21 - 27 February 1942

21 February 1942

US Eastern Seaboard and Caribbean , Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-432 torpedoed and sank US freighter Azalea City 125 miles southeast of Ocean City, Maryland, United States at 0123 hours, killing all 38 aboard. German submarine U-67 torpedoed and sank Norwegian tanker Kongsgaard 7 miles off Curaçao in the Caribbean Sea at 1532 hours; 38 were killed, 8 survived. 20 miles west of Trinidad, German submarine U-161 torpedoed and sank British tanker Circe Shell at 2313 hours; 1 was killed, 57 survived. At 1044 hours, 300 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, German submarine U-107 torpedoed and damaged Norwegian tanker Egda; Egda was able to return to port despite the torpedo damage. Finally, German submarine U-504 torpedoed and sank US tanker Republic off Florida, United States, killing 5 of 29 aboard.

In deep Atlantic , German submarine U-92 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Empire Trader off Azores.

North Sea : German cargo ship Amerika struck a mine and sunk off Holland

English Channel : Greek cargo ship Atlanticos struck a mine and sunk off Thames Estuary

Germany : German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, and 5 destroyers departed Brunsbüttel, Germany for Bergen, Norway.

Burma : The 2nd Burma Frontier Force, who had been placed north of the Kyaikto track to warn against outflanking, were heavily engaged by the Japanese 215th Regiment and forced to withdraw north-west, crossing the Sittang River by country boats, and proceeding to Pegu. No report of this contact ever reached the divisional commander “Jackie” Smyth who was still hearing rumours of a threatened parachute landing to the west. To the south, British 7th Armored Brigade arrived at Rangoon by sea from Egypt.

Pacific Ocean : US submarine USS Triton torpedoed and sank Japanese cargo ship Shokyu Maru off Kyushu.


22 February 1942

Philippines : Roosevelt personally ordered General MacArthur to leave the Philippine Islands. US submarine Swordfish evacuated Philippine President Quezon and his government.

Burma : During the early hours, the Sittang Bridge in Burma became blocked when a lorry got stuck across the carriageway. With the Japanese closing in on Pagoda and Buddha Hills overlooking the important crossing, the British divisional commander “Jackie” Smyth had to accept that the bridge must be destroyed, even though a large part of his force was still on the east bank. Lieutenant-General Hutton was informed that he was to be replaced but was to remain in Burma as Alexander’s Chief of Staff, a most awkward position which he endured until he was replaced at his own request by Major-General John Winter before returning to India in early April.

Dutch East Indies : US 5th Air Force bombers attacked de Pasar airfield, Bali, Dutch East Indies, destroying a number of Japanese aircraft. On the same day, Japanese bombers attacked Allied airfields on Java, destroying 4 US B-17 bombers on the ground at Pasirian airfield and 1 Liberator bomber at Jogjakarta airfield.

Japanese submarine I-58 torpedoed and sank Dutch passenger ship Pijnacker Hordikj south of Java, Dutch East Indies.

Australia : USS Langley and freighter Sea Witch departed Fremantle, Australia with 59 P-40 fighters aboard for Java, Dutch East Indies.

Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-67 torpedoed and sank US tanker J. N. Pew 225 miles west of Aruba in the Caribbean Sea, killing 33; of the 12 survivors, 10 would die before being rescued.

German submarine U-155 attacked Allied convoy ONS-67 in the North Atlantic , torpedoed and sank British tanker Adellen (36 killed, 12 survived) and Norwegian cargo ship Sama (19 killed, 20 survived) at 0703 hours. German submarine U-606 attacked convoy ON 166 , torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Empire Redshank.

U-96 torpedoed and sank Norwegian cargo ship Torungen (all 19 killed) and British tanker Kars (50 killed, 2 survived) 20 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. U-128 torpedoed sank US tanker Cities Service Empire 10 kilometers off Melbourne, Florida, United States, killing 14 of 50 aboard. Finally, U-504 torpedoed sank US tanker W. D. Anderson 10 kilometers off Port St. Lucie, Florida, killing 35 of 36 aboard.

British cargo ships Bintang and Hanne were bombed and sunk by Luftwaffe FW-200 bombers in Atlantic

Murmansk , Kola Peninsula , USSR : Allied convoy PQ-11 arrived at Murmansk, Russia.

London , UK : Air Marshal Arthur Harris was named the new chief of RAF Bomber Command; he would take office on the following day. He will later be called “Bomber Harris” for his steadfast conviction of area bombing on German urban centers.

