
U-47, commanded by top ace Gunther Prien, hero of Scapa Flow, is sunk by the British Destroyer HMS Wolverine.
In convoy OB-293 off Iceland, U-99 and U-47 sink British whaling factory ship Terje Viken, one of the largest ships sunk in war at 20,000 tons.
Actor James Stewart is inducted into US Army.
1942 Force H, consisting of HMS Argus and HMS Eagle and supported by a number of destroyers, sets sail for Malta with a number of Spitfires on board. Fifteen Spitfires were flown off when Force H came within range of the Island.
The Government of the Dutch East Indies flees Java for Australia.
The Japanese occupy Rangoon, Burma.
1943 A new wolfpack, codenamed ‘Raubgraf’ (Robber Baron), is created in the central North Atlantic. It will operate between the 7th and 20th March 1943 and includes U-84, U-89, U-91, U-435, U-468, U-600, U-603, U-615, U-621, U-638, U-653, U-664, U-758. Immediately the wolfpack attacks convoy ON-168 which is traveling between North America and the UK. One ship is damaged and abandoned on the 7th March, to be finally sunk on the 12th March for 6,537 gross tons.
1944 The Japanese begin the Imphal-Kohima offensive from northern Burma into Assam, India.
U.S. Marines secure Los Negros.
In reply to Arab protests, the U.S. says that the idea of a Jewish state has no official sanction.
1945 The U.S. 9th Armored Division makes a surprise dash across the undestroyed Rhine bridge at Remagen, establishing a crucial bridgehead on the East bank.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Dog Tag Number Maker WWII Today: March 16 WWII Today: April 29
1940 Hitler changes his plans for the invasion of the west. At a military conference in Berlin, he decides to adopt the plan put forward by Gerd von Rundstedt and his former chief of staff, Erich von Manstein, for the Ardennes option. Code-named ‘Fall Sichelschnitt’, it called for the attack against the Low Countries to go ahead, but with slightly fewer forces, in order to draw the allies forward, while the decisive thrust would be mounted through the Ardennes. Holding attacks would be made against the Maginot line.
1941 German aircraft mine the Suez canal, blocking it for 3 weeks.
1942 Having received permission from Hitler, the Battleship Tirpitz and 3 destroyers set sail from Trondheim to intercept convoy PQ-12, but is spotted by a British submarine which relays the information onto the British Admiralty. However, bad weather means that the Tirpitz is unable to locate PQ-12 and so heads back to base. Enroute to Trondheim the Tirpitz is spotted and attacked by aircraft from HMS Victorious, but is not damaged.
Japanese cut all roads north of Rangoon, trapping the British at Pegu.
Japanese occupy Batavia in Java.
1944 Bomber Command begins a large-scale offensive over northern France in preparation for D-Day.
The USAAF send 730 bombers and 796 fighters to Berlin, during which 69 bombers and 11 escorts are shot down.
Another ‘Chindit’ stronghold is established South of the Irrawaddy
U.S. Marines land at Talasea in New Britain.
1945 The U.S. Third Army reaches the Rhine Northwest of Koblenz, as Cologne falls to U.S. First Army.
The 2nd Panzer and 6th SS Panzer Armies launch a major counter-attack from Lake Balaton towards Budapest.
The US 8th Air Force launches a heavy attack against Chemnitz in Saxony.
The new Chinese First Army takes Lashio in north-eastern Burma.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: January 31 WWII Today: March 3 WWII Today: February 5
Approximately 50,000 Sherman’s were produced, the M4 Sherman is one of the most iconic WW2 tanks, and of all military history. The design stemmed from a need to fit a 75mm dual purpose cannon, capable of engaging both other tanks and dug-in infantry, inside a fully traversing turret. Its predecessor, the M3 Lee, had a cannon of the same caliber in a sponson (limited traverse), restricting its ability to engage the enemy.
The M4 Sherman was not the best tank of the war but a balance between speed and armor. The ease of manufacture, transport on train and ease of shipping overseas in large numbers, as well as large production numbers were the advantages of the Sherman. Although an American tank, the first Shermans to see combat actual did so with the British army in North Africa. At the time, its armor and armament were suitable against the German Panzer IIIs and early Panzer IVs it came up against and its mechanical reliability proved to be outstanding.
The M4 Sherman was a balance of strength and weakness. At close to 10ft tall, necessary to fit the suspension system and the engine, it was a large target for a medium tank. Its narrow tracks were liable to bog down in sand, mud and snow. In early models, the infantry weren’t able to communicate with the tank crew. In later variants of the M4 this was solved by installing a phone on the outside of the tank that was connected to the intercom system.
