Skip to comments.1942 - THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Posted on 01/01/2013 1:36:29 AM PST by CougarGA7
1942 is arguably one of the busiest years of the Second World War. It stands as the fulcrum point of the war. The final advances of the Axis powers would be reached during this year and the beginning of the Allied press to ultimate victory would take hold. The war was finally truly global. The final month of the previous year had seen to that and now the battles raged from the waters of the Pacific Ocean to the Caucuses. It would also be a year of unprecedented brutality. Unknown to the general public, a conference would take place in January that would change the face of Nazism forever. The Wannsee Conference would take the unwritten policy of the extermination of the Jews and make it official policy. Eighty percent of the Jews that would die during the Second World War would meet their end in 1942. If would reach a scope so large that it would begin to be impossible to keep a secret. The New York Times would even report over a million deaths. As large as that number was, it was still a gross underestimate. This war was now total war.
Japan would begin the year with a free hand in the waters of the Pacific. The Allied forces would make a desperate attempt to throw together a defensive command to face the Japanese called ABDACOM. This fleet, initially under the command of American Admiral Thomas C. Hart would have a short and very unsuccessful life with command eventually being turned over to the Dutch and Admiral K.W.F.M. Doorman. The Japanese would sweep aside any advances by this patchwork force as it began to consolidate the Dutch East Indies under the rising sun. By March 1st, Batavia on the island of Java would fall and ABDACOM would be no more.
Elsewhere the Japanese were also making their presence felt. In Burma, a long and slow campaign began to finally cut off the hated Burma Road from supplying the Chinese nationalists. Singapore, thought to be an impenetrable fortress of the Southern Pacific much like Gibraltar in the Mediterranean, would be exposed for its ultimate weakness. While it was a stalwart of the ocean approaches, it was desperately vulnerable from land. The Japanese would take advantage of this landing in multiple places down the Kra Peninsula and eventually forcing Lieutenant General Arthur Perceval to surrender over eighty thousand British Commonwealth troops, some of them recent additions to the impossible situation.
In the Philippines the same situation was playing itself out. General MacArthur had decided to make an attempt to defend the beaches only to find that his personnel was not equipped or trained to make such a defense. Men would retreat without supplies to the Bataan Peninsula on the island of Luzon. As MacArthur was spirited to Australia and Major General Jonathan Wainwright tried to hold on at Corregidor thousands would die as they were marched from Bataan up to Camp ODonnell. It looked as if the Japanese were truly unstoppable and the American public, still stinging from Pearl Harbor was desperate for a win.
That win would come in the form of a most unlikely bomber strike. General James Doolittle would lead a group of B-25 Mitchells in an airstrike on Japan. This flight would launch from the deck of the American aircraft carrier Hornet. The strike on Japan didnt do any significant damage to the Japanese war effort. It had a major effect on the moral of the American public. This would be the first of a series of victories by the United States in the Pacific.
On paper, the battle of Coral Sea was not a win for the U.S. Navy. The USS Lexington had been sunk and the Yorktown damaged. In return U.S. forces had only sunk the Japanese light carrier Shoho and a destroyer. However, it was a strategic victory for the U.S. forces. The Shokaku was damaged and the Zuikaku had lost most of its aircraft. Both of these carriers would not be available for the follow up battle at Midway. The invasion fleet that was to land at Port Moresby turned back. The advance of Japan in the South Pacific had finally reached its apex.
The follow up battle would have larger implications for the war in the Pacific. Determined to engage in a Mahan style decisive battle with the American fleet, Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto would engage in a grand and inflexible plan to lure the American carriers out around the island of Midway. Unknown to Yamamoto at the time, the American code breakers had deciphered his communications and the trap was set. The Yorktown, which had been severely damaged at Coral Sea, was repaired in record time and available for the fight against Yamamotos fleet. At the end of the battle, four large Japanese carriers slipped beneath the waves and the core of the Japanese airmen, many veterans from Pearl Harbor, were lost.
