Yesterday            Tomorrow

February 4th, 1939 (SATURDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: In football Bertie Mee makes his professional debut for Arsenal against Queen's Park Rangers. He later goes on to manage Arsenal during their double winning season 1970/71.

GERMANY: U-52, U-58 commissioned.

U.S.A.: Destroyers USS Hammann and Anderson launched.

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4 February 1940

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February 4th, 1940 (TUESDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Destroyers HMS Basilisk and Brilliant sail from Dover; the former with the Prime Minister, War Cabinet and Chief of Staff for Boulogne.

NORTH SEA: The minesweeper (sloop) HMS Sphinx sinks a day after being bombed by German aircraft.

U-17 had to break off her patrol due to serious engine trouble.

At 0417, SS Hop was torpedoed and sunk with all hands by U-37 near the Shetland Islands.

At 2125, the unescorted SS Leo Dawson was torpedoed by U-37 NE of Fair Isle. The master and 34 crewmembers were lost.


FINLAND: The Soviet offensive at Summa breaks down after heavy losses.

GIBRALTAR: The U.S. passenger liner SS Manhattan, detained at Gibraltar the previous day, is released, but not before British authorities seize 390 sacks of German mail. American diplomatic mail pouches, however, are not disturbed. 

YUGOSLAVIA:  The members attending the Balkan Entente meeting in Belgrade indicate they will remain neutral in the war between Britain, France and Germany. 

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4 February 1941

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February 4th, 1941 (FRIDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: The cost of the war for Britain is now soaring rapidly. Last July it was about GBP 7.5 million a day. Now it is above GBP 11 million.

Sir Kingsley Wood, the Chancellor, gave this grim news today. Higher war output and other military preparations have far exceeded Treasury calculations. The current budget deficit is twice the size estimated eight months ago. MPs are now braced for drastic tax increases. Tax is meeting only one-quarter of all expenditure.

The 8,000 ton cargo ship SS POLITICIAN bound from Liverpool to Jamaica grounds off Eriskay in the Hebrides. The locals loot the ship of its cargo of 250,000 bottles of whisky, giving rise to Compton MacKenzie's book, "Whisky Galore". Later made into the classic Ealing comedy. (Marc James Small and Dave Shirlaw)

Corvette HMS Spikenard arrived South Shields, Tyne for completion.

Destroyer HMS Glaisdale laid down.

GERMANY: AP reports that no air raids have been aimed at Berlin since December 21st. The RAF seems to be concentrating on Bremen and Wilhelmshaven. The Nazis have described these as "more serious than any other English raids."

LIBYA: Led by 4th Armoured Brigade under Brigadier 'Blood' Caunter, with the 11th Hussars in the front, 7th Armoured Division strikes out across the Cyrenaica desert to cut the coast road to Benghazi, 150 miles away.

British armoured cars occupy Msus, and the forces then move toward Antelat.

Wavell telegrams to CIGS:

Information indicates that enemy is making hurried withdrawal westwards from Cyrene and possibly south from Benghazi.

What remains of 7 Armed Div. is advancing on Zt Msus and may reach there this evening. Tomorrow it will try to cut roads leading south from Benghazi. RAF is attacking retreating columns.


ERITREA:  The British forces begin to attack the 30,000 Italian troops in strong positions around Keren. In the first phase of the battle, which lasts until 7 February, the 11th Indian Brigade manages to take Cameron Ridge but is thrown back from other positions by Italian counterattacks. 

TERRITORY OF HAWAII: The Search for the unidentified submarine off Oahu, begun yesterday, continues. After destroyers USS Dale (DD-353) and USS Hull (DD-350) return to Pearl Harbor, destroyers USS Flusser (DD-368) and USS Drayton (DD-366) join USS Lamson (DD-367) in the hunt. Ultimately, however, the search is called off. 


Corvette HMCS Alberni commissioned.

Corvette HMCS New Westminster laid down Victoria, British Columbia. (DS

U.S.A.: An editorial in the Chicago Tribune reports the leaked contents of a report from the Secretary of War which states that "...the American army today has not even one combat airplane with the gun power, the self-sealing fuel tank, and the armour protection for the pilot which the fighting in Europe has shown to be necessary."