First USAAF HQ was formed in London


23 February 1942

Norwegian Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Trident intercepted , attacked and hit German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen with a torpedo, destroying her stern with a hit. Despite suffering heavy damage an losing 60 ft of her aft section , Prinz Eugen was able to later reach Trondheim, Norway for temporary repairs. 55 men from her crew were killed. She would be out of action till the end of 1942 (so one batleship from Channel Dash last week was taken care of)

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-161 torpedoed and sank US freighter Lihue east of Martinique while German submarine U-502 torpedoed and sank Panamanian tanker Thalia and damaged another tanker off Aruba. German submarine U-129 torpedoed and sunk two Canadian cargo ships George Torian and Lenox and one US cargo ship West Zeda off Trinidad.

Atlantic Ocean : British cargo ship Empire Hail was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-94 off Newfoundland. Convoy rescue ship Stockport was torpeded and sunk by U-604 in same area. German submarine U-504 torpedoed and sunk US tanker W.D. Andersen off Maryland.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS P38 attempted to attack Italian convoy K7 sailing to Italian held Libya at 90 miles east of Tripoli, Libya at 1000 hours, but she was detected by Italian torpedo boat Circe which counterattacked with depth charges, sinking P38 at 1050 hours, killing all 32 aboard.

Black Sea : Soviet submarine ShCh-213 sank Turkish vessel Çankaya in the Black Sea.

Eastern Front : On the Eastern Front, the activities of Soviet partisan units continued to disturb the German High Command. ‘The area east of the Dnieper’, a panzer division officer had reported on February 20, ‘is infested with well-armed partisans under unified command. The roads are heavily mined. The whole male population is being recruited and is trained in special training areas. It would appear’—the report continued—‘that the partisans are constantly reinforced by airborne troops’.

The ‘top secret’ German Operational Situation Report USSR of February 23 confirmed this picture. East of Minsk, it noted, was a partisan camp numbering between four hundred and five hundred men. Their weapons included heavy machine guns and anti-tank guns. In another village east of Minsk, where about 150 partisans were based, ‘partisans arranged a dance’. In the Cherven region there were a further five partisan camps. ‘The partisans have strict orders not to start any action,’ the report noted, ‘only to attack and destroy German search parties.’ Soviet partisans had also established a wide zone of operations behind the German lines east of Smolensk; in an area more than seventy-five miles long from east to west, and almost fifty miles deep, they worked with airborne and regular troops to disrupt German troop movements both eastward and on the north-south axis: a formidable obstacle to the maintenance of the German line, and German morale.

Burma : The Sittang railway bridge in Burma was blown up to prevent its capture by the Japanese, even though most of General Smyth’s command was still on the east bank. Smyth salvaged from the catastrophe 3,484 infantry, 1,420 rifles, 56 Bren guns and 62 Thompson submachine guns. Nearly 5,000 men, 6,000 weapons and everything else was lost. Despite many men making it back across the river without their weapons by swimming or improvised rafts , the casaulties are heavy , a lot of Indian soldiers threw their weapons and drowned while trying to swim across and 17th Indian Division was now a spent force. It would take the Japanese a fortnight to bring up bridging equipment which permitted the Europeans in Rangoon to make their escape from the doomed city.

Rabaul , New Britain , South West Pacific : Just after 0000 hours, six B-17 bombers of US 14th Reconnaissance Squadron were launched from Garbutt Field at Townsville, Australia to attack Rabaul, New Britain. 5 bombers reached and attacked Rabaul at 0647 hours, causing little damage. Four bombers returned to Townsville safely at 1430 hours; 1 crash landed in the Agaiambo Swamp in New Guinea.

Dutch East Indies : Japanese aircraft struck Allied airfields on Java, Dutch East Indies. Meanwhile, Colonel William Leggatt’s Australian troops surrendered at Koepang, Dutch West Timor at 0900 hours, while the Australian troops outside of Koepang were bombed by Japanese aircraft at 1000 hours.

The US 14th Reconnaissance Squadron (B-17 bombers) was ordered to move from Cloncurry to Townsville in Queensland, Australia.

Allied ABDA Command Headquarters Staff on Java was evacuated to Australia

California , USA : The American mainland was attacked for the first time in WW2 as Japanese submarine I-17 opened fire with her deck gun on an oil refinery at Ellwood near Santa Barbara, California.


