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April 23rd, 1939 (SUNDAY)

U.S.S.R.: Soviet submarines SC-407 and SC-408 laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

U.S.A.: In baseball, Chicago's Merv Owen hits four doubles to equal a major league record and Ted Williams scores his first major league home run. More...

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23 April 1940

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April 23rd, 1940 (TUESDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM:

RAF Bomber Command: 4 Group. Bombing - Fornebu, Kristiansund, Aalborg and Trondheim airfields. Shipping in Oslofjord.

10 Sqn. Four aircraft bombed Kristiansund, one bombed Fornebu, one bombed and hit a motor vessel and machine-gunned another in Oslofjord.

51 Sqn. One aircraft to bomb shipping but FTR.

58 Sqn. Three aircraft to Aalborg. Two bombed.

102 Sqn. Six aircraft to Trondheim. No bombing due to weather.

London: taxpayers were called up in a big way for the war effort today. In Parliament Sir John Simon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced Budget proposals for higher income tax and surtax. He also increased duties on tobacco, beer, spirits and matches as well as announcing dearer postal and telephone charges.

On top of all that there will be a novel new tax on the sale of most goods not already heavily taxed. It will be called "Purchase Tax". Exactly how it works has still to be decided. The standard tax rate will be 7/6 in the pound, and surtax starts on incomes over GBP 1,500 a year instead of GBP 2000. Cigarettes will now cost 1/5 for 20, and beer is up a penny a pint while whisky will cost 16/- a bottle.

The rate for a three-minute telephone trunk call will be 1/2 above 50 miles. There will be a basic charge of 9d for nine words instead of 6d, and greetings telegrams will cost 1/- instead of 9d. Sir John explained that this War Budget is intended to curb spending. He warned that when peace returns the government will take effective action against those making "colossal war fortunes".

ASW trawler HMS Foxtrot launched.

Minelayer HMS Abdiel launched.

Minesweeping trawlers HMS Mangrove and El Malenza commissioned.

Corvettes HMS Coreopsis and Geranium launched. (Dave Shirlaw)

 

GERMANY: Berlin: The slow progress of the German forces moving up from Oslo toward Trondheim and Åndalsnes causes Hitler’s ‘excitement to grow’, according to Jodl.

 

NORWAY: The retreating British troops of Sickleforce are suddenly attacked in the Tretten valley by three German tanks. They charge through the centre of the defensive line. Troops west of the Lågen withdraw in haste; those east of the river are cut off. After a further retreat of 45 miles, Morgan could count only nine junior officers and some 300 men out of his original strength of 1,000. The 148th Brigade, routed in its first major engagement, no longer existed as a fighting unit. Morgan sends the survivors back to Åndalsnes for evacuation.

The British 15th Brigade lands at Molde and Åndalsnes to relieve the 148th Brigade.

The Fleet Air Arm in the NORWEGIAN CAMPAIGN: (Mark Horan)

At 0800 HMS Ark Royal, in company with the destroyers HMS Sikh, HMS Mashona, and HMS Juno, having flown off the Swordfish of 821 Squadron to Hatston en-route, arrived at Scapa Flow and commenced refuelling.

At 1230, Vice-Admiral Air Wells, flying his flag on Ark Royal, in company with HMS Glorious, the heavy cruiser HMS Berwick, the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Curlew, and the destroyers HMS Fearless, HMS Fury, HMS Hasty, HMS Hereward, HMS Hyperion, and HMS Juno, departs Scapa Flow. Immediately afterwards, Ark flies aboard the Skua and Roc fighters of 800 and 801 Squadrons.

Wells mission, dubbed Operation DX, is to transport the RAF fighters to the ice landing ground on Lake Lesjaskog and to cover the Allied landing sites at Åndalsnes to the South, and Namsos to the North of Trondheim. HMS Ark Royal has embarked 44 aircraft of four Fleet Air Arm squadrons: 

800 Squadron: 9 Skuas, 2 Rocs

801 Squadron: 9 Skuas, 3 Rocs

810 Squadron: 12 Swordfish

820 Squadron: 9 Swordfish

HMS Glorious has embarked 46 aircraft of three Fleet Air Arm squadrons as well as the RAF squadron:

803 Squadron: 11 Skuas

802 Squadron: 9 Sea Gladiators

804 Squadron: 9 Sea Gladiators

263 Squadron, RAF: 17 Gladiators

Due to the loss of one of 263 Squadrons valuable Gladiator IIs the day before, 802 Squadron sells one of their Sea Gladiators to the RAF for duty in Norway. 