The Salvation Army, the YMCA and YWCA, the National Catholic Community Services, the National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board pooled their resources, at the request of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to form a new organization. The United Service Organizations (USO) was created to provide unduplicated recreational services to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were on pass or leave. 

The American United Press News Agency reports:

The US Army tank arm has begun to carry out an enormous expansion program based on plans which have been developed, continuously improved and modernised since 1928. The army has always realised the striking power of rapid-moving tanks but, armoured officers explain, considered it wiser to avoid spending billions of dollars for the production of tanks that would then have to be stored in giant depots until the day they were mobilised, and that might by then have become outdated. The army trusted in geographical position of the USA to give it time to assemble, whereas the European nations are compelled to keep their armies and arms always ready to deploy.

PUERTO RICO:   Fleet Landing Exercise (FLEX) No. 7 begins in the Culebra-Vieques area, with all available ships of the Atlantic Fleet and elements of the 1st Marine Division and the U.S. Army's 1st Division, to train "Army and Navy Forces in the amphibious operations incident to a Joint Overseas Expedition." Unlike FLEX No. 6 in 1940, bona fide transports are available for, and participate in, the manoeuvres. 


At 1644, SS Empire Engineer, a straggler from Convoy SC-20, was torpedoed and sunk by U-123 SE of Cape Farewell. The master and 38 crewmembers were lost.

SS Ringhorn torpedoed and sunk by U-52 at 55.46N, 22.36W.

On 3 Feb 1941, SS Dione II, a straggler from Convoy SC-20, was bombed and damaged by a German FW 200 Condor aircraft of I/KG 40 in 55°40N/14°23W. On 4 February, the damaged Dione II was shelled and sunk by U-93 NW of Aran Island, Co. Galway. The master, 26 crewmembers and one gunner were lost. Five crewmembers were picked up by the British SS Flowergate and landed at Glasgow.


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4 February 1942

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February 4th, 1942 (SATURDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Canadian press baron Max Beaverbrook is appointed Britain's Minister of Production. His steamrolling determination as Minister of Aircraft Production has already resulted in Britain producing more fighters than Germany. 

Minesweeper HMS Dornoch launched.

Minesweeping trawlers HMS Ruskholm and Hunda launched.

Destroyer HMS Pakenham commissioned.

GERMANY: U-258 commissioned.

NORTH AFRICA: As the British dig in on the Gazala/Bir Hacheim line and Rommel contemplates his next move, grave doubts surround the future of the Eighth Army commander, Lt-Gen Neil Ritchie. One popular commander, Lt-Gen A. R. Godwin-Austen, has resigned and General Auchinleck, has ordered Major-Gen Eric Dorman-Smith to sound out senior officers in secret. Auchinleck and Dorman-Smith picnicked today in the desert - where they could talk freely. The major-general said that Ritchie was "not sufficiently quickwitted or imaginative". But Auchinleck - who has already sacked one commander - decided that Ritchie should stay. "To sack another would affect morale," he said.

EGYPT: Cairo: The British ambassador to Egypt, Sir Miles Lampson, presses King Farouk to appoint a pro-Allied government by surrounding his palace with tanks.

LIBYA: 13 Corps, British Eighth Army, completes a withdrawal to the line Gazala-Bir Hacheim and is fortifying it while Axis forces hold the line Tmimi-Mechili. A lull ensues until summer during which both sides conduct harassing operations and prepare to renew the offensive. The British gradually relieve battle-weary forces with fresh troops as they become available. 

JAPAN: Tokyo: Japan demands the surrender of Singapore.

SINGAPORE ISLAND: The Japanese demand the surrender of the Allied forces. The government refuses. 
     Tengah Airfield is abandoned after intense shelling and bombing by the Japanese. 

AUSTRALIA: The USAAF Far East Air Force’s 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), and 88th Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) begin a movement from Brisbane, Queensland, to Karachi, India. The 9th is operating from Jogjakarta, Java with B-17s; the 88th is operating from Hickam Field, Territory of Hawaii with B-17s. 

