SECOND WORLD WAR December 1941

SECOND WORLD WAR December 1941

 (Britain)

On the 1st December 1941 Malta sustained its 1000th raid by Fascist German and Italian air forces. The Axis powers recognised the importance of Malta in the Mediterranean and the island was besieged from June 1940 to November 1942. British air and sea forces were able to attack Axis shipping which was sending vital supplies and reinforcements from Europe. The Afrika Korp commander General Irwin Rommel knew that without acquiring Malta the Axis would not be able to control North Africa because they would not be able to get supplies through. The solution for the Axis powers was to bomb or starve and besiege the island into submission. Malta was one of the most intensely bombed areas during the war but valiant efforts by Allied shipping supplied the island.

With the possibility of war against Nazi Germany, a plan for limited conscription for single men aged between 20 and 22 years, was considered in the spring of 1939. This form of conscription would be for the men to undertake 6 months military training.  0n the 3rd September 1939 the day Britain declared war on Germany the National Service (Armed Forces) Act imposed conscription to all men aged between 18 and 41 years to register for service. On the 3rd December 1941 the U.K. Parliament passed a second National Service Act. This act extended compulsory conscription for men to be liable for some form of National Service up to the age of 60 years.  Only men up to the age of 51 years would be considered eligible for military service. The act also widened the scope of conscription to include all unmarried women and childless widows between the ages of 20 and 30 years. Exemption rules remained in place which included the medically unfit, reserved occupations and conscientious objectors.

On the 6th December 1941 Britain declared war on Finland, Hungary and Romania in support of its ally, the Soviet Union. Finland entered military co-operation with Nazi Germany in late 1940 following  Soviet aggression during the Winter War of 1940. For Finland the German’s Operation Barbarossa began the Continuation War which lasted until June 1944. Finland signed the Anti-Comintern Pact and Germany suggested Finland sign the Tripartite Pact. The Finnish government declined the offer as they wished to maintain diplomatic relations with the United States of America. The Tripartite Pact was an agreement entered into by Germany, Italy and Japan in September 1940.   

In the South China Seas off the coast of Malaya on the 10th December 1941 the Royal Naval battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse were sunk. These warships formed part of “Force Z” whose objective was to intercept the Imperial Japanese Navy and convoys following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour on the 7th December 1941. “Force Z” had a close encounter with the Japanese heavy surface vessels but failed to locate and destroy the main convoy. On the return to Singapore, without the assistance of air support they were attacked in open waters and Repulse and Prince of Wales were sunk by Japanese long-range torpedo bombers. The lack of air cover illustrated the effectiveness of aerial attack against the heaviest of naval warships. The sinking of these two warships seriously weakened the British Eastern Fleet in Singapore.

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(Eastern Front)

In Nazi-occupied Lithuania on the 1st December 1941 S.S. Officer Karl Jäger wrote a report that “Lithuania was clear of Jews”.  Lithuania was overrun by Nazi-Germany at the beginning of the war and by December 1941 95% of the Jewish population had been massacred, most of them between June and December 1941. There have been unconfirmed reports that the genocide was with the collaboration of the Non-Jewish local militia groups. Jäger was a mid-ranking S.S. officer (Standentendenfuher) and was commander of Einstazkommando 3 zone in Lithuania. His responsibility was for the systematic killing of Jews during the aftermath of Operation Barbarossa.

