July 31, 2021

History Content for the Future

WW2 Day by Day

On 30 July 1942, the Red Army launches an offensive against Rzhev. During the fall and winter, the central part of the front before Moscow saw the bulk of the Eastern Front's fighting in a massive back-and-forth. It resulted in a large German salient toward Rzhev, with sizeable Soviet formations operating in their rear areas.
.
However, since then, things have been mostly quiet at Rzhev. The German 9th Army has used the lull in the fighting to establish elaborate defenses in the area. The city of Rzhev, only a dozen kilometers away from the front, has been turned into a fortress, while the surrounding villages act as strongpoints, interconnected with trenches.
.
To secure their supply lines, the Germans have in recent weeks mostly cleared the Soviet pockets in their rear in Operations 'Hanover' and 'Seydlitz', and have even begun gathering their forces further south to launch a limited offensive against the Soviet Western Front in Operation 'Wirbelwind', or 'Whirlwind'.
.
But just like at Kharkov back in May, the Soviets beat the Germans to the punch. They have made more ambitious plans of their own to clear the northern bank of the Volga, the eastern bank of the Vazuza River, and liberate the towns of Rzhev and Gzhatsk. It will be up to General Ivan Konev's Kalinin Front to deal the first blow in the north before Georgy Zhukov's Western Front joins in from the west.
.
Gathered for the operation along the two fronts are nearly half a million men, over 1,700 tanks, and thousands of artillery and rocket artillery pieces. With double the material strength and three times more infantry than the Germans, Konev's forces begin blasting away on a front of only ten kilometers (6 mi).
.
When the Soviet infantry hurls itself at the German trenches today amid torrential rains, they find that their artillery barrage has blasted everything and everyone out of their way. By the end of the day, the Soviets have already covered half the distance toward Rzhev, but it is here that their attack quickly mires down, as the tanks are unable to join the infantry through the sea of mud.
.
Photo: Ivan Konev inspecting the troops of his Kalinin Front, 4 May 1942.
Source: Unknown.
.
#Konev
...

3026 32

On 28 July 1942, General Secretary of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin issues Order 227. During the past month, we have seen how endless Soviet columns fell back eastward in a retreat-turned-rout. Today, Stalin decides to intervene with an order to be read aloud to all men and women of the Red Army.
.
'The enemy [...] penetrates deeper into the Soviet Union, captures new areas, devastates and plunders our cities and villages, rapes, kills and robs the Soviet people. [...] Every commander, every soldier and political officer has to realize that our resources are not infinite. The territory of the Soviet Union is not a wilderness, but people – workers, peasants, intelligentsia, our fathers and mothers, wives, brothers, children.'
.
Stalin then goes on to say what economic resources are being given up without a fight and how they strengthen the enemy before concluding that 'it is time to stop the retreat. "Ni shagu nazad!" - Not a single step back! This must henceforth be our slogan.'
.
Stalin ends the order with concrete measures to 'introduce the strictest order and strong discipline in our army'. He orders the formation of one to three penal battalions for every front where soldiers 'who have broken discipline due to cowardice or instability, should be sent. These battalions should be put on the more difficult sections of a front, thus giving them an opportunity to redeem their crimes against the Motherland by blood.'
.
He then orders the formation of three to five barricade detachments behind every division with the task of executing 'panic-mongers and cowards at site in case of panic and chaotic retreat, thus giving faithful soldiers a chance to do their duty before the Motherland.'
.
Although the order is received with much patriotism across the Soviet Union and along the front, time will have to tell whether these draconian measures will instill the iron discipline that Stalin demands from his Red Army.
.
Photo: Lieutenant Yeremenko leading an assault - he was killed minutes after the taking of this photograph. Voroshilovgrad, 12 July 1942.
Source: RIA Novosti, #543
.
#RedArmy #Soviet #Order227 #SovietUnion #USSR #GreatPatrioticWar #OTD #History #Stalingrad
...