JAVA SEA:  Japanese reconnaissance flying boats of the Toko Kokutai (Naval Air Corps) contact and shadow the allied force (Rear Admiral Karel W.F.M. Doorman, RNN) of four cruisers and accompanying destroyers, sighted yesterday by 1st Kokutai aircraft, attempting the transit of Madoera Strait to attack the Japanese Borneo invasion fleet. The Allied fleet is now south of the Greater Sunda Islands, about 190 miles (306 kilometres) east of Surabaya, Java. On the strength of that intelligence, Japanese naval land attack planes of the Takao, Kanoya, and 1st Kokutais bomb Doorman's ships, damaging the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) and light cruiser USS Marblehead (CL-12). Dutch light cruisers HNMS De Ruyter and HNMS Tromp are slightly damaged by near-misses. USS Marblehead's extensive damage (only by masterful seamanship and heroic effort does she reach Tjilatjap, Java, after the battle) results in her being sent back to the United States via Ceylon and South Africa; despite the loss of turret III (one-third of her main battery), USS Houston, however, remains. 

NETHERLANDS EAST INDIES: The small Australian garrison on Ambon Island, largely the 2/21 Battalion, surrenders to the Japanese. What followed the surrender of the Australians has become known as “The Carnage at Laha.”  Up to 100 of the allied prisoners were seriously wounded or ill at the time of surrender and died shortly after. According to Japanese accounts ten men were summarily executed after falling into Japanese hands during the attacks, another 20 to 40 Australians were held at Suakodo for a few days then executed between the 6 and 8 February. These unfortunate POWs (ca. 30 Australian POWs), said a Japanese Warrant Officer after the war, were led one by one away from the native school and a little way along the road into the jungle near Laha with their hands tied behind their back. Lieutenant NAKAGAWA Ken-ichi, the head executor made each kneel down with a bandage over his eyes. The Japanese troops then stepped out of ranks to behead each POW or bayonet him one by one. Each Australian was decapitated by a sword blow to the neck severing the head, death was almost instantaneous, and carried out by about ten samurai wielding Japanese having despatched two or three prisoners. The remaining Australians at Laha perished over the next two weeks, once the dead had been burned and the battleground debris cleared by the captives.

PACIFIC OCEAN:  Asiatic Fleet (Admiral Thomas C. Hart) ceases to exist. Units of Asiatic Fleet are organized into Naval Forces, Southwest Pacific Area under Vice Admiral William A. Glassford. 

COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES: HQ US Army Forces, Far East (USAFFE) takes direct control of the Panay and Mindoro garrisons, which were previously part of the Visayan-Mindoro Force, established early in January under command of Brigadier General William F. Sharp. 
     On Bataan, the II Corps front is relatively quiet. In the I Corps area, the Japanese in Big Pocket repel still another tank-infantry attack. In the South Sector, Philippine Scouts and tanks continue their attack against Canaan Point and this time succeed in compressing the Japanese into a small area at the tip. In the Anyasan-Silaiim sector, tank-infantry attacks against the Japanese still make slow progress. 

ATLANTIC OCEAN: USS Branch (DD-197), which was commissioned as HMS Beverley (H-64) on 8 Oct, 1940, part of the destroyers-for-bases deal, today attacks and sinks U-187. (Ron Babuka)

An unarmed U.S. tanker is torpedoed, shelled, and sunk by German submarine U-103 about 20 miles (32 kilometres) southeast of Cape May, New Jersey. 

