January 16, 1942
If your enemy has no supplies then he will eventually lose the war, and if he relies
on the seas to get those supplies, and circumstances suddenly allow you the opportunity to do some
real sabotage to those supply lines, well then you might call that time a happy time.
Im Indy Neidell; this is World War Two.
Last week, the Soviet Union launched a gigantic counter offensive against the German invaders
along pretty much the entire front. In Soitheast Asia, the Japanese occupied Manila and launched
an offensive against the American and Filipino defenders on Bataan Peninsula. The also launched
yet another offensive on Malaya and begin sending troops toward Burma.
This week they begin yet another offensive from the waters beyond the South China Sea.
On the 11th, the Japanese finally declare war on the Dutch with an invasion of the Dutch
East Indies, making landings on Tarakan and Minahassa Peninsula. The operation will in
fact be a three pronged attack. The Tarakan force is the central force and will try to
occupy Borneo. The Western attack comes from Sarawak and will land on Java and Sumatra.
The Eastern attack begins with landings on Minahassa and Amboina, and then will attack
Bali, Timor, and eastern Java. Tarakan falls already the 12th; it and Manado are soon made
into air bases for further Japanese attacks.
In Malaya, they take Kuala Lumpur this week on the 11th, and by the 15th are south of
Malacca on the coast, and elements of the Japanese 5th division are fighting the Australians
at Baru Anam. More on that next week.
Also, elements of the Japanese 55th division enter Burma north of Mergui on the Kra Isthmus
As for the attacks by the 65th Brigade that began last week on the American positions
Theyre actually pretty well contained for now. Theyre also one of the few Japanese
units that actually gets hit by any enemy artillery in this first month or so of all
the offensives. American Commander Douglas MacArthur does have a decent amount of big
guns here and on the 9th, one shot kills most of the local Japanese artillery command.
By the 13th, the Japanese are making progress in the east but not in the west, but the fighting
is pretty heavy all over though. MacArthur has told the troops defending that help is
on the way, thousands of troops and hundreds of planes, but as weve seen, no such help
is actually coming. But even had they been en route, Japan has Manila Bay blockaded,
so theres no guarantee they would arrive anyhow.
Side note- there are American troops traveling to a new war zone this week, General Russel
Hartles 34th Division, 4,000 strong, the first US servicemen to arrive in Britain.
Americas War Plans Department has decided, as I said, that they cannot send a relief
convoy of men or supplies to MacArthurs forces on the Philippines.
MacArthur has not been specifically told this, though, and the US west coast radio stations
that can be picked up at Bataan broadcast the opposite. On the 10th while touring the
Abucay defenses, he tells some of his officers, Help is definitely on the way. We must
hold out until it arrives. But, you know, it isnt just MacArthur who thinks help
is on the way; the American public thinks a huge revenge counter offensive against the
Japanese is in the works and is soon to be launched. The print and broadcast media all
foster this belief, and that Mac will soon be relieved, which he wont.
Now on the 11th, British PM Winston Churchill returns to Washington DC after a weeks
vacation in Florida so he and President Franklin Roosevelt can finish up the Arcadia Conference,
but though theyve agreed on a Combined Allied Chiefs of Staff, they have not made
any progress in reconciling the conflicting demands of the operations proposed by Britain
and America. Well, they agree to send US forces to garrisons in Iceland and Ireland, but thats
The real problem is shipping, or the lack thereof. Theyve in general agreed on attacking
in North Africa and securing the Mediterranean. Okay, more like Roosevelt has overruled those
who wish to build up force in Britain for an attack on the European continent. See,
most of his advisors understand the value of North African operations in securing lines
of supply and communication and giving a base for an eventual attack across the Mediterranean,
but they are opposed on strategic grounds to what they see as a dissipation of force.
Roosevelt favors an attack in North Africa because it is an opportunity to bring the
war to the Germans NOW, and he thinks it is important to do that for the American people.