4334 93

On 23 July 1942, the chairman of the Jewish Council in Warsaw, Adam Czerniaków, commits suicide, having failed to save the ghetto from the fate of deportation. The Warsaw Ghetto has been in existence for two years now, with around 400,000 people crammed into a space of only three square kilometers (1.2 square mi). The Jewish Council oversees the day-to-day management of the ghetto, walking the fine line of obeying the Germans and easing the situation for the inhabitants.
.
However, the Council's hopes of sitting out the war the best way they can are shattered on the 22nd when the Germans announce the commencement of the Great Action Warsaw. In it, 6,000 people are to be deported for 'resettlement' on a daily basis, and it is up to the Jewish Council to decide who that will be, or rather who won't be.
.
Although their actual destination, the newly completed extermination factory of Treblinka, is held a secret, rumors of other death camps and massacres have spread throughout the ghetto. Some in the Council can connect the dots; others refuse to believe anyone would kill a community of nearly half a million.
.
Chairman Czerniaków is now in an impossible position. He has long tried to improve the situation in the ghetto, especially for its children, for whom he has set up schools and orphanages. He tries to obtain an exemption for the orphans, but to his horror, they are among the first to be rounded up and deported. The SS instead increases the pressure on him by threatening to shoot his wife if the deportations are impeded in any way.
.
Czerniaków can only watch in pain as thousands are forced to the collection point by the Jewish Police, under his authority. Later in the afternoon, he decides that he will not take part in this any longer and determines that there's no alternative but to end his own life. He leaves his wife the following note: 'They are demanding that I kill the children of my people with my own hands. There is nothing for me to do but die.'
.
Photo: A boy begging in the Warsaw Ghetto, 19 September 1941.
Source: Yad Vashem, 15710
.
#Warsaw #Ghetto #Orphan #Child #Begging #Treblinka #Holocaust #Shoa #Czerniakow #Warszawa #Poland #Polska #War
...

2981 34

On 21 July 1942, Japanese forces establish new beachheads on the northern coast of New Guinea for an overland advance toward Port Moresby. The Japanese already landed at Lae back in March to build an airfield for operations against Port Moresby, but they haven't made any overland offensives through the rugged terrain since then. They tried to seize Port Moresby by sea back in April, but a naval clash in the Coral Sea foiled those plans.
.
With the loss of the carrier fleet at Midway, the Japanese odds for a second attempt by sea have not improved, meaning that it has to be a land offensive or no offensive at all. However, they are uncertain whether it's even possible. Vague accounts by a British explorer describe a road through the Kokoda plateau and across the Owen Stanley mountain range, but aerial reconnaissance could only spot parts of it. Road or not, it is their best bet at grabbing Port Moresby, so the Japanese go through with the plan.
.
Opposing them are the Australians and the local Papuan population. A sizeable Australian force has been assembled at Port Moresby already, as commander Douglas MacArthur desires to seize the initiative in the South Pacific. His eyes are on New Guinea as well, hoping to establish new airfields north of the Owen Stanley Range to attack Lae and eventually Rabaul. Codenamed Operation 'Providence', an Australian battalion begins its trek northward to join up with the militias of the Papuan Infantry Battalion.
.
That battalion has yet to arrive when, today, the Japanese invasion fleet gathers off Gona and Buna and begins shelling the beach while the hopelessly outnumbered Papuans avoid confrontation. During the evening, some 3,000 Japanese forces disembark to establish a beachhead and move land inward. Their job will be to clear the way for the main force that is yet to come by finding the best route to Kokoda and conducting repairs where necessary, all to facilitate a smooth offensive toward Port Moresby.
.
Photo: Australian soldiers looking at the scenery toward Kokoda, October 1942.
Source: AWM, 026834
.
#Kokoda #Papua #NewGuinea #Anzac #Australia #Japan #Jungle #Trail #Track #Kokoda #Soldier #Military
...

