Axis forces still advancing in Tunisia
Thursday, February 18, 1943 www.onwar.com
In Tunisia... Axis forces enter Sbeitla which has been abandoned by Allied forces. The Axis debate over following up this successful offensive continues.
From Washington... The new American 6th Army, commanded by General Krueger, become operational in the southwest Pacific.
In the Aleutian Islands... A US Task Group (Admiral McMorris) with 2 cruisers and 4 destroyers bombards Japanese positions on Attu Island.
February 18th, 1943 (THURSDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: London: After a tumultuous debate MPs voted by 335 to 119 today in favour of the Beveridge plan for post-war social security - but in principle only so far. For the first time since the coalition government was formed there was a massive split between the Tories and Labour. The Tories warned against sudden imposition of high taxation on the middle classes in order to finance a welfare state. Labour demanded at least an immediate first instalment to show that after victory Britain really would be a land fit for heroes.
Rescue tug HMS Tancred commissioned.
Frigate HMS Bazely commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
GERMANY: Nazis arrest White Rose resistance leaders
Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, the leaders of the German youth group Weisse Rose (White Rose), are arrested by the Gestapo for opposing the Nazi regime.
The White Rose was composed of university (mostly medical) students who spoke out against Adolf Hitler and his regime. The founder, Hans Scholl, was a former member of Hitler Youth who grew disenchanted with Nazi ideology once its real aims became evident. As a student at the University of Munich in 1940-41, he met two Roman Catholic men of letters who redirected his life. Turning from medicine to religion, philosophy, and the arts, Scholl gathered around him like-minded friends who also despised the Nazis, and the White Rose was born.
During the summer of 1942, Scholl and a friend composed four leaflets, which exposed and denounced Nazi and SS atrocities, including the extermination of Jews and Polish nobility, and called for resistance to the regime. The literature was peppered with quotations from great writers and thinkers, from Aristotle to Goethe, and called for the rebirth of the German university. It was aimed at an educated elite within Germany.
The risks involved in such an enterprise were enormous. The lives of average civilians were monitored for any deviation from absolute loyalty to the state. Even a casual remark critical of Hitler or the Nazis could result in arrest by the Gestapo, the regime’s secret police. Yet the students of the White Rose (the origin of the group’s name is uncertain; possibly, it came from the picture of the flower on their leaflets) risked all, motivated purely by idealism, the highest moral and ethical principles, and sympathy for their Jewish neighbours and friends. (Despite the risks, Hans’ sister, Sophie, a biology student at her brother’s university, begged to participate in the activities of the White Rose when she discovered her brother’s covert operation.)
Today Hans and Sophie left a suitcase filled with copies of yet another leaflet in the main university building. The leaflet stated, in part: “The day of reckoning has come, the reckoning of our German youth with the most abominable tyranny our people has ever endured. In the name of the entire German people we demand of Adolf Hitler’s state the return of personal freedom, the most precious treasure of the Germans which he cunningly has cheated us out of.” The pair were spotted by a janitor and reported to the Gestapo and arrested. Turned over to Hitler’s “People’s Court,” basically a kangaroo court for dispatching dissidents quickly, the Scholls, along with another White Rose member who was caught, were sentenced to death. They were beheaded—a punishment reserved for “political traitors”—on February 23, but not before Hans Scholl proclaimed “Long live freedom!” (Randall Stegner) More...
Berlin: In the shadow of the Stalingrad disaster, Goebbels today organized a morale-boosting rally in Berlin’s Sportpalast, with a well-drilled crowd roaring “Yes! Yes!” as he called for total war and asked them to reaffirm their faith in the Fuhrer. “The British assert that the German people have lost faith in victory,” he said. “Are you determined to follow the Fuhrer through thick and thin and shoulder even the heaviest burden?” On cue came the response: “Yes!”
The exact timing of the rally was concealed to prevent an RAF raid.
