Archive for the ‘February’ Category

Mar 04

Los Baños Raid

Los Baños Raid – A Textbook Airborne Operation

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.

 

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Feb 28

World War II Today: February 28

1936 The Japanese Army restores order in Tokyo and arrests officers involved in a coup.

1940 Russian forces overrun the second line of Finnish defenses on the Karelian Isthmus.

First group of British volunteers arrive in Finland, under command of Lt. Kermit Roosevelt, son of Teddy.

1941 Vichy France reduces bread ration from 350g to 280g.

British February ’41 civilian casualty figures tally at 789 killed and 1068 injured.

British Commando’s, having been left to hold Castelorizzo without out Naval support or reinforcement, are forced to evacuate when the Italians land troops on the Island.

1942 Japanese are only 50 miles north of Rangoon.

The Japanese land on Java in East Indies.

Off Delaware coast, German U-boat U-578 sinks US destroyer Jacob Jones—138/149 killed.

1943 Nine Norwegian commandos successfully climb down the steep gorge on one side of the German ‘heavy water’ plant at Telemark and work their way up a 500 foot, almost sheer rock face to reach the plant on the other side of the gorge. Undetected, they gain entrance and successfully set and detonate their explosives, ruining the plant. All the commandos escaped safely, without taking or inflicting any casualties.

A group of German wives of Jewish men begin to gather and protest in Berlin in order to try and stop the deportation of their husbands to concentrations camps.

1944 The Arabs protest to the U.S. over Senate statements about the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine.

1945 The US Ninth Army achieves a breakthrough near Erkelenz 30 miles to the West of Cologne, but loses 100 tanks in the process.

The 2nd Belorussian Front captures Neustettin. The Red Army suspends all further offensive operations against the lines of Army Group Courland.

The British Indian 4th Corps take Meiktila airfield in central Burma after an eight-day push from the Irrawaddy.

U.S. Marines take Motoyama on Iwo Jima after a bloody battle.

Corregidor is reported as clear of Japanese troops.

US Eighth Army lands unopposed on Palawan in Philippines, takes Puerto Princesa and its airfields.

In the US a midnight curfew is placed on nightclubs, sports arenas, theaters, and bars to conserve coal—restaurants and USO clubs are exempt if alcohol is not served.

1946 The U.S. Army declares that it will use V-2 rocket to test radar as an atomic rocket defense system.

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Feb 27

World War II Today: February 27

1933 The burning down of the Reichstag building in Berlin gives the Nazis the opportunity to suspend personal liberty with increased power.

1940 The Soviets launch offensive toward Viipuri, Finland.

1941 The first encounter of the Afrika Korps and the British forces.

1942 The Battle of the Java Sea begins and continues for three days, during which the Allies, under the command of the Dutch Admiral, Karel  Doorman lose five cruisers and six destroyers, while the Japanese lose just 4 transports.

British Commandos raid a German radar station at Bruneval on the French coast.

Nazis order construction of gas chambers at Auschwitz.

The Seattle school board accepts forced resignation of Japanese-American teachers.

1943 Jews working in Berlin armaments industry are sent to Auschwitz.

The Rosenstrasse Protests begin in Germany: Gentile women married to Jews protest treatment of Jews

USAAF bomber aircraft make their first raid on Germany.

The United States Mint begins production of steel pennies to conserve copper.

1944 About 60,000 Japanese are reported to be trapped in New Britain and New Ireland, in the South West Pacific.

The United States issues plastic tokens to make change for ration stamps—blue for processed foods, red for meats and fats.

1945 SHAEF reports that spectacular gains by the U.S. First and Ninth Armies on the Cologne Plain have been made.

Under Russian pressure, the Romanian King, Michael I is forced to appoint a Communist government.

The US 8th Air Force launches another heavy attack against Berlin which devastates the center of the city.

Army Group Courland repulses heavy Red Army attacks in the area of Prekuln.

U.S. Marines land on Verde Island, to the Southeast of Manila.

Tje US Sixth Army secures Corregidor in Philippines.

Syria and Lebanon join many other nations in last-minute declarations of war on Germany and Japan—all who join Allies before March 1 will be invited to the upcoming United Nations conference.

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Feb 26

World War II Today: February 26

1936 Japanese military troops march into Tokyo to conduct a coup and assassinate political leaders.

1940 US War Department activates Air Defense Command under Brig. Gen. James Chaney.

1941 Franco, in response to Hitler’s appeal to enter the war, says ‘I stand today already at your side, entirely and decidedly at your disposal,’ but refuses to enter the war.

British take the Somali capital in East Africa.

