February 8th, 1939 (WEDNESDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: King George writes to President Roosevelt expressing gratitude for his help in arranging the forthcoming Royal visit to the United States.
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February 8th, 1940 (THURSDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: Destroyer HMS Holderness launched.
EIRE: U-37 landed an agent in Donegal Bay.FRANCE:
On the Western Front, two French soldiers capture a German patrol in Forbach Woods. One of the soldiers, Joseph Darnand, later heads the Vichy French secret police.
freighter SS Scottsburg is detained at Gibraltar by British authorities.
U.S.A.: William Sebold, aka Harry Sawyer, arrives in New York City from Genoa, Italy, to lead a German spy network in the USA. His special equipment includes "microdots.” Sebold, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had returned to Germany in February 1939 to visit his mother and was approached by German intelligence. He was recruited in September 1939 but because his U.S. passport had been stolen, he was allowed to go to the U.S. Consulate in Cologne to get a new one. While there, he told consulate officials about his recruitment and offered to work with the FBI on his return to the U.S. His testimony helped to convict 33 German agents in 1941. His story was the basis for the 1945 movie “The House on 92nd Street.”
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February 8th, 1941 (SATURDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: No. 263 Squadron equipped with the Westland Whirlwind Mk I, makes its first kill, an Arado 196, with the type.
GERMANY: Berlin: The German and Bulgarian military staffs agree arrangements for German troops to enter Bulgaria.
U-602 laid down.
ITALY: Naples: The first German troops and equipment for North Africa are loaded up in the port.
NORTH AFRICA: GENERAL GIUSEPPE TELLERA, Chief-of-Staff North African theatre command, also acting commander of Italian 10th Army is k illed. Tellera himself rode into battle in an M13 tank during the furious but ultimately unsuccessful three-day battle to break through the British roadblocks at Beda Fomm, which prevented 10th Army's further retreat and led to its ultimate surrender. The battle was characterized by repeated-- though poorly-coordinated-- frontal attacks by the Italian armour, and during one of these Tellera's vehicle was disabled, and the general mortally wounded. He was found inside the tank by the British after the battle ended, and died in the hospital the following day. (Michael F. Yaklich)
CANADA: Corvette HMCS Dawson launched Victoria, British Columbia.
U.S.A.: Washington: The House of Representatives passes the Lend-Lease Bill by a vote of 260 to 165.ATLANTIC OCEAN: Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sight convoy HX106 escorted by battleship HMS Ramillies south of Greenland. They do not attack.
U-37 discovers Convoy HG-53. She attacked on the 9th and sank 3 ships during the next 2 days but she also brought in Condor aircraft from 2/KG 40 which attacked on the 9th, sinking 5 more ships. The heavy cruiser Hipper is also vectored in to the scene but only finds a straggler on the 11th, sinking her.
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February 8th, 1942 (SUNDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: The third contingent of Canadian troops arrives in Great Britain
GERMANY: Berlin: Hitler has chosen his architect friend, 36-year-old Albert Speer, to succeed Fritz Todt as minister for armaments and war production. Todt was killed today when his plane crashed on take-off after a visit to the Führer. Speer's task is to increase arms production by 50%; he aims to do so by forcing prisoners of war to work in factories. Before his new appointment he was working on plans for a post-war Berlin worthy of the 1,000-year Reich.
U-615, U-616 launched.
