Soviets capture Vinnitsa
Monday, March 20, 1944 www.onwar.com
On the Eastern Front... Soviet forces continue to advance along a broad front throughout the Ukraine. Troops of 1st Ukrainian Front capture Mogilev Podolsky and Vinnitsa (former headquarters for Adolf Hitler and, afterward, German Army Group South), both important communication centers.
In Burma... The first brigade of the British 5th Division arrives at Imphal by air. A battalion is sent to Kohima.
In Italy... British General Alexander, Supreme Allied Command in the Mediterranean, agrees to the request of New Zealand Corps commander General Freyberg to halt attacks on Cassino because of heavy losses, unless substantial progress is achieved within the next two days.
In the Bismark Archipelago... The US 4th Marine Division (General Noble) lands on Emirau Island, in the Matthias group. There is no Japanese resistance. Naval support includes 4 carriers and 7 cruisers. Admiral Griffin commands 4 battleships and 2 carriers in attacks on Kavieng as cover for the landings.
March 20th, 1944 (MONDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: The Ninth Air Force’s 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group completes a series of 83 missions begun on 23 February during which photographs were made of 160 miles (260 km) of the French coastline and two inshore strips, all in preparation for the Normandy invasion. A total over 9,500 prints are produced; no aircraft were lost during this operation.
Rescue tug HMS Freedom commissioned.
ITALY: Cassino: The new commander of the Canadian 1 Corps, Lt-Gen Eedson Burns - better known to his troops as “Smiling Sunray” because of his dour, unchanging manner - is a formidable intellectual and the complete antithesis of his predecessor, Lt-Gen Henry Crerar. The outgoing, dynamic Crerar has left for Britain where he will join General Montgomery in D-Day planning. Burns, who is inexperienced in tank warfare, commanded the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, part of Canadian I Corps.
U.S.S.R.: Another Russian advance in the Ukraine gives the Germans little chance for concentrating for a defence.
The Red Army captures Mogilev-Podolski and Vinnitsa, key bases in the Ukraine.
ALGERIA: Algiers: Pierre Pucheu, the former Vichy interior minister found guilty of treason, is shot.
BURMA: Air Commando Combat Mission N0.33 2:55 Flight time Hailakandi to Indaw Lake, Burma. Reached objective around 1600 hours. Caught fifteen Japanese trucks loaded with troops on a road just west of town. Road was in a narrow defile. Blocked first and last trucks in convoy with .75mm shell fire and went into our gunnery/bombing pattern. Completely destroyed convoy with machine gun, cannon and frag bombs. Also located five locomotives, damaging 2 and blowing the boilers out of 3.
Notes: Our primary objective was the locomotives on the Burma railway and we just happened to catch the convoy by accident. A target of opportunity causing some 300 casualties and a 36 hour lull in Japanese resistance. Expended the entire ready rack of .75 mm shells (21) plus several I had stashed away on our cockpit floor. (Chuck Baisden)
SOLOMON ISLANDS: On Bougainville Island the Japanese ground forces mount their last major thrust to break into the American perimeter. The ground attack is broken by by artillery fire from U.S. Army units.
BISMARK ARCHIPELAGO: A US Marine Corps infantry regiment lands on Emirau Island in the St. Mathias Islands without opposition. Supporting the invasion are aircraft of Task Force 36 from:
Task Unit 36.1.5, the Air Support Force Carrier Unit, consisting of:
USS Enterprise (CV-6) with Carrier Air Group Ten (CVG-10), and
USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) with Light Carrier Air Group Twenty Four (CVLG-24).
Task Unit 36.3.1, the Air Support Force Escort Carrier Support Unit, consisting of:
USS Coral Sea (CVE-57) with Composite Squadron Thirty Three (VC-33), and
USS Corregidor (CVE-58) with VC-41.
Aircraft from Task Group 36.3, the Air Support Force Air Support Group, support the landing by attacking Kavieng on New Ireland Island. The carriers of TG 36.3 are:
USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) with VC-7, and
USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62) with VC-63).
CANADA: Frigate HMCS Strathadam launched.
Corvette HMCS Hepatica arrived New York City for refit.
Destroyer escort USS Rolf laid down.
Destroyer minelayer USS Adams laid down.
Destroyer escort USS Haas launched.
Destroyers USS Preston and Blue commissioned.
Destroyer escorts USS Mason and Dennis commissioned.