Major Events so far
Field Marshal (and Major General US Army) Douglas Macarthur is killed in a traffic accident in New York City on May 1. Major (and quickly Lieutenant Colonel) Dwight D Eisenhower becomes principal architect of the Philippine Army which is revised from Macarthur's dream of a “Switzerland in Asia” model to goals that are more realistic for the Filipino budget and likely mission post independence.
In reaction to Japanese moves against French Indochina, the US Pacific Fleet is sent to Pearl Harbor. Admiral James Richardson strongly protests the move, but concerned that the Admiral may get himself into trouble with the President, the Secretary of the Navy convinces him to accept the situation. The Admiral then proceeds to demonstrate in Fleet Problem XXII that the most dangerous threat to Pearl Harbor is a possible air attack. This leads to changes in command for the US Army in Hawaii, as well a much stronger emphasis on air defense and long range patrolling, as well as joint Army/Navy air defense and reconnaissance headquarters.
In the Philippines, the Philippine Army gradually increases in size to several divisions, along with several engineer brigades that provide a useful adjunct to the US Army Far East. Included in this is a small but highly useful air force and a smaller but still useful coast guard. As the threat of war grows, General Krueger is sent to replace retiring General Parsons and along with him as his chief of staff is Brigadier General Eisenhower.
The improvements by Richardson prevent the Japanese from achieving a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, although they still inflict heavy damage to the fleet but only at the cost of roughly a third of their attack force. American counterattacks around Midway Island prevent the Japanese seizure of that strategic island. The battles December 7-10 cost the Japanese 2 fleet carriers, a heavy cruiser, and 2 destroyers sunk, numerous other ships damaged including a fleet carrier and 2 battleships, and by the end over half of the Japanese carrier aircraft have been lost, along with many aircrew. American losses are 2 battleships, 1 fleet carrier, 2 heavy cruisers, several destroyers sunk, and 4 battleships as well as several cruisers and destroyers damaged along with heavy aircraft losses.
Among the dead is Japanese Admiral Nagumo and American Admiral Richardson, while Vice Admiral Halsey is seriously injured and knocked out of the war for a year.
Meanwhile in the Philippines Japanese air attacks kill the commander of the US Asiatic Fleet, Admiral Hart, and severely wound General Krueger, leaving General Eisenhower in command of the Philippines and US Forces Far East. Ably assisted by his aviation commander, Brigadier General Chennault, the US and Filipino forces put up strong resistance before retreating carefully to Bataan, taking vast amounts of supplies with them in addition to huge stockpiles that have been prepared for the last four years. A brave action by the US Navy at Albay Gulf briefly stalls the Japanese as well but the more important role of the Navy is the evacuation of thousands of excess military personnel, civilians, and an entire Marine Regiment, as well as most of the navy support personnel both Filipino and American from the Philippines plus the evacuation of a very large part of the ground elements of the US and Filipino air forces in the Philippines to Australia.
January – February 1942
The American and Filipino forces win a defensive battle at Bataan, throwing a spanner into the works of the Japanese timetable there. At the same time an airlift from Java continues the evacuation of wounded and vital personnel from Bataan, and when Malaya falls and Singapore is placed under direct siege, that airlift force, joined by other Allied aircraft, flies thousands of civilians and some wounded out of Singapore.
A final American evacuation attempt suffers heavy losses in the Battle of the Celebes Sea, ending any further hopes for naval support and significant sea lift for the American / Filipino forces. Reinforcements, along with a new naval commander, Vice Admiral Bellenger, arrives in Australia to provide support to Eisenhower.
The Battle of the South China Sea is fought in mid February as Allied naval and air forces cover in a sacrificial action a full scale evacuation of Singapore that rivals the evacuation of Greece and Crete nearly a year before in losses and troops evacuated to safety. The battle finishes off ABDA as a viable naval surface force as well as gutting most of its air strength but over 40,000 British troops are evacuated along with thousands of civilians and many wounded. Another 10,000 British, Indian and Australian troops meant to arrive as reinforcements are rerouted to Ceylon or remain in Australia.
As of February 12, the final battle for Singapore is imminent while elsewhere the Japanese are invading Burma and have seized much of the Eastern Dutch East Indies, and are about to invade Sumatra and Java and Timor are next. In the Philippines the Americans still hold most of the islands outside of Luzon except for southern Mindanao, and in continue to remain well dug in at Bataan and Corregidor.
General Eisenhower is on his way to Washington DC to consult with the President, as well as the Secretary of War and Army Chief of Staff, while Admiral Nimitz is in command of the Pacific Fleet and is already getting ready for the first Pacific Fleet offensive of the war.
