16 February – 160 miles north of the Truk Atoll, (today known as Chuuk Islands), the US submarine, Skate, sank the Japanese light cruiser Agano in the Central Pacific zone. They fired 4 Mark 14 torpedoes, 2 hit the starboard side and set her on fire and the boiler room flooded. The IJN Oite rescued 523 men, including Captain Matsuda.
17 February – for Operation Hailstorm, the US forces headed for the vital air and naval facilities in the Caroline Islands between New Guinea and the Marianas. Naval Task Force – 58, under Adm. Mitscher, had 9 carriers, 6 battleships sporting a support fleet of 10 cruisers and 28 destroyers, began their wave attacks on Truk Atoll. The pilots were disappointed that the heavy vessels of the Imperial Navy were not there; Adm. Koga had moved the ships to the Palaus. But, the airmen did destroy over 200 enemy aircraft and over 200,000 tons of auxiliary vessels.
IJN Naka, April ’42
The vessels that did manage to escape, such as the IJN Naka, were eliminated by surface and submarine forces in the area. The Naka was a Sendai-class light cruiser. She lost about 240 men KIA and 210 survived, including her CO Capt. Yoshimara Sutezawa.
The US carrier-aircraft had an overwhelming success on their first radar-guided night operations; Truk, the “Gibraltar of the Pacific”, was neutralized.
Task Force – 38,4, composed of destroyers, Farenholt, Buchanan, Lansdowne, Lardner and Woodworth conducted a shore bombardment of east New Britain, near Rabaul. This was known as the Battle of Karavia Bay. They fired on Praed Point and a gun battery at Raluana. The observation plane dropped a stick of bombs on Cape Gazelle shore batteries.
17-20 February – while Truk was being completely annihilated, Adm. Turner’s forces attacked Eniwetok Atoll for Operation Forager in the Marianas. Engebi Island was taken in one day by a combined reserve Marine force and the 27th Infantry Div. The Japanese documents that were captured informed the Americans that a strong enemy garrison was on Parry and Eniwetok islands. (contrary to intelligence reports). This caused an immediate boosting of strength. The NY National Guardsmen of the 27th Div. took 2½ days to capture Eniwetok and the Marines took Parry in one.
18 February – the IJN destroyer, Oite, (Pursuing Wind), carrying a crew and the survivors of the Agano attempted to return to Truk. As she approached the islands, TF – 58 aircraft torpedoes and sank her – only 20 survived. [The remains of IJN Oite were located in 1986, in 2 pieces, 40 feet apart from each other.]
1 February – Operation CATCHPOLE (operations against Eniwetokand Ujelang Atolls in the Marshall Islands) is begun to occupy and defend Eniwetok Atoll. This will furnish a striking base for operations against the Marianas. During the operation, the 7th Air Force aircraft operating from newly acquired bases in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands neutralized airfields in the Marianas and continued to pound by-passed airfields in the Marshalls.
1-4 February in an effort to reinforce Nissan Island, in the Green Islands, enemy submarines I-185 and I-169 left Rabaul carrying troops. Due to heavy seas, only 77 soldiers made it to shore and the boats returned to their base with the remainder of the reinforcements.
1-8 February – In the Marshall Islands, Kwajalein Atoll would cost 372 American casualties and the islands of Roi-Namaur totaled 737. After 8 days of battles, the Japanese had 11, 612 casualties.
4-25 February – in Burma, the Japanese 55th Div., led by Gen. Hanaya Tadashi, counterattacked the British XV Corps, under LtGen. Christison, in Operation Ha-Go. By going around the east flank on the 6th, they overran the 7th Indian Div. HQ. Gen. Slim brought up the 26th Indian Div. and moved the British 36th Div. into support. The West African 81st was in the Kaladan Valley parallel.
Gen. Wingate 3,000 re-formed and re-trained Long Range Penetration Unit – Chindits – crossed the northern Burma border. The 7th Indian Div. encircled by the enemy received air drops of food and ammo and continued to fight the Japanese, who were dependent upon the whatever supplies arrived by land route. By the 24th, the Allied troops finally dislodged from Ngakyedauk Pass. The Japanese and one element of the 5th Div. were now cut off from the other two.
