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April 21st, 1939 (FRIDAY)

PALESTINE: Jewish resistance movement, the Etzel, puts its first six pilots through flight school at Lod, They graduate today. More...

Etzel is more commonly known as the Irgun (Irgun is shorthand for Ha'Irgun Ha'Tsvai Ha'Leumi B'Eretz Yisrael which is Hebrew for National Military Organization in the Land of Israel; Etzel is the transliteration of the acronym of the Hebrew initials of Ha'Irgun Ha'Tsvai Ha'Leumi B'Eretz Yisrael.) The Irgun was the military arm of the right wing revisionist Zionists in Palestine. It was formed in 1931 as a breakaway organization of the Haganah, which was the military arm of the Jewish Agency Executive. The Jewish Agency Executive was the shadow government of the Jewish community in pre-State Palestine and was controlled by the left wing labour Zionist parties. The revisionist formed their own military arm b/c they believed that the Haganah's military doctrine which was based on self-defence was too passive. While essentially a terrorist organization, the Irgun/Etzel, should not be confused with the even more extreme and "terroristic" Lehi (aka, Stern Gang. Lehi is the Hebrew acronym for Lohamei Herut Israel, or "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel" in English). In 1940, the Lehi was a "breakaway" organization from the Irgun after the Irgun called a truce with the British during WWII (The Lehi even offered to actively assist the Nazi's in undermining the British position in Palestine during the War, but I digress.) (Stuart Kohn)

U.S.A.: The US Army Air Force, standardises with the B-2 regulation winter flying cap. 

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21 April 1940

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April 21st, 1940 (SUNDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Submarine HMS Upright launched. (Dave Shirlaw)

NORWAY:

German troops push Norwegian and British forces out of Lillehammer.

The British had scarcely settled in at Lillehammer when General Pellengahr’s men hit them. The Germans quickly outflanked the British position, forcing Morgan’s entire line to fall back. That night a German motorized machine-gun battalion made a daring drive through the retreating British and Norwegians and seized Lillehammer.

A German column of mountain troops moves overland from Trondheim to Steinkjer by rail and road. Equipped and trained for snow fighting and supported by a battery of mountain guns, they moved forward carrying their machine-guns and mortars forward in motorcycle sidecars using the minor farm road to get into position over Carton de Wiarts Mauriceforce.

The RAF attacks Aalborg and Stavanger while 36 aircraft carry out reconnaissance over German waters. The Stavanger defences have been strengthened with a balloon barrage and extra searchlights.

RAF Fighter Command: RAF base party of No. 223 Sqn. with 6 officers and 60 men leaves for Norway aboard a warship. They arrive at Aandalsnes at midnight and immediately begin to clear their stores out of the danger area.

Three hours later the petrol is safely stored in a railway tunnel five miles outside the town and the billeting officer has found a hotel to accommodate the men. The hotel had been the Expeditionary Force HQ but had been evacuated because it stood in the zone of near misses of bombs aimed at the jetty.

U.S. Military Attaché Captain Robert E. Losey, USA, is killed in a German bombing raid on Dombas. The U.S. Minister to Sweden, Frederick A. Sterling, orders Naval Attaché Lieutenant Commander Ole E. Hagen, USN, to proceed to receive Captain Losey's remains.  (Jack McKillop)

 

(Mark Horan adds for today's' Fleet Air Arm activity): This date saw the arrival at Scapa Flow of the Royal Navy's two other operational fleet carriers, HMS Ark Royal arriving from Alexandria via Malta and Gibraltar, carrying 810, 820, and 821 Squadrons (all Swordfish), and HMS Glorious arriving from the Clyde with 825 Squadron (Swordfish) and 802 Squadron (Sea Gladiators). The day saw intense activity as HMS Ark Royal disembarked 821 Squadron and prepared for the return of her long absent fighter squadrons, while HMS Glorious disembarked 825 Squadron and her pilots began ferrying aboard the first RAF Squadron to be brought to Norway, 263 Squadron's 18 Gladiator IIs. One of these aircraft, N5624, crashed over the side during recovery. Meanwhile, HMS Furious continued to cruise off Northern Norway, though her two embarked Squadron had but 10 operational Swordfish remaining.  Previously, 800, and 801 squadrons had each operated nine aircraft, six Skua IIs and three Rocs. Now each was expanded to twelve-planes by adding a third Skua section and ordered to prepare to embark on HMS Ark Royal.