1782 20

On 20 July 1942, the Jews of the Nieswiez ghetto rise up against the occupation forces in an armed revolt. The town of Nieswiez, located on the eastern border of what was up until 1939 called Poland, was overwhelmed by German forces during the opening days of Operation Barbarossa.
.
Its inhabitants became acquainted with the war of annihilation when security troops rounded up the Jewish population in October 1941. Some 600 essential workers were selected and then sent to the improvised ghetto, while 4,000 were marched off to the woods and executed en masse. With the majority of their friends and family murdered, the 600 survivors went to work for the Germans. They faced exhaustion, starvation, and daily humiliation, but they were alive.
.
However, as summer comes around, so do the rumors of renewed violence in the region. Stories of massacres throughout the area begin to circulate, until on July 17th, the ghetto learns of killings at neighboring Horodzei. The Jews of Nieswiez realize that it can only be a matter of days until it is their turn. One inhabitant of the ghetto, Shalom Cholawski speaks to the community at the synagogue:
.
'Fellow Jews! We are isolated and cut off from the Jewish world, from the world at large. It may be that not a word of our plight has been heard. It may be that we are the last of the ghettos and the last of the Jews. We must fight for our lives! We shall defend the ghetto, the place of suffering. We will fight as would the last remaining Jews on the soil of their homeland. We will prepare, now, to strike.'
.
When German forces and local auxiliaries close in today, a firefight breaks out between the Germans and the Jews, armed with smuggled guns and improvised weapons. While some hold off the Germans, others set alight their homes to add to the chaos and head for the barbed wire fence. Those that make it through flee to the forests to join up with the partisans and other refugees, but many more are killed in the attempt.
.
Photo: A German machine gunner during anti-partisan operations, August 1942.
Source: NAC, 2-1931
.
#Ghetto #Jewish #Jew #Shoa #Holocaust #Soldier #Machinegun #Revolt #Nieswiez #Poland #Polska #Uprising #Resistance
...

3553 46

On 19 July 1942, Commander of the German U-boat fleet, Admiral Karl Dönitz, pulls his last boats away from the United States east coast, bringing an end to the 'American Shooting Season'. Operation Drumbeat started soon after the American entry into the war and brought devastation to shipping along the east coast. At first, it was just the large Type IX U-boats that could operate in these distant waters, but with the arrival of 'milk cow' resupply ships, the smaller, more maneuverable Type VII U-boats began patrolling there as well.
.
Transport and tanker losses continued to mount as the U.S. Navy had no adequate reply to the U-boat menace. Despite repeated British advice for implementing a convoy system, Commander-in-Chief Admiral Ernest King refused, convinced that convoys would only make for easier targets with his shortage of escort vessels and aircraft. The loss of tankers was especially crushing, causing immediate fuel shortages and rationing along the east coast.
.
That began to change in the second half of April when the Americans finally organized themselves into convoys. Warships and aircraft began to make a difference, and U-boats started moving more and more south to hunt in the Caribbean waters, where anti-submarine measures are still lacking behind.
.
Today, Dönitz calls his last U-boats away from the east coast and to the North Atlantic to operate against the transoceanic convoys. It means that we will likely see a new peak in large confrontations between convoys and wolf packs, as was the case during the previous phase of the Battle of the Atlantic. With his decision, the most successful period for the U-boat fleet so far comes to an end. In the past six months, the Germans have sunk 3,040,089 gross register tonnage of Allied shipping, equal to 23 merchant ships for every U-boat.
.
For the Americans, the past months have been an outright disaster. Besides the material losses, thousands of merchant mariners have fallen victim to sinkings, making it a deadlier job than any other in the actual military.
.
Photo: A U-boat returns from patrol, St. Nazaire, 16 June 1942.
Source: Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-6434-33
.
#Uboot #DasBoot #Uboat #Merchant
...