Dutch protest Nazi measures against the Jews, German soldiers fire on protesters in Amsterdam, 9 killed, hundreds arrested.

1942 The RAF launches an attack against the battleship Gneisenau, which is being repaired at Kiel’s floating dock. The damage caused is severe and the battleship is never again put to sea under her own power.

Churchill exhorts General Auchinleck to launch an offensive against the German and Italian forces that are gathering in front of the Gazala line. He reminds Auchinleck that the longer he waits, the more time Rommel will have to rebuild his strength. To this General Auchinleck reply’s that his intention is to first build up an armoured striking force as quickly as possible and strengthen the defenses of the Gazala line. Only then would he mount a major offensive, which he advised Churchill would be in early June.

While carrying Army fighters to the Netherlands East Indies, the first U.S. carrier, the USS Langley, is sunk by Japanese bombers.

1943 Von Arnim launches a five-day counter attack in northern Tunisia, gaining some ground. Montgomery issues the plan Operation ‘Pugilist’, which is to smash the Mareth defensive Line in southern Tunisia.

U.S. B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators pound German docks and U-boat lairs at Wilhelmshaven.

1944 Bad weather ends ‘Big Week’, during which 26 German aircraft production related factories are hit putting German monthly production down by 20%.

Japanese retreat from Sinzweya, Burma, ending “Battle of the Admin Box,” as British troops relieve trapped Indian troops.

1945 The attacks by the US Ninth Army into the Hurtgen Forest make little progress.

US Ninth Army reaches Rhine south of Düsseldorf.

Army Group Courland repulses heavy Red Army attacks in the area of Prekuln.

Syria declares war on Germany and Japan.

U.S. Marines land on Verde Island, to the Southeast of Manila.

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Feb 25

World War II Today: February 25

1941 British Commando’s land on the Italian held Island of Castelorizzo in the Dodecanese.

The British submarine, HMS Upholder, sinks the Italian Cruiser Armando Diaz to the southwest of Malta.

British Nigerian troops of the 11th African Division occupy Mogadishu, the capital of Italian Somaliland, having advanced up the coast.

The 12th African Division pushes up the river Juba in Italian Somaliland towards the Abyssinian border town of Dolo.

First delivery of Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers to US Army Air Force.

1942 After the withdrawal of ABDA HQ from Java, Wavell himself now leaves for Australia.

The debate in the House of Commons comes to a close with many speakers being sharply critical of government policy, with the bombing of Germany being called in to question.

1943 The RAF begins a round the clock bombing campaign in Tunisia, with 2,000 raids in the next 48 hours.

First time US Eighth Air Force (based in England) and US Fifteenth Air Force (based in Italy) bomb the same target—Regensburg, Germany.

U-boats break off attack on Allied North Atlantic convoy ON-166; 15 of 49 ships have been lost since February 21.

US reoccupies abandoned Kasserine Pass.

In New Zealand, Japanese POWs attempt escape; 48 POWs and one guard killed.

1944 Convoy JW-57 (43 ships and 19 escorts) sailing the Loch Ewe to the Kola Peninsula, is attacked on 25 February off Norway. One destroyer, HMS Mahratta, is sunk by U-990 for 1,920 tons.

U.S. forces destroy 135 Japanese planes in Marianas and Guam.

1945 Turkey declares war against Germany.

400 RAF bombers carry out attacks against Dortmund and Rheine.

US Fifth Fleet carrier aircraft and B-29 bombers strike Tokyo in devastating raid.

US M26 Pershing tanks are first used in combat in Europe, by the US 3rd Armored Division near the Roer River.

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Feb 24

World War II Today: February 24

1941 The 2-engine Manchester bomber is used for the first time during an RAF raid against Brest.

Reconnaissance elements of the German 5th Light Division clash with British forces for the first time in Africa, at Nofilia near El Agheila.

US Navy survey ship Bear and motor ship North Star arrive in Antarctica to evacuate remaining US personnel from Byrd’s 1939-40 expedition.

1942 Parliament begins a two day debate on the conduct of the war.

USS Enterprise attacks the Japanese garrison on Wake Island.

1944 Hitler speaks to a closed door meeting of Nazi Party leaders and activists at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich on the occasion of the anniversary of the proclamation of the Party Program in 1920. Hitler refuses Goebbels requests that the speech be broadcast and even prohibits any mention of it in the newspapers.

‘Big Week’ continues with a co-ordinated RAF and USAAF attacks on the Schweinfurt ball-bearing factory.

