December 15th, 1944 (FRIDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: London: The disagreement between the Allies over the future of Poland emerged strongly from Winston Churchill's speech in the House of Commons today. Official sources later emphasised the urgency of the prime minister's plea for a settlement. It is hoped that his speech, in which he deplored the lack of a clear American pronouncement on the Russo-Polish issue, may have an effect in Washington. It is felt that the danger of a rift between the Allies is too great to be left for attention at some time in the indefinite future.
Major Alton Glenn Miller, s/n 0505273, Director of the USAAF band, aboard a Noorduyn UC-64A Norseman aircraft disappears. Major Miller was enroute from England to Paris to arrange a Christmas show for the troops in France.
It was raining and the temperature was 34F (1.1C) when the aircraft took off with three people aboard, the pilot, Warrant Officer Morgan, Miller and Lieutenant Colonel Norman F. Baesell who was flying to Paris in General Goodrich's private plane so that Baesell could pick up some champagne for the holidays.
The UC-64A, a single engine, high-wing monoplane that could carry nine people, did not have deicing equipment. There have been a lot of theories and stories over the years but I still believe the aircraft iced up and went down into the Channel.
Although overage, and therefore draft exempt, Glenn Miller joined the Army in late 1942, was transferred to the US Army Air Forces, and went on to lead one of the greatest bands of the swing era.
WESTERN EUROPE: The USAAF Eighth Air Force flies Mission 751: Two B-17 Flying Fortresses drop leaflets in France and Germany during the night. (Jack McKillop)
NETHERLANDS: During the day, RAF Bomber Command sends 17 Lancasters to attack the E-boat pens at Ijmuiden with 12,000 pound (5 443 kilogram) "Tallboy" bombs but a smoke-screen hinders the bombing and no results are seen. (Jack McKillop)
SS Fort Maisonneuve (7,128 GRT) Canadian-owned, British-registered merchantman was sunk in the Scheldt Estuary, when she struck a mine. There is no record of loss of life in this incident. (Dave Shirlaw)
FRANCE: In the U.S. Seventh Army's VI Corps area, Combat Command A of the 14th Armored Division, seizes Riedseltz; Combat Command B takes Salmbach and Schlerthal. One 79th Infantry Division column clears Lauterbourg and another reaches the Lauter River at the village of Schiebenhardt. (Jack McKillop)
The French First Army begins an offensive against the Germans west of the Rhine River in the Colmar area. The II Corps, making the main effort, penetrates to Orbey. (Jack McKillop)
In the U.S. First Army area, V Corps continues to gain ground slowly. The 78th Infantry Division secures Kesternich but the Germans infiltrate in some strength and isolates elements. (Jack McKillop)
In the U.S. Third Army's XX Corps area, the 90th Infantry Division opens an assault for the rest of Dillingen and the Prims River bridge on the Dillingen-Saarlautern road under a smoke screen with the 359th Infantry Regiment on the left and the 358th Infantry Regiment on the right; the attack penetrates the German main line of resistance in the Dillingen sector and gets well into the town. A lull develops after this and the 90th Infantry Division suspends the attack. The 95th Infantry Division continues a slow advance in the Saarlautern bridgehead. In the XII Corps area, the 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, assisted by tanks and tank destroyers, takes Habkirchen; to the left, the 137th Infantry Regiment is driven out of Breiterwald with very heavy losses in a German counterattack. The 87th Infantry Division is also bitterly opposed but the 347th Infantry Regiment takes Obergailbach and the heights overlooking the Blies River. (Jack McKillop)
The USAAF Eighth Air Force flies Mission 750: 674 B-17 Flying Fortresses and 434 fighters are dispatched to attack rail targets and a locomotive factory using H2X; one bomber and two fighters are lost: 328 bomb the Hainholz marshalling yard at Hannover with the loss of one B-17; 304 bomb the Henschel locomotive works at Kassel; and 23 bombers hit targets of opportunity. (Jack McKillop)