Greenock: HMS Ark Royal remains at Greenock loading stores. At 1100, HMS Glorious departs Greenock in company with the destroyers HMS Hyperion, HMS Hereward, and HMS Hasty to fly on her air group consisting of 802 Squadron (Sea Gladiators), 812 Squadron (Swordfish), 823 Squadron (Swordfish), and 825 Squadron (Swordfish). That afternoon, as she rounds Northern Scotland, she commences flying aircraft off and on. First, the Swordfish of 812 and 825 Squadrons depart for Prestwick, carrying the pilots of 802 Squadron ashore so that they can ferry the RAF Gladiator IIs of 263 Squadron to Hatston in preparation for flying them out to the ship. In the flurry of aerial activity that follows, one of these aircraft, N5624, crashes killing the pilot, Petty Officer Cornelius Desmond Gordon-Wilson, RAFVR.

Off NORWAY: HMS Furious, with only ten Swordfish remaining, continued to cruise off Northern Norway, now in company with HMS Isis, HMS Ilex, and HMS Imogen. The days only activity occurs at 1340, when the German trawler Rhein (254 BRT) is sighted and, facing overwhelming force, surrenders to Imogen. (Mark Horan)

U.S.S.R.: Soviet submarine SC-135 launched. (Dave Shirlaw)

SINGAPORE: Conference between UK, US, and Dutch. (Air Vice-Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham chaired meeting, US naval representative was Captain 'Spec' Purnell, Chief of Staff to ADM Hart, Commander of the Asiatic Fleet); "ADB" Plan was developed but both US War and Navy Departments recommended it be rejected as they felt it was defeatist and compromised US interests by insisting on defence of trade routes over offensive actions against Japanese. (Marc Small)

U.S.A.: The quiz show, "Take It or Leave It," debuts on CBS radio at 2200 hours Eastern time sponsored by Eversharp with Bob Hawk as the Quizmaster. Contestants, chosen from the studio audience, tried to answer seven questions valued at $1-$2-$4-$8-$16-$32-$64. The questions were asked and answered and if you got it wrong, you left without any consolation prize. The show remained on the radio until September 1950. (Jack McKillop)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: U-51 was attacked by submarine FS Orphee with two torpedoes, but both missed.

At 0749, the unescorted Cedarbank was torpedoed and sunk by U-26 NW of Bergen. 14 crewmembers and one gunner were lost. The master and 29 crewmembers were picked up by HMS Javelin and landed at Aalesund. (Dave Shirlaw)

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21 April 1941

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April 21st, 1941 (MONDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: RAF Bomber Command: 2 Group: 21 Sqn lose two aircraft on anti-shipping strikes in the North Sea.

The Luftwaffe raid Plymouth and continue for the next 8 nights. Decoy fires help to save the dockyards but at the expense of the city.

Corvette HMS Spikenard completed South Shields, Tyne and left for workups. (Dave Shirlaw)

GERMANY: Students plan to invade Crete from the air is put to Hitler.

U-612 laid down.

U-154 launched. (Dave Shirlaw)

FINLAND: Recruitment of Finnish volunteers for Waffen SS begins at Helsinki. (Mikko Härmeinen)

GREECE: Papagos recommends that the Allies leave Greece and permission to evacuate is received from London.

A brief account by NX1755 Cpl. L.J. Irvine of the escape of my party from Greece.

After the 2/2 Bn. was broken up, I, with a few others, found ourselves completely cut off from retreating towards Larissa, so we took to the hills and made for the coast. The battle took place on 18/4/41. We struck the coast at a small village called Koritza on 21/4/41. We rested for a day and then pushed on, making for Volos, crossing the Larissa plain that night. We passed through an enemy tank patrol that had come from Aya to cut off the escaping troops. Next morning the Germans followed our tracks along the beach but we evaded them. Enemy planes patrolled the coast all day and made it difficult to move. We reached a small village near Zogara, called Poiri, 25/4/41, where we learned the whole of Greece was taken. We waited a few days in the hope of getting a boat, eventually setting out on 30/4/41 to walk around Salonika and into Turkey.