2848 16

On 18 July 1942, the Battle of El Alamein enters a lull where both sides lick their wounds. Yesterday, we saw how Indian and British troops fought off a German attack at Ruweisat Ridge, while the Australians suffered heavy losses in an offensive against Miteiriya Ridge.
.
A lull in the fighting ensues, providing especially the Axis with some much-needed breathing space. Within days, the odds have decidedly swung against Erwin Rommel and his men. He writes to his wife on the 17th: 'Things are going downright badly for me at the moment [...]. The enemy is using his superiority, especially in infantry, to destroy the Italian formations one by one, and the German formations are much too weak to stand alone. It's enough to make one weep.'
.
Italian Commander-in-Chief Ugo Cavallero promises him reinforcements and his best efforts to improve the dire supply situation that same afternoon, but Rommel remains skeptical, writing today: 'Militarily, this is the most difficult period I've ever been through. There is help in sight, of course, but whether we will live to see it is a question. You know what an incurable optimist I am. But there are situations where everything is dark.'
.
While the man with the tidiest tent has trouble on his mind, so do the men in the field. The lull in the continuous fighting is a welcome change for sure, but the other enemy, the environment, is not about to give them a break. The scorching July heat continues to wear down on the men in the trenches while the flies that feast on the dead harass the living unabated. Water and food are scarce for both sides, but the lack of relief is an especially big frustration among the Axis.
.
Some Italian soldiers have been at the front since the very beginning of the war, with only sporadic periods of leave at divisional entertainment centers on the coast or Benghazi. Homesickness is widespread, and with the only legitimate reason for repatriation being marriage, some instruct their relatives to find them a bride just to escape the horrors of the African Front.
.
Photo: Italian soldiers stock up on water, Egypt, summer 1942.
Source: ACS, 46739
.
#Italia #Italy #Guerra #Africa #Desert #Soldier #Alamein
...

2680 5

On 16 July 1942, the Final Solution comes to France with a massive roundup of Jews in Paris. Jews in both occupied France and unoccupied Vichy France have been subject to antisemitic legislation since the country’s capitulation. Deportations to concentration camps have so far been mostly limited to male Jewish refugees from abroad, but today, the scope increases.
.
Like the Netherlands, France will now be included in the systematic extermination of the perceived Jewish race. During the previous days, all preparations have been made by the German authorities in cooperation with the French authorities. In the negotiations, the two parties decided on a two-day delay to avoid provoking demonstrations on Bastille Day. Although the Germans wish to include French Jews in these first deportations, the Vichy government is reluctant to agree to this, instead opting for ramped-up deportation of foreign Jews, including women and children.
.
Early in the morning today, several thousand Parisian policemen go from door to door to arrest the registered Jewish refugees. While some of the policemen are sympathetic to the families they're apprehending, even giving advance warnings of their arrival to give them a chance of escape, many others are more zealous in performing their duty. All in all, some 14,000 people are rounded up and marched off to the 'Vélodrome d'Hiver', a bicycling stadium, for confinement.
.
The conditions there are abysmal. For several days, the thousands of arrested families will be kept in the overcrowded stadium with only a handful of toilets and little to no food or water. The stench in the sealed stadium is unbearable, while the sound of screams and cries reverberates all around. So desperate is the situation that some resort to suicide by jumping off the indoor balcony; perhaps a more merciful end than the one that awaits the others.
.
Over the following days, they will be transported to concentration camps around Paris, such as Drancy, before heading to Auschwitz, with the gas chamber as their final destination.
.
Photo: Two Jewish women wearing the yellow star, Paris, June 1942.
Source: Bundesarchiv Bild 183-N0619-506
.
#Paris #Jewish #VeldHiv #France
...