U.S.S.R.: Demyansk: General Kurochkin's troops encircle 90,000 German soldiers of six divisions of the 2nd Armeekorps, as well as a number of auxiliary RAD (Reichs Labour Service), and Organisation TODT units The encircled ('einegekesselt') German units were the: 12th, 30th, 32nd, 123rd, 290th Infantry, and the SS-TK ('Totenkopf') divisions. These encircled units, while considerably weakened by combat attrition, are successfully supplied with adequate amounts of food and munitions by air from the Luftwaffe to ably fend off repeated and unceasing Soviet attacks to reduce the pocket for well over a month of sustained attacks, with heavy casualties on both sides. (Russ Folsom)
SINGAPORE: The Japanese intensify
their artillery bombardment and at about 2230 hours begin landing in force on
the northwestern coast of the island in the Australian sector; in this sector,
three depleted Australian battalions are facing 16 Japanese battalions. The
first two waves of assault craft are almost annihilated, mainly by machine gun
fire, but the third wave manages to land in force and fierce hand-to-hand combat
ensues. Despite opposition at the beaches, the Japanese gain a firm bridgehead
and start toward Tengah airfield, driving a wedge in the Australian line in the
COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES:
Lieutenant General HOMMA Masaharu, Commander of the Japanese 14th Army, orders a
general withdrawal northward to more favourable positions where troops can be
rested and reorganized while awaiting reinforcements for the final assault on
Bataan. The Allied I Corps continues their battle to destroy Little and Big
Pockets and completely encircles the latter. The Japanese escape from Little
Pocket through a small gap on the east during the night of the 8-9th. In the
South Sector, resistance on Quinauan Point ends after armed motor launches from
submarine tender USS Canopus (AS-9) neutralize the beaches, then land a party of
the ground echelon of the 21st Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor), which works
inland and meets the Philippine Scouts (PS) pushing toward the beaches. A
company of the 57th Infantry, PS, and a platoon of 37-mm. guns are released at
Quinauan for action against the Japanese in the Anyasan-Silaiim sector. The
Japanese make a final attempt to withdraw their force from southwestern coast by
water and succeed in rescuing 34.
Filipino President Manuel Quezon, watching his country disintegrate under bombs and occupation, asks President Franklin D. Roosevelt to grant the Philippines their independence and declare it a neutral area. FDR, seeing the absurdity of the idea, gives General Douglas MacArthur"> MacArthur, Commanding General, US Army Forces, Far East, the power to surrender Filipino troops, but not American. This calls Quezon's bluff. Privately FDR tells his advisors that the idea the Japanese would recognize an independent Philippine nation's neutrality is absurd.
troops land at Bandjermasin, a small town in southeast Borneo.
NETHERLANDS EAST INDIES: Nine USAAF 5th Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses based at Singosari Airdrome, Java, attempt to bomb Kendari Airdrome on Celebes. The flight is intercepted by Japanese fighters over the Java Sea and six B-17s are lost.
Off Makassar City on Celebes Island, the submarine USS S-37 (SS-142) torpedoes and sinks Japanese destroyer HIJMS Natsushio.
MIDWAY: Japanese submarine HIJMS I-69, which has been reconnoitring the atoll since 21 January, shells the islands.
NEW ZEALAND: The government announce a potato shortage, which will continue through 1942.
U.S.A.: The annual
baseball game between major leaguers and prisoners is played at California's
Folsom prison. The game is stopped when it's discovered that two prisoners have
escaped. With the pros leading 24-5 at the end of seven innings, the game ends
and guards go after the two lifers, who are found three hours later.
A congressional committee recommends that all Japanese-Americans on the west coast be interned in camps located at least 500 miles (805 kilometres) inland.
ATLANTIC OCEAN: At 1035, the unescorted SS Ocean Venture was hit by one torpedo from U-108 near Cape Hatteras and stopped. The crew abandoned ship after being hit amidships by a coup de grâce, but the vessel remained afloat and sank by the bow following a second coup de grâce at 1116. 29 crewmembers and two gunners were lost. The master and 13 crewmembers were picked up by USS Roe and landed at Norfolk, Virginia. (Jack McKillop and Dave Shirlaw)
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February 8th, 1943 (MONDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: London: Churchill returned to London today after a four-week, 10,000-mile journey aboard a Liberator bomber with a US pilot, who took him to Casablanca, Cairo, Turkey, Cyprus, Algiers and the front line of the victorious Eighth Army in Tripoli. He completed the journey by rail, arriving at Paddington at 1.01pm, four minutes ahead of schedule. Within hours he was meeting ministers and service chiefs, reviewing the decision of the Casablanca meeting with President Roosevelt. The evening he plans to watch the new Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart film, Casablanca.
Minesweeper HMS Welfare laid down.
Minesweeping trawler HMS Sir Kay commissioned.
GERMANY: Berlin: Himmler orders special measures to be taken at concentration camps to prevent mass breakouts during air raids.