Over 300 USAAF Ninth Air Force A-20 Havocs, A-26 Invaders, and B-26 Marauders hit defended positions, camp area, and oil storage at Heimbach, Wollseifen, Harperscheid, Schonau, Ruthen, and Dorsel; fighters escort the 9th Bombardment Division, hit supply and ammunition dumps and other targets during bombing attacks and armed reconnaissance, and support the U.S. 2d and 99th Infantry Divisions in the area of Westwall fortifications, the 78th Infantry Division at Kesternich, and the 8th Infantry and 5th Armored Divisions north of Kesternich. Fighters also support the XX and XII Corps in the Dillingen-Saarlautern area and at Habkirchen and heights along the Blies River. (Jack McKillop)
The USAAF Fifteenth Air Force hits three marshalling yards (M/Ys): 56 bomb the Amstetten M/Y, 47 attack the Main M/Y at Rosenheim and 21 hit the Main M/Y at Salzburg. (Jack McKillop)
During the day, RAF Bomber Command dispatches 138 Lancasters to bomb Siegen but the are recalled because bad weather prevents their fighter escorts from taking off. (Jack McKillop)
During the night 15/16 December, RAF Bomber Command sends 327 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitos to attack Ludwigshafen; 319 bomb the target with the loss of one Lancaster. The target area for this raid is the northern part of Ludwigshafen and the small town of Oppau in which two important I.G. Farben chemical factories were situated. Severe damage is caused and fierce fires are started. The Oppau factory ceases production completely. Five other industrial firms are also badly hit. Some damage is also caused to housing areas around the various factories but this is not serious. Damage is also caused to installations and ships at the nearby Rhine quays. Mosquitoes also hit three other targets: 57 bomb Hannover, 11 hit Osnabruck and three attack the Bruckhausen benzine oil refinery at Duisburg. (Jack McKillop)
U-2368 laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)
AUSTRIA: Over 330 USAAF Fifteenth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators hit numerous targets: 211 bomb two marshalling yards (M/Ys) at Linz, 131 hitting the Main M/Y and 80 attacking the Freight M/Y with the loss of one aircraft; 47 bomb the Main M/Y at Innsbruck with the loss of one bomber; and 31 aircraft bomb targets of opportunity. Two bombers are lost. Over 250 P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs provide escort (Jack McKillop)
CZECHOSLOVAKIA: The Red Army troops cross the Ipely (Ipel) River north of Budapest, Hungary, and establishes a bridgehead on Czech soil at Sahy. (Jack McKillop)
POLAND: During the night of 15/16 December, 13 RAF Bomber Command Lancasters lay mines in the Baltic Sea off Gdynia; one aircraft is lost. (Jack McKillop)
ITALY: In the British Eighth Army area, the Polish II Corps pushes forward on l the eft flank of the army across the Sintria River toward the Senio River. In the British V Corps area, the Germans struggle to prevent the encirclement of Faenza, exerting strong pressure on New Zealand forces in the Colic area and bringing the Indian 10th Division to a halt short of Pergola during the day but withdrawing, during the night of 15/16 December. The Canadian I Corps joins and consolidates bridgeheads across the Naviglio Canal north of Faenza and spends the next few days improving the bridgehead. (Jack McKillop)
USAAF Twelfth Air Force B-25 Mitchells, attack ammunition dumps at Cremona, Bologna, and Pavia, a fuel dump at Castellar Guidobono, and severely damage railway bridges south of Asti and at Voghera. Fighters and fighter-bombers again hit targets in the U.S. Fifth Army battle area south of Bologna and communications in the central Po River Valley and make numerous rail cuts throughout the area (especially on the vital Brenner Line) destroying many vehicles and train cars. Several bridges are hit, three being left impassable. (Jack McKillop)
GREECE: Athens: Tonight the city is once more wracked by artillery and machine-gun fire after a short and brittle pause in which British and Greek politicians strove for a solution to this bloody civil war. British paratroopers are besieged in the Acropolis, moving only at night to avoid snipers. British headquarters have come under fire from 75mm guns As more British tanks move into the city, ELAS strongpoints have come under cannon fire from RAF Spitfires.
CHINA: Six USAAF Fourteenth Air Force B-25 Mitchells bomb a storage building at Kunlong. (Jack McKillop).