By early December 1941 the German army had stalled outside Moscow. Germany had underestimated the Soviet resistance which was particularly active on the northern and southern side of Moscow. On the 1st December 1941 the Germans attempted a direct offensive from the west but the offensive stalled and was driven back.On the 2nd December 1941 a reconnaissance patrol reached the town of Khimki 30 km (19 miles) from central Moscow. The temperature in Europe was the coldest it had been for over 40 years and by the 4th December 1941  the temperature in Moscow was recorded as minus 37o C (minus 31o F) and the German army was still without winter clothing and equipment. Despite all the temperature problems German General Heinz Guderian, who commanded the 2nd Panzer Army, had succeeded in getting close to Moscow on the western flank. However, over 130,000 cases of frostbite were reported among German soldiers and on the 5th December 1941 Guderian disobeyed his orders to continue the offensive and called off the attack to avoid total catastrophe. On the 8h December 1941 German Dictator Adolf Hitler had signed his directive No 39 ordering the German army to assume a defensive line on all fronts and the army was forced to pull back to consolidate their lines. On the 16th December 1941 permission was given by the Generals, without Hitler’s approval, for a limited withdrawal to the west of the Alka River as the front line could not be held. Hitler declared himself Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the German Army on the 19th December 1941 (See Other Theatres). On the 20th December 1941 the order to withdraw was cancelled by Hitler and he ordered his troops to remain where they were and defend every inch of ground. As the Eastern Front was now in Hitler’s personal control Guderian along with commanders of the 4th Panzer and 9th Army were dismissed on the 25th December 1941.  

In the Western Ukraine, the town of Stanislawow was incorporated, from the Polish Republic, into the district of Galicia following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. There were more than 50,000 Jews living in and around Stanislawow when the German SS Hans Krueger took control of the town. During the Bloody Sunday of October 1941 thousands of Jews were ordered to the market for separation selection. Approximately 30,00O Jews were escorted to a nearby cemetery and murdered. The remainder were ordered on the 1st December 1941 to the prepared ghetto area. By the 24th December 1941 Stanislawow Ghetto was set up officially and closed from the outside. Approximately 20,000 Jews were crammed into a limited space, and rationing was enforced with very little food. Workshops were set up to support the German war effort and the Jews were forced to work them.

The Vilna Ghetto in Lithuania was established on the 31st August 1941. Lithuania was a German occupied state who wished for all Jews to be confined to a ghetto area. A two-ghetto system was organised which enabled the Nazis to control the Jewish inmates who were aware of their fate. Subjected to uninhabitable and insanitary conditions, disease and daily death, the intentions were to dehumanise the inmates and to exploit them as slave labour. On the 3rd December 1941 the first Criminal Aktion began when 157 Jews were killed at Ponary. The town of Ponary was selected as the area for the massacre of the Jews transported from Vilna. An Aktion provided Jews with a work permit (schiens). German and Lithuanian forces entered the ghetto on the 3rd/4th December 1941 and rounded up about 150 Jews with a criminal past and transported them to Ponary where they would be executed. On the 15th December 1941 the “Gestapo block” Aktion arranged for 300 Jews to be shot at Ponary. The 20th December 1941 the Lithuanian militia killed 400 Jews.

The Ukrainian village of Bogdanovka had a concentration camp as part of the German inspired Holocaust. In December 1941 a few cases of typhus broke out in the camp. Typhus is a disease spread by squalid conditions, lice and fleas. The camp was run by a Romanian administration. On the 21st December 1941 a German adviser to the Romanian administration authorities suggested the only way to quell the Typhus outbreak would be to murder all the inmates. Thousands of ill and disabled were forced into two stables by Romanian soldiers and gendarmes. The stables were locked and dowsed in kerosene then set alight burning alive all those inside. Of the remaining inmates some were led off in batches to a nearby wood and shot.  Freezing to death the rest of the inmates were forced to dig pits with their bare hands and pack them with frozen corpses. The killing stopped for a Christmas break but resumed again on the 28th December 1941. Over 40,000 Jews were massacred and by the 31st December 1941 the Typhus outbreak had been eliminated.                                                 

As an architect of the Holocaust, Reichsfuhrer of the SS Heinrich Himmler, on the 24th December 1941, ordered that all Jewish fur coats, furs and hides of any description would be confiscated. The Holocaust was the German version of total destruction of the Jewish race. The order was to be carried out immediately in all Jewish quarters particularly in the ghetto areas throughout Nazi occupied Europe. The various Jewish Councils and councillors were warned that they along with any Jews found still to have furs of any description would be shot.

