April 19th, 1942...In Scapa Flow, USS Washington holds a summary court-martial for two firemen first class who were 12 days absent over leave. They draw 23 days solitary on bread and water, with full ration every third day, and forfeit $35 per month for six months.
In Japan, the government announces the American Doolittle Raid, and call the damage slight. They also proclaim that American propaganda will make a fuss over the raid, and that the American statements yet to be made are all lies and invention.
Meanwhile, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Combined Fleet, begins to pressure the Naval General Staff and the Army to accept his plan for a decisive naval battle in the central Pacific that will utterly crush the US Pacific Fleet. His plan is called Operation MI.
The British front in Burma is crumbling, so Gen. Harold Alexander summons his top field commanders, Lt. Gen. William Slim and Lt. Gen. Joseph Stilwell to confer. The new orders are that if withdrawal is inevitable, 1st Burmese Division must stick with the Chinese. Stilwell wants to attack. But while the Allied leaders talk, the Japanese charge into the weak and poorly led Chinese 55th Division, which the Japanese find idly sitting in its bivouacs. The Japanese hit the Chinese from three directions at once, and the division disintegrates. Soldiers flee into the hills. The 93rd Chinese Division moves in to help, sees the chaos, and retreats without fighting.
On Corregidor, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright knows the end is near. Determined to tie up the Japanese as long as possible, his problem now is not ammunition or food, but a crucial shortage of diesel fuel needed to operate the electric water-pumping system. Once that gives out in mid-May, he will have no water. Connection with the outside world has dwindled to the odd aircraft flying to and from Mindoro. Wainwright himself works to maintain morale during heavy Japanese bombardments by visiting positions and chatting with defenders.
On Bataan, Japanese resources are overwhelmed by thousands of American and Filipino PoWs who assemble in the town of Balanga. PoWs are crowded so tightly there is no room to stretch legs. Brig. Gen. Luther Stevens winds up in a jail cell in the town lockup. The Japanese do not set up medical or latrine facilities, adding to the horror. Finally, the Japanese organize the PoWs into groups of 100 for the march north, Americans segregated from Filipinos, for what will become the "March of Death." The Japanese want to move the Americans out by motor vehicle, to clear out the peninsula before the attack on Corregidor. But they only have enough vehicles to move 10,000 PoWs. The remaining 65,000 face a cruel trek, made worse by brutal or indifferent guards.
April 20th, 1942...Operation Bowary kicks off in the Mediterranean, starring the aircraft carrier USS Wasp. British pilots are impressed by Wasp's accommodations, ice cream, and soda, and annoyed at its lack of liquor. The carrier flies off 45 Spitfire Vs to Malta in three sections. At the tail end of their 600-mile flight, the Spitfires are escorted in by four Malta-based fighters. However, two Luftwaffe Me 109s are standing by outside the harbor and at 5,000 feet. As soon as the new Spitfires arrive, so does the bulk of the Luftwaffe, which destroys all but 10 of the new aircraft on the ground before they can be refuelled and re-armed. Within a week Malta is down to about four Spitfires for defense.
In Berlin, Adolf Hitler plans his next moves. First priority is to remove the Barvenkovo Salient in the Ukraine, which is giving the Soviets a springboard to re-take Kharkov, or turn south and re-take the Ukraine. Gen. Friedrich Paulus, a tall, ascetic Prussian staff officer, draws up an armored counterblow to squeeze the salient. Amazingly, the Soviets are indeed planning an offensive out of the salient.
In the South Pacific, the Japanese are continuing their plans for a two-pronged thrust to cut Australia and New Zealand off from the United States. Operation MO calls for an invasion of the Solomon Islands capital of Tulagi on Florida Island, and the invasion of Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby. This move will bring Australia within range of Japanese warships and bombers and project the advance towards New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa.
New Guinea is only defended by 30th Brigade of Australian militiamen and a motley collection of RAAF aircraft -- Wirraways, Hudsons, Catalinas, and Harvard trainers. However, the island itself is a formidable obstacle. The eastern area is up to 600 miles across and 1,000 miles long. Snow falls on the highest mountains which rise up to 15,400 feet in a long central range, the Owen Stanley Range, branching out in a series of coastal ranges. On the coast there are many tidal, crocodile-infested swamps where villages are constructed with stilts. From the foothills up to 6,000 feet grow thick rain forests with dense canopies shutting out sunlight from the undergrowth of lawyer vine and creepers that can form an impenetrable barrier; above 11,000 feet the trees are mainly small conifers and above 13,000 feet thick moss and grasses grow in the cold air. The monsoon lasts from January to April.
This inhospitable land is home to all kinds of tropical diseases. And the Japanese will choose to campaign there.