24 February 1942

Pacific Ocean : US Aircraft carrier USS Yorktown for the New Hebrides for a rendezvous with US Aircraft carrier USS Lexington for a raid on Rabaul in the Bismarck Islands

Another US aircraft carrier USS Enterprise launched aircraft to attack Wake Island. Cruisers USS Salt Lake City and USS Northampton shelled Wake Island

Panaman cargo ship Snark struck a mine off New Caledonia and sank

Port Moresby , New Guinea : 9 Japanese Type 1 aircraft of 4th Air Group, escorted by 9 Zero fighters, attacked Seven Mile Airfield near Port Moresby, Australian Papua, destroying 1 Hudson aircraft and 1 civilian aircraft, destroying many buildings, destroying a few vehicles, and killing 1 person; Australian fighters did not scramble to intercept in time.

Dutch East Indies : At Java, Dutch East Indies, the headquarters of the Allied ABDA Command was relocated with intention of dissolution. On the same day, Japanese aircraft attacked Allied airfields on Java, destroying 3 US B-17 bombers on the ground; the remaining US 5th Air Force aircraft were evacuated to Australia.

UK : Churchill wrote despondently to King George VI : ‘Burma, Ceylon, Calcutta and Madras in India, and part of Australia, may fall into enemy hands.’

Atlantic Ocean : German submarines U-558 , U-587 , U-158 and U-162 intercepted and attacked convoy ON 67 off Nova Scotia , Canada , torpedoed and sank five British and Nowegian tankers and one British cargo ship

Kalinn-Western Sector , Eastern Front : In the northern sector of the front, after a ten day battle, on February 24 , Red Army forces surrounded and cut off a German Army corps south-east of Staraya Russa.


25th February 1942

London , UK : A two-day debate in British House of Commons ended with many being critical of the policy of bombing German cities.

India : Joseph Stilwell arrived in India.

Caribbean Sea : Italian submarine Torelli torpedoed and sank Panamanian tanker Esso Copenhagen 525 miles east of Trinidad; 1 was killed, 38 survived. On the same day, Italian submarine Da Vinci torpedoed and sank Brazilian cargo ship Cadebelo 800 miles east of Guadeloupe; everyone aboard was killed.

German submarine U-156 torpedoed and sank British tanker La Carriere 70 miles south of Puerto Rico; 15 were killed, 26 survived.

Dutch East Indies : In the Dutch East Indies, the second of two Japanese invasion fleets for Java departed from Balikpapan, Borneo; the fleet was consisted of 41 troop transports and escorted by 5 cruisers and 16 destroyers.

Japanese submarine I-158 attacked Dutch freighter Boeroe off Java, Dutch East Indies at 1015 hours but was driven off by an escort; at 1130 hours, I-158 attacked again, sinking Boeroe with two torpedoes; all 70 aboard survived

ABDA Command was abolished. General Archibald Wavell returned to India.

Los Angeles , USA : Battle of Los Angeles: an unidentified flying object over the American city of Los Angeles at 0225 hours caused a black-out order and the order to fire anti-aircraft weapons; stray anti-aircraft fire killed 3 civilians.


26 February 1942

US Eastern Seaboard , Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-432 torpedoed and sank US bulk carrier Marore 20 kilometers off North Carolina, Virginia, United States. To the north, 20 kilometers east of Barnegat, New Jersey, United States, German submarine U-578 torpedoed and sank US tanker R. P. Resor, killing 47 of 49 aboard. Far out to sea, 230 miles east of Florida, United States, U-504 torpedoed and sank Dutch tanker Mamura at 1913 hours, killing all 49 aboard.

Kiel , Germany : A second German battleship participated last weeks Channel Dash met an untimely (and permenant) end. During night 49 British RAF bombers attacked German battleship Gneisenau in the drydock at Kiel, Germany. A bomb penetrated the armored deck, triggering a huge detonation in the forward turret which caused great damage to entire bow section of the ship; 119 were killed, 21 were wounded. The damage is heavy enough to put Gneisenau out of action till bow section and forward turrets were rebuilt (which was never done due to lack of equipment , raw materials etc) Only previously damaged German battleship Scharnhorst remained in service (but still non operational) among ships participated to Channel Dash.

Again off Kiel , German troop transport ship Monte Sarmiento was also bombed and sunk by RAF Coastal Command bombers with 20 killed aboard.

Egypt , North Africa : An irritable Churchill took General Auchinleck to task over lack of offensive spirit in North Africa.
Allied Middle East command decided to transfer the veteran Australian 6th Division from North Africa to Greece. Australian 9th Division will remain at Palastine , Mediterranean Theater though for reserve formation of 8th Army.
Major General John “Jock” Campbell VC, GOC 7th British Armoured Division, was killed when his jeep overturned in North Africa.