SS Montrolite (11,309 GRT) Canadian Imperial Oil tanker is torpedoed and sunk NE of Bermuda, in position 35.14N, 060.05W, by U-109, Kptlt Heinrich 'Ajax' Bleichrodt, Knight's Cross, Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, CO. Of her crew of 48, there are 20 survivors. They were rescued by a passing freighter and were landed in Halifax. Montrolite had been travelling alone from Venezuela and was carrying a cargo of crude oil. Canada had a fleet of only twelve nationally flagged tankers in 1939. They were, for the most part, large and modern vessels, quite unlike the dry cargo fleet. In 1940, Canada imported 43 million tons of crude oil and five million tons of refined fuel products, 50 percent of which was brought in by tanker through the St. Lawrence River and Atlantic ports. By the summer of 1942, three of these tankers had been lost to German U-boats, leaving only three Canadian and five chartered Norwegian tankers to serve the East Coast. These losses had a nearly catastrophic impact of the supply of naval fuel oils. By Mar 42, St. John's was down to 3,000 tons (three days' supply). A month later, the supply at Halifax was down to 45,000 tons (15 days' supply). The two small coastal tankers used to supply St. John's were run in separate convoys for fear of loosing them both, which would have forced the termination of operations by the Mid-Ocean Escort Force. The gravity of the situation can be appreciated by comparing the supply levels at Halifax and St. John's with the carrying capacity of a 'notional tanker' (10,000 tons of cargo moved at 10 knots). The loss of even one more tanker could have had far-reaching operational and tactical consequences. In May 42, the US transferred twelve tankers to Canada totalling 106,000 GRT (approximately 170,000 DWT), which allowed the chartered Norwegian tankers to be released for the transatlantic route. At the same time, the US transferred 40 tankers to British control, declared an 'Unlimited National Emergency', and instituted petroleum rationing. In Sep 42, another 34 tankers were transferred to British control. These were the last tankers that could be taken up from US trade until emergency production ships began to arrive in 1943. The charter fees for all loaned American tankers were paid by the US. U-109 was a long-range Type IX U-boat built by AG Weser, at Bremen. Commissioned 05 Dec 40. U-109 completed eight patrols and compiled a record of 14 ships sunk for a total of 86,606 tons and one ship damaged for a further 6,548 tons. U-109 was sunk on 04 May 43, south of Ireland, in position 47-22N, 022-40W, by 4 depth charges from a Liberator a/c from RAF 86 Sqn. All of U-109's crew of 52 was lost. Heinrich Bleichrodt was born in 1909, at Berga, Kyffhauser. He joined the navy in 1933 and after service in the cadet ship Gorch Fock and the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, transferred to the U-boat force in Oct 39. He took command of U-48 on 08 Sep 40, at the age of 30. He was awarded the Knight's Cross on 24 Oct 40 (the 18th awarded in the U-boat force) and on 23 Sep 42 was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross (the 17th in the Kriegsmarine and 15th in the U-boat force). His First Watch Officer was 'Teddy' Suhren, ultimately a winner of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. Together they sank eight ships for a total of 36,189 tons. Upon learning that he had been awarded a Knight's Cross, Bleichrodt refused to wear it until Suhren had received one as well, as he had been in charge of all surface firings. Thus, on 03 Nov 40, Suhren became the first Watch Officer to receive the Knight's Cross. In Dec 40, Bleichrodt left U-48 and in Jan 41, commissioned U-67. In Jun 41, he took command of U-109. In total, 'Ajax' Bleichrodt sank 27 ships for a total of 158,957 tons and damaged three ships for a further 16,362 tons in only eight patrols, making him the 10th highest scoring U-boat ace. He left U-109 in Jul 43 to become a tactical instructor with 2nd U-boat training division. From Jul 44 to the end of the war, he was the Commander of the 22nd U-boat Flotilla. Heinrich Bleichrodt died on 09 Jan 77 in Munich, Germany.

U.S.A.:       Attorney General Francis Biddle orders Japanese, German and Italian aliens to leave 31 areas in the states of Washington and Oregon by 15 February. 

ATLANTIC OCEAN: MS Silveray torpedoed and sunk by U-751 at 43.54N, 64.16W.


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4 February 1943

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February 4th, 1943 (THURSDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: New guidelines to Allied bomber crews have emerged from the Casablanca summit attended by the prime minister, Mr. Churchill, and President Roosevelt last month. An air ministry directive sent to Sir Arthur Harris, the chief of Bomber Command, today says that his primary objective is the "progressive destruction ... of the German military, industrial and economic system and the undermining of the morale of the German people."