The Arcadia Conference agrees that they will go through with some sort of plan to attack
Churchill envisions 90,000 troops being sent to North Africa, but thats not going to
happen because priority has to go to maintaining and securing the Atlantic convoys to keep
Britain and the USSR supplied and fighting. For his part in helping to do that, on the
16th, Roosevelt issues executive order 9024, establishing the War Productions Board. Donald
Nelson is its first chairman. Its job is to convert American industry from peacetime to
wartime production, deal with resources and distribution, and ration things like gasoline
and rubber in future.
Another Allied plan for the future happens this week when representatives meet in London
and announce that they will prosecute Axis war criminals after the war.
(Gilbert) Details of the killings in German occupied Poland and Western Russia had begun
to reach, and to horrify, the Allied governments, including those in exile from the very lands
in which the tyranny was at its most intense. On January 13th, the representatives of 9
occupied countries, meeting in London, signed a declaration that all those guilty of war
crime would be punished after the war whether they have ordered them, perpetrated them,
or participated in them.
War crimes are defined by the Geneva Conventions, and there are provisions relating to the treatment
of civilians or wounded service personnel on the High Seas.
I mention this because Operation Pauchenslag- Drumbeat- begins this week on the 13th. This
will become known to the Germans as the second happy time. What it is is German subs beginning
operations just off the US coast, now that the US is at war. Many in the German admiralty
do not support this, but U-Boat boss Karl Dnitz gives it the go. Only his Type IX
subs can really do such long range patrols, though. Five such ships have been en route
from France since December. Even though British intelligence has given warning that this is
going to happen and suggested blackout measures and convoy shipping, the US is still observing
virtual peacetime conditions. Lighthouses and buoys are still lit, as are even ships
at night, merchants radio their positions in clear non coded language. The British offer
advice on naval protection but the US Navy does not take it, so- spoiler- over 150,000
tons of shipping is sunk in just the first month.
In unrelated submarine action in the Pacific this week, the American carrier Saratgoa is
damaged near Hawaii by Japanese submarine I-6. She returns to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
Submarine attacks are not the only surprises the Axis have in store for their enemies.
On the 12th in North Africa, Erwin Rommels subordinates propose a surprise attack on
the British and he agrees to it. He has been getting reinforcements- specifically tanks-
for weeks now, and they start to prepare this new offensive in such secrecy that they tell
neither the German nor Italian High Commands, which is likely a good thing for them since,
as weve seen, the British have cracked the Italian codes and some of the German ones.
After pulling back a couple weeks ago, The Axis are now strongly established between
Mersa Brega and Alam el Mgaad. And British 8th Army commander Neil Ritchie doesnt
have the force and the supply lines to make them go anywhere else.
(Braddock) Ritchies supply problems were now immense and by late December it had
become clear that pursuit by anything more than a weak British force was out of the question.
He was 300 miles from his main base at Tobruk, and this, together with petrol wastage and
a shortage of vehicles, increasing attacks by enemy aircraft and U-boats on British shipping,
and the impossibility of using captured ports made his whole administrative position extremely
But if his is precarious, someone elses is finished.
On the 16th, German Field Marshal Wilhelm von Leeb is out as Army Group North commander
and is replaced by Georg von Kuchler, Since the beginning of December all three Army Group
commanders have been replaced. Also, two of the 4 panzer army commanders, Hoepner and
Guderian, and 33 other officers (Somerville) with divisional or higher command. This is
because of their requests to make withdrawals. Adolf Hitler now totally runs military planning
and decision making. His Soviet counterpart Josef Stalin is making decisions of his own
this week. On the 10th he instructs the Red Army to-
hunt the Germans westward without pause, force them to expend their reserves up to
the spring, at a time when we will deploy fresh major reserves just when the Germans
will have no effect reserves left, so that this will accomplish the total destruction
of the Hitlerite forces in the year 1942.