2226 22

On 14 July 1942, the systematic deportation of Dutch Jews to the east begins. Antisemitic legislation appeared only gradually in the occupied Netherlands but was immediately highly effective at identifying people of Jewish ancestry through the elaborate Dutch records and the civil administration that was largely kept intact.
.
At first, the Dutch showed solidarity with their Jewish fellow countrymen in the February Strike of 1941, protesting the implementation of antisemitic laws. By now, however, all organized opposition has been largely suppressed. As everywhere else in Europe, the Jews have been socially isolated in ghettos, barred from public life, and labeled with yellow stars.
.
It has all led up to today, the start of the Final Solution to the Jewish Question in the Netherlands, as openly propagandized in the German-controlled newspapers. Under the ruse of 'labor in the east', 4,000 people have been called up to report for transportation. Their first stop will be the former refugee camp of Westerbork, turned into a relatively comfortable transit camp to deceive the prisoners of their fate at Auschwitz.
.
While we know what awaits them there, the unlucky recipients can only guess. Some comply and report for transportation; others wish to escape but have nowhere to go, while some go into hiding. Only a fraction of the 4,000 shows up, leading the German security police to increase the pressure. They randomly arrest 700 people in the streets of the ghetto and threaten to deport them if the called-upon do not report for 'labor'. As more people show up for transport, the hostages are released, for now.
.
Among those who manage to go into hiding is 13-year old Anne Frank. Her older sister Margot has also received a letter announcing her imminent transportation, but her father Otto has prepared a hiding spot. The Frank family moves into the secret annex of Otto's office, where Anne will document their life in hiding in a diary she got for her birthday just last month.
.
Photo: Deportation of Jews, Amsterdam, 1943.
Source: Yad Vashem, 53698
.
#Deportation #Jewish #Jew #Hebrew #Holocaust #Shoa #Shoah #Amsterdam #Netherlands #Nederland #WO2 #Deportatie #AnneFrank
...

2409 18

On 12 July 1942, German forces capture Soviet General Andrey Vlasov. During the past months, his isolated 2nd Shock Army has been left for dead in the swamps of the Volkhov. Requests to break out to friendly lines were repeatedly denied by Joseph Stalin, who kept hopes that Leningrad could be relieved.
.
When Vlasov finally receives permission to withdraw, his once-mighty shock army has already been reduced to a starving, disillusioned and disorganized mess, unable to defend nor attack. He orders his men to disperse and find their way to friendly lines in small groups on June 24th. Few succeed, and Vlasov himself is finally captured today, hiding in a small hut in the village of Tukhovetchi.
.
Born into a peasant family, Vlasov was drafted into the Red Army during the Civil War, where he quickly proved himself as a capable soldier. He quickly rose through the ranks and eventually got to command a division in 1938 before being sent to China as an advisor, avoiding the Great Purge.
.
In this war, Vlasov quickly distinguished himself as a competent commander in the battles of Kiev and Moscow, after which he personally met with Stalin and was entrusted with a key position on the Volkhov Front. Although he is allowed to escape the pocket by plane and later has a partisan party looking to save him, he develops a hatred for the Soviet regime, which he feels has betrayed him and his men.
.
His captors immediately send him to the headquarters of German army commandant Georg Lindemann, where he gets a courteous reception. He will soon be sent to the high-ranking prisoner camp at Vinnytsia, Ukraine, where he will get in contact with other captured officers and lay the foundations of a collaborationist 'Russian Liberation Army'.
.
Thousands of 'Hilfswilliger', or auxiliary volunteers, are already serving in the Wehrmacht in security and support roles, ready to form a unified army against bolshevism. However, it remains to be seen if the Nazi regime will trust Vlasov and his Russian staff to lead their own army.
.
Photo: Andrey Vlasov during a speech, 1942-5.
Source: NAC, 2-1982
.
#Vlasov #ROA #РОА #AndreyVlasov #Soviet #USSR #SovietUnion #General #RedArmy #Wehrmacht
...