10 February – the US Marines landed on Arno Atoll. USMC P-40s and Navy fighters made a dive-bomb attack on Vunakanau Airfield, B-25’s made a follow-up bombing. P-39’s hit the buildings at Bonis and barges at Matchin Bay and near Green Island.
12 February – the Australian 8th Brigade on New Guinea met up with the US troops at Saidor. At this point, only 60 miles of coastline in northern Huon Peninsula remained in Japanese control.
New Zealand troops on Nissan Island
15 February – Operation Squarepeg began when the ships of the 3rd Amphibious Force put the 3rd New Zealand Infantry Division on Nissan and smaller islands in the Green Island sector. Five NZ soldiers were KIA on Sirot Island. This put them half-way between Bougainville and New Ireland, making it strategically possible to by-pass some enormous enemy garrisons. Plans for the Philippines could now proceed without the previously expected loss of life.
SeaBees and equipment come ashore on Nissan Island.
The US Navy 93rd SeaBees would later land and battle for the muddy atoll to produce roads and essential airstrips on Nissan. The Catalina “Black Cats” would move in and PT units set up on Barahun Island. Within weeks a steady stream of supply ships, Cassiopeia, Harper, Talbot, Unicoi and others will rendezvous with smaller vessels to ship the matériels through the shallow channel.
With much of the decade dominated by World War II, the 1940s have not gone down in history as the happiest of times. But the 40s had much more to them than war. Swing dancing, jazz, fabulous fashion, classic film, and even the first computer all helped to define the decade as well.
People of the 1940s did the best they could to smile through the tough times. Take a look at these photos from 40s to see what we mean.
Lt. Alec George Horwood, Victoria Cross; Queen’s Royal West Surrey Reg., British Army
As the Japanese prepared for a major assault through north Burma into India, the British were attempting a more aggressive approach into occupied Burma. The fighting was conducted in dense jungle where the Japanese strong points were well concealed – and they fought to the death.
As a Sergeant in the 6th Battalion The Queen’s Royal Regiment Alec Horwood had been captured at Dunkirk but had escaped as they were being escorted through Antwerp, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. After being Commissioned he was attached to the 1st Battalion The Northamptonshire Regiment and he now found himself in the jungle fighting of Burma:
Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regimental badge.
At Kyauchaw on 18th January 1944, Lieutenant Horwood accompanied the forward company of The Northamptonshire Regiment into action against a Japanese defended locality with his forward mortar observation post.
Throughout that day he lay in an exposed position which had been completely bared of cover by concentrated air bombing and effectively shot his own mortars and those of a half troop of another unit while the company was maneuvering to locate the exact position of the enemy bunkers and machine-gun nests. During the whole of this time Lieutenant Horwood was under intense sniper, machine-gun, and mortar fire, and at night he came back with most valuable information about the enemy.
On 19th January, he moved forward with another company and established an observation post on a precipitous ridge. From here, while under continual fire from the enemy, he directed accurate mortar fire in support of two attacks which were put in during the day. He also carried out a personal reconnaissance along and about the bare ridge, deliberately drawing the enemy fire so that the fresh company which he had led to the position, and which was to carry out an attack, might see the enemy positions.
Lieutenant Horwood remained on the ridge during the night 19th-20th January and on the morning of 20th January shot the mortars again to support a fresh attack by another company put in from the rear of the enemy. He was convinced that the enemy would crack and volunteered to lead the attack planned for that afternoon.
He led this attack with such calm resolute bravery, that the enemy were reached and while standing up in the wire, directing and leading the men with complete disregard to the enemy fire which was then at point blank range, he was mortally wounded.
on patrol in Burma, 1944
By his fine example of leadership on the 18th, 19th and 20th January when continually under fire, by his personal example to others of reconnoitering, guiding and bringing up ammunition in addition to his duties at the mortar observation post, all of which were carried out under great physical difficulties and in exposed positions, this officer set the highest example of bravery and devotion to duty which all ranks responded to magnificently.
The cool, calculated actions of this officer, coupled with his magnificent bearing and bravery which culminated in his death on the enemy wire, very largely contributed to the ultimate success of the operation which resulted in the capture of the position on the 24th January.
22-26 January – the fresh men of the Australian 15th and 18th Brigades captured Kankiryo Saddle on the western tip of the New Guinea Finesterre Range. This important enemy position placed the men only 20 miles from the coast.