Sevastopol is a port in the Crimea on the Black Sea and during the summer of 1941 the Soviet Red Air Force had been using the Crimea as a base to attack targets in Romania. The Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Romania had invaded the Soviet Union on the 22nd June 1941 during Operation Barbarossa. Their forces reached the Crimea in the summer of 1941. However, the only objective not in the Axis hands was Sevastopol and despite several attempts to secure the city Sevastopol was still in Soviet hands. A major attack was planned for late November 1941 but heavy rains delayed it until the 17th December 1941. The attack was unsuccessful as the Axis Powers failed to capture Sevastopol and siege warfare was conducted which lasted until the middle of June 1942. On the 25th December 1941 Soviet forces launched an amphibious landing on the Crimean peninsular at Kerch to relieve the siege and force the Axis Powers to defend their gains. The operation was only able to save Sevastopol for the short term as the Axis Powers captured the port after the remaining Soviets were encircled and they surrendered on the 4th July 1942.              

The 872 day Siege of Leningrad began on the 8th September 1941 and lasted until the 27th June 1944 and was the longest and most destructive siege in history. The city of Leningrad was completely devastated. On Christmas Day the 25th December 1941, 5,000 civilian deaths were recorded but many more deaths went unregistered and their bodies left unburied under the snow until it melted in 1942. The daily death toll was 5,000-7,000 civilians with the total deaths in the first year of the siege as being 780,000 civilians.

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(Desert War and the Mediterrainian)

Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel was commander of the Axis forces in North Africa (German and Italian). He ordered a complete withdrawal of his forces to El Aghelia on the 15th December 1941. Following a surprise attack, known as Operation Crusader, by the Commonwealth troops on the 18th November 1941 advantage was obtained by both sides as the battle brought individual successes and failures. The New Zealand element of the 8th Army reached the garrison at Tobruk and relieved the siege on the 27th November 1941. By the 7th December 1941 Rommel was forced to narrow his front and shorten his lines of communication when he experienced supply shortages. By the 25th December 1941 Allied forces had reached and captured Benghazi in Libya.

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HMS Galatea was a Royal Navy Arethusia-class light cruiser and joined the Mediterranean Fleet on commissioning and based at Malta. At the outbreak of war she was ordered home to patrol home waters and returned to the Mediterranean in July 1941 and was again based at Malta. Her task, with Force “K”, was to operate against the Axis supply convoys who were shipping supplies to North Africa.  On the 15th December 1941 Galatea was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-557 off Alexandria Egypt. Captain E.W.B. Sim, 22 officers and 447 ratings were killed with approximately 100 survivors being picked up by destroyers HMS Griffin and HMS Hotspur. U-557 was rammed by mistake by an Italian torpedo boat and sank with all hands less than 24 hours later.            

Using “human torpedoes” Italian Navy divers attacked and disabled two Royal Naval battleships in the harbour of Alexandria, Egypt on the 19th December 1941. A submarine of the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) left La Spezia, their base in northern Italy, on the 3rd December 1941 carrying 3 manned torpedoes. They picked up the torpedo divers in the Greek island of Leros. When on the 19th December 1941 the torpedoes were released from the submarine they entered Alexandria harbour when the British defence gates were opened to allow three destroyers to pass. With the British fleet in harbour the Italian targets were the battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth plus an aircraft carrier that was expected to be there. Instead they attacked a Norwegian tanker Sagona. When the limpet mines were attacked and exploded severe damage was afforded to both Valiant and Queen Elizabeth Who also lost eight members of her crew. Although not sunk both battleships were out of action for a long time. Sagona lost her stern section and the explosion badly damaged the destroyer HMS Jervis who was alongside for refuelling. For the next six months the Royal Navy lost naval supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean to the Italian fleet. All six of the Italian divers were captured but they had succeeded in their mission to disrupt the harbour.

