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.