1945 A haggard and aged-looking Hitler addresses his Gauleiters and Reichsleiters for what proves to be the last time in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the proclamation of the Nazi Party program. Perhaps sensitive to the likelihood of public scepticism and derision, he refuses to allow the speech to be broadcast or even reported to the public at large.

A German counter attack wipes out the Russian Hron bridgehead over the Danube to the northwest of Budapest.

German U-boats sink 8 ships and 2 destroyers from a convoy bound for the Russian port of Murmansk.

U.S. Marines capture a second airfield on Iwo Jima.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Maher Pasha declares war on the Axis and is immediately assassinated in the parliament chamber.

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Feb 23

World War II Today: February 23

1938 Twelve Chinese fighter planes drop bombs on Japan.

1940 Sweden announces that she will not permit British or French troops to cross through her territory on their way to Finland.

The Soviet Union announces its final conditions for peace. Finland must hand over the Karelia Isthmus and the shores of Lake Ladoga. It must also grant a 30 year lease on the Hangö Peninsula and sign a mutual assistance treaty, guaranteeing the security of the Gulf of Finland against external threats. In return for all this, the Russians will withdraw from the Petsamo area.

Crews of Exeter and Ajax cheered through London after return from South America.

1941 Alexandros Korizis, the Greek premier formally accepts Britain’s offer of troops to help defend against the Italians.

Stuka’s sink a British Destroyer and the Monitor Terror off the North African coast, near Tobruk.

Free French forces land in Eritrea.

Dr. Glenn Seaborg & Dr. Arthur Wahl chemically identify new element of plutonium at University of California, Berkeley; discovery kept secret until after the war.

1942 US Fifth Air Force B-17s, based in Townsville, Australia make first attack on Rabaul; 1 crash-lands inNew Guinea swamp—Swamp Ghost now in Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor. Japanese sub I-17 fires at Bankline Oil Refinery at Ellwood near Santa Barbara CA; little damage; first attack on US mainland in war.

US Army Air Forces approve “winged star” emblem in shape of a V for victory.

The British submarine HMS Trident, torpedo’s the cruiser Prinz Eugen which is sailing to Norway from Kiel, forcing its return to Germany for substantial repairs.

While the 17th Indian Division is withdrawing across the river Sittang, the Japanese launch an attack to capture the Bridge. Lieutenant General Smyth, orders the bridge to be blown, even though more than half his division has still to cross. The remnants of the 17th Indian Division, withdraw to Pegu, where they are joined by the 7th Armoured Brigade, which had recently arrived from the Middle East. For prematurely blowing up the bridge on the river Sittang, Lieutenant General Smyth is removed from command of the 17th Indian Division by General Wavell.

Wavells ABDA HQ leaves Java for Australia, where upon its arrival it is disbanded. Against the wishes of Churchill, the Australian Prime Minister, Curtin orders all Australian Divisions to return home.

A Japanese submarine shells an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California, the first Axis bombs to hit American soil.

1944 U.S. carrier-based planes attack the Mariana Islands. Only 1,300 miles from Tokyo.

General Lucas is sacked from the Anzio command and is replaced by Major General Truscott. German counter-attacks drives the Anzio beachhead back further.

Merrill’s ‘Marauders’ (US 5307th Composite Unit) begins Stilwell’s Sino-American advance into northern Burma.

1945 The US Ninth Army begins an offensive from its bridgeheads on the Roer river leading to the bloody battle of the Hurtgen Forest.

The Russians capture the fortress of Posen after a month-long siege.

US paratroops spring 2,146 detainees from a Japanese camp South of Manila in surprise attack, during which 243 Japanese are killed for loss of just two U.S. killed and two injured.

U.S. Marines storm Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima and raise the U.S. flag.

1946 Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita is hanged in Manila, the Philippines, for war crimes.

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Feb 22

World War II Today: February 22

1940 Two IRA bombs explode in London; 12 people injured.

n North Sea, Luftwaffe accidentally sinks German destroyer Leberecht Maass; during rescue,German destroyer Max Schultz is sunk by mine.

1941 The first mass round-up of Jews in Amsterdam; 430 deported in reprisal for murder of Dutch Nazi party member.

Bread ration in Jewish ghetto in Warsaw reduced to 3 oz per day.

The Afrika Korps, newly arrived in Libya, launch their first probing attacks against the unpleasantly surprised British Army at El Agheila.

1942 Air Marshal A. T. (Bomber) Harris is appointed C-in-C of Bomber Command.

British forces in retreat less than 100 miles from Rangoon, the capital of Burma.

President Franklin Roosevelt orders General Douglas MacArthur to leave the Philippines.