During 1941 HMS Neptune led “Force K” which was a raiding squadron of cruisers in the Mediterranean. The cruisers involved were HMS Neptune, HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope steaming in line ahead. In support was HMS Kandahar, HMS Lance, HMS Lively and HMS Havlok. The squadron were based in Malta. The task of “Force K” was to intercept and destroy German and Italian convoys supplying troops and equipment to Rommel’s Afrika Korp in Libya. On 19th December 1941 with Neptune leading the line they ran into an uncharted minefield. Neptune struck a mine just after 1.00 a.m. Aurora, second in line, took avoiding action and struck another mine. Minutes later Penelope was buffeted by an explosion on her port side. Neptune was immobilized and severely damaged and the crew made arrangements to be taken in tow. As the wind freshened Neptune drifted helplessly into a second mine then struck another mine, bringing her to a complete stop. Aurora and Penelope withdrew from the minefield although Aurora was reduced to 10 knots maximum, owing to the damage inflicted by the explosion. Although the two ships were correct in leaving the area the need to save lives was imperative. Penelope stood by as Aurora departed for Malta with Lance and Havlok as escorts. Kandahar and Lively entered the minefield in an attempt to tow Neptune out. When Kandahar struck a mine, Neptune’s Captain Roy O’Connor flashed a warning to “Keep Away”. Just after 4.00 a.m. Neptune struck a forth mine and slowly turned over and sank. 764 officers and men were lost and only one man was rescued by an Italian torpedo boat after he had been 5 days in the water. At dawn Kandahar was still afloat but partially submerged and the tide took her clear of the minefield. HMS Jaguar appeared at 4.00 a.m. after being sent out on a Kandahar rescue mission from Malta. Kandahar’s officers and men jumped overboard and 8 officers and 170 men were rescued although 73 men had perished. With dawn approaching Jaguar fired a torpedo into Kandahar which sank her and headed back to Malta.

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(Japan)

The basic concept for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour was to destroy the American fleet while at anchor. The idea was adapted from the British all aircraft attack on the Italian naval base at Taranto during November 1940. Japanese Emperor Hirohito had approved the attack on America’s Pearl Harbour on the 5th November 1941.  America’s proposed Peace Agreement between the USA and Japan had been presented to the Japanese government on the 26th November 1941. This was perceived by Japan to be an ultimatum to withdraw from the Second Sino-Japanese War. Japanese Prime Minister Tojo rejected the “peace feelers” from USA on the 2nd December 1941. In the meantime the Japanese fleet had set sail for the attack on Pearl Harbour on the 26th November 1941. The attack could have been recalled but no further diplomatic progress was made and by the 4th December 1941 the Japanese Naval attack force was heading steadily towards Pearl Harbour.  At 7.48 a.m., local time, on the 7th December 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy’s carrier air force launched an attack on Pearl Harbour. Located in the Pacific Ocean the dock at Pearl Harbour served as an American port and base facility on the Hawaiian island of Honolulu. The Japanese battle fleet, under the command by Admiral Isokoru Yamamoto, consisted of 6 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 2 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, 9 destroyers, 8 tankers, 23 submarines, 5 midget submarines and 414 aircraft.  The base was attacked in two waves by 353 Japanese fighters which included level, dive and torpedo bombers. In these two waves the Japanese damaged all eight of the battleships moored, of which four sank in the harbour. Three destroyers, one anti-aircraft training ship and one mine-layer were also sunk or destroyed. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Fuel dumps and torpedo storage facilities together with dry-dock, shipyard and manufacturing workshops were also attacked. During the course of the attack the Americans suffered 2,403 military and civilians killed and a further 1178 wounded. By comparison the Japanese losses were fairly light. Of the 353 Japanese aircraft which took part in the raid 29 were lost with a further 74 damaged by anti-aircraft fire from the ground. Japanese personnel losses were recorded as being 55 airmen and 9 submariners killed and one airman captured. The Japanese achieved their aim of crippling the American pacific fleet. However, the prime target were the 3 American aircraft carriers assigned to the U.S. Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbour. It was pure luck that the carriers were out at sea and whose location was unknown. Ninety minutes after the attack began the aircraft returned to their individual carriers. On the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour Japan announced a declaration of war on the U.S.A. Yamamoto’s intention had been to commence the attack 30 minutes after the formal declaration of war. Notice of the declaration was delayed and the Japanese Ambassador to Washington only received the message an hour after the attack had begun. Upon being presented with declaration of war notice the U.S. Congress declared war on Japan on the 8th December 1941. Because the attack on Pearl Harbour was carried out whilst peace negotiations were being discussed, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed that the 7th December 1941 was “a date which will live in infamy”. The attack would eventually be judged as a war crime.