But this is John Ericksons commentary on those instructions, as Stalin never
visited the front (in spite of the many fictions that he did), and since commanders who were
summoned to him had to face also his entourage, the chances of Stalin being persuaded of reality-
stiffening German resistance, decimated Soviet formations, over-extended fronts, dangerous
multiplicities of objectives- vanished almost completely from the horizon of decision making.
In all this airless artificiality, caverned in the bunker in the Kremlin, the doctrine
of Stalinist infallibility revealed in war, just as it had come to prevail in peace, but
on the battlefronts it needed more than Stalins verbal grapeshot to seep away the great iron
rocks of German resistance which stood out in a Soviet sea
The Red Army offensive is now stretched out over 1,500 km and basically everyone is attacking.
Pavel Kurochkins Northwestern Front, between Lakes Ilmen and Seliger, began attacks the
7th aimed at taking the German depot at Staraya Russa. They sent out the heavy tanks, glider
troops, and armored sleds carrying infantry of Morozovs 11th army into the flank of
the German 16th army, facing stubborn resistance all week. Kurochkins other big drive began
in the wee hours on the 9th, with nearly ten divisions of Purkayevs 3rd and Yeremenkos
4th shock armies heading across the ice of Lake Seliger.
These were the units I mentioned the other week that had no food. They did get fed on
the first day of the attack, though. Also, they have in fact trained for days without
food at a time, so its not something they cant manage if needed. If and when they
capture the Germans supplies at Toropets, they can eat all they want. Yeremenkos
forces drive first at Peno, the junction of German army groups north and center, and it
falls, punching a hole in the German lines. Purkayev gets a bit hung up heading toward
Kholm, but after a few days they are rolling. And by late in the week, Yeremovs 4th is
driving through Andreapol, taking it as the week ends, and then making for Toropets and
all of its supplies.
Stavka ordered Ivan Konev to have his Kalinin Front take Rzhev on the 11th, or the 12th
at the latest, and his units have swept around it to the west, but they will meet pretty
desperate resistance. The Germans here point right into the flank of Konevs assault
troops, and they are fighting to hold the Rzhev-Sychevka-Vyazema railway. If they lose
that then the German 9th army is likely history, and indeed Rzhev and Sychevka stay in German
hands the rest of the week.
George Zhukovs Western Front continues its attacks, the right wing toward Volokolamsk,
the center for Mozhaisk and Gzhatsk and then for Vyazema, and the left toward Myatlevo
and Yukhnov, then after that to reach the motorway and also make for Vyazema.
Zhukovs left is to exploit the Kaluga-Belev Gap, which puts the German 4th army in danger
of being isolated. Medyn falls on the 14th, but it is a great struggle to gain any ground
after that, though as the week ends 416 paratroops land and take the Myatlevo airfield near the
Medyn road. They will link up with the infantry next week.
The attacks in the north by the Meretskovs Volkhov Front begin the 13th, but make very
little headway by the end of the week.
In the south in Crimea, Erich von Mansteins 30th Corps has had to postpone attacks on
Sevastopol until the situation to the east- the Soviet landings in December that took
Feodosia and drove the Germans from their Kerch positions- can be resolved. So his troops
make a forced march across the Crimea and attack now on the 15th, catching the Soviets
in the middle of preparing their own offensive. As the week ends, the Soviets are being pushed
And as their week ends, so does mine. A week of dozens of Soviet attacks in the USSR, dozens
of Japanese attacks in Southeast Asia, the beginning of dozens of attacks at sea off
the US east coast, and plans for attacks to resume in North Africa.
Submarine attacks right off the eastern seaboard of America. The first sinking that happens
this week actually happens within sight of Long Island by U-123. It will sink seven ships
before it runs out of torpedoes. Those first five U-Boats will sink 23 total in just weeks.
And the US does not have many ships really suitable for convoy escort work- gotta be
pretty maneuverable, gotta stay on station for long periods, gotta carry a lot of depth
charges, gotta travel pretty slowly- but the Atlantic is Britains and the USSRs lifeline
for American supplies. If the Germans can cut that off, or seriously damage it happy