U-1051, U-1052, U-1053, U-1196 laid down.
U.S.S.R.: Kursk falls to the Soviets with a sudden outflanking movement which took the Germans by surprise. General Golikov's troops also took Korocha, some 70 miles to the south, and the Russians now threaten the whole German line from Orel to Kharkov.
Kursk, captured by the Germans in November 1941, became the key to their communications network, the vital link in the shifting of supplies and reinforcements between the southern and central fronts.
It is the first of the three main bases - Kursk, Orel and Kharkov - which the Germans established as their winter line in 1941 to be recaptured.
The Germans used these bases as the starting points for their offensive last summer which led to Stalingrad. Now, it seems that the Russians will use Kursk to launch the northern arm of a pincer attack on Kharkov in order to trap SS General Hausser's Panzer Korps. German correspondents reporting the battles at the approaches to Kursk comment with some awe on the numbers of tanks and guns deployed by the Russians.
One writes: "The Russian artillery barrage is like the roll of a giant's drum. It is impossible to hear single explosions. It is an indescribable hurricane of sound. A human feels like an insignificant insect before this gigantic concentration of artillery force."
MEDITERRANEAN SEA: HMCS Regina, a Flower-class corvette, LCdr. Harry "The Horse" Freeland, DSO, RCNR, CO, sank the Italian Platino-class submarine Avorio, Lt. Leone Fiorentini, CO, off Philipeville, in the Mediterranean Sea. Nineteen men were lost from her 46 crewmembers, including the Commanding Officer. Regina and the Bangor-class minesweeper HMS Rhyl were assigned to escort the bulk merchantman Brinkburn from Algiers to Bone, Algeria. She was loaded with 1,500 tons of aviation fuel in 'tin cans'. At 2310, Regina, while in station at 4,000 yards on the port bow of the 'convoy', detected a radar contact at a range of 6,200 yards. She altered towards the contact and increased speed to 12 knots. Avorio, which was on the surface recharging her batteries, was unaware of Regina until she came quite close. The submarine was able to dive and reached 200 feet when Regina launched a 10-charge urgent attack that caused extensive damage to Avorio. When the boat resurfaced it was found that her helm was jammed, the pressure hull was ruptured, and the torpedo tubes distorted. As the submarine attempted to escape on the surface, Regina engaged with her 4-inch and 20-mm guns, to which Avorio replied with a 12.5-mm machine gun. Many hits were soon scored on the submarine and three of her officers and sixteen ratings were killed before fire was ceased. Seven other Italians were wounded, two of them seriously. An attempt was made to board and capture the submarine but it settled quickly, forcing the boarding party to abandon the boat by jumping into the sea. The submarine sank at 0515. Avorio was a medium-range submarine built by the O.T.O. shipyard. Her technical details were: Length - 60.20 m; Beam - 6.45 m; Draft - 4.75 m; Displacement - 710 tonnes surfaced and 870 tonnes submerged; Machinery - 2 diesel engines and 2 electric motors; Speed - 14 knots surfaced and 7.7 knots submerged; Endurance - 5,000 NM @ 8.5 knots on the surface and 80 NM @ 3 knots submerged; Armament - 1 x 100mm gun, 2 x 13.2mm HMG, 6 x 21-inch Torpedo Tubes; Crew - 4 officers + 40 men. Avorio did not sink or damaged any ships on her six war patrols although she had attacked unsuccessfully twice. On 05 Feb, also in the vicinity of Philipeville, she fired torpedoes at the British troop transport Stronsay, which narrowly missed their target. Avorio was sunk in the same area three days later.
BURMA: The 77th Indian Brigade, under General Orde Wingate begins what become known as the Chindit Raids, near Imphal.
Six weeks ago British forces began a frontal attack on Japanese positions in Burma, advancing through malarial and leech-infested jungles between the Arakan and the Bay of Bengal. Today, some 300 miles to the north, an assault by stealth is beginning as a specially-trained unit crosses in Burma to fight behind enemy lines.