The Americans believed the Japanese were not capable of mounting more than one major naval operation at a time. Japan’s planned military action began when they launched their invasion of Southeast Asia on the 7th December 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbour had been planned as a preventative action to keep the US Pacific Fleet from interfering in Southeast Asia. The simultaneous attack by Japan was launched against The Philippine Islands, Thailand, Malaysia, Guam, the Chinese city of Shanghai, Singapore and Wake Island.

The Japanese also launched an attack on the Philippine Islands on the 7th December 1941 as part of the operation to occupy Southeast Asia. Capture of the Philippines was essential to protect shipping routes between Japan and their eastern suppliers of raw material. The bombing offensive began when the Japanese attacked the American Clark Field on the 8th December 1941. Thirty-five Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers were assigned to Clark Field and at the time of the attack seventeen B-17’s were on the ground. Twelve were totally destroyed, four were damaged and one did not receive any damage at all. Thirty-four P-40 fighters were also based at Clark Field, and were either destroyed by aerial combat or whilst still on the ground. Questions were asked as to why Clark Field was caught by surprise nine hours after receiving news of the Pearl Harbour attack. There was not a satisfactory answer. On the 12th December 1941 Japanese troops had landed in the Philippines and by the 13th December 1941 they were firmly established. On the 22nd December 1941 the Japanese army had landed at Lingayan Gulf. On the 23rd December 1941 the United States commander of the Philippines General Douglas MacArthur declared Manilla to be an “Open City”.  In wartime an open city is a settlement which announces it has abandoned its defensive efforts in a bid to avoid destruction. However, the Japanese ignored the declaration and bombed the city. On the 23rd December 1941 MacArthur made one of the most difficult decisions of his career. Under the threat of impending disaster he decided to withdraw his forces to the Bataam Peninsular. The plan was successful and had far reaching results. 75,000 American troops based at Luzon were saved from defeat. It also kept a large number of Japanese troops tied up in the Philippines and not releasing them for further invasions in the region.

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The Japanese attacked Thailand without warning on the 8th December 1941. The prime target was the airfield at Prachuap Khri Khan. When the wing commander was informed of the invasion he gave orders to resist. Equipped with six heavy and two light machine guns he turned on the Japanese troops surrounding the area. Of the four aircraft that attempted to take off three were shot down and the fourth who managed to take off was armed with four 50 kg bombs. Due to heavy rain and fog the pilot could not locate the Japanese transport in Ao Manao harbour. With the airfield surrounded and as the Japanese proceeded to occupy the airfield orders were issued to destroy instruments in the control tower and the tower set alight. Resistance by the Thai air force lessened as night fell. With ammunition running low the following morning the exhausted Thais received a telegram ordering the defenders to cease fighting as an armistice had been arranged. The defenders suspected it was trick and continued to resist. With renewed vigour the invaders mounted further attacks and slowly pushed the defenders back. At 10.00 am the wing commander ordered the command building and all military documents to be burned. Whilst this was happening the senior medical officer ordered the hospital building evacuated and set on fire. A civilian car bearing a small white flag arrived containing a number of Thai government officials. A direct order from the Prime Minister was handed to the wing commander ordering him to cease fire and fighting ended at 12.35 p.m. on the 9th December 1941. The Thais suffered 42 killed and 27 wounded. The Japanese losses were estimated to be 217 killed and 300 wounded but cannot be confirmed as they cremated the bodies.