Early versions also earned a reputation for burning when getting hit, since much of the ammo was stored along the tank’s side inside. This problem earned the tank the nickname Ronson (after the popular cigarette lighter from the 40’s) and Tommy cooker among both Allied and German troops. This problem was solved by the addition of wet stowage: the rounds were moved elsewhere and surrounded by small containers of a liquid dousing agent, which when a long way in preventing fires.
By early 1944, the Sherman was getting a bit long in the tooth, with neither its gun nor its armor a match for late Panzer IVs, Panthers and Tigers. After D-Day, the thick hedgerows of Normandy offered the Germans plenty of cover and concealment to ambush armor with anti-tank guns and the Panzerfaust. Tank crews started tacking on extra armor in the form of plates scavenged from destroyed vehicles, sand bags, concrete, spare track links and wood. The extra weight strained and overheated the engine and a study found the makeshift defenses didn’t provide enough extra protection. As a consequence, General Patton had the practice banned in the 3rd Army.
The M4A3E2 “Jumbo,” was the upgrade that was fielded in the spring of ’44 to address the Sherman’s short commings. The Jumbo had additional armor plates welded on and was used to assault fortified enemy positions and to stay at the front of a formation and attract German fire. Arriving in Europe in the fall of 1944, it was considered a successful design, even though the extra weight could cause the front suspension to fail on rough terrain if the tank’s nose dipped down too sharply.
Close on the heals of the M4A3E2 “Jumbo” the M4A3E8, the “Easy Eight,” was fielded. The “Easy Eight” had improved suspension and was equipped with a new hight velocity 76 mm gun, giving them much better penetrating power. The Easy Eight could finally penetrate the frontal armor of Panthers and Tigers from a reasonable range, but the same range still allowed the German heavy tanks to still take out the Easy Eights.
A British modification of the Sherman enabling it to fight Panther’s and Tigers on a more even foot, was the Sherman “Firefly.” The British designers converted the turret to be able to house the superb but large Quick-Firing 17-pounder anti-tank gun. The flash from this gun alone was so strong that the gunner and the commander had to blink during firing to avoid getting blinded. Additionally, the flash would sometimes set vegetation in front of the tank on fire. The Firefly was a terror of German heavy tanks, but its long barrel made it conspicuous and a prime target for the enemy. Many tank crews put camouflage paint on the muzzle to make it look as shorter and appear as an old 75 mm.
The Sherman became the base for many modifications. Some were armed with a 105 mm howitzers, which was better at taking out defensive fortifications than the anti-tank 76 mm cannon. Such Shermans were often paired up with flamethrower versions in the Pacific and used to devastating effect against Japanese fortifications.
Other Sherman versions were used for D-Day. These included the Duplex Drive amphibious Sherman, which “wore” a canvas skirt that gave it buoyancy, and various bridge-layer, mine-clearer and other engineering-oriented variations, many of which the creation of Hobart’s Funnies.
Of the Sherman’s various rocket launcher-equipped versions, the one carrying the T34 Calliope is the most famous. Capable of firing 60 rockets in a very short span of time, it could saturate an area with explosions and shrapnel, while the screaming sound of the incoming barrage was often enough to send the enemy running.
The basic chassis of the Sherman was also used for a variety of tank destroyers and self-propelled guns. A fully modernized version, the M51 Super Sherman, even saw service with the Israeli army, where it acquitted itself well in the 1967 and 1973 wars.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WW2 Today: November 19 Points: How WW2 GI’s Came Home WW2 Jump Wings Los Baños Raid
1940 Italian collier ship seized by Allies.
1941 The Royal Navy begins escorting British and Commonwealth troop convoys from Egypt to Greece.
1942 German reconnaissance planes locate the British convoy PQ-12 bound for Murmansk.
General Sir Harold Alexander arrives at Rangoon to take over command of Burma Army from Lieutenant General Hutton. Wavell had given Alexander orders to hold Rangoon at all costs. Immediately, orders were issue for the 1st Burma Division to counter-attack the Japanese from the north and 17th Indian Division which had be reinforced was to attack east of Pegu. Both attacks failed and Alexander realized that Rangoon could not be held. He ordered that Rangoon be evacuated and his troops withdraw north to the Irrawaddy Valley to regroup.
1943 Bomber Command reports the ‘first effective attack on Essen’ due primarily to the use of a new navigational aid ‘Oboe’. The ‘Battle of the Ruhr’ begins
1944 Koniev’s 2nd Ukrainian Front launches an attack towards Uman.
Gliders and air-transport-borne ‘Chindits’ set up ‘Broadway’ a stronghold behind Japanese lines, North East of Indaw.
