March 2nd, 1943 (TUESDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: Frigate HMS Deveron commissioned.
ASW trawler HMS Bream commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
GERMANY: Berlin: In the heaviest raid so far of the war against Berlin, RAF heavy bombers dropped 8,000-pound high-explosive bombs and thousands of incendiaries in an attack last night on the city centre. Much damage is concentrated around the Unter den Linden, the Opera and cathedral of St Hedwig. One pilot said later: "It was a fearsome sight, but no regrets ... remember what the Nazis did to London." The Germans later said that 191 people were killed and 268 injured. A total of 17 aircraft did not come back. Berlin threatens reprisal raids against New York and Washington, without suggesting how these might be achieved.
ITALY: Rome: Mussolini withdraws his troops from the eastern front.
PACIFIC OCEAN: The Battle of the Bismark Sea begins. A Japanese convoy of 8 transports enroute from Rabaul to Lae, New Guinea, and escorted by 8 destroyers is sighted and attacks begin. These attacks will continue through March 4. 3,500 soldiers of the 51st Division are lost. This is the last major troop movement to a combat zone by surface ships by the Japanese where they do not have control of the air.
U.S.A.: Destroyer USS Fullam commissioned.
Destroyer USS Dortch laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)
ATLANTIC OCEAN: At 0643, U-634 fired a spread of four torpedoes at SS Meriwether Lewis, a straggler from Convoy HX-227, and hit her with one torpedo after eight minutes. The ship sank bow first following two coups de grāce at 0752 and 0905after a heavy detonation in the forward part of the ship when the cargo of ammunition blew up. Earlier the ship had been attacked and missed by U-759, which then had troubles with the diesel engines and led the other U-boat to her target. USCGC Ingham searched the area for two days and only located a trail of automobile tires that stretched for 30 miles. All eight officers, 36 crewmen and 25 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 4in, one 3in and eight 20mm guns) were lost.
HMCS Assiniboine, a River-class destroyer leader, (ex-HMS Kempenfelf) Cdr. Kenneth Frederick Adams, RCN, CO, was damaged during an attack on U-119, Kptlt. Alois ZECH, CO, from the detonation of her own depth charges, which had inadvertently been set too shallow. The submarine avoided the attack and there was no further contact. Assiniboine had recently returned to service in December 41 as a member of Escort Group C-3, after a refit to repair damage done when she rammed and sank U-210, on 06 Aug 42. She made one round-trip, escorting convoys HX-221 (36 ships, none lost) and ONS-163 (38 ships, none lost) during the last of which she also suffered damage (cause unknown). She was on passage back to the UK to rejoin the C-3 group, which was preparing to take convoy ON-172 back to North America, when she was damaged again. She encountered U-119 on the surface by chance 660 miles west of Ireland as the U-boat was returning after laying a minefield off Iceland. Assiniboine closed to attack and opened fire when in gun range. The U-boat dove and Assiniboine attempted to ram, but only struck a glancing blow. Despite the fact that U-119 had lost three meters of her bow casing and her conning tower had been holed by 20-mm Oerlikon rounds, she remained at sea and refuelled ten attack U-boats north of the Azores before proceeding to Bordeaux for repairs. Assiniboine, having had plating in both boiler rooms pushed in and with one of her two screws out of action, proceeded to Liverpool for repairs which took 16 weeks. In the 22 months between Oct 41 and Jul 43, the critical period in the Battle of the Atlantic, Assiniboine was out of action for damage repair for a total of 12 months. (Dave Shirlaw)
Top of Page