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The British Crown colony of Hong Kong was attacked on the 8th December 1941, the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbour. As Japan had not declared war on the British Empire, the attack was in violation of international law. When the attack began the British were outnumbered by nearly four to one.  The British was commanded by Major-General Christopher Maltby consisting British, Canadian, Indian, local Hong Kong Chinese Regiment and the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps. A total of approximately 14,000 men opposed the 50,000 Japanese troops attacking them. The battle commenced just after 8.00 a.m. and Maltby organised the defence of the island, splitting it into an Eastern and Western Brigade. The Japanese began a systemic bombardment on the island’s North Shore on the 15th December 1941. Demands for surrender on the 13th and 17th December 1941 were rejected and on the evening of the 18th Japanese troops crossed the Harbour and landed on the island. The Japanese advanced inland and on the 18th December 1941 approximately 20 Commonwealth gunners were executed, although they had surrendered. The morning of the 19th December 1941 a further massacre of medical staff took place in the Salesian mission. Such was the ferocity of the attack they annihilated the headquarters of the Western Brigade. Brigadier John Lawson was the commander of the Western Brigade and was killed. A British counter-attack on the 20th December 1941 did not meet with any success and the island became split in two and with British Commonwealth troops doggedly hanging on. Water supplies began to run out as the Japanese had captured the countries reservoirs. On the morning of the 25th December 1941 Japanese soldiers entered the British field hospital and in the St. Stephens College began to torture and kill a large number of injured soldiers and medical staff. With further resistance futile the governor of Hong Kong Sir Mark Aitchison-Young surrendered in person to the Japanese on the 3rd floor of Peninsular Hong Kong Hotel. The garrison held out for 17 days. The loss to British forces were unconfirmed but were officially recognised as being 1,111 killed, 1,167 missing and 1,362 wounded. 10,000 men were captured and the equipment losses were one destroyer captured, four gunboats, one minelayer and three MTB’s sunk. A total of five aircraft were lost. The Japanese suffered 675 killed, 2079 wounded and one aircraft damaged. The civilian casualties amounted to approximately 4,000 killed and another 300 severely wounded. This day is known in Hong Kong as “Black Christmas,

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Britain had the British Commonwealth, while America, the Dutch and the French had established colonies in the Far East and Pacific. On the 8th December 1941 the Japanese attacked the Gilbert Islands in order to gain control of the raw materials in the region. The Gilbert Islands, which consists of a chain of sixteen islands, were completely occupied by the 10th December 1941.

Wake Island was simultaneously attacked by Japan to coincide with the attack on Pearl Harbour on the 8th December 1941. The Japanese over-ran the island and the invasion ended on the 23rd December 1941 with the surrender of American Forces.

The Malayan Campaign began on the 8th December 1941 when the Japanese launched an amphibious assault on the northern shoreline. For the British and her allies defending the colony the campaign was a complete disaster. The Japanese had air and naval supremacy and the infantry had bicycles allowing them to move quickly through thick jungle terrain. As the Japanese advanced the British were forced to retreat and despite the Royal Engineers destroying over one hundred bridges it did little to delay the Japanese advance.

On the 16th December 1941 the Japanese attacked Borneo to enable them to occupy the oilfields in Sarawak. They had encountered very little resistance from the British as the terrain wasn’t very suitable for a proper defensive arrangement. In 1941 Borneo was divided between the Dutch East Indies and the British protectorate. The Brooke family, the so called “White Rajahs” had ruled Sarawak northwest Borneo for almost a century and by 1888 had become a British protectorate. The government was aware of the forthcoming attack on Borneo and by the 23rd December 1941 Japanese forces had landed and occupied the area. To combat this the Brooke government had ordered the complete and total destruction of the oilfields and refineries. After hearing of the attack on Pearl Harbour on the 8th December 1941 they knew Borneo would soon be a target. By the evening of the 8th the destruction was complete and the landing grounds around the oilfields were made unfit for use on the 9th December 1941. The government and oil officials evacuated by sea to Kuching on the 13th December 1941. The destruction of the oilfields and refineries had been carried out just in time before the invasion.   