1945 Advance patrols of the U.S. First Army reaches Cologne. Germany is now conscripting 15 and 16-year-olds into the regular army.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: June 6 Words at War: The Veteran Comes Back WWII Ad: Cadillac 1940 Italian collier ship seized by Allies.1941 The Royal Navy begins escorting British and Commonwealth troop convoys from Egypt to Greece.1942 German reconnaissance planes locate the British convoy PQ-12 bound for Murmansk.General Sir Harold Alexander arrives at Rangoon to take over command of Burma Army from Lieutenant General Hutton. Wavell had given Alexander orders to hold Rangoon at all costs. Immediately, orders were issue for the 1st Burma Division to counter-attack the Japanese from the north and 17th Indian Division which had be reinforced was to attack east of Pegu. Both attacks failed and Alexander realized that Rangoon could not be held. He ordered that Rangoon be evacuated and his troops withdraw north to the Irrawaddy Valley to regroup.1943 Bomber Command reports the ‘first effective attack on Essen’ due primarily to the use of a new navigational aid ‘Oboe’. The ‘Battle of the Ruhr’ begins1944 Koniev’s 2nd Ukrainian Front launches an attack towards Uman.Gliders and air-transport-borne ‘Chindits’ set up ‘Broadway’ a stronghold behind Japanese lines, North East of Indaw.1945 Advance patrols of the U.S. First Army reaches Cologne. Germany is now conscripting 15 and 16-year-olds into the regular army.
The Los Baños Raid is eclipsed in size and fame by the airborne drops of the Normandy and Market Garden Airborne Operations, however its technical and operational excellence remains the standard to this day.
On January 9, 1945, with the majority of the Philippines already under Allied control, American forces made landfall on Luzon, the largest and most populated island in the Philippines. By late February, the month-long battle for the capital city of Manila was winding down, when General MacArthur’s attention was drawn to a new crisis.
The Japanese operated several internment camps on the island, some for POWs, others for civilian prisoners. Throughout the advance through Luzon, MacArthur was keenly aware of the possibility that the Japanese might massacre these inmates rather than allow them to be rescued and had done everything to liberate these camps in time. The last major camp, however, was still held by the enemy. Built on a 60-acre site belonging to the University of the Philippines, Los Baños Internment Camp housed around 2,147 people, almost all of them civilian foreigners: missionaries, nuns, priests, children, doctors and engineers. The most notable of the few military personnel were the dozen US Navy nurses known as “the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor,” who were captured during the Japanese invasion in 1941 but continued serving as a nursing unit during the imprisonment. The camp was located to the southeast of Manila, behind enemy lines and in close proximity of a strong Japanese force, near the shore of the large inland lake of Laguna de Bay. The prisoners were exposed to much hardship, deliberately underfed and only given a single chance a day to draw drinking water from a rickety tap.
With no way to break through quickly enough to protect the inmates, it was decided that the rescue should utilize an airborne unit working together with amphibious forces on the lake and the local Filipino guerillas. Thus was born the Los Baños Raid. The only airborne force in the Pacific was the 11th Airborne Division. Luckily, the 11th was already participating in the liberation of the Philippines, but most of their units were bogged down fighting in various locations. MacArthur originally wanted the rescue to take place on February 3 but it took so long to withdraw the necessary troops that it had to postponed until February 23.
There were many local guerilla groups fighting the Japanese occupation and the General Guerilla Command (GGC) was set up by US forces to coordinate actions. The rescue leaned heavily on these groups, most notably the Hunters ROTC, consisting of former cadets of the Philippine Military Academy; the President Quezon’s Own Guerillas; and the Hukbalahaps, a Marxist group of peasant farmers often considered to be more like terrorists than freedom fighters. Over the nights before the operation, camp escapees made contact with the guerillas and provided them detailed information on camp routine, which was relayed to the Americans.
The plan for the Los Baños Raid called for four “phases.” In Phase 1, the 11th Airborne Provisional Reconnaissance Platoon, led by 1st Lt. George Skau, would cross the lake two nights before the attack in three banca fishing boats. They would then make contact with the guerillas, lie low and wait until 7AM on the 23rd and assault the camp gates from several directions. In Phase 2, Lt. John Ringler would jump with a company and a machine gun platoon from the unusually low altitude of 400-500ft, land right outside the camp and neutralize remaining guards with the aid of Hukbalahap. Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Joseph Gibb would lead 54 “Amtrak” landing vehicles across the lake, make the last two miles to the camp on the ground and evacuate the inmates as Phase 3. Phase 4 was a diversion: Col. Robert Soule would lead a glider infantry regiment, a tank destroyer company and supporting artillery elements down a nearby highway to distract and tie down the nearby Japanese division, preventing them from squashing the rescue operation. Atypically for the time, the commanders who would be leading their units on the ground were given the task of drawing up the specific plans themselves, rather than receiving them from above.