Allied targets range from Bremen to Rabaul, where Japanese warships are hit, but the top priority is the German submarine building industry.

The prototype Bristol Buckingham (DX 249) a day bomber with a crew of 4, flies but without armament. (22)

Light cruiser HMS Swiftsure launched.

Destroyer HMS Virago launched.

Frigate HMS Plym launched.

Minesweeper HMS Brave launched.

Submarine HMS Syrtis launched.

Sloop HMS Wren commissioned.


U-1166 laid down.

U-741, U-742, U-967, U-968 launched.

U-362, U-961 commissioned.

U.S.S.R.: Black Sea Fleet and Azov Flotilla: MS "T-515" (ex-"Gelenjik") - sunk by field artillery, close to Ujnaya Ozereika (later raised and went into service)   (Sergey Anisimov)(69)

Soviet commandos land behind German lines near Novorossiisk, on the Black Sea.

Generalmajor orders OPERATION LADIES EXCUSE ME. This operation helps Schorners men of the 40th Panzer Corps to escape the oncoming Soviet onslaught. During 'Operation Ladies Excuse Me', it is known that Schorner actually took control of a Flak Anti-Aircraft gun.(Gene Hanson)

NORTH AFRICA: The first units of the British 8th Army cross from Libya into Tunisia.

LIBYA: Tripoli: Men of the 51st Highland and New Zealand Divisions - all heroes of El Alamein - formed up to march past Winston Churchill today. The prime minister is on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East - with a significant stop in neutral Turkey - and is spending the day with his troops.

The premier toured the harbour - where engineers were clearing blockships and port installations. He leaves for Algiers tomorrow, despite a death threat from a notorious hired assassin.

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Guadalcanal: Japan's commander on Guadalcanal, Lt-Gen Haruchi Hyakutake, tonight slipped aboard the destroyer HAMAKAZE and hurried to his cabin, marking the end of Japan's six-month attempt to conquer the island and a first land victory in the Pacific for the Allies.

With Hyakutake are most of the senior staff and 4,000 men, leaving behind a rearguard of 2,000 due to be evacuated in two day's time. During tonight's evacuation a "Tokyo Express", comprising 20 destroyers, raced down to Cape Esperance. During the operation they were harried by airstrikes by 64 US bombers and fighters of the "Cactus Air Force" - named after the codename for the island. US fliers claimed 17 Japanese planes, while Japanese Zero fighters downed ten US planes.

First estimates from this bloody campaign put US total casualties at 6,300 and Japanese casualties at 24,000 dead. Both sides lost 24 ships; tonnage losses are roughly equal. The losses hit harder at Japan, which cannot match America's shipbuilding rate. The US forces also have significant gains, not the least of which is the psychological boost of inflicting a defeat on Japan. The greatest material gain is to deny Japan use of the airstrip at Henderson Field.


U.S.A.: The motion picture "Air Force" opens at the Hollywood Theater in New York City. Directed by Howard Hawks, this action drama about the crew of a B-17 in the Pacific stars John Garfield, Gig Young, Arthur Kennedy, Harry Carey, George Tobias and Faye Emerson.

Destroyer USS Kimberly launched.

Submarine USS Balao commissioned.

ATLANTIC OCEAN: Convoy SC-118 comes under concentrated attack from German U-boats.

U-187 (Type IXC/40) is sun in the North Atlantic, in position 50.12N, 36.35W, by depth charges from the British destroyers HMS Vimy and Beverley. 9 dead and 45 survivors. (Alex Gordon)

U-414 was attacked in the North Atlantic by an aircraft and damaged so badly that she had to return to base.


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4 February 1944

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February 4th, 1944 (FRIDAY)

BALTIC SEA: U-854 mined and sunk in the Baltic Sea north of Swinemünde, in position 54.44N, 14.16E. 51 dead and 7 survivors.

BURMA: Arakan: The British XV Corps' offensive in the Arakan has ground to a halt, with the veteran Japanese 55th Division making an attack on Taung Bazaar in the British rear. This evening the Japanese counter-attack (Operation Ha-Go) made its first contact with the British 7th Indian Division, led by Major-General Frank Messervy, in the Ngakyedauk Pass.

