Yesterday Tomorrow

June 6th, 1942 (SATURDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: London: Twenty people are killed and 59 injured when a previously undetected German bomb explodes at the Elephant and Castle.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA: Light cruiser HMS Hermione sunk by U-205 in Eastern Mediterranean. (Dave Shirlaw)

MALTA: Axis planes mount a heavy attack.

LIBYA: Following the disastrous collapse of the Allied attack on Rommel's positions around the "Cauldron", the Germans press hard on the Free French and Palestinian defenders of Bir Hakeim.

The Hawker Hurricane Mk IID, armed with two 40-mm. Vickers 'S' guns goes into action in North Africa today. Flown by No. 6 Squadron RAF, the aircraft's speed falls to 286 mph but it will now be an effective tank-buster. (22)

Central PACIFIC: A handful of US Navy dive-bomber pilots devastated the Japanese combined fleet when their bombs tore through the decks of four Japanese aircraft carriers laden with planes, bombs and torpedoes.

The clash took place off Midway Island, north-east of Hawaii. Ironically, the opposing fleets never saw each other in what was one of the biggest - and most crucial - naval encounters in history.

The battle began on 4 June. The Japanese combined fleet, escorting 5,000 crack troops in 15 transports, set out from Japan to seize Midway Island. The Japanese navy planners hoped that the threat to Midway would be the bait to lure the US fleet to sail out and suffer annihilation. Japan's Midway force included 11 battleships, 14 cruisers, two light cruisers and four aircraft carriers. The Americans deployed their heavy carriers, USS ENTERPRISE, USS HORNET and USS YORKTOWN and seven cruisers.

The Japanese were seeking to bring the Americans to "a decisive fleet action". But the decision has gone against them. Four of Japan's six great carriers have been sunk, taking some 3,500 Japanese sailors and airmen with them, together with 275 planes. The Americans lost 307 men and 132 planes. At 2.55pm yesterday Admiral Yamamoto, the commander-in-chief, stunned by the loss of four carriers in 24 hours, ordered the retirement of the combined fleet.

The battle was won and lost by naval intelligence. US codebreakers had allowed the Americans to read Japanese plans, and it was no surprise to them when aircraft from the Japanese carriers KAGI, AKAGI, SORYU and Hiryu attacked Midway. The island's defenders were ready; they suffered heavily, but the Japanese failed to to knock out the defences. Admiral Nagumo, the Japanese commander, was now caught between his attempt to bomb Midway for a second time and the need to attack the approaching US fleet, coming to the island's aid. Owing to faulty Japanese intelligence, he was astonished to find that the US ships included three aircraft carriers. SBD Dauntless Torpedo bombers from the USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6), USS HORNET and USS YORKTOWN now attacked, but of the 41 attackers only six returned and not a single torpedo found a target. But their attacks caused radical manoeuvering of the Japanese carriers and drew the enemy fighters down to near water level. As a result, when American dive-bombers, flying at 19,000-feet arrived, they were predictably unopposed and quickly scored bomb hits. The AKAGI became an inferno and was torpedoed and sunk the next day. A few minutes later the dive-bombers scored four direct hits on the KAGA, again with fatal results. The SORYU took three direct hits and was then torpedoed by a US submarine. Aircraft from the Hiryu hit the YORKTOWN, but the Hiryu was attacked in turn by dive-bombers from the USS ENTERPRISE and was later sunk by Japanese destroyers.

Today, SBD Dauntlesses from the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Hornet (CV-8) bomb the heavy cruisers HIJMS Mikuma and HIJMS Magami which were damaged in a collision yesterday; the Mikuma sinks later in the day. SBDs also attack two destroyers but do not score any hits. Rear Admiral Raymond A Spruance orders that the TBD Devastator torpedo bomber not be allowed to participate in these attacks; Torpedo Squadron Six (VT-6) in USS Enterprise is the only squadron with operational TBDs.

Also 12 B-17E (431st BS) launch from Midway loaded with 4 x 500lb bombs to attack Japanese cruisers at 8.15am.

During the morning, the tug USS Vireo (AT-144) arrives from Pearl Harbor and takes the damaged aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) in tow. To assist the repair parties in Yorktown, the destroyer USS Hammann (DD-412) comes alongside to starboard, aft, and furnishes pumps and electric power. By mid-afternoon, the process of reducing topside weight on Yorktown was proceeding well; one 5-inch (127 mm) gun had been dropped over the side, and a second was ready to be cast loose; planes had been pushed over the side; the submersible pumps (powered by electricity provided by USS Hammann) had pumped out considerable quantities of water from the engineering spaces and the list had been reduced about two degrees.

However, the Japanese submarine HIJMS I-158 had slipped past the destroyer screen and fired four torpedoes at Yorktown from the starboard beam. One torpedo hit the destroyer USS Hammann directly amidships and broke her back; the destroyer jackknifed and sank in four minutes. Two torpedoes struck Yorktown just below the turn of the bilge at the after end of the island structure. The fourth torpedo passed just astern of the carrier. Approximately a minute after Hammann's stern disappeared beneath the waves, an explosion rumbled up from the depths, possibly caused by the destroyer's depth charges going off. The blast killed many of Hammann's and a few of Yorktown's men who had been thrown into the water. The concussion battered the already-damaged carrier's hull and caused tremendous shocks that carried away Yorktown's auxiliary generator, sent numerous fixtures from the hangar deck overhead crashing to the deck below; sheared rivets in the starboard leg of the foremast; and threw men in every direction, causing broken bones and several minor injuries. The remaining destroyers immediately began searching for the submarine, which escaped, and commenced rescuing survivors from the water. The tug USS Vireo cut the towline and also began picking up survivors; over 80-men on the Hammann were killed. Remarkably, USS Yorktown remains afloat.

