Skip to comments.2,800 TONS OF BOMBS RIP BERLIN; NAZIS RETAKE APRILIA NEAR ROME (2/17/44)
Posted on 02/17/2014 4:41:40 AM PST by Homer_J_Simpson
Germans escape from Korsun pocket
Thursday, February 17, 1944 www.onwar.com
German troops from the Korsun pocket [photo at link]
On the Eastern Front... The battle of the Korsun pocket ends as the bulk of the surviving German forces reach their own lines. Of the original force of 56,000, commanded by General Stemmerman, 35,000 escape, but without their equipment. Stemmermann is killed in the breakout. The equivalent of 6 German divisions are presently unfit for operations.
In Italy... German forces continue attacks on the Anzio beachhead. The US 45th Division barely contains the German attack. Heavy losses are sustained by both sides. Offshore, the British cruiser Penelope is damaged by a torpedo attack. To the south, near Cassino, German forces recover Point 593 after losing possession briefly to the British 4th Indian Division (part of the US 5th Army).
In the Marshall Islands... US forces land on Eniwetok Atoll. Task Force 51.11 (Admiral Hill) lands small parties on islets near Engebi with artillery to cover later operations. There are 3 battleships and 3 escort carriers providing naval support. The Japanese garrison of the atoll consists of about 3400 troops commanded by General Mushida.
In the Bismark Archipelago... During the night (February 17-18), US destroyers bombard Japanese bases at Rabaul and Kavieng.
In the Caroline Islands... American forces attack the Japanese base at Truk and nearby shipping. Three groups of Task Force 58 (Admiral Mitscher) and one group of Task Forces 50 (Admiral Spruance) engage. The operation is under the command of Spruance. In total 9 carriers and 6 battleships as well as cruisers, destroyers and submarines are involved.
February 17th, 1944 (THURSDAY)
Frigate HMS Perim commissioned
Destroyer HMS Wakeful commissioned.
GERMANY: U-774 and U-1204 are commissioned.
U.S.S.R.: The Korsun pocket is eliminated.
Kiev: The Red Army claims that it wiped out some 52,000 German soldiers last night when the 60,000-strong German force trapped in the Korsun pocket 75 miles south of Kiev tried to break out. While the III Panzer Korps tried to batter its way into the pocket from the outside, the German commander in the pocket, General Wilhelm Stemmermann, plotted the breakout. As dawn broke the Germans neared Lysyanka, thinking they had escaped; then Russian tanks and Cossack cavalry loomed out of the mist. It was a massacre. Despite Russian claims, it is possible that as many as 30,000 got away; but there is not doubt that the Wehrmacht has suffered another costly defeat. The Luftwaffe has also lost 45 Ju52 transports.
BURMA: An unlikely array of Allied troops - clerks, cooks, pay corps orderlies and staff officers - have halted the Japanese offensive, Operation HA-GO, launched earlier this month. Japanese troops cut the lines of the 7th Indian Division to attack the XV Indian Corps from the rear. But they have been stoutly resisted by XV Corps’ forward administrative area at Sinzweya, now besieged in the “admin box” and being supplied entirely by air.
Maj. Charles Ferguson Hoey (b.1914), Lincolnshire Regt., advanced under devastating fire and, already fatally wounded, seized a strongpoint. (Victoria Cross)
CAROLINE ISLANDS: Operation Catchpole. US Carrier Forces begin attacks on Truk.
Glen Boren notes in his diary:
When we launched our raid on Truk, Feb. 16 - 17, 1944, we had an ‘official observer’ that we didn’t know about and didn’t know about it til the war was over.