New car sales in the United States end for the duration of the war

1943 Churchill is said to be ‘on the mend’ after a severe fever.

Army Group Centre begins a counterattack in the area between the Dnieper and Donets.

Allied commando raid on Myebon, South of Akyab in the Arakan, western Burma.

Norway, Nazi collaborationist Quisling orders conscription of 35,000 Norwegian men for military construction.

Battleship USS Iowa is commissioned, New York Naval Yard, first of four Iowa class battleships, the last US battleships.

1944 Malinovsky completes the capture of the mining area around Krivoi Rog.

Heavy Japanese losses as the U.S. Navy bombards the Marianas in the Pacific.

1945 Allied Air Forces launch Operation Clarion, a concerted effort to wipe out all forms of transport available to the Germans in 24 hours. Nearly 9,000 aircraft, operating from bases in England, France, Holland, Belgium and Italy attack over 250,00 square miles of territory, targeting railways, bridges, ports and roads.

After a heavy four-day battle, the U.S.Fifth Army takes the Upper Reno Valley in northern Italy between Bologna and Florence.

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Feb 21

World War II Today: February 21

1940 Britain reduces passenger train service due to coal shortage.

1941 Third and final day of Swansea Blitz (Luftwaffe bombing of Swansea, Wales): 230 killed, but docks and facilities are undamaged.

1942 Convoy ON-166 (60 ships) sailing from Britain to North America, is attacked in the North Atlantic by 19 U-boats from wolfpacks Ritter and Knappen between the 21st and 26th February. 14 allied ships are lost for 87,901 tons. 4 U-boats U-225, U-606, U-529, U623 were sunk during the battle.

House of Representatives begins hearings about removal of Japanese-Americans from West Coast.

German spy Bernard Julius Otto Kuehn convicted of espionage for sending information about Pearl Harbor to the Japanese before and during the attack.

1943 The 25th Anniversary of the creation of the Red Army is celebrated in all allied countries.

1944 U.S. Marines complete the capture of Eniwetok Atoll, suffering 339 dead.

Hideki Tojo becomes chief of staff of the Japanese army.

1945 The 1st Ukrainian Front captures Guben.

The US 8th Air Force bombs Nurnberg with over 1,000 bombers.

The British 2nd Division establishes another Irrawaddy bridgehead, while the British 36th Division breaks through at Myitson, in northern Burma. Meanwhile further British forces cross the Irrawaddy in central Burma.

Off Iwo Jima, Japanese kamikazes sink US escort carrier Bismarck Sea and damage the Aircraft Carriers Saratoga and Lunga Point.

US Sixth Army secures Bataan Peninsula on Luzon.

Scottish Olympic runner Eric Liddell (memorialized in Chariots of Fire) dies in Japanese internment camp in China, where he had served as a missionary.

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Feb 20

World War II Today: February 20

1938 Hitler demands self-determination for Germans in Austria and Czechoslovakia.

1940 General von Falkenhorst is appointed to command the German invasion of Norway.

1941 The Australian Prime Minister, R.G. Menzies arrives in Britain for talks with Churchill.

The United States sends war planes to the Pacific.

1942 Lt. Edward “Butch” O’Hare of USS Lexington shoots down five Japanese planes in six minutes in his F4F Wildcat over Rabaul, becoming the first US Navy ace of war, receives Medal of Honor.

First US Eighth Air Force officers arrive in England.

Japanese forces land on the Portuguese Island of Timor.

Japanese troops having suffered heavy casualties over the past few weeks from battle and disease, begin to slacken their pressure in Bataan. President Quezon of the Philippines leaves for Australia in a US submarine.

1943 Fierce fighting in continues in central Tunisia after the German breakout through the Kasserine Pass, but further offensive operations by the Afrika Korps are halted in order for them to withdraw to the Mareth line.

1944 ‘Big Week’ rolls on with the largest ever daylight raid of war by the USAAF on Germany as 970 bombers carry out attacks against Hamburg,

Leipzig and Braunschweig. The RAF pound Stuttgart with 2,000-tons of bombs.

A ferry boat, carrying the remaining ‘Heavy Water’ production from Telemark in Norway, back to Germany for safety is sabotaged and sunk  on Lake Tinnsjo.

The Admiralty announces an 11-day battle with U-boats in Straits of Gibraltar, during which three ships are sunk and several damaged.

U.S. carrier-based and land-based planes destroy the Japanese base at Rabaul.

1945 US Marines take Airfield 1 on Iwo Jima.

The RAF launch the first of 36 consecutive night raids on Berlin.

Red Army attacks against the lines of Army Group Courland fail in the face of stubborn German resistance.

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