3761 37

On 11 July 1942, Adolf Hitler issues Directive No. 43, outlining a German landing in the Caucasus from the Crimea. Back on the 4th, we saw how the Germans and Romanians completed the conquest of Crimea with the capture of Sevastopol, bringing the deadly campaign to an end.
.
Since then, the battle-weary survivors of the German 11th Army have been granted leave to enjoy the vast amounts of captured Crimean wine on the beaches of Yalta as fresh recruits trickle in to bring the divisions up to strength. The Romanians are given the dirty job of mopping up partisan resistance cells, while Einsatzgruppe D moves into Sevastopol to eliminate the enemies of national socialism.
.
Today, the 11th Army receives new orders from Hitler himself to prepare for a new campaign. In Führer Directive No. 43, Hitler orders preparations to commence for Operation 'Blücher': an amphibious offensive across the Kerch Strait. The 11th Army is to land on the opposite end of the strait using the ships already in the Black Sea and chartered vessels from Romania and Bulgaria. After landing, the units involved are to expand their beachhead and seize the main Soviet naval base of Novorossiysk.
.
Hitler also mentions the option of using airborne troops. One of the 11th Army's divisions, the 22nd, was originally an air landing division that took part in the Battle for The Hague back in 1940. In the following campaigns, the division acted as a regular infantry division, but now plans are on the table to convert it back to its original form.
.
Another way in which Hitler mentions the use of airborne units is as a commando force to seize and hold the Maykop oil installations on the foothills of the Caucasus. It is to be expected that, when the 11th Army moves east in the next phase of the operation, the Soviets will attempt to sabotage the oil facilities. Hitler, therefore, includes Operation 'Schamil' in which an airborne unit is to prevent that from happening and secure the desperately needed oil for the Reich.
.
Photo: German soldiers washing their horses, Crimea, 1942.
Source: Bundesarchiv N 1603 Bild-112
.
#Crimea #Caucasus #Soldiers #Leave #Wehrmacht #Soldat #Horse #Beach #Army #FallBlau #Water
...

3494 27

On 7 July 1942, the merchant ships of convoy PQ 17 are categorically slaughtered by German U-boats and aircraft. The convoy left Iceland for Archangel, northern Russia, back on the 27th, carrying much-needed supplies for the Red Army. A force of cruisers, destroyers, and other small warships provide close cover, while the Home Fleet acts as a distant cover to steam to the convoy's help should the Kriegsmarine move to intercept or break into the Atlantic.
.
On July 1st, German aircraft from Norway spot the convoy, and U-boat start shadowing the convoy but make no attempt at piercing the convoy's escort screen. That job lies with the capital ships of the Kriegsmarine anchored in the Norwegian fjords, who wait for the convoy to slip into the Barents Sea and out of the Home Fleet's protection zone.
.
When reports reach the Admiralty that the Kriegsmarine has lifted its anchor, it has to make a tough call. Push through with the convoy, and it will be obliterated by the German capital fleet; turn it around to seek safety with the Home Fleet, and the close escorts will run out of fuel; scatter the convoy to deprive the Kriegsmarine of a concentrated target, and it will be vulnerable to U-boat and air attacks.
.
The Admiralty eventually decides on the last alternative: scatter. However, unbeknownst to them, the overcautious German capital ships quickly abandon their plan when they realize that their sortie has alerted the British. So while the threat posed by the surface fleet to the convoy has now passed, the isolated merchants are now extremely vulnerable to U-boat and aerial attacks without their escorts. It turns out to be a disastrous decision.
.
Over the next long and bright Arctic days, the merchant ships are picked off one by one, until by today, the few survivors out of an original number of 35 gather off Novaya Zemlya to make the final dash together. Again, U-boats are waiting for them, and the losses continue to mount. Tune in to our YouTube channel this Saturday to see how their perilous voyage ends.
.
Photo: A German U-boat in the Arctic, July 1942.
Source: IWM, HU 40267
.
#Convoy #PQ17 #Uboat #Uboot #DasBoot #Kriegsmarine #RoyalNavy #Navy #Naval #Fleet
...