Two months later, the United States took their first offensive action against the Japanese when they landed at Guadalcanal. What would follow would be an ongoing struggle both on land and at sea to maintain this toehold in the Solomon chain. Seven major sea engagements would take place pitting Japans superior night fighting skills against the introduction of radar weapons control. Some, like the Battle of Savo Island, were absolute disasters for the U.S. Navy. At one point, the Enterprise stood as the only remaining aircraft carrier in the Pacific. The battleship South Dakota showed the toughness of Americas new class of battle wagons when it became a pin cushion for the Kirishima after knocking out its own fire control with its first outgoing salvo. All the while the Marines on shore looked on hoping that victory would be won and the ever important supplies they needed to hold on and keep the Cactus Air Force flying would make it to shore. By the end of the year, Guadalcanal was mostly secure, the Japanese Navy, though not defeated was starting to fall victim to their own lack of supply, and the stage was set for roll back of the gains they had achieved in the first months of the year.
The war in Europe maintained its viciousness throughout 1942. Even though some documentation shows that Adolf Hitler knew as early as December 1941 that he was never going to be able to defeat the Soviet Union, there was no sign that he was ready to back down. The spring offensive by the Nazis took on a different look though as they focuses on just the southern portion of the long Russian front. The task was to cut the Soviets off from their oil supplies in the Caucuses and theoretically weaken the Red Armys ability to wage war. The stumbling block became the city of Stalingrad. When the Wehrmacht got to Stalingrad the fighting devolved into a street skirmish in victories were measured in the taking of individual buildings and snipers became the superheroes of the theater. In November, the Soviets launch Operation URANUS which quickly cut the Wehrmachts Sixth Army off and isolated it in Stalingrad. The beleaguered army would still be holding on, though only barely, by the end of December.
The final major front of 1942 was in North Africa. The continually back and forth battle for the Libyan coast began the year with another advance by Erwin Rommel. As Winston Churchill conferred with Roosevelt in the United States he received the tragic news of the fall of Tobruk and watched as once again the 8th Army was pushed back into Egypt. After Rommel was finally stopped by General Sir Claude Auchinleck in the first battle of El Alamein, the general found that he was unable to capitalize on this success. As a result Churchill replaced him with Lieutenant-General William Gott. Gott would go on to achieve great things with the 8th Army, first advancing against Rommel all the way to Tunisia, then on to Sicily and finally in the final advance into France and Germany itself. OR the R.A.F. would crash the plane he was in while trying to fly him to take command of the 8th Army and that command would then fall to Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery. Wladyslaw Sikorski apparently never knew of the R.A.F. Airlines transport difficulties.
Montgomery would turn it around for the 8th Army though and after victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein he began a steady advance across Libya. In early November, the U.S. Army would get into the act as well with its landings in Vichy North Africa. Landings at Algiers, Oran, Fidala, and Safi marked Eisenhowers entrance into the fight against the Nazis. For them it would begin with quick skirmishes against some dedicated Vichy and some minor German units. It would have to wait until next year before they would get the full experience of the Wehrmacht soldier. At years end the American and British were pushing from the west along with Free French, and the 8th Army was coming from the East. Hitlers time in Africa was coming to an end.
Those of us following this years events through Homers fifth year of continual updates got to experience these events from the eye of the average American in 1942. As usual he has put an incredible amount of effort in providing us this fantastic walk through history. We are starting to see the beginning of the end of the Axis powers. It will be interesting to see what next year brings.
Thanks again Homer.
Thanks again Homer.
Thanks again Homer.
Happy New Year !
Thank you for this wonderful service. I look for it every day.
Thanks, really have enjoyed this.
Happy New Years to both of you.
Thanks again for your effort in putting all this together.
Thanks for all you do and Happy New Year!
Thanks again, Cougar, and on to 1943.
Wow ! All in one history reference ! Bookmarked !
Thank you Homer and Cougar !
Thanks Homer. I’m glad I can make this little contribution to the massive amount a work that you put into this.
Taking a break from football marathon to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Thanks for the Year in Review and I appreciate the efforts of everyone who contributes to these threads, and mostly to Homer for his daily devotion in posting them.
I look forward to this thread to take my mind off the thoroughly depressing political news.