The last of 60,000 Australian, British, and Indian soldiers, sailors, and airmen are evacuated from Singapore, along with over 20,000 Allied civilians. Japanese air attacks on the evacuation fleet sink the battleships Revenge and Royal Sovereign and the light cruiser Durban but by doing ignore the evacuation ships. In the Philippines the siege of Bataan enters a lull for the next few weeks.
The surviving 12,000 British Imperial garrison of Singapore surrenders bringing an end to the Malaya Campaign. British losses are 54,000 total for the campaign, with Japanese losses approaching 20,000 for the campaign, with the heaviest losses in the final days of fighting. That same day the Japanese invade Sumatra.
The Japanese Supreme War Council orders the Imperial Army and Navy to plan operations that will bring the Allies to the peace table. There is considerable friction between the two services, with both having suffered some embarrassment over the last few months. The Luzon operation and heavier than expected casualties at the Midway operation (where an entire brigade loaned to the Navy was effectively destroyed there and seizing Wake Island) and at Singapore, where in the view of the Army the Navy was lax in preventing the evacuation of British forces as well as a British naval attack that inflicted serious losses on forces commanded by Yamashita and delayed the fall of the city by almost a week. The Navy also has the embarrassment of Midway and the heavier than expected losses to Allied warships and aircraft at Hawaii, the Philippines and the South China Sea and thus is in an overall weaker position when it comes to pushing its strategy.
A devastating series of air raids finishes off British fighter protection of Rangoon and kills tens of thousands of civilians, starting a panicked flight from the city. In the Central Pacific, the American Pacific Fleet battles Japanese air and naval forces in the Raid on the Marshal Islands.
With Rangoon in ruins and under daily air attack, General Alexander orders a full scale retreat. Japanese forces however are still days away, delayed by poor roads and sacrificial efforts of the Indian 17th Division. In the Mediterranean, intense attacks on Malta whittle away the air defenses there, forcing the cancellation of plans to send 2 British carriers to the Indian Ocean as they are needed to cover the “Cub Runs” to that deliver aircraft to that besieged island. Admiral Phillips and his Force Z are ordered to avoid combat with superior Japanese forces and his primary mission is to cover the sea lanes between South Africa and the vital ports of Bombay, Karachi, Aden and Suez.
Overwhelming Japanese air and naval forces cover the invasion of Java, as well as landings in Bali and Timor. General Eisenhower returns to Australia from Washington DC and sets up his headquarters at Brisbane. Reinforcements continue to flow into the South Pacific from the United States, while 3 Australian divisions (6th, 7th, 8th) continue their return to Australia, leaving on the New Zealand 2nd Division and Australian 9th Division still in the Middle East (where they will remain for several more months).
The final air evacuation of Java by American and Australian transport aircraft bring out 12,000 Allied military and civilian personnel, including a large number of Dutch civilians but comes to a halt after powerful air strike on Tjilitap destroys half of the air transport aircraft. In Burma, Japanese forces enter Rangoon.
British and Indian forces prepare to make a stand in central Burma. The Chinese are persuaded by General Brereton, the newly appointed commander of American forces in the China/Burma/India Theater, to send troops to help the British, as the Burma Road is vital for the Chinese.
General Chennault arrives in China and begins the initial organization of what will eventually become the US 14th Air Force and a new iteration of the Nationalist Chinese Air Force. The US 10th Air Force is formed in India (with Brereton wearing a dual hat as commander of the 10th Air Force). Neither of these organizations will have significant units assigned to them until the summer of 1942. Meanwhile the last organized Dutch resistance in Java and the remainder of the Dutch East Indies comes to an end after a formal surrender. \
The 10 day battle of Toungoo in Burma begins. The Japanese find the Nationalist Chinese troops to be tough opponents and the battle will result in 2,000 Chinese and 5,000 Japanese casualties but the Chinese will be forced out of their positions which unhinges the entire Allied position in Burma.
Final authorization is given for the planned strike on Japan by Colonel Doolittle and Vice Admiral (newly promoted) Raymond Spruance.
Meanwhile the Japanese Supreme War Council approves Operation RO, a series of operations aimed at isolating and then securing Rabaul, which will include the seizure of the Gilbert and Solomon Islands, Naura and Ocean islands, and eastern New Guinea including Port Moresby. Once this operation is concluded, Operation M will be conducted to isolate Australia from the North American West Coast by seizing Fiji, Samoa and the New Hebrides as well as New Caledonia. The Army is to provide the 8th Area Army, consisting of the 16th and 17th Armies and 6 divisions total to support these operations, with remaining landing forces and base forces to be provided by the Navy. The Navy expects to meet, engage, and destroy the US Pacific Fleet during these operations as Australia is certainly vital to American plans. An operation to seize bases in the Aleutians to secure the Kuriles and Hokkaido is also approved.