Two days later we met a Greek who tried to advise us against our plan, but when he saw we were determined, he asked us to wait a few days and he would get a boat for us, that would take us to one of the islands, where we would be passed on, and eventually reach Turkey. We waited, and he did get us a boat which took us to Skiathos, on the night of 11/5/41.

Skiathos was then occupied, so the people hid us until nightfall, when we were put in a small boat and taken to Skopelos, passing quite close to a German patrol boat on the way. Skopelos also was occupied by Germans but we were hidden by the Greeks. It was impossible to get a boat away for some time, the islands were constantly patrolled, both by sea and air, and benzine and oil was unprocurable, and all the serviceable boats were commandeered to take Germans to Crete.

Eventually we got in touch with a chap who had a letter from the British Consulate in Turkey, we were trying to contact him for some time. He took us to the island of Helonossis on 27/7/41, where we caught a larger boat on 31/7/41, which took us to Skyros, from Skyros to Chesme, 2/8/41, on the Turkish coast, where we were quarantined for 10 days. The Consul got to work in the meantime and arranged for our transportation through Ankara to Syria, and thence to Palestine. We went to Corps H.Q. at Alex, who sent us on here.

My party consisted of: Pte. Murphy, 2/2 Bn.; Pte. Edwards, 2/2 Bn.; Pte. Robb, 21st Bn. N.Z.E.F. (Cpl. NX1755 Irvine, L.J., H.Q.Coy, 2/2 Bn., A.I.F. via Bill Howard)

LIBYA: Battleships Barham, Valiant and Warspite bombard Tripoli, Libya on their return to Alexandria. This action by Admiral Cunningham is done under protest after direct orders from Churchill.

Other ships shell Benghazi harbour.

SINGAPORE: Conference between UK, US, and Dutch. (Air Vice-Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham chaired meeting, US naval representative was Purnell); "ADB" Plan was developed but both US War and Navy Departments recommended it be rejected as they felt it was defeatist and compromised US interests by insisting on defence of trade routes over offensive actions against Japanese. (Marc Small) 

 

AUSTRALIA: Melbourne: Politicians move to oust the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, whom they blame for high Australian casualties in Greece.

U.S.A.: Hyde Park, New York: President Roosevelt and the Canadian Prime Minister, William Mackenzie King, today agreed at the President's family home here on an unprecedented measure of collaboration ultimately aimed at helping the British war effort.

Canada is to sell the US arms, raw material and ships. There are also unconfirmed reports that the US is prepared to take over a role in the defence of Canada to release more Canadian troops for service overseas.

Submarine USS Gudgeon commissioned.

Submarine USS Albacore laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: At 1420, the unescorted Calchas was sunk by two torpedoes from U-107 about 550 miles north of the Cape Verde Islands. The master, 21 crewmembers, one gunner and one of the nine passengers were lost. 33 survivors landed at Sal Maria Island, Cape Verde on 4 May. 23 survivors landed at Boavista Island, Cape Verde and 33 survivors landed at St Louis, Senegal after sailing 650 miles in 16 days in the #5 lifeboat. (Dave Shirlaw)

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21 April 1942

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April 21st, 1942 (TUESDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Minesweeper HMS Wedgeport commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)

FRANCE: The Germans shoot 20 French hostages "for complicity" during the raid on St. Nazaire last month.

Louise Leahy, wife of Admiral William D. Leahy, USN (Retired), Ambassador to France, dies of an embolism in Vichy. Her death, on the eve of their departure from Vichy, is a "crushing emotional shock" to the admiral, "beyond the understanding of anyone who has not had an identical experience." (Jack McKillop)

GERMANY: U-238, U-365, U-843 laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

SWITZERLAND: General Giraud reaches safety after escaping from German captivity. he will return to unoccupied France.

ITALY: Malta is nearly defenceless and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini urges an assault led by German parachute units. Hitler is hesitant, recalling the heavy losses his paratroopers suffered in 1941 when they drove the British from Crete. (Jack McKillop)

U.S.S.R.: Germany relieves the 100,000 troops who have been trapped in the Demyansk pocket, supplied by airlifts only, for ten weeks.