THAILAND: Five USAAF Fourteenth Air Force P-51 Mustangs hit and damage a bridge and a building south of Huizan. (Jack McKillop)
BURMA: Havildar Umrao Singh (b.1920), Royal Indian Artillery, beat off heavy Japanese attacks on his gun, and caused many casualties in at times hand-to-hand fighting. (Victoria Cross)
In the Northern Combat Area Command area, the Japanese garrison of Bhamo escapes through Chinese lines early in morning and the relief force south of the town begins to disengage. The Chinese 38th Division moves into Bhamo. The Chinese Army in India (CAI) and Yunnan Force (Y-Force) are only 50 air miles (80 kilometers) apart. The 112th Regiment, Chinese 38th Division, which was recently withdrawn from the Bhamo battle, is driving on Namhkam. Elements of the U.S. 475th Infantry Regiment (Long Range Penetration, Special) move from the Mo-hlaing to the Tonk-wa area. (Jack McKillop)
In the British Fourteenth Army area, XV Corps makes rapid strides on the Arakan front. The West African 82d Division takes Buthidaung and establishes a bridgehead across the Kalapanzin River. (Jack McKillop)
Ten USAAF Tenth Air Force B-25 Mitchells destroy the Hsipaw railroad bridge and a bypass bridge at Namhkai and damage other bridges at Namhkai, four P-47 Thunderbolts severely damage two bridges at Ho-hko, seven P-47s fly close support strikes along the Namh-Kam-Bhamo road and 13 P-47s attack Lashio Airfield. The town areas, troop concentrations, and supply areas are attacked at Panglong, Nanponpon, Panghkam, Kinu, Man Hpai, and Namhkam. (Jack McKillop)
Four USAAF Fourteenth Air Force P-38 Lightnings knock out a bridge at Hawng Luk. (Jack McKillop)
VOLCANO ISLANDS: Thirteen USAAF Seventh Air Force B-24 Liberators from Guam bomb Iwo Jima. During the night of 15/16 December, a B-24 on a snooper raid from Guam hits Iwo Jima. (Jack McKillop)
COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES: The Western Visayan Task Force invades Mindoro Island at 0735 hours local after a preparatory bombardment. The 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, lands between Caminawit Point and San Augustin; the reinforced 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment, less Company C, on the beach fronting San Agustin; Company, 503d, across the river mouth from San Augustin. From San Augustin, the 3d Battalion, 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment drives inland about 8 miles (13 kilometers) to final the beachhead line, securing the airstrip, sugar plant, and village of San Jose without opposition. The 19th Infantry Regiment also drives inland to the final beachhead line, the only contact with the Japanese being made at Caminawit Point. The Western Visayan Task Force suffers no casualties. Rear Admiral Arthur Struble, commander of Task Group 78.3, turns over command ashore to Brigadier General William Dunckel, Chief of Planning Division Southwest Pacific Area. Airdrome construction is begun at once and a new site, about 2 miles (3,2 kilometers) northwest of White Beach, is selected. Although there is no ground opposition, Kamikazes are active: two tank landing ships damaged off the southern tip of Mindoro, are scuttled by destroyer USS Hall (DD-583). Elsewhere off Mindoro, Japanese Kamikazes damage the escort aircraft carrier USS Marcus Island (CVE-77); destroyers USS Paul Hamilton (DD-590) and Howorth (DD-592); and motor torpedo boat PT-223. (Jack McKillop)
In the U.S. Sixth Army's X Corps area on Leyte Island, the 1st Squadron ( ) of 12th Cavalry Regiment (Infantry) starts west toward Highway 2, reaching previously a selected drop area, a banana plantation about 1,800 yards (1 646 meters) east of Lonoy; the rest of the regiment joins the 1st Squadron there by 17 December. In the XXIV Corps area, with the port of Ormoc sealed off, the 77th Infantry Division pauses to consolidate. The 32d Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, makes contact with the 11th Airborne Division's 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Company G of which enters its lines. Company G has been isolated for four days. It is decided to withdraw the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 32d Infantry Regiment to clear pockets in the Ormoc area and let the 2d Battalion continue eastward to establish contact with the rest of 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment force. (Jack McKillop)
In major strikes of the day, USAAF Far East Air Forces fighter-bombers hit a fuel dump at San Fernando on Negros Island; B-24 Liberators and B-25 Mitchells bomb Sasa and San Roque Airfields on Mindanao Island; and B-24 Liberators bomb Puerto Princesa on Palawan Island. (Jack McKillop)
Marjor Richard I. "Dick" Bong shoots down a Japanese "Oscar" fighter (Nakajima Ki-43, Army Type 1 Fighter Hayabusa). This is his 39th victory. (Jack McKillop)
With the 24th is an RAAF airfield construction unit - the first Australian troops in the Philippine campaign. MacArthur plans more airstrips on Mindoro to extend US are cover as far north as Lingayen Gulf and Manila Bay, 150 miles away, and make these areas untenable for Japanese shipping. To stop Japanese aircraft from Luzon attacking the Mindoro invasion force, Third Fleet carrier-based planes bombed airfields near Manila three days ago, damaging or destroying 242 enemy planes.