Gen. Joseph Stilwell learns of the previous day's disaster on his front in Burma and has choice words for his officers. He offers the commander of the 200th Mechanized Division 50,000 Indian Rupees if he recaptures Taunggyi. Inspired by greed, the 200th Division's boss recaptures Taunggyi. Stilwell writes the check, but realizes that his forces cannot retreat into China, and so must march out over a monsoon flooded track in North Burma to safety in India's Assam Province. Stilwell himself must make the arduous trek...at age 67.
April 21st, 1942...On Guadalcanal, British Commissioner and Coastwatcher Martin Clemens faces the problem of deteriorating native morale. He solves the problem in characteristically British fashion: by staging a cricket match.
Flying Tiger morale is at its low point, worn down by endless missions, lack of equipment, and isolation. 24 American pilots offer their resignations. Claire Chennault, the Tigers' boss, persuades all but four to withdraw their resignations or face charges of desertion.
In Scotland, USS Washington heads to sea for main battery target practice, a rare event. The dreadnought fires off 2,700- lb. shells at floating targets with great success.
The British "Tube Alloys" Technical Committee, Britain's atomic research team, recommends an attempt be made to stop German production of heavy water at Vemork in Norway, an essential component of an atomic bomb.
German U-boat offensives off the US coastline get some help as "Milch Cow" U-boats sortie from France. These submarines have no offensive capabilities, but are each laden with stores, spare parts, and 700 tons of diesel fuel each, 600 tons of which are available to each refuel 14 combat U-boats operating off the Eastern seaboard. This at-sea refuelling capability extends U- boat endurance. More than 32 U-boats are operating off the East Coast.
April 22nd, 1942...With British defense thin, the Luftwaffe hammers Malta by day and night, using a variety of ordnance, including delayed action bombs and mines. The RAF hits back with a flight of radar-equipped Beaufighters at night, knocking off nine Ju 88 bombers.
While the bombs fall, the Maltese dig in, turning natural caves into air raid shelters, turning them into giant dormitories with double and triple-tiered bunks for families who have lost their homes to the bombing. The Valletta docks are a shambles full of sunken ships.
The first Allied invasion of the war is proceeding to its destination, the Vichy French island of Madagascar. The Allied objective is to prevent its use by German or Japanese submarines and warships as a base to attack Britain's lifeline to India. Three British infantry brigades and a commando battalion are the core of this force, backed by two carriers and a battleship. Today the convoy reaches Durban.
50 British and 50 Canadian commandos sail across the English Channel to land on the beach at Hardelot, in Operation Abercrombie. The British go ashore and do some damage, but the Canadian assault craft, which come under German fire, are unable to reach the beach.
In Bandung, Java, brutality continues as three Dutch PoWs face Japanese punishment for attempting to escape. Australian Army doctor Edward "Weary" Dunlop dairies that the three are "tied to poles and bayoneted to death like pigs before their comrades." Dunlop adds that on being asked if they had any final request, the "first man asked for eye bandage to be removed and said firmly 'Long Live the Queen' which they all said in turn." A Dutch officer who faints upon the scene is "severely rebuked" by a Japanese officer "for his unmanliness."
Fuhrer Directive 41 rolls off the mimeograph machines in Rastenberg, and the Wehrmacht has its marching orders for 1942. Leningrad is to finally be captured, but that's the secondary objective: the big plan is in the south. 2nd Army and 4th Panzer Army will break through to Voronezh on the Don. 6th Army will break out south of Kharkov, and combine with 4th Panzer to encircle the enemy.
After that, 4th Panzer Army and 6th Army will drive east, under Army Group B, to encircle Stalingrad from the north, while Army Group A's 17th Army and 1st Panzer Army will do so from the south. Once Stalingrad is taken, 6th Army will hold the flank defense line while Army Group A drives south into the Caucasus to seize the oilfields and become the northern punch of a grand pincer movement (the southern half being Rommel) to seize Suez, the Nile Delta, the Mid-East and its oilfields, knock the Allies flat, end the war by Christmas, and bring the boys home.
April 23rd, 1942...Japanese propaganda accuses the Doolittle Raiders of machine gunning civilians, massacring children, and bombing schools and hospitals. Articles and violent appeals accuse America of a deliberate crime against the civilian population, and demand that any captured Doolittle fliers pay for their evil deeds with their lives. The Army promises to do that. An imperial edict announces that any enemy flier falling into Japanese hands will be sentenced to death if found guilty of indiscriminate bombing of Japanese civilians.
The Luftwaffe retaliates for the bombing of Lubeck by hurling 45 He 111s and Ju 88s at Exeter in England, doing little damage.