Meanwhile, severe snowstorms prevent any air operations from HMS Furious, which steams for Harstad and anchors in Bygden Fjord.

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23 April 1941

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April 23rd, 1941 (WEDNESDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Churchill to the Secretary of State for War:

All the lessons of this war emphasise the necessity of good anti-tank weapons and plenty of them. The number of anti-tank guns that can be produced is necessarily limited; all the more need therefore to press forward with whatever substitutes can do the trick.

There are persistent rumours that the Germans are constructing tanks with very thick armour - figures of four to six inches are mentioned. Such armour would be impervious to any existing anti-tank gun, or indeed and mobile gun; the tracks and other vulnerable parts are very small targets.

Tests have shown that plastic explosive applied to armour plate, as, for instance, in the bombard developed by Colonel Blacker and Colonel Jefferies, has very great cutting power, and this may be a solution to the problem. In any event, we must not be caught napping.

YUGOSLAVIA: The Italians occupy the island of Vis. (Perry Stewart)

GREECE: Greece severs diplomatic relations with Bulgaria.

King George and his government flees to Crete.

The northern Greek army surrenders to the Germans and Italians at Epirus and Macedonia.

The Wehrmacht High Command announced:

The movements of the German army in Greece are unfolding as scheduled. German forces have advanced through Lamia toward the south and have joined battle with British rearguard forces in the historic pass of Thermopylae.

CANADA:

Minesweeper HMCS Ganonoque launched Toronto, Ontario.

MV Kipawo departed Sydney , Nova Scotia. for refit Montreal to become HMCS Kipawa. (Dave Shirlaw)

U.S.A.: Charles Lindbergh addresses 30,000 people at the first mass meeting of the America First Committee in New York City. 'The British government,' he said, 'has one desperate plan: ... to persuade us to send another American Expeditionary Force to Europe and to share with England militarily, as well as financially, the fiasco of this war.' He condemned England for having 'encouraged the smaller nations of Europe to fight against hopeless odds.'

The Truman Committee, of the US Senate, holds a hearing at Camp Meade in Maryland. They are investigating waste and fraud in the military build-up of the US Armed Forces. This is the first of 9 camps that will be visited by the committee in the coming weeks. "Cost Plus" contracts, "fantastically poor judgment" by the Army in selecting camp sites (Camp Meade is a primary example) and the rental of equipment instead of outright purchase are cited as wasteful.

Senator Truman's intent is to find the waste before it can continue, rather than to investigate and make headlines "after the fact". (David McCullough -- "Truman")

ATLANTIC OCEAN: U-101 encountered a British submarine in the North Atlantic, which fired two torpedoes, but both missed. (Dave Shirlaw)

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23 April 1942

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April 23rd, 1942 (THURSDAY)

GERMANY: Berlin: A decree issued by Fritz Sauckel, the Reich Plenipotentiary for Labour orders schoolboys aged 14-16 and schoolgirls aged 16-17 to perform agricultural service.

BURMA: The IJA 56th Division moves from Taunggyi toward Lashio, Burma, causing the Chinese 6th Army to retreat from Taunggyi toward Yunnan Province. Stilwell tries to lead the Chinese soldiers back to Taunggyi; they only obey orders when promised a cash reward.

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23 April 1943

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April 23rd, 1943 (FRIDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: London: A joint Anglo-US command is set up to plan for a European landing; Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Morgan is appointed Chief of Staff Supreme Allied Command [COSSAC].

Submarine HMS Syrtis commissioned.

Frigate HMS Grindall laid down.

Submarine HMS Vagabond laid down.

(Dave Shirlaw)

GERMANY: Rastenburg: Himmler orders the SS to put down the Warsaw uprising with "the utmost severity."

U-237 was damaged in a collision with the German minesweeper M 403 off Hela in the Baltic Sea. (Dave Shirlaw)

TUNISIA: Maj. John Thompson McKellar Anderson (1918-43), Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, led many attacks at the head of his battalion, which seized a key objective and 200 prisoners. (Victoria Cross)

Lt. Wilwood Alexander Sandys Clarke (b.1919), Royal North Lancs. Regt., knocked out three machine-gun posts and led his platoon to its goal, before he was killed tackling two sniper posts. (Victoria Cross)

NEW GUINEA: Australian troops occupy Mubo.

