May 1942 (1)

Burma Road cut by the Japanese

Burma Road cut by the Japanese

1 – 20 May – the Japanese 18th and 56th divisions in Burma were swift in their victory cutting through the Chinese 5th Army’s defenses and taking Mandalay.  The 33rd Division captured Monywa to the west and then drove up the Irrawaddy Valley.  On the 8th, Myitkyina, an important rail terminus and air base in the north, was taken.  Heavy monsoon rains, made jungle trails impassable and did slow the enemy down, but by 12 May, when the 20th Division arrived, Burma was conquered.  The Japanese suffered about 7,000 casualties, while the British, Indian and Burma troops lost 13,463 KIA.

Mandalay is taken.

Mandalay is taken.

The Australian Coastwatching Service again reported an enemy sighting past New Georgia on 2 May and the 50 Australian servicemen, at the Tulagi base in the Solomons, were evacuated.  The Japanese landed on the island the following day.  4 May, the Yorktown launched a strike group.  The enemy destroyer Kikuzuki and several smaller boats were sunk; the destroyer Yuzuki and the mine layer Okinoshima were damaged.  The enemy would turn the island into a seaplane base.

After an RAF plane dropped food, Gen. Stilwell helps to carry some bully beef out of the Uyu River.

After an RAF plane dropped food, Gen. Stilwell helps to carry some bully beef out of the Uyu River.

4-6 May – as the Battle of the Coral Sea was about to begin (the first major carrier battle of the war), 3 US task Forces united to intercept a Japanese invasion group, including the carriers: Shoho, Zuikaku and Shokaku bound for Port Moresby.  As the enemy went around the Solomons, hoping to attack the Americans from the rear, they weren’t there.  US intelligence had decoded their plans in time to elude and confuse the enemy. 7 May – Task Force 44, commanded by RAdmiral Crace, (Royal Navy) turned the enemy invasion force back, but not before they managed to sink the destroyer, USS Sims, and the fleet oiler, USS Neosho.  Adm. Fletcher had split his force into two groups, which was the reason the Japanese only caught these 2 ships.  The enemy air squadron had not been detected by the Allies.

HMAS Australia being attacked

HMAS Australia being attacked

Japanese Captain Izawa made an error near Misma Island when he turned the Shoho into the wind to try and launch his planes.  He had made his ship an easy target.  The Yorktown and Lexington sent a massive air attack on the enemy carrier.  On the Yorktown the message received from Lt.Cmdr. R.E. Dixon was, “Scratch one flattop. REPEAT Dixon to carrier, scratch one flattop.”  Skillful helmswork of the HMAS Australia and the cunning of other captains of the US< New Zealand and Australia, the squadron was saved from all but superficial damage.

Shokaku under attack

Shokaku under attack

8 May – major air strikes were exchanged throughout this day at a range of only 200 miles (320 km).  Dive bombers badly damaged the Shokaku, but the Yorktown was also in bad condition.  The USS Lexington was bombed and torpedoes which ruptured her gasoline tanks.  While smoke filled the air, the crew was rescued and then later sunk by other US ships.

destroyers assisting Lexington

destroyers assisting Lexington

This left Commander William Ault in the sky without a carrier to return to and far too distant from land.  Both Ault and his radio-gunner, William T. Butler, apparently suffered wounds when Zeros attacked their SBD Dauntless.  The Lexington heard his distress call, but he was not on the radar.  Ault radioed to “the Lady Lex”: “O.K.  So long people.  We put a 1,000-pound hit on the flattop… flying low on fuel and nowhere to land…”  Their reply was, “Good Luck.”  Neither man was ever seen again and the wreckage was never found.  Comdr. Ault received the Navy Cross posthumously.

9 May – the Japanese and Americans broke contact, with shipping losses to both sides.  The enemy put their plans for expansion to Papua and the Solomons on hold.  The Japanese lost 77 planes, 1074 men and the light carrier Shoho.  The US Navy lost 66 planes, 543 KIA, one tanker and destroyer sunk and damage to the Yorktown.  The overall result of the battle was the first major Japanese reversal in the war.

Click on images to enlarge. ################################################################################ updated – Military Humor – 

Safety first with the new PT belts!

pt-belt-5500

pt-belt-5509 pt-belt-55022     ############################################################################### Farewell Salutes –  border   Marvin Barnes – Mesa, CO; US Army, Korea, MP

John Como – Nashua, NH; US Army Med. Corps, 99th Evac Hospital, WWII, Bronze Star

Harry Davis – Dyer, AR; US Army, Korea

Christian Delionback – Birmingham, AL; US Air Force

BIABoNLCEAEPa7G (599x769)Jerry Heinz – Tarboro, NC; US Army, Company F/187th RCT, Korea

Marjorie Johnson – Almeda, CA; US Army WACS, WWII

Wayne Kessel – Abbottstown, PA; US Army Air Corps, HQ2/11th A/B

Thornton Lounsbury – Toronto, CAN; US Navy, WWII

Michael Marino – Jupiter, FL; USMC (Ret. 40 years), Sgt.

Sebastiano ‘Buster’ Paciocco – Honeoye, NY; US Army, Cpl, WWII, ETO

Lloyd Tatton – Pukekohe, NZ; NZ Army # 514720

Thaddaeus Wozniak – Whitfield, AUS; SAS British Army # 2105322 border

##################################################################################

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on January 15, 2015, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 52 Comments.