8-31 January – a US Navy communiqué reported that American submarines had sunk 10 Japanese vessels, including an oil tanker on the 8th alone. The enemy cruiser IJN Kuma was sunk by the British sub, HMS Tally Ho on the 11th, in Solomon Island waters. And the US Marines were continuing to battle the enemy on Bougainville.
Click on images to enlarge.
31 January – Operation Flintlock, a well-planned and very large action started off with shells from the battleships and aircraft from Tarawa and Makin. They knocked out the airstrips on Jaluit and Mili. Adm. Spruance’s 4 carrier groups hit Wotje and Maloelap.
The leadership of this huge operation: Adm. K. Turner had the overall command of the amphibious operation; MGen. C. Corbett led the Kwajalein Southern Force; RAdm. R. Conolly commanded the Northern Force of the newly formed 4th Marine Division for the twin islets of Roi-Namur; Adm. Hill led the assault on Majuro Atoll with one Battalion of the US Army 27th Division, 2 Marine battalions and one regular Corps and then on to Eniwetok.
Adm. Mitscher’s Task Force 58 included 12 carriers, 8 fast battleships, 6 cruisers and 36 destroyers. They had sailed from Pearl Harbor on the 22nd to meet and destroy any Japanese vessel that dared to leave Truk in defense.
view of part of the 5th Fleet
Adm. Spruance had overall command of the 5th Fleet (“The Big Blue Fleet), with 375 ships at his disposal, 700 carrier-based and 475 land-based aircraft. His mission was to get 53,000 assault troops on shore at 3 islands that were separated by over 300 miles of open Pacific.
At 0950 hours, Adm. Hill signally that Majro Atoll was secure. Kwajalein, after 3 days of bombing, one sailor said, “…it looked as if it had been picked up 20,000 feet and then dropped.” But 5,000 fanatical Japanese troops survived and this would cause casualties to the 4th Marine Division, despite the enemy’s lack of organization.
Japanese Kawanishi H8K seaplane downed after strafing the beach of Kwajalein.
More on these battles in February 1944.
9-30 January – in the CBI, the British 14th Army took the port of Maungdaw on the Bay of Bengal. Although, despite their success, the troops were left exposed on their left flank. The Japanese just happened to be amassing right there.
Stilwell’s Chinese troops continued to advance and by the end of the month, the Chinese 22 Division had captured Taro, Burma.
On January 2nd 1943, the Australian Navy corvette HMAS Whyalla was anchored deep in the Maclaren Harbour inlet on the Cape Nelson Peninsula in New Guinea. She had been brought in close to the shoreline and camouflaged with a bewildering array of branches, vines and bushes that were doing their best to hide 730 tons of steel ship from the Imperial Japanese Air Service, who at that stage still menaced Allied naval operations in the area.
Like a lightning storm a force of 18 Japanese dive bombers approached undetected and attacked in a terrifyingly determined manner. The Whyalla had ﬁeld survey parties out on duty and her two tenders, the requisitioned trawlers HMAS Stella and Polaris, were sounding off the harbour entrance. Several bombs narrowly missed the Whyalla, which suffered damage from…
Pappy Boyington, famed rebel leader of the Black Sheep Squadron
3 January – Greg “Pappy” Boyington commanded 46 fighters, flying from Ondonga, to Rabaul. Several needed to abort due to mechanical failure. From 20-24,000′ they dove to intercept 27 Zeros of the 253 Kokutai, while they were already confronted with 27 Zeros of the 204 Kokutai. Boyington’s F4U 17915 and his wingman F4U 02723 were shot down and both men were listed as missing.
4 January – the ‘Snooper Squadron’ of the 13th Air Force flew their first mission. Fifteen B-24’s, escorted by 70 or more P-38’s and US Navy F6F’s bombed Lakunai Airfield, near Rabaul, on New Britain. The enemy sent 80-90 fighters to intercept. The US claimed 20 enemy aircraft downed and lost one B-24 and 2 damaged. Twelve other aircraft supported ground troops on Bougainville.
Marines on Cape Gloucester
6-9 January – Australian troops at Cape Gloucester in northern New Britain experienced heavy fighting on these 3 days as they advanced to the Aogiri River. By the 9th, they had taken the Aogiri Ridge.