Major Greg Boyington, (Pappy) had been shot down and after several hours in his life raft, was picked up by a Japanese submarine and taken to Rabaul. He was held there for a period of time and then flown out in a ‘Betty’ with five other POWs, two Australians, a P-38 pilot, a PBY pilot and another Corsair pilot. They landed at Truk just as our fleet was making our raid on Feb. 16,1944. It was a rough landing and as the plane came to a stop, they were jerked out of the plane and ran to a shallow pit beside the runway as an F6F came down the runway firing all his 50 cal guns. The Betty blew up in flames as Pappy watched. They watched the show til dark and were led to a building and kept there during the attack the next day so they didn’t see too much til they were later led out and put on another plane for the trip to Japan. He said the damage was a sight to see. He spent the rest of the war in Japan. (Glen Boren, aboard the USS Bunker Hill)
(1) the destroyer USS Nicholas (DD-449) sinks Japanese submarine HIJMS I-11 northwest of the Marshalls;
(2) the submarine USS Cero (SS-225) sinks Japanese transport Jozan Maru between Truk and New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago;
(3) the submarine USS Sargo (SS-188), in an attack on a Japanese convoy about 150 miles (241 km) northeast of the Palau Islands, sinks ammunition ship Nichiro Maru and damages oiler Sata;
(4) the submarine USS Tang (SS-306) attacks a Japanese convoy, sinking army cargo ship Gyoten Maru and merchant tanker Kuniei Maru about 130 miles (209 km) west-northwest of Truk, and survives depth-charging by the convoy escorts;
(5) USN SBD Dauntlesses and TBF Avengers bomb Japanese shipping in Keravia Bay, near Rabaul on New Britain Island, Bismarck Archipelago, sinking minesweeper W.26 (which had been damaged previously, 2 November 1943, and had been beached at that time to prevent her loss), guardboat No.2 Fuku Maru, and army cargo ship Iwate Maru;
(6) USAAF B-25 Mitchells attack Japanese ships going to the aid of convoy attacked north of New Hanover Island in the Bismarck Archipelago the day before, damaging Kashi Maru and forcing her to be run aground to prevent sinking;
(7) USAAF P-40s attack Japanese shipping at Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands, damaging cargo ship Chosen Maru; and
(8) the Japanese merchant tanker Zuih Maru is damaged by mine downstream from Woosung, China.
The aircraft carrier USS INTREPID is struck by an aerial torpedo on her starboard quarter, 15 feet below her waterline, flooding several compartments and jamming her rudder hard to port. By racing her port screw and idling her starboard engine, Captain Sprague keeps her on course. (Skip Guidry)
CANADA: Destroyer HMCS Algonquin (ex-HMS Valentine) commissioned. Algonquin and her V-class sister Sioux, ex-HMS Vixen, are often incorrectly referred to as Tribal-class destroyers. It has been pointed out that the designation of these two destroyers with Tribal names was deliberate attempt to deceive the enemy. In fact the V-class was the 8th Flotilla of the British Emergency War Program and was significantly different from the pre-war Tribal-class. Marginally shorter than the Tribals, the V-class carried a significantly improved secondary AA armament, which had been one of the major weaknesses of the earlier type. The twin 4.7-inch turrets of the Tribals, which had been highly prized by prewar Canadian naval planners who viewed them as ‘mini-cruisers’, were abandoned in favor of single-gun mountings. The V-class also carried 100 tons more fuel than the Tribals, which marginally improved the poor endurance of the older destroyers.
Frigate HMCS New Glasgow arrived Halifax from builder Esquimalt, British Columbia.
NEWFOUNDLAND: Frigate HMCS Outremont departed St John’s to join EG-6 in Londonderry.
U.S.A.: Minesweeper USS Prowess launched.
Destroyer escort USS Dale W Peterson commissioned.
Churchill’s friend and adviser Sir Walter Monckton, later Lord Monckton, was the grandfather of today’s Lord Monckton of anti-global warming fame.
Hanson’s article on air power should have been, and should still be required reading for politicians turned military policy makers.
“Robert H. McCormick marries in Tucson.”
Grandson of a founder of International Harvester Corp. His divorce from his wife of 40 years was finalized on Feb. 8.
Google shows a Robert Hall McCormick VI, born in 1944 and died in 2012. Probably a son born to the hastily married Robert H. and his new bride, “Mrs. George Baker Robbins.”
It’s that third generation money that screws everything up.
According to his obit, the son, Robert VI, seemed like a pretty good guy, successfully managing the family wealth.
“Foe’s Gains in Burma Add to Allies’ Peril.”
Lord Mountbatten is out there. Is there a strategic goal to fighting in Burma, or did everyone just kind of end up there?
Wow. About 3 kilotons of bombs in one Berlin raid. 20% of the Hiroshima nuclear yield.