Phase 1 hit a glitch on departure, when they learned that the third banca, carrying the heavy weapons, ammo, rations and weapons for the guerillas, had a broken rudder and later faced poor winds, arriving almost a day after the rest of the team. In the early hours of the morning of the attack, the paratroopers boarding their C-47s noticed that one of them bore the word RESCUE in big yellow letters on the side. There is no official paperwork remaining on this but perhaps the air crew wanted the internees to know what was happening and give them a few extra minutes to prepare.
Other than the slight delay for the recon and guerilla force, the attack was sprung without a hitch and caught the Japanese camp guards as a total surprise. Based on the daily routine leaked out by the inmates, the American and Filipino soldiers showed up when most of the Japanese personnel were gathering for their daily callisthenic exercises, unarmed and wearing only a loincloth. Within 20 minutes of the first shots, the camp garrison was almost completely subdued.
Over 2,000 prisoners were now milling around in confusion, many of them heading back to their hatched huts to fetch their personal belongings. However, there was no time for such delays. The paratroopers had noticed that the crowd tended to move away from the few huts that caught fire during the fighting; so they started lighting up the rest on purpose, using the quickly spreading flames to herd the uncooperative crowd towards the camp entrance, where the Amtraks were waiting for them.
Half of the liberated men were herded on the vehicles while the other half started the walk down to the beach to be picked up there, since the vehicles needed to make two rounds to ferry everyone to safety. While they were in the water, the Amtraks came under sporadic mortar fire from the shore, but suffered no hits. The crew of a 75mm pack howitzer carried on one of the landing vehicles noticed a Japanese machine gun position and decided to take a potshot at it. The position fell silent but recoil caused the Amtrak to dip from side to side, taking on water every time. Its driver drew his Colt and pointed it at the howitzer crew: “Anyone loading that thing again gets a bullet in the head.”
By around 3PM the beachhead was clear of soldiers and internees; the raid was a success. Thanks to the detailed plan and the complete surprise attack, over 2,000 men were rescued with the loss of only two American soldiers and two Filipino guerillas. Unfortunately, there is a dark epilogue to the story. A few days after the operation, Japanese troops, led by the camp’s sadistic second-in-command Warrant Officer Sadaaki Konishi and accompanied by pro-Japanese Filipino militants, returned to the site. Finding the prisoners gone, they turned their rage on the inhabitants of the nearby village, who had ignored warnings to evacuate the area. Around 1,500 men, women and children were slaughtered, many families tied to the supporting stilts of their houses which were then set on fire, collapsing. After the war, Konishi was arrested and executed for his actions.
Take a look at these other WWII Posts:The Battle of La Fière Bridge The Brécourt Manor Assault The other D-Days
1941 Hitler increases the pressure on Yugoslavia to join the Tripartite pact by inviting Prince Paul, the regent, to Berchtesgaden. Hitler demands that he allows German troops to pass through Yugoslavia for an attack on Greece. In return, the port of Salonika and part of Macedonia will be ceded to Yugoslavia.
On the northern Norwegian coast,British & Norwegian commandos raid Lofoten Islands, Norway; destroy oil plants, sink 8 ships (confiscating two Enigma machines and code books), take 314 Norwegian volunteers to England and take 285 German prisoners.
The British start to transfer the first contingent of troops from Egypt to Greece. These are to be under the command of General Maitland Wilson.
1942 Two Japanese flying boats bomb Pearl Harbor—no damage. Aircraft from USS Enterprise group strike Marcus Island.
Aircraft from USS Enterprise group strike Marcus Island in South Pacific.
1944 Zhukov renews his attacks against the forces of Manstein’s Army Group South in the Ukraine.
The USAAF launch, but then cancel the first daylight heavy bomber raid on Berlin. However 29 aircraft fail to receive the counter-order and bomb the capital.
Convoy RA-57 (31 ships) sailing the Arctic route from the Kola Peninsula to Loch Ewe, is attacked off Norway. The steam merchant Empire Tourist is sunk by U-703 for 7,062 gross tons lost. However, the convoy’s escorts sink 3 U-boats en-route.
Merrill’s ‘Marauders’ fight their first major action in Burma.