Burma : Lieutenant-General Hutton signaled GHQ(I) recommending that the sick Smyth be removed from command of 17th Indian, and recommending Major General David “Punch” Tennant Cowan as the replacement.

Japanese 15th Army crossed Sittang to threaten the railway link between Rangoon and Mandalay

Rabaul , New Britain , SW Pacific : Australian Wing Commander Dick Cohen RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force), led several Catalina aircraft in a night attack on Rabaul, New Britain; Cohen used his own Catalina aircraft as a dive bomber.

Dutch East Indies : Allied ABDA Command warships (five cruiders , nine destroyers) departed Surabaya, Java, Dutch East Indies in search of a detected Japanese invasion fleet; the search would be uneventful.

Java Sea : The American flying boat support ship USS Langley was bomed and sunk by Japanese aircraft, and all of her thirty-two aircraft aboard her en route to Java were lost.

US : The US Federal Bureau of Investigation began to relocate Japanese-American civilians living in East San Pedro, Los Angeles, California, United States.


27 February 1942

Naval Battle of Java Sea : ABDA Command Estern Fleet (two light Dutch light cruisers , US heavy cruiser USS Houston , Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS Exeter-veteran of River Plate and Graf Spee engagement-and Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth plus four US destroyers , three Royal Navy destroyers and two Dutch destroyers) commanded by Dutch admiral Karel Doorman engaged Japanese invasion force heading towards Java. However escorting Japanese heavy cruisers Nachi and Haguro in the invasion convoy along with ten escorting Japanese destroyers under command of Admiral Takeo Takagi both have heavier and longer range guns and their crews were excellently trained for night engagements on sea with night visiıon optical equipment and Japanese destroyers were armed long range oxygen perxide fueled Long Lance torpedoes with larger warheads.

In the ensuing seven hour long night action , Japanese cruisers and destroyers sank Doorman’s flagship, the Dutch light cruiser De Ruyter by torpedoes and gunfire, and the admiral was drowned. Also sunk during the battle were the Dutch light cruiser Java by gunfire from Japanese cruisers , two British Royal Navy destroyers, HMS Electra and HMS Jupiter and one Dutch destroyer HNLMS Korteneer by torpedoes from Japanese destroyers. Over 1.200 Dutch and British naval personnel were killed. Only one Japanese troop transport was sunk, and no Japanese warships. Japanese lost only 36 naval personnel. The American heavy cruiser USS Houston , the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth and Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS Exeter , along with four US destroyers , one Dutch destroyer and one Royal Navy destroyer escaped from the battle zone and retreated back to Java but their days are numbered since Japanese have complate air and sea superiorty over the region. Japanese invasion convoy was delayed for only one day.

Philippines : A Japanese amphibious force landed on northeastern Mindoro in the Philippine Islands.

Indian Ocean : Dutch auxilery oiler HNLMS Ben-2 was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese submarine I-53

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Torbay shelled and sank Italian cargo ship Lido by her deck gun on the surface off Corfu.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Upholder torpedoed and sank Italian cargo ship Tembien off Tripoli (which had been carrying Cıommonwealth prisoners of war from Africa to Italy , over 300 of them were killed)

Bruneval , Le Havre , France : Operation Biting: One airborne company commanded by Major John Frost (later Arnhem Bridge hero) from 2nd Battalion of the newly-formed British 1st Parachute Brigade dropped on Bruneval, near Le Havre during night , and stole a German Wurzburg short wave radar unit under the noses of German defenders, killing ten Germans from a local patrol and losing only two men killed and four captured by enemy in the process. Escaping by sea British paratroopers brought the equipment along with two captured German radar operators back to England where scientists were able to unravel secrets of the radar which had been playing a significant role in the success of night fighters against British bombers

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-156 attacked and sank British collier Macgregor with the deck gun 20 miles north of the Dominican Republic at 1035 hours; 1 was killed, 30 survived.

US tanker Resor was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-578 off New Jersey


24 February 1942, The Jewish refugee ship, the MV Struma, after spending two months broken down in Istanbul harbor, and its passengers denied entry into Turkey by Turkish authorities and denied entry into Palestine by British authorities and towed into the Black Sea by Turkey the previous day, is torpedoed by the Soviet submarine Shch-213. An unknown number of the passengers and crew survived the immediate sinking, but all except one survived the winter waters of the Black Sea. About 781 passengers and 10 crew members died.

It is the largest civilian-only naval disaster of the Second World War.