In Burma on the 24th December 1941 Rangoon was subjected to a series of air raids by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. Rangoon, in 1941, was the capit of Burma and the first city to be attacked after air raids on various locations on the mainland. These air raids were in preparation for the invasion of the country in 1942. Japanese General Michio Sugawara had planned for a heavy raid on Rangoon on the 23rd December 1941. With eighty bombers and thirty fighters available the Japanese commenced to attack on the morning of the 23rd.   When the Japanese attack group reached Rangoon there were clear skies and a light breeze giving excellent vision for the attack on the selected targets. Once news reached the British operations room at Mingalow airfield the defenders were ordered to scramble to enable them to intercept the enemy bombers, who arrived forty minutes after the first warning. Fifteen of the slower Japanese bombers attacked Mingalow airfield of which five were lost. The defenders were unable to prevent the Japanese from dropping high-explosive and incendiary bombs on the city. The docks were paralyzed, public transport halted and the district near the docks was burnt-out. The civil service broke down although the firemen performed well in the crisis. According to Japanese records seven bombers were shot down and one crashed on the return journey. The British Buffalo fighters did not sustain any losses but four Tomahawk fighters were shot-down and two pilots killed in the battle. Seventeen Allied military personnel were killed on the Mingalow airfield and approximately 1,000 to 2, OOO civilians were killed during the raid.          

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(Other Theatres)

Following the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbour, various Declarations of War brought about the beginning of global warfare.

(1) Canada and Australia declared war on Japan on the 7th December 1941.

(2) America, Britain, the Netherlands and New Zealand declared war on Japan on the 8th December 1941.

(3) Australia and South Africa declared war on Japan, and China officially declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy on the 9th December 1941.

(4) Germany and Italy declared war on America who immediately responded by declaring war on Germany and Italy on the 11th December 1941.

(5) India declared war on Japan on the 12th December 1941.   

(6) Romania declared war on the USA & UK who both reciprocated by declaring war on Romania on the 12th December 1941.

(7) On the 13th December 1941 when Bulgaria and Hungary declared war on America and Britain, retaliation was immediate when both countries issued reciprocal declarations of war.

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In Africa, the involvement of the Belgian Congo during the Second World War began with the German invasion of Belgium in May1940. Despite Belgium’s surrender, the Congo remained in the conflict on the Allied side, administered by the Belgian government in exile. The Belgian Congo provided much needed raw materials such as copper and rubber to the United Kingdom and the United States. The Belgian colonial authorities demanded greater efforts to increase productivity which led to strikes from the workforce. A lack of European skilled labour forced the colonial government for the first time to train the native Congolese workforce into skilled labour positions.  On the 3rd December 1941 local mine workers went on strike demanding more pay, as they were paid less than their white colleagues and at the same time living costs were rising. The following day 1400 workers had downed tools and refused to go back to work when requested by the colonial government. 15 were shot dead by the military. On the 9th December 1941 the strikers and their leader Leonard Mpoyi were invited to negotiations and despite various concession including a 30% pay rise being offered the strikers refused. The governor Amour Baron shot and killed Mpoyi and then ordered his soldiers to fire on the strikers. Officially there were approximately 30 workers killed and the miners went back to work on the 10th December 1941.

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In Germany, the “Night and Fog” Decree was issued by Hitler on the 7th December 1941. The secret decree was signed by Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the German Armed Forces High Command. The decree allowed German authorities to abduct individuals alleged to be endangering German security in German occupied territories. Political Activists and resistance helpers were the most targeted. They were arrested and either shot or spirited away under cover of “Night and Fog” to concentration camps so they effectively vanished without a trace.

Hitler personally took command of the German Army on the 19th December 1941. General Field Marshall Walther von Bravchitsch performed the function before Hitler took control. Owing to his defeats on the Eastern Front, his failure to capture Moscow in the winter months and his heart attack led Hitler to become Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the German Army. Hitler was often criticised over his military operation on the Eastern Front.

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Rosa Dainelli was an Italian doctor who was working in Ethiopia after the last regular Italian forces surrendered at Gondar in November 1941. She became an active member of Fronte di Resistenza (Resistance Front) who fought the Allies in the Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia from December 1941 to summer of 1943. The resistance fought in the hope of an Italian victory with Rommel’s help in Egypt.

The French island of St. Pierre and Miquelon is located off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. In the election of the 24th December 1941, for the first time a free expression of the male population voted better than 98% for the policy of Free France. Frenchman of the island had been governed since 194O by the Henri Philippe Petain, Head of the State of Vichy-France regime. The island from then on was governed by the Free French who were Allies of the United States and Britain.                           