1945 The First Belorussian Front breaks through at Stargard and drives towards Stettin and also establishes a new bridgehead across the Oder to the South of Frankfurt.
US B-29 Superfortresses first land on Iwo Jima as an emergency field.
The British Fourteenth Army takes Meiktila, Burma.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: December 7: Attack on Pearl Harbor WWII Today: December 20 WWII Today: December 30
1940 The Russian launch a massive offensive and bring Viipuri under direct attack. This brings home to the Finns the fact that they cannot resist for must longer against the overwhelming force that the Russians are now deploying.
Italy protests to Britain over proposed ban on Italian imports of German coal.
1941 Moscow denounces the Axis rule in Bulgaria.
1942 RAF Bomber Command, under its new C-in-C, Air Vice Marshal Harris, attacks the Renault plant in the Paris suburb of Billancourt. Of the 235 RAF planes that took off, only 1 failed to return. The new navigation device, GEE wasn’t used, although the target was marked with flares for the first time and serious damage done to production facilities with many French workers killed. This successful raid was a much needed morale boost for the bomber crews.
The Lancaster bomber makes its operational debut, laying mines of the French port of Brest.
Vichy announces that ‘official’ German figures put the number of French arrested in 1941 at 5,390 and executions at more than 250.
General Chiang Kai-shek meets General Wavell in Burma.
1943 173 Londoners are killed in panic crush at Bethnal Green tube station when a new Anti-Aircraft weapon noise is heard for the first time.
Russians take Rzhev, over 100 miles to the west of Moscow.
1944 German attacks cease at Anzio after losing 3,500 men and 30 Panzer’s in four days.
For the war to date British civilian casualties total 50,324 dead, with military deaths at 50,103.
Under pressure from the Western Allies to withdraw all remaining Spanish troops from the Eastern front, the Franco government orders members of the so-called “Blue Legion,” attached to the German 121st Infantry Division, to return home and outlaws service by Spanish citizens with the Axis forces. Nevertheless, a handful of fanatically anti-Communist Spaniards defy orders and volunteer for service with the Waffen SS, some of them fighting suicidally to the end in the ruins of Berlin.
The allies announce that Russia is to get a third of Italian fleet, or equivalent in British and American warships.
Japanese counter-attacks on Los Negros fail.
1945 Units of the Canadian First Army capture Xanten on the lower Rhine in the battle of the Reichswald.
The US First Army captures Krefeld.
100 Luftwaffe night-fighters attack 27 RAF airfields, in what is the last night intrusion raid of the war. 22 RAF aircraft were destroyed for 6 German.
The fighting ends in Manila. Japanese resistance ends in Meiktila.
Finland declares war on the Axis.Take a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: February 18 WWII Today: February 14 Words at War: The Curtain Rises
1940 British India liner Domala bombed in English Channel, killing 100 people.
1941 The German Twelfth Army moves into Bulgaria.
Great Britain breaks off diplomatic relations with Bulgaria.
Germans occupy Bulgaria on way to invade Greece.
The RAF launches a heavy raid against Cologne.
1942 Churchill declares that the Tirpitz is ‘the most important naval vessel in the situation today’ and believes her destruction would ‘profoundly affect the course of the war’.
General Wavell reassumes post as C-in-C India and Burma. Burma is now cut off from the Southwest Pacific.
The Dutch take supreme command of all allied forces in Southwest Pacific.
In Australia, all adult civilians are liable for compulsory war service.
US Army reorganizes into three autonomous commands—Ground Forces, Army Air Forces, and Services of Supply.
The Stage Door Canteen opens on Broadway in 44th St. Theater, where stars entertain and serve servicemen.
1943 The battle of the Bismarck Sea opens Northeast of New Guinea.
US Fifth Air Force (SW Pacific) B-25s use skip-bombing to attack a Japanese convoy sinking 12 ships.
Germans begin a withdrawal from Tunisia, Africa.
The center of Berlin is bombed by the RAF. Some 900 tons of bombs are dropped in a half hour.
1945 US Ninth Army crosses into Germany and reaches the Rhine near Düsseldorf.
The U.S. Third Army captures Trier on the Moselle.
The RAF launches a heavy attack (300 bombers) against Mannheim, causing a devastating firestorm.
After 14 days of fierce fighting, the 503rd Regimental Combat Team – the “Rock Force” – raised the American Flag in the presence of General MacArthur at the Topside Barracks on Corregidor in the Philippines.
In the United States, strikes close ten Chrysler and Briggs plantsTake a look at these other WWII Posts: WWII Today: December 3 Words at War: Headquarters Budapest WWII Today: November 22