February 24th, 1944 (THURSDAY)EUROPE: This is the start of "Big Week" which really lasts until March 6,1944 which broke the back of the Luftwaffe. The 445th Bomb Group endured four and one half hours of fighter attack and lost 13 out of 25 airplanes. Yet they accurately destroyed the Goather Wagonwerke which produced the ME210. The Luftwaffe never recovered from the loss of almost 500 experienced fighter pilots that week. Most of them fell to the guns of the 8th Fighter Command. (Hal Turrel)
UNITED KINGDOM: Merchant ship Fort Stikine, sails from the Mersey. Her destination is "secret" but her cargo clearly marked for Karachi and Bombay. On deck are crated gliders, whilst below, her Bombay cargo includes crated aircraft and shells, torpedoes, mines, rockets, magnesium and bombs totalling 1,400 tons of explosive. Also on board, in No. 2 'tween deck, were 124 bars of gold worth nearly one million pounds. (78)
Kirkby, Lancashire: Mr. Richard Arthur Samuel Bywater (b.1913), civil servant, led the task of removing 17,000 possibly defective bomb fuses from a factory after a fatal blast on 22 February. (George Cross)
Submarines HMS Varne and Supreme launched.
Corvette HMCS Huntsville (ex-HMS Wolvesey Castle) launched Troon, Scotland.
Minesweeper HMS Octavia commissioned.
GERMANY: U-1054 launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
FINLAND: The prime minister says that Finland is prepared to make peace immediately with Russia, subject to conditions.
ARCTIC OCEAN: U-713 sunk in the Arctic NW of Narvik, Norway, in position 69.27N, 04.53E, by depth charges from destroyer HMS Keppel. 50 dead (all hands lost). (Dave Shirlaw)
ITALY: Subadar Subramanian (b.?), Madras Sappers and Miners, died when he threw himself onto a mine to shield others. (George Cross)
GREECE: During test firing with the machine gun from U-453 at the base in Salamis were two men killed (not crewmembers). (Dave Shirlaw)
CANADA: Frigate HMCS Cape Breton departed Halifax to join EG-6 in UK. (Dave Shirlaw)
U.S.A.: Norfolk, Virginia: Josephine "Joe" Doolittle, the wife of Lt-Gen James Harold Doolittle, Commanding General of the US Eighth Air Force, breaks a bottle of champagne across the bow and christens the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La.
The USS INTREPID, crippled by a Japanese torpedo one week ago, stands into Pearl Harbor after having maintained direction with a jury-rigged sail. (Skip Guidry)
Minesweepers USS Roselle and Ruddy laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)
ATLANTIC OCEAN: U-257 (KptLt. Heinz Rahe, CO) is sunk in approximate position 47.19N, 26.00W, by depth charges from the Canadian River Class frigate HMCS Waskesiu (K330), LCdr. James Philip Fraser, RCNR, CO, and the British frigate HMS Nene (K272). 30 dead and 19 survivors.
Waskesiu was part of Escort Group 6, operating in support of
convoy SC-153. Waskesiu detected the submarine on Asdic shortly after 02:00 and,
although the Group Commander was convinced the contact was ‘non-sub’, LCdr.
Fraser (an ex-RCMP marine division officer) was persuaded by his Asdic operators
to persist. Waskesiu conducted many hedgehog and depth charge attacks until
05:50, when the submarine surfaced. The ship engaged the submarine with guns and
closed to ram but the submarine avoided and manoeuvred away. The submarine sank
a few moments later. Due to the darkness and rough seas, only 19 of
49 crewmembers were rescued. KptLt. Rahe was seen to throw his lifejacket and
one-man raft to survivors and re-entered the boat just moments before it sank.
[According to a crew member on the HMCS Waskesiu the HMS Nene only participated in picking up survivors while the Canadian frigate dropped the depth charges, after both frigates had picked up an ASDIC signal that the Canadians insisted was a U-boat, that sank the boat.] (Alex Gordon)
German submarine U-761 was detected by PBY-5A Catalinas from VP-63, now based at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Port Lyautey, French Morocco, during an attempt to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar. The two VP-63 aircraft used their MAD gear to detect, track, and assist in the sinking of U-761, the first sinking of a submarine aided by MAD equipment. The U-boat was attacked by an RAF Catalina Mk. IB of No. 202 Squadron, based at Gibraltar, and a PV-1 Ventura of USN Bombing Squadron One Hundred Twenty Seven (VB-127) also based at NAF Port Lyautey. The crew of the VB-127 Ventura, assisted in the kill by dropping depth charges on U-761 when it surfaced. Following the attack by VB-127 PV-1, the U-boat was scuttled in the mid-Atlantic near Tangier, in position 35.55N, 0545W, in view of approaching British destroyers. Nine of the 57 men aboard were lost; the 48 survivors, including the captain, were picked up by HMS Anthony and HMS Wishart. (Jack McKillop)
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