Whether there was actually a strategic goal in fighting in Burma is a good question. The short answer appears to be “no.” Burma is very much the forgotten campaign in World War 2. I read a series of books about World War 2 when I was in 6th grade (we had a decent library at Fall Creek Elementary School). There was a volume on the Burma campaign. Other than Stilwell and the “American Experience in China” and a few excerpts from John Toland’s “The Rising Sun,” that’s all I’ve ever read about this campaign.
My impression is that the whole Burma Theater was a screwed up mess. Because of Burma’s strategic position between India and Singapore, and having been a British colony, it was pretty much expected to be British Theater of Operations. Although the Americans had a strategic interest in opening the Burma Road to China, we could not step on the Brit’s toes to do so. And, in reality, we didn’t have the resources to do so if we wanted to. If you look at the globe and map of Burma, for the United States, Burma might as well have been the far side of the moon. Protected by virtually impassible mountains, it was as isolated as you can get. The modern state of Myanmar pretty much still is. Plus, American policy did not favor the use of American troops to guarantee the preservation of the British Empire.
The British problem was they did not have any resources of their own to spare for Burma. Great Britain, Canada and South Africa used all of their resources in Italy and Northwest Europe. Australia and New Zealand had limited resources, and even those troops were used in North Africa. Now, they are all tied down in New Guinea. So at the minimal cost of five divisions, the Japanese grip on Burma has held for years. From a leadership standpoint, the British are not sending their “A” team to India to fight in the theater. Instead, the Burma theater seems to be the place where washed-up guys like Wavell and Auchinleck are sent to retire. There is also a question whether the British were really that interested in opening the Burma road to aid China. British interests in India and Southeast Asia were in conflict with Chinese interests. To the extent there was a British strategy in Burma, and farther down the peninsula in Malaya and Singapore, it was that the Japanese would be defeated by the Americans in the Pacific, and they would simply re-occupy their Imperial territories at little cost to themselves.
We’ll see some interesting activity in Burma this spring, though.
That sounds British!
We have seen in these posts fits and starts that never seem to get anywhere and have no clear goals.
As you say, the lack of resources is the problem that jumps out here. I also think a big part of the problem was divided counsel. Stillwell was obsessed with retaking Burma, much more so than the Brits. But he couldn't get along with anyone, the Brits, Chaing, not even his own air chief, Chennault.
Stillwell was a big supporter of opening a new land road, the Ledo Road, and claimed it would ship more supplies that the flights across the Hump. Chennault disagreed and was proved right.
In hindsight, Stillwell had an impossible task with few resources. He was never going to mold the Chinese Army into a force equal to the Japanese, nor was Chaing ever going to let him command it. The top brass had no interest in US assets being in China except to the extent it was useful as an air base.
I think the Brits were sincere that they would transfer assets to the Pacific after Hitler's defeat. The reality for them is they are tapped out, fully mobilized, and need every man for the upcoming invasion of France. They may have been in a position to open a campaign against Japan in 1946 had the A-Bombs not terminated the war "early." Still, the cynic in me says that campaign would likely have been Churchill's idea for a strike against northern Sumatra or perhaps the Malayan coast that could presumably be used as a base to retake Singapore and Malaya, with an ultimate goal of retaking Hong Kong - all British colonial possessions. To the best of my knowledge there were no British land units in the order of battle for Operations Olympic or Coronet.
BTW, I've been confused about the reports of bombing Ponape. Why would we bomb Tahiti, which isn't in the Caroline Islands? I looked it up and they are referring to the island of Pohnpei, which is indeed in the Carolines. Westerners referred to it as Ponape back then.
There were no British land units tasked for Olympic or Coronet. They had the British Pacifc Fleet under Sir Bruce Fraser, which was a fairly formidable fighting force, and it was more or less used as “flank protection” for the USN at Okinawa.
The Aussies were diverted away from Japan to mop up in the NEI. Any other Empire troops were tasked for Singapore. The Brits did clear Burma by 1945, and we’ll see why in a few months.
Watch Konev’s 2nd Ukrainian Front for the next six weeks. Those German forces mauled at Korsun will be sorely missed.
Adolf Hitler’s tactical genius - the gift that keeps on giving.