11 January – US B-24 Liberators made a Low-level attack on Japanese shipping around Kwajalein Atoll. They sank 2 vessels and damaged 4 others. The carrier aircraft would continue bombing in preparation for Operation Flintlock for the Marshall Islands. This area comprises 32 island groups, the largest being Kwajalein that consists of some 100 islets that form a lagoon 66 miles long and 20 miles wide.
Gen. Adachi at Buna, New Guinea
On New Guinea, 9 days after the US landed at Saidor, Gen. Adachi was back in Madang, but the 14,000 troops he sent ahead on foot, would not reach him until 1 March. More than 4,000 men of the Japanese 20th and 51st divisions had died enroute. Between the terrain, shortage of supplies and American strafing, they were ill-equipped to fight for the town.
Japanese Sgt. Eiji Lizuka, 51st Div., survived the journey: “We passed many dead and dying soldiers. As we had no fresh uniforms or shoes we would strip the dead and take theirs. Sometimes we took clothes and boots from men who were still alive, but could no longer move, and we said to them, ‘You don’t need such fine shoes any more.’ They would watch us with dull eyes and let us do anything. We even took water canteens from them. That was the worst, to hear a soldier say, ‘Don’t take my canteen away from me, I’m still alive.”‘
In Burma, 36 A-36’s, P-51’s and P-40’s of the 10th Air Force, pounded an encampment of approximately 4,900 enemy troops and a large amount of supplies, causing considerable damage.
Men of the 10th Air Force, 7th Bombardment Group
13 January – in China, two B-25’s of the 14th Air Force made a sweep from Hong Kong to Hainan attacking 4 large boats, several warehouses, a radio station and a car at Fort Bayard, China. One of the vessels exploded.
15 January – on New Guinea, the Australian troops took Sio, which put them 50 miles from the American troops at Saidor. The Japanese on the Huon became disorganized as the Australians took over the Finiesterre Range in the northern sector of the peninsula.
The Louisiana area has been used for ‘jungle’ or ‘guerrilla’ warfare training for many years and influenced quite a number of our military troops. I chose today to include these further photographs to help show what these men of 1944 saw.
For this years Flag Day, I chose to help celebrate the Star Spangled Banner’s 200 years! As national treasures go, it was a bargain: $405.90 was paid to Mary Pickersgill of Baltimore, who fashioned it from red, blue and undyed wool, plus cotton for the 15 stars to fly at the fortress guarding the city’s harbor.
A collage of 2 women, 1914, at the Smithsonian working to restore the Star-Spangled Banner in a room with a model of a giant squid; by Terry Winters.
An enormous flag, 30 by 42 feet, it was intended as a bold statement to the British warships that were certain to come. And, when in September 1814, the young United States turned back the invaders in a spectacular battle witnessed by Francis Scott Key, he put his joy into a verse published first as “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” and then, set to the tune of a British drinking song – immortalized as “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The flag itself, enshrined since 2008 in a special chamber at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, following a $7 million restoration.
This story was adapted from information found at the Smithsonian Magazine and the magnificent rendition of the U.S. National Anthem by GSgt. Alan Benoit, with many thanks.
It took 22 trains and one week to transport the proud and cocky division to Camp Polk in the west-central area of Louisiana. This was the home of the armored forces and it would not take long for the two units to clash. But first, they planned to enjoy the improved living conditions and the 3.2 beer. They found time to “hit the town” and often it was a place called “Scotty’s,” just outside of Southern Pines. The tank units did not take kindly to the finely tuned troopers who were in the best shape of their lives (and they knew it!). The 11th would often “unboot” the tankers when they were in town, forcing them to return to base barefoot and find their footwear neatly lined up in their barracks.
building a pontoon boat in Calcasieu Swamp
Beginning Jan. 10, the men underwent harsh training in preparation for the tests at the hands of the Third Army. The Louisiana Maneuvers began Feb. 5 with the troopers bivouacked near Hawthorne, LA. There were 4 tactical maneuvers lasting 3 days each. First, they jumped and marched immediately after. Then they attacked and defended using an attack sequence of “flags & umpires.” Finally, the “enemy” broke through and they would retreat. The weather in the Calcasieu Swamp was snow, hail, sleet and enough rain to swallow a jeep. The men joked that the camp should be a naval base. On Feb. 20, the 11th airborne division took and passed their infantry tests.