CANADA: Armed yacht HMCS Lynx paid off.

Corvette HMCS Battleford arrived Halifax with Convoy ONS-2.

(Dave Shirlaw)

U.S.A.: The motion picture "The Outlaw" is released in the U.S. This controversial "sex western," is directed by Howard Hughes and stars Jane Russell, Walter Huston and Thomas Mitchell. This motion picture was filmed in 1941 and most of it was directed by Howard Hawks but Hughes took over and his interest in Jane Russell's bosom is evident even though the film is about Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and Doc Holliday. (Jack McKillop)

Destroyers USS Abbot, Kidd and Mullany commissioned.

Destroyer escort USS Reeves launched.

Destroyer escorts USS Laning and Loy laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: At 1510, U-306 fired a spread of four torpedoes at Convoy HX-234 SW of Iceland and heard two detonations. The Silvermaple enroute from Matadi to Liverpool via Halifax with general cargo and military stores was hit in 59°05N/35°40W, but managed to reach port safely without casualties among her crew of 55 men and was repaired.

The milkcow U-461 was attacked in the North Atlantic by an RCAF Wellington with three bombs. The boat suffered slight damage and as a result left an oil trace.

U-453 fired at an RAF 500 Sqn Hudson, killing Pilot R Obee and heavily damaging the aircraft. It was flown home but crew bailed out and the aircraft crashed.

U-189 sunk east of Cape Farewell, Greenland, in position 59.50N, 34.43W, by depth charges from an RAF 120 Sqn Liberator. 54 dead (all hands lost).

U-191 sunk SE of Cape Farewell, Greenland, in position 56.45N, 34.25W, by depth charges from destroyer HMS Hesperus. 55 dead (all hands lost).

 (Dave Shirlaw)

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23 April 1944

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April 23rd, 1944 (SUNDAY)

ARCTIC SEA: U-307 met U-703 in the Arctic Sea and provided them with a needed spare part. (Dave Shirlaw)

BALTIC SEA: During the Baltic exercises U-1169 lost one man off Pillau. [Matrosengefreiter Alfred Friedl]. (Dave Shirlaw)

EGYPT: Alexandria: Greek officers board three striking warships, with the loss of 50 lives.

BURMA: Air Commando Combat Mission N0. 48 3:05 Flight Time Hailakandi, Assam to Indaw, Burma. Bombed Japanese troop concentration and  strafed village. My last mission with Lt/Col R. T. Smith. note: This is an expanded version of the mission>

At 1300 hours 8 B-25 Hs, escorted by 10 P-51B fighters took off from Hailakandi on what was the most ruthless, yet necessary, raids I had ever been on. Our objective was a Burmese village on the North shore of Indaw Lake. A Chindit column was advancing from the main stronghold, the roadblock at Mawlu. They needed the water here for drinking. We arrived over our target at 1500 hours. The weather was fair, but with poor visibility because of the haze from burning forest fires abundant this time of year throughout Burma.

Our aircraft "Barbie III," led the first flight over the target and released our fragmentation cluster bombs (para-frags) at an altitude of about two hundred feet. Our bomb cover was good and fires immediately broke out in several parts of the village. Captain Sinskie led his formation over next, but released his incendiary clusters too late and they overshot by two hundred yards. Captain Ziegler came over last and dropped his para-frags. They covered the entire town and more fires immediately came into view. Smoke rose to 2,000 feet. The fighters came in last and dive bombed a small group of huts about one-half mile northwest of our target. They were carrying two five hundred General Purpose bombs per aircraft.

As soon as the fighters finished and got altitude above us, R. T. ordered two flights into our gunnery pattern and we commenced strafing the village. Our . 75 mm shells tore into the thatched buildings and literally exploded them into a thousand pieces. I would hear the heavy rattle of our six . 50 calibre machine guns and the dull thud and jolt of our cannon, a thousand yards away a hut (basha) would explode in a red flash and black smoke. I could see our tracers hitting the ground and ricocheting into the air. They appeared to eat their way into a basha. We averaged three burst of machine gun fire and three cannon shells per run. After each aircraft had made two passes, we concentrated our fire on the basha area the fighters had dive bombed. Two runs were made on these and then we started working over the flat bushy stretch of ground starting at the lake edge and then into town. This area contained trenches and dugouts which I strafed from my turret as we pulled out from a run. I could see no results from my fire. (Chuck Baisden)

NEW GUINEA: US Forces occupy Hollandia. Subsidiary landings at Aitape are continuing as well.