The Germans request the assistance of the Italian Navy to deal with the ramshackle Soviet flotilla on Lake Ladoga (estimated at 6 gunboats, 2 large and 5 small torpedo boats, 32 armed minesweepers, 9 armed transport ships, 17 armed tugboats and 1 submarine, plus another 25 other boats).

The Italian Navy promptly agreed and sent the four torpedo boats (MAS 526 to 529) of 12th MAS Flotilla, commanded by Capitano di Corvetta (Lt-Comm.) Bianchini, with four officers, 19 NCO's, and 63 other ranks. (Arturo Lorioli)

MALTA: ASW trawler HMS Jade bombed and sunk. (Dave Shirlaw)

CANADA: First arrivals at detention camp in Greenwood, British Columbia. (Jack McKillop)

Corvette HMCS Prescott completed refit Liverpool , Nova Scotia. (Dave Shirlaw)

U.S.A.: Washington: Roosevelt orders all patents owned or controlled by enemy nations to be seized in order to forestall German interference in US industry.

The federal government decides to build the "Big Inch" oil pipeline from Texas to New York so Allied tankers won't have to run the German submarine gauntlet along the East Coast.  (Jack McKillop)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: At 1854, the unescorted unarmed U.S. freighter Pipestone County, en route from Trinidad, B.W.I., to Boston, Massachusetts was hit by one torpedo from U-576 about 475 miles east of Cape Henry, Virginia. The torpedo struck in the #1 hold, which was flooded but the engine room was still intact and the ship was still moving. At 1914, a coup de grâce was fired that struck in the #2 hold and caused the ship to sink after six minutes. The nine officers, 28 crewmen and nine armed guards (the ship was armed with one 4in, four .50cal and four .30cal guns) abandoned ship in four lifeboats and one raft. They were questioned by the U-boat, which also gave provisions to the men in one of the boats. The survivors on the raft were transferred into the boats, which were later separated because of rain and moderate seas. The 23 men in two of the boats were picked up by the British steam merchantman Tropic Star on 24 April and landed at Boston the next day. The eleven crewmembers and two armed guards in a third boat were picked up by USCGC Calypso on 7 May and taken to Norfolk, Virginia. The ten men in the last boat were rescued on 8 May by the American fishing vessel Irene and May and landed at Cape May, after they were spotted by an USCG aircraft from Elizabeth City, North Carolina

At 0236, the unarmed U.S. freighter Bris was torpedoed and sunk by U-201 while en-route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, approximately 475 miles (764 km) south-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. The survivors abandoned ship in two lifeboats and some jumped overboard, three of them were caught in the swirl of the screw and were killed. The next day they found an overturned lifeboat that was righted and the master and eight men transferred into it. The boats were separated in bad weather and the boat of the master capsized three times, causing the loss of food and equipment, but they managed to right it each time. On 3 May, they were picked up by the American motor tanker Chester D. Swain five nautical miles off Cape Fear, after having been spotted by two aircraft the day before which dropped supplies. The third engineer died the same day and the others were brought to the USCG base at Charleston. On 4 May, the 13 men in the other lifeboat were picked up by YT-132, attached to the Parris Island Marine Base and were landed there. (Jack McKillop and Dave Shirlaw)

U-576 gave some provisions to the shipwrecked survivors of the sunken American ship Pipestone County.

SS West Imboden sunk by U-752 at 41.14N, 65.55W.

At 0030, the unescorted and unarmed Chenango was struck by one torpedo from U-84 on the port side between #4 and #5 hatches blasting a huge hole in the hull. The cargo caused the ship to sink within one minute 60 miles southeast of Cape Henry. One boat was launched but it capsized, the other boat went down with the ship, like all the regulation rafts on the ship, because they were improperly stowed on deck instead of in quick release racks. Two men managed to reach a raft, which had floated free when the ship sank. This raft had been condemned in New York and the only supplies on the raft were water and a fishing line. Twelve days later the raft was sighted by an US Army aircraft in position 34.30N/74.25W. Six hours later they were picked up by a USCG PBY Catalina and were taken to the Marine Hospital in Norfolk, but one of the rescued men died two days later. The crew of 32 men was made up of 12 different nations, there were Americans, Danes, Norwegians, Estonians, Swedes, Chileans, French, Portuguese, Canadians, Colombians, Belgians and Irish. Only one Irish Fireman survived. (Dave Shirlaw)

 

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21 April 1943

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April 21st, 1943 (WEDNESDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Escort carrier HMS Shah launched.