The northern assault is by men of the 77th Indian Brigade under the leadership of Brigadier Orde Wingate, a passionate disciple of long-range penetration in jungle warfare. Using mule transport and relying on air transport for supplies, this brand of guerrilla warfare within British Army ranks aims to harass Japanese supplies and cut rail links.
Whether or not it succeeds this new initiative will offer no comfort to the 14th Indian Division, which had been brought to a halt by strong Japanese resistance on the Arakan peninsula. For the first time British-Indian troops have across the Japanese bunker system: well-concealed mutually supporting dugouts for up to 20 men, reinforced with logs, so resilient to artillery that British gunners thought they were made of concrete.
SOLOMON ISLANDS: The last Japanese troops are evacuated from what has become known to the Japanese soldiers as "Starvation Island" , otherwise known as Guadalcanal.
NEW ZEALAND: William T. Paull and the rest of his battalion arrives in Wellington. He writes: Our battalion arrived in Wellington on 8 February, 1943. We were trucked to a camp about 30 miles north of Wellington. We were in quarantine for a week or so, as we got de-liced and waited for our seabags to catch up with us. We then started to get week-end liberties. Trucks hauled us from camp to the railway station at McKay's Crossing where we could head south to Wellington or north to Palmerston and other little towns. Most of us opted for Wellington. The Kiwis went all out for us. The Hotel Cecil was the main headquarters for enlisted men. Free chow, nightly dances, shows, and comely, friendly, young women. There was a YMCA-like facility near the train station where you could get a bed, food, and a shower for free if you didn't luck out and find other accommodations. Many of us forsook the pub-crawling bit and rode the electric trams out to see the sights. I lucked out by being befriended by a pretty female tram conductor, Chrissie, who I was trying to make a move on. She managed to reject my charms, but did take me home to meet her parents and they became my New Zealand family. Mum and Dad Smith. (I never did learn their first names.) From that time on, their home became my home and I spent many happy, warm, secure hours in that modest little house.
U.S.A.: Destroyer USS Cotten laid down.
Minesweeper USS Scout laid down.
ATLANTIC OCEAN: ASW trawler HMS Bredon sunk by U-521 off the Cape Verde Islands.
SS Roger B Taney torpedoed and sunk by U-160 at 22.00S, 07.45W.
At 0142, SS Newton Ash in Convoy SC-118 was torpedoed and sunk by U-402 south of Iceland. The master, 29 crewmembers and four gunners were lost. Four crewmembers were picked up by USCGC Ingham and landed at Reykjavik.
At 0237, the wreck of SS Daghild was sunk by one coup de grâce
from U-608 and with her
landing craft HMS LCT-2335. The corvette Lobelia had now over 100 people
onboard, a damaged engine and the U-boat danger was ever present. The next
morning the Admiralty sent a destroyer to assist, which took the corvette in tow
until that evening, when the destroyer had to search for a lifeboat with 15 men
in it, which was sighted by an aircraft. The destroyer returned the next
morning, without having found the lifeboat, but at that time Lobelia was able to
do 8 knots on her own and proceed alone, because the destroyer, having about 140
shipwrecked people on board had to go to port. The corvette arrived safely at
Greenock on 12 February.
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February 8th, 1944 (TUESDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: Frigate HMS Largo Bay laid down.
Frigates HMS Lochy and Hotham commissioned.
Corvette HMCS Arnprior (ex-HMS Rising Castle) launched Belfast, Northern Ireland.