The German home radio said it would begin at 8.15pm; but two hours before that time the foreign service was broadcasting long extract’s from Goebbels’s speech.
A significant passage in the speech was deleted by the official German news agency. This read: “We have always estimated high the danger which threatens us from Russia, but not, unfortunately, high enough. Accordingly, we tried to conduct the war, one might say, with the left hand. The result is unsatisfactory. We must therefore wage the war with the life of the whole German people.”
Generalmajor Ferdinand Schorner of the 40th Panzer Corps is put in charge of the National Socialist Leadership Corps. (Gene Hanson)
U-343 and U-964 commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
TUNISIA: Sbeitla falls to the Germans.
BURMA: British and Gurkha troops operating behind Japanese lines today had their first encounter with the enemy since they crossed into Burma ten days ago to attack railways and other communications in Japanese-held territory. The troops, who detoured south after a skirmish at Mainyaung, are members of the 77th Indian (or Long Range Penetration) Brigade, led by Brigadier Order Wingate and known as “Chindits” after Wingate misheard an officer use the Burmese word for lion (Chinthe). The 3,000-strong Chindits were originally intended to support other major operations. Now they are to act alone as jungle guerrilla fighters.
SOUTH-WEST PACIFIC: General Krueger’s 6th Army becomes operational in the SWPOA.
TERRITORY OF ALASKA: Admiral McMorris leads a US naval force of 2 cruisers and 4 destroyers in shelling Attu Island in the Aleutian Islands.
This was Task Group 8.6 (TG 8.6) consisting of the TG flagship, the light cruiser USS Richmond (CL-9), the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) and the destroyers USS Bancroft (DD-598), USS Caldwell (DD-605), USS Coghlan (DD-606), and USS Gillespie (DD-609). The ships steam past Holtz Bay and Chichagof Harbor looking for Japanese shipping. Chichagof Harbor is bombarded for ten minutes from 10,000 to 12,000 yards (9.1 to 11.0 km) and then Holtz Bay is shelled for eleven minutes from 9,000 to 11,500 yards (8.2 to 10.5 km). Japanese casualties on Attu are 22 to 23 killed and one wounded. The destroyer USS Coghlan (DD-606) also bombards Gibson Island which guards Chichagof Harbor. After the bombardment, USS Indianapolis and the destroyers Coghlan and Gillespie make a sweep 100 miles (161 km) southwest of Attu and sink the Japanese transport Akagane Maru. (Jack McKillop)
SOUTHERN OCEAN: South of Australia, the RAN heavy cruiser HMAS Australia and three U.S. destroyers of Task Force 44.3 cover the passage of a five-ship convoy transporting the 30,000 troops of 9 Australian Division to Sydney, New South Wales.
The German auxiliary cruiser Michel (Schiffe 28) arrives at Singapore; the next day she turns over to the Japanese the merchant and Armed Guard sailors who had been captured when she sank the U.S. freighter SS Sawokla on 29 November 1942.
U.S.A.: Washington: The House of Representatives applauds Madame Chiang Kai-shek when she calls for a Japanese defeat.
Seattle: 31 die when a B-29 Superfortress bomber crashes on a test flight.
Admiral Nimitz issues a Secret-level assessment of the naval actions of 12-15 November, 1942, off Guadalcanal. This is by no means a whitewash; he is critical of the U.S. Navy’s tactical failings, and does not shy from mentioning some of the most painful aspects of the first action, such as the failure to rescue most of the USS JUNEAU’s survivors, and the strong likelihood that USS ATLANTA was mauled by friendly fire. But his overall verdict on the battle is that Callaghan’s force “probably saved Henderson Field.” (Keith Allen)
Destroyer USS Ingersoll laid down.
Minesweeper USS defence launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
ATLANTIC OCEAN: At 0315, MS Brasiloide was torpedoed by U-518, broke in two and sank at 12.38S/37.57W. (Dave Shirlaw)