Back in Russia, the Soviets plan to hit the Germans with a powerful force of 640,000 men, 1,200 tanks, and 900 aircraft in the Kharkov area. The Germans plan to hit back with 636,000 men, 1,000 tanks, and 1,220 aircraft.
In North Africa, both sides are preparing for the next round. Winston Churchill urges his field general, Sir Claude Auchinlek, to resume the offensive, before the Axis invades Malta. Auchinlek, however, wants his offensive painstakingly prepared. Both leaders are determined men, and both swap angry telegrams. Auchinlek finally agrees to an offensive in June.
However, Auchinlek's opponent, Col. Gen. Erwin Rommel, is planning an offensive sooner than that. Unlike Auchinlek, Rommel wants an immediate offensive, but his bosses, Italian Marshal Bastico, Comando Supremo in the theater, and Italian Chief-of- Staff Ugo Cavallero, are more interested in the invasion of Malta, not renewed desert attacks. However, Rommel insists that he needs to clear eastern Cyrenaica (Operation Theseus) of British forces before the invasion of Malta (Operation Hercules) can proceed.
April 24th, 1942...Nippon Times, Japan's English-language daily, shows pictures of captured Doolittle Raiders being hauled in by Japanese military police in China. The story says that eight have been captured and will be shot. This announcement angers Tokyo's German news correspondents, who represent a nation that has also bombed enemy cities with greater effectiveness than Doolittle's crew. The Germans complain about this insult by the "yellows" against the white race. Showing a lack of Axis solidarity, German newsmen pepper the Japanese information agency with questions on the American fliers. The Japanese give evasive answers, but suggest that the Germans try executing captured British and American bomber crews who parachute into Berlin.
In the end, all eight are tried by the Japanese in Shanghai (becoming the subject of the 1944 movie The Purple Heart) and sentenced to death. However, only three are actually executed. The rest are committed to life imprisonment, and freed on V-J Day.
Japanese bombs hit the mule stables on Corregidor, killing the mules, providing extra food for the defenders. "Best meal we had," wisecracks a US Marine.
The Luftwaffe tries again at Exeter, this time with 60 bombers, and also sends 150 Ju 88s and Heinkels to pound the ancient city of Bath, a noted tourist site with Roman ruins and baths. The Germans do considerable damage to the city, killing 400, but not to the Roman sites. While the Germans attack Britain, the RAF bombs Rostock on the Baltic. The British newspapers, noting that the Luftwaffe is hitting tourist sites, calls the strikes the "Baedeker Raids."
Two days of vicious fighting at Taunggyi ends with the Chinese in control of the Burmese town. Gen. Joseph Stilwell personally leads his Chinese troops in battle, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery. The Chinese can now retreat in some order.
April 25th, 1942...On Bataan, the "Death March" is in progress. Exhausted, sick, and emaciated PoWs struggle north in the sun, beaten and bayoneted by Japanese guards. The Japanese deny them food and water, and bayonet Filipinos who try to help the starving Americans. American and Filipino PoWs literally die in their tracks, from abuse, beatings, starvation, exhaustion, or dysentery.
Corregidor braces for the impending Japanese onslaught. The defenders number 15,000, but most of them are coast artillerymen, administrators, or technicians. The Beach Defense Command only numbers 3,900 officers and men. 1,500 of those are the 4th Marine Regiment, withdrawn from Shanghai before Pearl Harbor. The rest are a miscellany of Army, Navy, Philippine Army, and Bataan evacuees. The defenders are armed with reliable Springfield rifles and 225 machine guns, but their old Stokes mortars have no sights, there are no field howitzers, and the only antitank weapons are Molotov cocktails made from pop bottles. The headquarters Marines are organized into O and P companies. A 4th Battalion of the 4th Marines is created from Navy Sailors and petty officers from the scuttled sub tender USS Canopus and other Navy support units, and are grouped into Companies Q, R, S, and T, surely the highest-lettered companies in any regiment.
These Sailors-turned-Marines each have an Enfield rifle, but lack helmets, cartridge belts, and canteens. They also lack training, as their only training sessions are lectures between bombardments, on combat tactics. All take this training seriously. "The chips were down," writes Army Capt. Harold Dalness, "and there was no horseplay."
Stilwell, Slim, and Alexander meet again at Kyaukse, 20 miles north of Mandalay. Two Chinese Armies have disintegrated, the Japanese are about to take Lashio, and all that is left is retreat. The British have three ways out. The British use all three. The main route, used by 17th Indian Division and 7th Armoured Brigade, consists of sandy tracks and is jammed with refugees. As the British retreat, the road is littered with the corpses of refugees who die of cholera. The British objective is to reach India before the monsoon hits at the beginning of May.