The Imperial Army will consolidate its control over the Philippines, East Indies and Burma, and conduct a major offensive later in the year against the Chinese to establish a land route from Indochina to Northern China, as well as critically weaken the Nationalist Chinese and bring them to the table now that the supply route of foreign aid to China from the Allies has been cut off. Once this is accomplished, a peace offer will be made to the Nationalist Chinese.
Also in the late winter of 1942.
In the Atlantic, German U-Boats sink 168 Allied merchant ships between January 1 and March 30, 1942 or nearly 850,000 tons of shipping. This is called the "Second Happy Time" by the Uboat sailors. Every available escort ship is needed for the Atlantic, which are in serious shortage due to competing demands in the combat theaters of the Pacific, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Murmansk run.
The Germans are preparing for a major offensive in the Eastern Front, called Fall Blau.
In North Africa, the Axis under Rommel and the British under Ritchie continue to refit and build up for further operations. The Germans and Italy plan Operation Hercules, a combined airborne and amphibious assault on Malta. The British plan Operation Ironclad, the seizure of Madagascar, for April as there are concerns that the Vichy French will allow German and Japanese submarines to use it as a base.
The Japanese 1st Air Fleet covers the Japanese seizure of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A probe looking for the British is unsuccessful, mainly because the Royal Navy has it forces elsewhere aside from a few small escort vessels. The British Eastern Fleet has been drawn south into the southern Indian Ocean to deal cover merchant shipping in the face of attacks by German raiders and to cover vital shipping heading to Egypt and the western coast of India.
April 3 – 5
The Japanese Good Friday Offensive on Bataan results in heavy losses to Japanese and Filipino-American forces but continued stalemate.
The Royal Navy withdraws the last of its surface units from Malta as the island continues to face heavy air attack.
April 9 – 14
The Japanese 1st Air Fleet raids into the Bay of Bengal, and attack Calcutta with the support of land based Japanese Army and Navy bombers, sinking 11 merchant ships, inflicting serious damage to the port, and resulting in over 15,000 civilian casualties but at the cost of 30 carrier and 15 land based aircraft at the hand of British fighters and flak. The 1st Air Fleet then covers the invasion of Chittagong by the Japanese 48th Infantry Division, veteran of the Luzon Campaign which is easily taken as the British have already retreated from the area in the face of heavy Japanese air attack. The Japanese are not able to restore airfield operations before the monsoon begins in May. However the attack on Calcutta and fall of Chittagong leads to the failure of the Cripps Mission and the “Quit India Movement” which begins in May 1942.
Japanese forces begin the invasion of the central Philippines and also begin mopping up Filipino-American forces in the southern Philippines.
Doolittle Raid launched by Task Force 17 (Spruance) which causes considerable embarrassment to the Japanese Army and Navy.
Battle of Batangas Bay sees the end of the Philippine Coast Guard and last elements of the US Asiatic Fleet but the evacuation of 4,000 veteran combat troops to southern Luzon, where they provide the cadre for a much larger Philippine Home Army in the future.
The First Air Fleet is recalled from the Indian Ocean in an attempt to intercept Task Force 17. It is too long a chase with too long an American lead.
Task Force 17 launches a heavy raid on Japanese held Wake Island by aircraft from the carriers Yorktown, Enterprise and Hornet, inflicting heavy damage and sinking 15,000 tons of Japanese shipping as well as 2 minesweepers and destroying 12 Japanese aircraft. American losses are only 6 planes, all to flak. It is the first combat mission for the carrier Hornet which learns a number of valuable lessons and will ultimately see the carrier air group commander of the Hornet reassigned as its squadrons perform poorly compared to the squadrons from the veteran carriers.
The Japanese hammer away at Bataan preparing for their final offensive. The 1st Air Fleet finally returns to Japan after a fruitless search for the American carriers that raided Japan.
The Final Japanese Offensive on the Emperor's Birthday smashes through the exhausted defenders of Bataan who are nearly the out of ammunition, endurance and have reached the limits of morale. The Filipino-American forces on Bataan surrender on April 30
April 30-May 3
Bataan Death March
May 3-May 26
The Siege of Corregidor intensifies with heavy air and artillery bombardment on all of the island forts.
Operation Ironclad is launched at Diego Suarez, Madagascar, involving the British carriers Indomitable, Eagle and Hermes, battleships Warspite, Malaya, Nelson and Rodney, and numerous cruisers, destroyers and other escorts.
A mutiny by Indian soldiers on Cocos Island is put down by troops from Ceylon. It is one of the final sparks that triggers the Quit India protests that are coming.