The losses suffered by the Japanese at Midway causes the cancellation of the "FS" Operation, the invasion of Fiji and Samoa and also forces the Japanese to concentrate on building aircraft carriers. (Jack McKillop)

TERRITORY OF ALASKA: ALEUTIAN ISLANDS: The Japanese 2nd Mobile Force, consisting of the light aircraft carriers Junyo and Ryujo which had attacked Dutch Harbor on 3 and 4 June, rejoins the Northern Naval Force supporting the invasion of Attu and Kiska after the Midway invasion had been cancelled. Also joining the Northern Naval Force are the battleships Kirishima and Hiei, the heavy cruisers Tone and Chikuma, the light aircraft carrier Zuiho and supporting ships.

At 1027 hours, the elite Maizura 3rd Special Landing Force of 500-men invades Kiska Island; this is the first invasion of U.S. territory since the British invaded the US during the War of 1812. Kiska, the largest of the Rat Island group of the Aleutian Islands, is a 110 square mile (285 square km) mountainous island with the tallest peak reaching 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) located at 52-07N 177-36E. As are all the Aleutian Islands, it is barren and wind swept with little vegetation and no trees. In late 1941, the U.S. Navy had established a weather and radio station on Kiska and there are ten Navy enlisted personnel and a dog named Explosion manning the station when the Japanese invade. The sailors destroy their equipment and burn the code books and then escape to the interior of the island where they had placed caches of food. Unfortunately for the sailors, the Japanese find the food caches and nine of the sailors are captured within a few days. The tenth sailor, Aerographers Mate 1st Class William C. House, becomes separated from the other nine men and spends 49-days hiding from the Japanese. House is lightly dressed and survives on plants, earthworms and some shellfish but his weigh drops to 80-pounds (36 kg) and on the 48th day, he faints and decides he must surrender to survive. On the 49th day, he walks up to an Japanese gun position and surrenders. All ten sailors are sent to Japan as POWs and serve as slave labourers but all survive their imprisonment. The dog Explosion remains on Kiska and she greets the Americans and Canadians when they invade the island in August 1943.

The USAAF's 11th Air Force flies various bomber search-attack missions in an attempt to contact the Japanese fleet reported near Seguam Island. No contact is made due to weather. Eight P-38 Lightnings enroute from Cold Bay to Umnak Island mistakenly attack a Soviet freighter. (Jack McKillop)

U.S.A.: The motion picture "Yankee Doodle Dandy" is released in the U.S. Directed by Michael Curtiz and starring James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, Rosemary DeCamp, Jeanne Cagney, S.Z. Sakall, Frances Langford, Eddie Foy, Jr., and George Tobias, this film is ranked Number 100 on the American Film Institute's Greatest 100 Movies. The film is a biography of Irish-American musical composer, playwright, actor, dancer and singer George M. Cohan who wrote the songs "Give My Regards to Broadway," "Over There," "You're a Grand Old Flag," "Mary," and "Harrigan." The film is nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor; it wins three including Best Actor for Cagney. (Jack McKillop)

CARIBBEAN SEA: The Canadian Imperial Oil tanker C.O. Stillman (13,006 GRT) was sunk by torpedoes from U-68, KptLt. Karl-Friedrich Merten, Knight's Cross, Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, CO, in the Caribbean Sea, in position 17.33N, 067.55W. (Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: The German auxiliary cruiser (Q-ship) KMS Stier (Schiffe 23), Raider J to the British, sinks the 10,170-ton armed Panamanian tanker Stanvac Calcutta about 500 miles (805 km) off Brazil. TheUSNArmed Guard aboard the tanker returned fire with a 3-inch (76.2 mm) bow gun and 4-inch (101.6 mm) after gun and the tanker was taken only after Stier had expended 148 rounds of 5.9-inch (149.9 mm) ammunition and a torpedo, killing the tanker's captain and 15 of her crew.

Fortunately for the Germans, they destroyed the Stanvac Calcutta's radio and killed her radio officer with their first salvo before a distress call could be sent. The Germans transfer 26 merchant sailors and nine USN Armed Guards to the Stier; one would die of his wounds later and one died in Japanese captivity.

This was the second ship sunk by Stier; the first was the 4,986-ton British Gemstone in the Atlantic narrows 175 miles (281.6 km) east of Brazil's St. Paul Rocks on 4 June. Gemstone had been carrying a load of iron ore from Cape Town, South Africa to Baltimore, Maryland, when she was sunk. The Germans transferred 33-members of her crew to the Stier.

On 10 and 15 June, Stier rendezvoused with the supply ship Charlotte Schliemann, one of the blockade-running tankers delegated to sustain her at sea. She also took the opportunity to transfer the 68 prisoners to the supply vessel. On 27 July, Stier put the last of her prisoners aboard Charlotte Schliemann. Stier again rendezvoused with Charlotte Schliemann on 27 August and transferred 37 prisoners from the British merchantman Dalhousie sunk 250 miles (402.3 km) east of Trinidad. The Charlotte Schliemann then set sail for Yokohama, Japan, where all of the civilian and military prisoners were transferred to the Japanese. (Jack McKillop)

 

 

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