CANADA:

Corvettes HMCS Trentonian, Lindsay and Louisburg departed Halifax to join Western Approaches Command. (Dave Shirlaw)

U.S.A.: Destroyers USS Mannert L Abele and Strong launched.

Destroyer USS Keppler laid down.

Submarine USS Blower launched.

Destroyer escort USS Charles E Brannon launched. (Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: U-193 listed as missing in the Bay of Biscay. No explanation exists for its loss. 59 dead (all hands lost).

Destroyer HS Salamis (ex-HMS Boreas) lost a gun mount in heavy weather in Atlantic Ocean. (Dave Shirlaw)

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23 April 1945

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April 23rd, 1945 (MONDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM:

Frigate HMCS Carlplace arrived Londonderry.

HMC ML 081 of 79th ML Flotilla completed refit.

Frigate HMCS Meon paid off and returned to RN at Southampton. Retained in post-war RN.

Submarine HMS Seneschal launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
 

GERMANY: Hermann Göring sends a radio message to Hitler offering to take war leadership of the Reich if Hitler is unable to continue while the siege continues.

Berlin: Albert Speer bids Hitler farewell, confessing that he sabotaged the "scorched-earth" directive, and has preserved German factories and industry for the post-war period.

The Red Army has broken into Berlin from the north, east and south. Massed Russian artillery is shelling the central and western areas of the city. Buildings are collapsing piece by piece. Sturmovik aircraft dive over the rubble to silence German strongpoints. Latest reports say that Russian assault troops are smashing their way through the inner ring of SS resistance near the Stettiner railway station, one mile from the Unter den Linden.

Frankfürt am der Oder: After 6 days of heavy defensive fighting, the defenders of the city, assisted by 11.SS-Armee Korps [Kleinheisterkamp], gave very little ground to Soviet 1st Byelorussian Front. Massive and continuous artillery bombardments on the town from 20 to 22 April, 1945, reduced vast parts of the city to a wasteland of burning rubble. Still, the defensive perimeter remained intact. Zhukov's 1st Byelorussian then sought to bypass and find a way around and behind the stubborn defenders. By 22 April the near breakup of 9th Armee into three isolated segments was dangerously close.
Hitler, at the insistence of Gen. Heinrici, allowed 9th Army to remove itself from continued [suicidal] holding of the Oder line-position, which allowed the extrication of the beleaguered and nearly surrounded garrison of 'Festung-Frankfurt' aided by elements of 11.SS-Armee.Korps, at the very last moment. The Russians [actually a Polish Tank Brigade of the Red Army] took possession of the city on 23 April 1945. Detonations and fire in the city centre area went on for a number of days beyond this, and have been attributed to both unexploded Allied aerial ordnance [The RAF raided Frankfurt a. Oder in late March and early April 1945], as well as to last ditch Hitler-Jugend attacks by the so-called 'Werwolf' organisation. (Russ Folsom)

Reichsjugendführer Artur Axmann gives a personal order that battalions of Hitler Youth be raised to defend the Pichelsdorf bridges across the River Havel in Berlin to keep the way open for Wenck's phantom army.

Elements of the 2nd US Cavalry Group, 90th and 97th US Infantry Divisions liberate the 1,526 prisoners who remain in the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp near Weiden in NE Bavaria. 

About 1,000 German civilians are massacred by the Red Army in the occupied town of Treuenbrietzen. Men are gathered together, taken to nearby woods and shot. A number of women are also raped and killed. Nearly every family in the town loses relatives.

Five kilometres up the road near the village of Nichel retreating German soldiers shoot 127 Italian forced labourers who had just escaped from a munitions factory in Treuenbritzen.

 

A brief history of KL Flossenbürg:

In May 1938,'Konzentrationslager'(KL)Flossenbürg in the district of Neustadt on the Waldnaab was established.(*) At first it was intended for "criminal and asocial elements", but later the camp contained mostly political prisoners, in particular foreign nationals from the areas occupied by Germany during the war. The original camp was made up of 16 long, single level, wooden barracks, the kitchen, the laundry and disinfection buildings, the workshops, the camp prison (punishment block), crematorium, and roll call area. During the first years, prisoners were used primarily to build the camp and to labour in the granite quarry. After the war began, the prisoners were increasingly put to work in the armaments industry.