Minesweeping trawler HMS Proctor commissioned.

Submarine HMS Votary laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

GERMANY:

U-286 launched.

U-312, U-425, U-543 commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)

DENMARK: An RAF Stirling is shot down. Only one crew member, Donald Smith, survives the crash and begins a remarkable journey to freedom. His story is told here. (follow actions/second world war/"Together at last") (Gert Laursen)

ITALY: RAF Liberators, under operational control of the IX Bomber Command, bomb Naples.

EUROPE: The RAF celebrated Hitler's 54th birthday last night with raids against Stettin and Rostock, on the Baltic coast, and Berlin. In the east, the Red Air Force attacked Tilsit. Stettin, a key port supplying Nazi armies in north Russia, was most heavily hit. More than 140 4,000-pound bombs were dropped in 40 minutes. Simultaneously other aircraft laid mines off the Brittany coast. Hitler, it is thought, was far from the bombing, in a mountain retreat.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA: Submarine HMS Splendid is sighted by destroyer Hermes (German manned but previously the British built Greek Vasilefs Georgios 1) which delivers three depth charge attacks. Captain Ian McGeoch was three miles off the south-east coast of Capri when he was puzzled to see through his periscope a British destroyer. In good asdic conditions Hermes drops three accurate patterns of depth charges. Splendid begins to flood and sinks below 500 feet (operational diving depth 250) at which point McGeoch blew all his air tanks to raise his submarine to the surface and abandon the sinking submarine through the gun and conning tower hatches, while Hermes makes direct hits with her main armament. There are 18 casualties, but 27 survivors, five officers and twenty-five ratings who are taken prisoner. McGeoch himself is wounded, in the right eye, but stays with the boat until he is sure that there is no-one left alive and that it would sink before the enemy could board it. The entire action was over in 12 minutes.

As McGeoch was hauled from the water into a German motorboat he heard a guttural voice delivering the classic line "For you the war is over", and he thought to himself "No, it bloody well isn't". Thus began a year-long odyssey to reach Britain.

Although now blind in one eye, McGeoch made several escape attempts: he attempted to dig, during the siesta hours, a tunnel from an Italian hospital where he was being treated. He jumped from a train when he was being moved between camps, but was recaptured. After being taken to Rome for interrogation, he leapt from a moving car and made a vain attempt to enter the Vatican.

Later, after the Italian armistice, he was promised repatriation, but the train in which he was travelling was commandeered by the Germans; McGeoch was taken to a prison hospital, from which he simply walked away, eventually crossing the border into Switzerland after a 400-mile hike.

He chose Switzerland - more distant than the Allied front line - because he wanted medical attention, and he was conscious while Professor Adolphe Franceschetti used an electromagnet to draw a jagged sliver of rusty steel from his blind eye.

He was also taken with what he called "the silken dalliance" of Geneva, but was impatient to get home and obtained false papers before walking into France in January 1944. Making contact with the Resistance, he travelled westwards by train and car, then skied across the Pyrenees and into temporary internment in Spain.

From Gibraltar he took passage in the dummy battleship Centurion, and his arrival in Britain was announced to the Resistance by the BBC with the cryptic words le tabac du Petit Pierre est dans la boîte. His reunion with his wife and the child he had not yet seen was delayed until two days later by a debriefing with MI9. He was mentioned in dispatches for his successful escape.

Location: off Capri. (Alex Gordon and Russell Folsom)(108)

Submarine HMS Unison sinks the Italian merchant Marco Foscarini (6405 BRT). (Dave Shirlaw)

TUNISIA: New Zealand troops consisting mainly of Maoris, take Takrouna.