Since early December the British have been advancing down the Arakan towards Akyab, a vital airfield for any attack on Rangoon, but at the Maungdaw to Buthidaung road they were confronted by defences consisting of impenetrable tunnel systems. Now, with their rear threatened, the British risk a repeat of last year's defeat in the Arakan peninsula.

MARSHALL ISLANDS: Glen Borens' diary reads: 
At about 0615 hrs, land was sighted. We kept coming in til you could almost count the branches on the coconut trees. We dropped anchor at 1035 hrs in Majuro Lagoon. 

We were told that we were approximately 18 days ahead of schedule in the Marshalls campaign. Practically all of the Marshall Islands are in our hands. Just before dark, I was on the flight deck and looked out over the lagoon and it was solid ships everywhere I looked. Every kind of ship you could think of was anchored there in the lagoon. What a sight and "what a target" !!!!! Anyway, all went well.

Kwajalein: After four days of fierce fighting against Japanese troops prepared to fight to the death rather than surrender, US forces have captured all the main atolls in the Marshall Islands, securing a strategic staging post for future Allied offensives in the central Pacific.

The Japanese-mandated islands, an important defensive link in Japan's Pacific perimeter are the first territory in the Japanese empire to fall to the Allies. Their loss was reported to the Japanese imperial Diet by the premier, General Tojo. He said: "The war situation is increasing in gravity day by day. For the first time, the enemy has really attacked Japanese soil."

The landings four days ago by 40,000 US infantry and marines on the three main islands of Kwajalein atoll - Kwajalein, Roi and Namur - were the largest operation yet staged by the Allies in the Pacific. Namur and Roi fell within two days. But mopping-up operations are still going on against a Japanese garrison holding out in a 400-yard stretch in the north-east of Kwajalein, where US troops of Major-General Charle Corlett's 7th Division now control 80 islands in the 60-mile-long atoll.

Although outnumbered, the Japanese have fought to the death. On Namur and Roi 3,742 were killed and only 91 taken prisoner, US casualties were 737, including 190 dead. On Kwajalein, 7,870 of the 8,000-strong garrison died; US losses were 372. Roi puts the Allies within bomber range of the Japanese naval base at Truk.


Destroyer escorts USS Eugene E Elmore and Hilbert commissioned.

Escort carrier USS Shamrock Bay launched.

Escort carrier USS Salamaua laid down.

ARGENTINA severs diplomatic relations with Bulgaria, Vichy France, Hungary, and Romania.


U-453 show down SAAF 17 Sqn Ventura.

U-519 shot down RAF 172 Sqn Wellington. The U-boat was possibly lost in this attack.

U-763 shot down two Liberators from RAF 53 Sqn. One at 0821, the second at 2211.

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4 February 1945

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February 4th, 1945 (SUNDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Wales: Rudolph Hess, under guard in an Abergavenny mental hospital, tries to commit suicide with a bread knife.

Minesweepers HMCS Vegreville and Wasaga arrived Devonport from refits in Sydney, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island respectively.

BALTIC SEA: U-745 reported missing in the Gulf of Finland. No survivors.

U.S.S.R.: The Conference at Yalta, in the Crimea begins. The main participants are Josef Stalin representing the USSR; Winston Churchill representing the United Kingdom; and Franklin D. Roosevelt, representing the United States.

COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES: Advance units of the US 1st Cavalry Division reach the Manila.

The US submarine Barbel (SS-316), commanded by Conde L. Raguet, is sunk by Japanese aircraft off Palawan Island. All hands are lost. (Joe Sauder)


Frigate HMCS Inch Arran returned Halifax from work ups and assigned to EG-28.

U.S.A.: Submarine USS Chopper launched.

ATLANTIC OCEAN: U-1014 Kl. IXC/41 is sunk in the Minch Channel (Hebrides), in position 55.17N, 06.44W, by depth charges from the British destroyers HMS Loch Scavaig, Nyasaland, Papua and Loch Shin. 48 dead (all hands lost). (Alex Gordon)

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