US losses have been greatest at sea. Ships supporting the landings after the 350-mile voyage from Leyte were hit yesterday by fierce tropical storms with 75-foot waves that sank three destroyers drowning 719 men.
Leyte: Allied war correspondents are being banned from reporting Kamikaze suicide attempts by Japanese pilots who have so far crippled a carrier and two destroyers supporting the invasion of Mindoro. The news blackout has been ordered by MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz. They fear that reports of the deck of US warships being dive-bombed will cause panic in the US. They justify the ban on the grounds that it prevents the Japanese from discovering how much damage their pilots inflict.
EAST INDIES: USAAF Far East Air Forces B-25 Mitchells hit airfields on Ceram and Ambon Islands. Miscellaneous armed reconnaissance and light raids by fighters and bombers are flown against airfields on Boeroe and Halmahera Islands. Shipping and other targets of opportunity are attacked at several points throughout the Netherlands East Indies. (Jack McKillop)
AUSTRALIA: Sir Frederick Geoffrey Shedden, Australian Secretary of the Department of Defence, writes to U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific, asking why Australian troops are not being used in the Philippines and claiming that "Australian opinion considered it a point of honour for their troops to be used in such operations." (Jack McKillop)
PACIFIC OCEAN: USN submarine USS Hawkbill (SS-366) sinks Japanese destroyer HIJMS Momo west of Luzon about 167 nautical miles (309 kilometers) west of Baguio, Philippine Islands, in position 16.40N, 117.42E. (Jack McKillop)
HAWAIIAN ISLANDS: The USN's Battleships Pacific Fleet command is divided into two battleship squadrons. Battleship Squadron ONE is commanded by Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf and Battleship Squadron TWO Vice Admiral Willis A. "Ching" Lee. (Jack McKillop)
Ordered, Floating Drydock, steel, to be fabricated in Montreal, by Dominion Bridge Ltd. and to be erected, neither started cancelled 15 Aug 45. a. Dominion Bridge Ltd. Montreal and Vancouver, (1) HMS A.F.D. 92, to be erected by Dominion Bridge Ltd. Vancouver, (2) HMS A.F.D. 93, to be erected by Western Bridge Co. Vancouver. (Dave Shirlaw)
U.S.A.: Washington: USN Admiral William D. Leahy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), is promoted to the (five star) rank of Fleet Admiral. (Jack McKillop)
The USAAF activates Headquarters, Continental Air Force (CAF) at Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., to coordinate the work of the four domestic air forces (First, Second, Third and Fourth) and the I Troop Carrier Command but will not assume jurisdiction until 8 May 1945. On 21 March 1946, CAF is redesignated Strategic Air Command (SAC). (Jack McKillop)
Submarines USS Amberjack, Grenadier, Medregal and Pickerel launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
Top songs on the pop charts today are: "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby; "The Trolley Song" by The Pied Pipers, "I'm Making Believe" by Ella Fitzgerald and The Ink Spots and "Smoke on the Water" by Red Foley. (Jack McKillop)
ATLANTIC OCEAN: In the Kattegat (the arm of the North Sea between Denmark and Sweden) during the night of 15/16 December, six RAF Bomber Command Halifaxes lay mines in the Laeso Rende Strait between the Dannish mainland and the island of Laeso. (Jack McKillop)
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