On the island of Vågsøy off the west coast of Norway a British/Norwegian Combined Operations raid was conducted against German positions on the 27th December 1941. A combined force of British commandos plus 12 Norwegians from the Norwegian Independent Company gave a total of 570 troops on the raid known as Operation Archery. The raid was supported by the Royal Navy who provided the fire power. Also in support were Royal Air Force bombers and fighter bombers. The objective of the raid was to subdue, secure and eliminate the Germans on Måløy Island which dominated the town. A very effective naval bombardment preceded the dawn landing and all objectives were achieved. The German opposition in the town of Måløy was greater than expected as a unit of experienced German troops were on leave from the Eastern Front. Bitter house to house fighting ensued. Having destroyed four factories, the fish oil stores, ammunition/fuel stores, the telephone exchange and various military installations the commandos began their withdrawal at about 2.00 pm. Most of the town was in flames and the naval assault force sank 10 vessels. The German Coastal Artillery was prevented from being effective owing to technical difficulties but one of the 130 mm guns scored a hit on the cruiser HMS Kenya. The Royal Navy suffered no losses to their ships but they did lose four men killed and four wounded. Eight RAF aircraft were shot down. The commandos suffered 17 men killed and 53 men wounded but took 98 prisoners and a complete copy of the German Naval Code. This raid was enough to persuade Hitler to divert 30,000 troops to Norway and build more coastal and inland defences.

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(U.S.A.)

Civil Air Patrol was created on the 1st December 1941 with Major-General John F. Curry as the first National Commander. In his capacity as Director of the Officer of Civilian Defence Fierllo H. LaGuardia issued, through Congress, the Administration Order No 9 thereby creating the organisation. CAP was seen as a way to use America’s civilian resources to aid the war effort.  Civilian aviation would otherwise be grounded. CAP carried out many missions including anti-submarine patrols and warfare, border patrols and courier services throughout the Second World War.

On the 12th December 1941 the French built liner SS Normandie had been in New York Harbour since the outbreak of the war in 1939.  She was moored up in New York after completing her 139th transatlantic crossing from her home port of Le Havre in France and was compelled to seek haven there. The American government interred her on 3rd September 1939 under the “Right of Angary” and the American Coast Guard took possession of her. “Angary in the Oxford English Dictionary is defined as “A BELIGERENT’S RIGHT (SUBJECT TO COMPENSATION FOR LOSS) TO SEIZE OR DESTROY IN CULTURAL PROPERTY UNDER MILITARY NECCESSITY”. At the outbreak of war, although interred, Normandie remained in French hands with Captain Hervé Lehvédé and his French crewmen aboard to maintain the ship. Approximately 150 U.S. Coast Guardsmen were detailed to go aboard to prevent any sabotage. On the 12th December 1941 the Coast Guard removed Captain Lehvédé and the crew and the ship was transferred to the U.S. Navy and renamed USS Lafayette. Plans were approved on the 20th December 1941 to convert her to a troop carrier. When she was built as an ocean liner in 1935 Normandie was the largest and fastest passenger liner afloat and remains the most powerful steam turbo-electric liner ever built. Her main rival on the pre-war transatlantic crossing was the British liner RMS Queen Mary.

The conference of top British and American leaders, codenamed Arcadia, headed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt met in Washington from the 22nd December 1941 to 14th January 1942. The conference led to a series of major decisions that shaped the war effort. Coming two weeks after America entered the Second World War the major policy of the Arcadia Conference was to defeat Germany in Europe. Based in Washington the establishment of the “Combined Chiefs of Staff” was set up to approve of the military decisions of both the U.S. and Britain and would be under one Supreme Commander. Arcadia also drew up proposals to keep China in the war, a system for coordinating shipping and to find reinforcements to be sent to the Pacific. With the exception of the conference drafted the “Declaration by United Nations” all the decisions were secret. The declaration committed the Allies to not making a separate peace with the enemy and to employ all resources until victory was achieved. Arcadia included an immediate invasion of North Africa, sending American bombers to bases in England and the British to increase their military strength in the Pacific. Combined military resources under one command in the “European Theatre of Operations” was also agreed.

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At the end December 1941 most of the world was at war.

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