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December 21st, 1942 (MONDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM:

Destroyer HMS Zambesi laid down.

Frigate HMS Lagan commissioned.

Escort carrier HMS Stalker commissioned.

Submarine HMS Sportsman commissioned.

Sloop HMS Pheasant launched. (Dave Shirlaw)

FRANCE: During the day, nine RAF Bomber Command (PV-1) Venturas and six (A-20) Bostons are dispatched to attack railway targets in France, Belgium and Holland but only two Venturas found targets, at Monceau and Valenciennes. No aircraft are lost. (Jack McKillop)

GERMANY: Chancellor Adolf Hitler uses the report by General Friedrich Paulus, commander of the Sixth Army, of fuel shortages to refuse a request by Field Marshall Erich von Manstein, commander of Army Group Don, to order the Sixth Army to withdraw from Stalingrad.

     During the night of 21/22 December, RAF Bomber Command dispatches 137 aircraft, 119 Lancasters, nine Stirlings and nine Wellingtons, to bomb Munich with the loss of 12 aircraft, eight Lancasters, three Stirlings and a Wellington, 8.8 per cent of the force. One hundred ten aircraft claimed to have bombed Munich and started fires but their photographs show that all or most of the bombs fell in open country, possibly attracted by a decoy site. (Jack McKillop)

U-343 launched.

U-682, U-722 laid down.

U-277, U-487 commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)

U.S.S.R.: Hitler uses Paulus' reporting of fuel shortages to refuse Manstein's request to order the German 6th Army to withdraw from Stalingrad.

NORTH AFRICA: Not a soldier entered the Catholic Church at Tobruk without taking off his hat, though the roof was open and six inches of water lay on the floor. On the pedestal of the Virgin Mary at right, every inch was covered with the scratched names and prayers of many soldiers, mostly Italians. Off left were the bell ropes of the three church bells, still undamaged, which every British soldiers rang at least once before he left. In a Cyrenaican town farther west the British found an Italian priest who had stayed with his church through five occupations. He said: "All the colonists are gone, but the priest must never leave his church. Religion is above wars. There must be many Catholics among the British in the army and I can help them.

Wing Commander Bobby Gibbes, an Australian, is leading his squadron of Kittyhawk fighter-bombers on a strafing attack against an Italian airfield in the Western Desert. During the attack several aircraft are destroyed on the ground, two by Gibbes, but his formation comes under heavy anti-aircraft fire. One of their number is shot down and a second is forced to crash-land a few miles from the target.

Although his own aircraft has been hit by shrapnel, Gibbes goes to the aid of his downed fellow pilot. With the rest of his formation providing cover, he lands and taxies his single-seat Kittyhawk  across the rocky desert for a mile until stopped by a depression. He jettisons the external fuel tank to reduce the weight of his aircraft before pacing out a take-off strip as his comrade evaded Italian troops and ran to meet him.

Gibbes ditched his own parachute to allow his friend to sit in the seat before climbing in after him and sitting on his lap. Then as he took off, his undercarriage hit a small ridge, and he watched in horror as the port wheel falls off.

Escorted by his squadron pilots, Gibbes heads for base. With fighters in short supply, he decides against a belly landing but comes down on his one remaining wheel, thus causing minimal damage to his aircraft.

During the First World War such exploits had been recognised with a VC, and Gibbes was recommended for the supreme award. In the event he received an immediate DSO. (Daily Telegraph, 25/04/2007)

LIBYA: Light forces of the British Eighth Army overtake the Axis rearguard at Sirte and are halted temporarily. (Jack McKillop)

TUNISIA: USAAF Ninth Air Force B-24  Liberators abort a mission against Sousse harbor due to weather. Six RAF (B-24) Liberators, under operational control of the IX Bomber Command, attack the harbor but; results are not observed. (Jack McKillop)

     Weather prevents USAAF Twelfth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses from bombing Sfax or the secondary target, Gabes. P-40s destroy a tank and several cars and trucks with trailers in the Kairouan area while F-4 Lightnings fly three photographic reconnaissance missions over the area between Bizerte and Gabes. (Jack McKillop)

BURMA: British forces capture Alethangyaw in their advance toward Akyab.

NEW GUINEA: From Napapo, Papua New Guinea, Japanese Major General ODA Kensuku, commander of the 5th South Seas Detachment, and his staff arrive at Giruwa. In the Australian 7th Division area on the Sanananda front, the Australians continue to batter Japanese positions in front of the track junction. The 49th Battalion, 30th Brigade, succeeds in entering the roadblock and protects the supply line to it while the 2/7th Cavalry Regiment pushes north from the Kano position toward Sanananda. In the Australian 18th Brigade Buna area, the Japanese continue to withdraw toward Giropa Point and to defend their positions around the two airfields as the 2/9th and 2/10th Battalions advance. The Urbana Force (two battalions of the U.S. 126th and 128th Infantry Regiments, 32d Infantry Division), feinting toward the Triangle, draw Japanese from bunkers and kill many with artillery fire. In preparation for the drive through Government Gardens to the sea, Company K of the U.S. 127th Infantry R  egiment, 32d Infantry Division, crosses Entrance Creek in rubber boats under fire during the night of 21/22 December, to establish a bridgehead above the Triangle. On the left flank, the Schwarz Patrol (Company F, U.S. 126th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division) meets firm resistance at Tarakena, about 1 mile (1,6 kilometers) west of Siwori, and retires eastward; 30 more men of the 2d Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Regiment, reinforce the patrol. The Warren Force (based on U.S. 128th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division) finishes clearing the region east of Simemi Creek and begins to cross after the patrol discovers suitable site some 1,300 yards (1, 189 meters) below its mouth. The crossing is undetected by the Japanese. (Jack McKillop)

In Northeast New Guinea, USAAF Fifth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses attack vessels in Finschhafen harbor while B-24 Liberators carry out single-bomber strikes on a cargo ship north of Finschhafen and barges at the mouth of the Mambare River and off Cape Ward Hunt. (Jack McKillop)

 

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Ordered to cut the Maruyama Trail on Guadalcanal, Company C of the 132d Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, pushes 1,000 yards (914 meters) south without making contact with the Japanese or finding the trail. (Jack McKillop)

     USAAF B-17 Flying Fortresses attack two cargo ships near Kahili, Bougainville Island; a direct hit is scored on one ship. (Jack McKillop)

TERRITORY OF ALASKA: ALEUTIAN ISLANDS: A USAAF Eleventh Air Force B-24 Liberator flies an uneventful reconnaissance over Amchitka, Attu, Kiska and Semichis Islands while a B-24 and two P-38 Lightnings abort a photographic mission due to weather. (Jack McKillop)

CANADA: In Ottawa, Ontario, the Wartime Prices and Trade Board mandates butter rationing. (Jack McKillop)

 

U.S.A.: The Joint Chiefs of Staff direct that Amchitka Island in the Aleutian Islands is to be occupied as near 5 January 1943 as possible. (Jack McKillop)

     The auxiliary aircraft carrier Hamlin (ACV-15) is transferred to the Royal Navy under Lend Lease and commissioned as HMS Stalker (D 91). This is the seventh ACV to be transferred to the British. The ship is reclassified escort aircraft carrier (CVE-15) on 15 July 1943 and is returned to the USN on 29 December 1945. (Jack McKillop)

Destroyer escorts USS Moore and Keith launched.

Minesweeper USS Starling commissioned.

Destroyer USS Stembel laid down.

Destroyer escort USS Hill laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN:

U-562 sank SS Strathallan in Convoy KMF-5.

U-591 sank SS Montreal City in Convoy ONS-152. (Dave Shirlaw)

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