Operation Bowery is postponed until June due to a shortage of carriers in the Atlantic. The earlier cancellation of Operation Calender for the same reason has reduced the RAF fighter force on Malta to a token force. The situation in Malta grows increasingly desperate. The battlecruisers Renown and Repulse are removed from escort duty in the Indian Ocean and sent to Alexandria.
The Siege of Malta and the Siege of Corregidor hold the attention of the English Speaking world.
The Second Battle of Kharkov begins, which by May 28 will result in a shattering Soviet defeat. Italian intelligence confirms that neither the battleships Valiant or Queen Elizabeth are fit for combat and that the Valiant has left the Mediterranean Sea, and that the only British battleships in the Mediterranean is the Duke of York at Gibraltar and the two battlecruisers at Alexandria. The final decision to launch Operation C3 is approved in Rome.
American carriers cover a major convoy to the South Pacific. In the Atlantic, the US Navy organizes a major task force built around the battleships North Carolina and Washington, the carriers Wasp and Ranger, and several cruisers and destroyers under the direct command of Admiral Kimmel, which are assembling in Norfolk.
Fort Drum is destroyed by a brilliantly conceived and executed Japanese artillery bombardment. Fort Frank is taken by a costly but highly successful Japanese amphibious landing.
A proposed 2nd Washington Conference is moved up to May 30 from its originally scheduled date of June 19.
The Quit India Movement demonstrations begin but so does violence. Over the next two months protestors attack hundreds of post offices, railway stations, and dozens of government buildings as well as cutting telegraph and telephone lines and damaging railway tracks and bridges. This ties down almost 60 battalions of British and Indian troops to suppress it. Mass arrests begin with the arrest of Gandhi and most of the Congress Party leadership.
The first ground elements of the US 8th Air Force arrives in England. American engineers are still building airbases in Iceland, Greenland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.
Admiral Philips, who has as his Eastern Fleet the battleships Warspite and Malaya, carrier Indomitable, and several cruisers and destroyers finally finds the German raider Thor, and the cruiser Newcastle and aircraft from the Indomitable find and sink her 1,500 miles west of Australia.
Convoy PQ16 leaves Iceland. It arrives in Murmansk on May 30, less 8 merchant ships lost on the way. Heavy air and submarine attacks plague its journey while the possibility of a German task force built around the Tirpitz with the Admiral Hipper, Admiral Scheer and Lutzow in support keeps the British Home Fleet at sea and unavailable for other operations. The battleships King George V, Prince of Wales, carriers Illustrious and Victorious, numerous cruisers and destroyers are tied down at Scapa Flow or covering the Murmansk convoys.
The bombardment of Malta by air, and the bombardment by artillery and aircraft of Corregidor reaches a crescendo. The last aircraft on Malta are knocked out. Admiral Cunningham assembles a task force at Alexandria to defend Malta in the event of invasion, while Admiral Somerville is waiting for the arrival of the carriers Argus and Furious from England with deckloads of Spitfires for an emergency run to Malta. However those carriers are still days away from Gibraltar.
The Battle of Bir Hakeim begins in North Africa as part of Operation Venice, the planned attack on the British Gazala Line. In the Pacific, the Americans defeat the first amphibious assault on Corregidor while American carriers raid the Japanese held Admiralty Islands, supported by American bombers from Rabaul.
In Europe, the Italians land 70,000 troops on Malta by sea, while Italian/German airborne force of 29,000 troops comes by air. Losses are appallingly high but the Axis troops gain footholds and landing zones. The British respond as Admiral Cunningham takes to sea with his fleet, but very heavy air attacks by Italian and German aircraft out of Crete and Sicily damage many ships and sink the Repulse and Renown. Among the lost is Admiral Cunningham.
A full scale Japanese amphibious assault on Corregidor is all but wiped out by fierce American and Filipino soldiers, sailors and marines.
May 27-June 2
Operation Mail Call in the Philippines as several US submarines bring mail, supplies and vital parts to Corregidor and evacuate 1,000 people from that island.
Axis forces secure Malta after the surrender of the survivors of the 30,000 man British garrison. Axis airborne casualties are catastrophic, amphibious forces suffer heavily, but the sacrifice of the airborne troops was not in vain.
early June 1942
Monsoon season begins in Burma and India, ending operations for now
The Battle of Gazala intensifies in North Africa
Japanese forces conduct Operation MA, the Invasion of Attu and Kiska, an air strike on Dutch Harbor. American have not defended the western Aleutians but put up fierce resistance at Dutch Harbor resulting in the loss of 30 American and 28 Japanese aircraft.