Leesville, LA 1940’s
About this time, Gen. Swing was pleased to be told that the troopers were being sent to the Pacific and MacArthur would consider the unit his “secret weapon.” This turned out to be one reason for the lack of newspaper coverage for the division until they landed in the Philippines. I discovered this after an extensive search in the Australian library and newspaper archives.
Click on photos to enlarge.
The 11th was restricted to base for one month. Swing decided the men should travel to their POE (Port of Exit/Entry) Camp Stoneman, CA incognito as Shipment # 1855 in an effort to bypass the Inspector General’s men. Orders were to look and act as a “straight-leg” unit; ALL paratrooper I.D. and clothing to be stowed away.
News from home: The Banner(Broad Channel newspaper sent to servicemen) reports: NY Governor Dewey signed a bill that would allow fishermen of Jamaica Bay to shoot an unlimited amount of eels, but the shooting had to be done with bow and arrow. Smitty’s mom says: everyone is still trying to figure that one out.
Fellow blogger, Carl D’Agostino at “i know i made you smile”, sent me his father’s pictures and information. Arthur D’Agostino had been with the 8th Armored Division. They were stationed at Camp Campbell, KY until 1943 when they were moved to Camp Polk, LA to prepare for combat. The division was sent to the European Theater on 5 December 1943, but Mr. D’Agostino was in recovery from surgery and was spared the journey. Carl’s blog can be foundHERE.
The New Year in the Pacific started off with a bang! Literally.
1 January – US aircraft from the USS Monterey and Bunker Hill attacked Kavieng, New Ireland and destroyed 7 enemy planes. RAdm. Sherman’s carrier task force bombed a Japanese convoy of transports and several cruisers in those waters. Fifteen B-24 bombers escorted by 68 fighters hit Rabaul, New Britain.
After a strike on Rabaul.
In other areas, the USS Finback sank and enemy tanker in the East China Sea, hitting her with 5 of the 6 torpedoes fired. The USS Puffer sank the freighter Ryuyo Maru and damaged another ship south of the Philippine islands. The USS Ray sank the converted gunboat IJN Okuyo Maru in the mouth of Ambon Bay, Java.
The 10th Air Force in Burma attacked a bridge on the Mu River. Major Robert Erdin, in the lead B-25, pulled up to avoid a tree; as he did, he released his bombs and toppled 2 spans of the bridge. Further testing of this method proved successful. The 490th Bombardment Sq. became so proficient at it, they became known as the “Burma Bridge Busters.”
The 13th Air Force, 868th Bombardment Sq. was activated to work directly under the XIII Bomber Command. Their B-24’s were equipped with radar for night missions and would become known as the “Snooper Squadron.”
The 5th Air Force, with 120 aircraft (B-24’s, B-25’s and A-20’s) pounded the Saidor area on the north coast of Papua New Guinea, in preparation for an Allied invasion the following day. The eventual objective was Hollandia, once the Dutch capital was now the Japanese center for shipments in the southwest Pacific. Other B-25’s bombed Madang and Alexishafen. Troop concentrations in the Cape Gloucester area were hit as well as positions at Borgen Bay. P-39’s strafed enemy barges along New Britain’s coast.
The 7th Air Force used their P-39’s to strafe the harbor of Mille Atoll and attack the shipping north of the islands. Two small vessels were heavily damaged.
Saidor, New Guinea
2 January – Operation Dexterity was launched by the US 126th Regiment/32nd Division, who made a large scale-scale landing at Saidor, Papua New Guinea. Although this was a harbor, with a nearby airstrip, it was poorly defended and the landing was covered by the guns of the 7th Fleet, making this an easy objective.
This action put the enemy roughly midway between the west and east Allied advances and would sever the Japanese rearguard of the 20th and 52st divisions from the main enemy base at Madang, (about 55 mile [88 km] away). Approximately 20,000 troops of the Japanese 18th Army escaped the trap of being caught between the Australians and Americans and were forced into the jungle interior of Huon Peninsula.
When Saidor was taken, Gen. Hatazo Adachi decided to go to Sio to supervise operations personally. His submarine was hit by one of the PT boats now patrolling the waters, but he managed to make it back to shore. He ordered all troops to converge on Madang on foot while he waited for another submarine.
Gen. MacArthur would one day remark on the terrain of New Guinea as an enemy, “Few areas of the world present so formidable an obstacle to military operation.”