3024 15

On 2 July 1942, British parliament debates whether it still has confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He rose to the stage after the resignation of Neville Chamberlain during the debacle in Norway and the subsequent invasion of Western Europe but is now also finding himself in a difficult spot.
.
1942 has so far been a disastrous year for Great Britain and its allies. Under Churchill's leadership, the country has been defeated all over Asia, with the Middle East potentially next. The setbacks spark discussion in the national newspapers and the House of Commons: is Churchill still the right man for the job? Today, parliament sits down to debate a motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister.
.
Lord Edward Turnour expresses his amazement with how Churchill seems to be absolved from his ministerial responsibilities: 'No-one dares put the blame where it should be put constitutionally on the Prime Minister. [...] If, whenever we have disasters [...] we get the same answer from many Members of this House, [...] that whatever happens you must not blame the Prime Minister, we are getting very close to the intellectual and moral position of the German people—"The Fuehrer is always right."'
.
Lord Leslie Hore-Belisha concludes: 'We may lose Egypt or we may not lose Egypt—I pray God we may not—but when [...] the Prime Minister, who said that we would hold Singapore, that we would hold Crete, that we had smashed the German army in Libya, [...] when I read that he had said that we are going to hold Egypt, my anxieties became greater than they otherwise would have been. How can one place reliance in judgments that have so repeatedly turned out to be misguided? [...] In 100 days we lost our Empire in the Far East. What will happen in the next 100 days? Let every Member vote according to his conscience.'
.
The motion is defeated by 475 votes to 25, showing that Churchill still has the overwhelming support of the House despite the continuous military disasters.
.
Photo: Churchill’s portrait ‘The Roaring Lion’, Ottawa, 30 December 1941.
Source: Yousuf Karsh. Library and Archives Canada, e010751643
.
#Churchill #WinstonChurchill #Parliament #OTD
...

3414 49

On 1 July 1942, an American submarine torpedoes a Japanese passenger liner carrying over a thousand Australian prisoners. Back in January, we saw how the Japanese invaded New Britain and took Rabaul, forcing the Australian garrison to retreat into the jungle and look for an escape from the island.
.
Some 450 servicemen and civilians managed to find a way out through small-scale evacuations; over a thousand others were not so lucky. Most of them end up in the prisoner camp of Rabaul, but around 150 were stabbed to death by Japanese bayonets in an indiscriminate massacre on February 4th.
.
On June 22nd, nearly all of the prisoners are herded onto the passenger liner Montevideo Maru for transportation elsewhere. The ship carries no markings and has no escorts to protect her as she leaves Rabaul for Hainan, southern China, traversing the Philippine Sea.
.
There, the American submarine USS Sturgeon catches sight of the Japanese transport vessel in the late hours of June 30th and sets in a pursuit. At first, Sturgeon has trouble keeping up with the Montevideo Maru, but when the Japanese ship slows down, she quickly catches up and gets in position for a torpedo strike, unaware of her target's cargo. Sturgeon's log reads: 'At 0225 fired four torpedo spread, range 4,000 yards, from after tubes. At 0229 heard and observed explosion about 75-100 ft. abaft stack. At 0240 observed ship sink stern first.'
.
Aboard Montevideo Maru, chaos ensues. The ship rapidly takes on water, and there is no time for an organized evacuation. Only one heavily damaged lifeboat can be lowered, which carries 17 out 88 Japanese crewmen to safety. One of them, Yoshiaki Yamaji, looks on as the Australians in the water cling onto the debris and start singing the old Scottish poem 'Auld Lang Syne' during their last moments. None of the 1,054 prisoners is ever seen again.
.
Photo: An Australian soldier upon rescue from New Britain, April 12, 1942.
Source: AWM, 069378
.
#Australia #Anzac #POW #Soldier #Prisoner #Submarine #USNavy #Japan #Ship #Navy #Rabaul #NewBritain #NewGuinea #WW2 #OTD #History #Sturgeon #Tragedy #Disaster #Sinking
...

3308 80