  1. The tragic ending to that historical, event regarding the demise of Commander Ault and his radio gunner, seems somewhat unfinished and inconclusive.
    Apart from the award posthumously for the commander, surely his radio gunner was accorded appropriate recognition.
    Thanks gp for an interesting post.
    Ian

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    • There was no further information for me to include, that I could locate. I’m afraid that accounts for the abrupt (non)closure of their lives. Very sad, as so many of the stories are. Thanks for your continued interest, Ian.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What heartbreaking struggles. And not that there is any contest for the terror of a battle but I cannot bear the thought of being on a war ship. I toured the Midway (highly recommended for anyone passing through San Diego) and the thought of being under fire while on board was terrifying. Great post.

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  3. The Ault story is one of the saddest of WWII… I know how his family (and Butler’s) feels to this day not knowing where he rests… It is a huge void.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your pages are always well worth a visit, however salutary the lesson and heartbreaking the content.

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  5. One more typically fascinating and saddening post. Good job!

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  6. Where is the Farewell Salute photo taken? Looks like a beautiful memorial.

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  7. Tremendous blog and this post is sobering. My father served in the Royal Navy from 1935 to 1970 and was on convoy escort duty as well as in the Far East at the end of the war.. I read his matter of fact memoir that I got him to write in his late 70s and even then as I imagined how I must of felt, he was so matter of fact… I also lost my grandfather in the first world war and I know from letters from my grandmother that it is those that are at home fearing the very worst who also were so brave… great thank you.

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    • I’m very glad you like the blog, Sally. Feel free to tell us more about your family, all of their stories are welcome and need to be remembered. [if you have posts concerning them, leave a link here for others to follow] Another reader, Hillary, is writing about Burma and the CBI as well. I hope we’ll be seeing more of you.

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  8. Great post as ever, cheers 🙂

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  9. I imagine that it must be very hard for your younger readers/followers to understand and realize the hardships and the “you’re on your own” attitude that was accepted and commonplace during that brutal war, the resources and the back-up which is so much part of everyday military operations was completely unknown.

    Can anyone imagine what went through the minds of men like Ault & Butler in those last minutes of their lives. Two brave warriors alone and doomed showing nothing but courage, I sometimes wonder how our present day men woud re-act in similar circumstances.

    One of the many sad stories from WWII

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    • I imagine the younger readers are having difficulty picturing an entire continent being abandoned – today the aircraft and materiel can be there in a flash! A world without cell phones, computers – even radar was a new invention – it must sound like the dark ages to them.
      I can not imagine what Ault & Butler went through when then realized the situation – nowhere to land, no bandages for their wounds, never seeing home – they had done their best and now it was over. Unfortunately you are correct – this is ONLY one of the sad stories of WWII.

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  10. Honored reading. Thank you for bringing this to your readers.

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  11. Such incredible history! Thank you for sharing it~

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  12. Scary story! Your are a great nonfictional storyteller, GP Cox! With a wonderful sense of humor too. We’d love to share a bottle with you and look into your well of pics. Wonderful job as usual.
    XO from the Four of us,
    Dina, Klausbernd, Siri & Selma

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  13. With the taking of Burma, the Japanese eliminated the final resupply chain to the Chinese and would eventually lead to the Hump operation. Supplies were essential for China’s war against Japan. If Japan could succeed in knocking out China, it would free up some one million troops for fighting in the Pacific.

    Thanks as always for your great posts, GP. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  14. There has to be a story for those ‘PT’ belts? (One can well imagine~!) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are a training program feature, a reflective item for safety, not combat. The men here are just having fun with them.

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      • I guessed so—but here in NZ it wouldn’t surprise me if our own forces had to wear dayglo jackets actually in the field, or were invalided out of operational zones due to prolonged (say) hiccups.

        Right from the cradle these days the do-gooders have everything covered—they even tie ribbons around trees and kiddies aren’t allowed to climb any higher. Systematic demasculation? Brrrrr … love it that guys can laugh, long may it it last.

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        • They are more and likely just trying to keep their troops safe – and from never having to hear those God-awful words, “I regret to inform you…” Those 5 words hit a person harder than any mortar fire.
          The military has been making jokes to ease tension and pass the time since they were formed; another survival mechanism.

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  15. I think that the Coral Sea battle was the first ever carrier vs. carrier conflict . Am I right on that ? Lessons would have been learned as mistakes were inevitable made in the confusion .

    Liked by 1 person

  16. gp, Read this twice & still so much to digest! What boggles my mind is what I am reading in my book about Churchill. The British Command’s opinion was that the US in 1942 should shift its Pacific strength to the European Theater to please the Russians. And the Brits strength in the Pacific was weak. My compliments here once again. I’ve never asked you what vast sources you use for you research. Excellent! Phil

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m very happy to see such interest. I stopped adding my resources at the bottom of the posts because it took too long and kept getting longer. I have a fairly large library of books published from 1946 to nearly the present and I investigate a slew of web sites. Readers tell me about books they’ve read and I’ve gone and purchased about half of those. I don’t like to take any one version as gospel. Churchill was concerned with British interests, which at our entry, was England and the Middle East. He even abandoned any defense for Australia over those interests.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. What frightening days. Not too different than the constant terrorist attacks we see now, throughout the world. Every day, there’s a new threat.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Once again you have brought history to life. I can only imagine when Commander William Ault was low on fuel and no where to land how devastating that would be. Have a good day, Everett!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.

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  20. “Scratch one flattop”….I always wondered who thought up that wonderful phrase. Another marvellously interesting post. Thanks very much for your efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. It takes a lot of grit to fly missions over the expanse of an ocean.

    Liked by 1 person

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