Eventually, the camp administered nearly a hundred satellite camps and external labour commands, some of which were quite a distance from the central camp at Flossenbürg, as far away as Bohemia and Saxony. Some 5,000 prisoners were held in the satellite camps, approximately one third of them were women.

"According to records found in the camp, from 1939 on, 54,890 men and over 10,000 women were held prisoner in KL Flossenburg. In the 14 month period preceding 20 April, 1945, 14,000 inmates died from starvation, exhaustion, mistreatment and various diseases. The prisoners worked in stone quarries and a nearby Messerschmitt Airplane Factory. On 20 April, 1945, 15,000 inmates, including children and elderly people, were marched away. Those that could not keep up the march were killed by the wayside. Less than 2000 were left in the camp when US troops arrived. Among those reported to have been in the camp were Kurt Von Schuschnig, former Chancellor of Austria; Leopold, King of Belgium, Prince Albrecht of Austria and Hjalmar Schacht, Reich Minister of Finances."

A camp memorial was built between 1946 and 1948. The foundations, as well as a few complete prison barracks and the remains of the wall around the prison courtyard have been preserved. Two cells have been reconstructed in their original form on the west side of the prison barracks. Many well-known participants of the German [July 20th] resistance movement, including Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and Generalmajor Hans Oster were imprisoned and executed at the Flossenbürg Camp in April 1945. 

(Source)

(*)Neustadt an der Waldnaab is in the Oberfalz region of NE Bavaria near the Czech border. (Russ Folsom)

 

ITALY: The US 5th and the British 8th Army reach the River Po. The 5th Army crosses south of Mantua.

BURMA: The First Division of the Indian National Army, fighting with the Japanese, surrenders en masse to the Allies.

JAPAN: The XXIV Corps attack begins to gain ground on Okinawa.

COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES: Units of the US 37th Division reach the outskirts of Baguio, Luzon.

JAVA SEA: U-183 sunk at 1300 in the Java Sea, in position 04.50S, 112.52E, by a torpedo from submarine USS Besugo. 54 dead and 1 survivor. (Dave Shirlaw)

BORNEO: The US Navy's Patrol Bombing Squadron One Hundred Nine (VPB-109) based at Puerto Princessa, Palawan, Philippine Islands, launches the Special Weapons Ordnance Device (SWOD) Mk. 9 for the first time against an enemy target. The SWOD Mk. 9, or "Bat" missile, is a glide bomb consisting of a 1,000 pound (453.6 kg) bomb casing equipped with wings, twin tail and internal radar to guide it. Two Bats are launched by a VPB-109 Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer against Japanese shipping in Balikpapan harbour in Borneo but both are defective and do not hit any targets. (Jack McKillop)

U.S.A.: At 12:15pm U-853, five miles southeast of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, torpedoes and sinks USS Eagle (PE-56). The Eagle was at a dead stop. The explosion amidships sends a geyser of steam and water 200 feet skyward, breaking the ship in two and sinking her within minutes. 49 seamen are killed. (More on the Eagle boats.)

Destroyers USS Holder, Theodore E Chandler and Warrington laid down.

Destroyer USS Vesole commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: At 1535, U-1023 fired a spread of two LUT torpedoes at Convoy TBC-135 and heard one detonation and sinking noises. In fact, the Riverton was only damaged.

The unescorted Katy was torpedoed and damaged by U-857 east of Kitty Hawk. She was towed to Lynnhaven, Hampton Roads on 26 April and repaired. It is also possible that U-879 torpedoed this ship, but both U-boats were lost during April 1945 in that area and this success can not be definitely assigned to one of the boats.

U-396 reported missing from weather-reporting duties. No explanation exists for its loss. 45 dead (all hands lost).

U-1055 reported missing in the North Atlantic or the English Channel. No explanation exists for its loss. 49 dead (all hands lost).

Minesweeper HMCS Vegreville damaged by mines off French coast and headed for Devonport for repairs. The damage to her port engine was considered to be beyond economical repair and was declared a constructive total loss 6 Jun 45.

U-716 depth charged in the Arctic by a hunter-killer group. Due to the damage incurred the boat had to return to base. (Dave Shirlaw)

 

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