HMCS Qu’Appelle, a River-class destroyer (ex-HMS Foxhound), Cdr. D.C. Wallace DSC RCNR, was commissioned into the RCN in the UK. Although Qu’Appelle’s career in the RCN was somewhat unremarkable, she was very active while she served with the RN. At the outbreak of the war, she was a member of the 8th Destroyer Flotilla of the Home Fleet. On 14 Sep 39, she shared in the destruction of the long-range Type IX submarine U-39, KptLt. Gerhard Glates, CO, off the Hebrides. Foxhound and her sisters Faulkenor and Firedrake were screening the fleet carrier Ark Royal, while engaged in ASW operations. U-39 fired two torpedoes at the carrier, which detonated prematurely only 80 meters short of their target. The explosion alerted the escorts to the submarine’s presence and they eventually located and attacked her, forcing the submarine to the surface where the entire crew safely abandoned the boat before it sank. This was the first U-boat ‘kill’ of the war. In Apr 40, Foxhound took part in the Second Battle of Narvik. In Nov 40, she was transferred to the famous Force ‘H’, based at Gibraltar, and saw extensive service in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. On 18 Jun 41, she shared with four of her F-class sisters in the destruction of the short-range Type II submarine U-138, OLtzS Franz Gramitzky, CO, west of Cadiz. Foxhound was also part of the escort for one of the dangerous ‘Malta Convoys’ during this period. From Jan 42 to May 43, she served with the Eastern Fleet. On completion of this duty, she was transferred to the West Africa Command, based out of Freetown, Sierra Leone. She returned to the UK in Sep 43 for a much needed refit and was transferred to the RCN immediately afterwards.
GERMANY: U-1016, U-1275 launched.
U.S.S.R.: The Third Ukrainian Front captures Nikopol, a vital centre of manganese production.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA: Submarine HMS Sportsman torpedoed and sank the German POW Transport Petrella north of Souda Bay (Crete). 2,670 out of 3,173 Italian POWs where killed. German Guards did not open the POW rooms and fired at them while they tried to break out.
ALGERIA: Algiers: Two key agreements between the British government and the French committee of National Liberation were signed at a villa on the outskirts of Algiers today. One provides for mutual assistance in the war effort, free of cost on both sides. The other establishes a common rate of exchange of 200 Francs to the pound in all parts of the French empire. This will make it possible for something like normal trading to be resumed between the French territories.
CANADA: Corvette HMCS Mimico commissioned.
U.S.A.: Jackson, Mississippi: The Royal Netherlands Military Flying School discontinues training at the Jackson Army Air Base.
Destroyer USS Henley laid down.
Destroyer USS Laffey commissioned.
At 0145, SS Margit, a straggler from Convoy UR-108 since 7 February due to bad weather, was hit in the stern by one of two torpedoes fired by U-985 SE of Iceland. The ship first sank on even keel, but then settled by the stern and finally capsized. The master, 23 crewmembers and six gunners were lost.
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February 8th, 1945 (THURSDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: Aircraft carrier HMS Pioneer commissioned.
GERMANY: Montgomery opens Operation Veritable, a British 2nd Army and Canadian 1st Army offensive to clear the lower Rhineland.
Allied bombing crews are being kept busy. Tonight RAF Bomber Command attacked targets at Politz, Wanne-Eickel and Krefeld; last night Goch, Cleve and the Dortmund-Ems canal were hit. On 3 February the USAAF attacked Berlin with over 1,200 heavy bombers, escorted by 900 fighters. Five square miles of central Berlin were set on fire; Tempelhof airport was badly damaged. Among 1,000 casualties of the raid was Roland Freisler, the notorious president of the People's Court, who died when the court was bombed and he was hit by a falling beam.
Vienna has also been bombed by US Liberators, 29 of which were shot down, five during two minutes of intense flak.V2 rocket installations in the Netherlands were hit in daylight raids by RAF fighter-bombers. Other targets included E-boat shelters at Ijmuiden and - to assist the advance of XXX Corps across the German-Dutch border - troop concentrations near Goch, where there were also civilian casualties.
Luftwaffe ace Hans Ulrich Rudel loses his lower right leg to a 4cm shell. (Fox)
HUNGARY:In Mészáros utca near Déli railway station László Deseő, 15 years old at the time of the siege, kept an hourly diary of the destruction that raged around him:
February 8. Numerous wounded. There are Russian snipers positioned in the house opposite and when someone allows themselves be spotted in the window they shoot at them.…Wagner [a forcibly recruited Hungarian SS soldier from Budakeszi] has been seriously wounded. Two hours ago he laughingly admitted that the destruction of the whole house had been his responsibility because he could have led the horses to a neighbouring empty cellar. Heavy fighting all night.
U.S.S.R.: Yalta: Allied commanders take time off from the conference to visit the historic battlefield at Balaklava.
U.S.A.: Destroyer USS Shields commissioned.
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