After heavy casualties and little progress, the British 8th Army ends a three-day attempt to break through strong Italian defences. It is the Desert Rats' final North African battle. During the upcoming Allied offensive, the 8th will remain on the defensive while other Allied units destroy the Axis army.
   Ninth Air Force P-40s bomb and strafe barges along the coast.
   Northwest African Air Force fighters and A-20 Havocs hit landing grounds and military traffic on roads, fly sweeps and armed reconnaissance, and attack ground forces and aircraft in the Medjez el Bab-Goubellat area where an enemy counterattack by armoured and infantry columns during the night of 20/21 April ends in costly failure.

INDIAN OCEAN: A U.S. freighter is torpedoed by the Italian submarine Leonardo da Vinci off the coast of South Africa and abandoned. Leonardo da Vinci then surfaces, finishes off the freighter with gunfire, and temporarily detains a member of the crew on board for questioning before returning him to his shipmates.

BURMA: 8 Tenth Air Force B-25 Mitchells bomb the railroad yards at Maymyo, and 9 more bomb the area around the Myitnge bridge. (Jack McKillop)

THAILAND: 16 Tenth Air Force B-24s are dispatched to bomb the Bangsue Arsenal and other targets in Bangkok, but only 4 reach the target area and loose bombs over the city.

NETHERLANDS EAST INDIES: RAAF No. 18 (NEI) Squadron B-25s bomb Laga on Timor Island. (Jack McKillop)

NEW GUINEA: Fifth Air Force B-17s make individual attacks on coastal villages in northeastern New Guinea.

ELLICE ISLANDS: IJN bombers from Nauru Island, staging through Tarawa Atoll in the Gilberts, attack the airfield on Funafuti Atoll. One Seventh Air Force B-24 Liberator is destroyed and five others damaged.
 

JAPAN: Admiral Mineichi Koga succeeds Admiral Yamamoto as Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet, IJN.

BISMARCK ARCHIPELAGO: Fifth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses make individual attacks on Ubili and Gasmata on New Britain Island. (Jack McKillop)

PACIFIC OCEAN: Japanese aircraft bombard US positions on Funafuti in the Ellice Islands, retaliating for yesterday's raid on Nauru.

Submarine USS Stingray (SS-186) mines the waters off Wenchow, China.

USS Grenadier (SS-210), CO John A. Fitzgerald is scuttled after damage by an enemy aircraft off Penang Malaya. All hands taken prisoner and 4 died in PoW camp. (Joe Sauder)

TERRITORY OF ALASKA: ALEUTIAN ISLANDS: Commander North Pacific Forces (NORPACFOR) places all Army and Navy Air Forces [Task Group (TG) 16.1] under Brigadier General William O. Butler, Commanding General Eleventh Air Force. The Army Air Striking Unit (Eleventh Air Force) is designated Task Unit 16.1.1 (TU 16.1.1) and the Naval Air Search Unit (Patrol Wing Four) is designated TU 16.12.(Jack McKillop)

CANADA: Frigate HMCS Port Colborne launched Esquimalt, British Columbia.

U.S.A.: The USN signs a contract for 67 Cessna T-50s. These were included in a USAAF order for C-78-CEs.

Washington: President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces "with a feeling of deepest horror" the Japanese execution of a number of Doolittle Raiders who bombed Tokyo and other Japanese cities in April 1942.  

In baseball, the St. Louis Browns win their seventh consecutive Opening Day game in front of a reduced crowd of 4,000 due to war-time travel restrictions.

Destroyer escort USS Chatelaine launched.

Destroyer escort USS Wyfells commissioned.

Submarines USS Moray and Roncador laid down.

Light cruiser USS Topeka laid down.

Frigate USS Uniontown laid down.

(Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: At 1830, the Scebeli in station #41 of Convoy ON-178 was hit in the bow on the port side by one torpedo from U-191 and quickly developed a heavy list to port. The crew abandoned ship in three lifeboats and stayed near the ship to search for survivors in the water. One man had been killed in the explosion and another drowned. HMS Hurricane and Kale unsuccessfully chased the attacker and after two hours returned to the slowly sinking ship. The frigate picked up the survivors and landed them at Argentia, Newfoundland on 26 April.

SS Wanstead sunk by U-413 at 55.46N, 45.14W. She was hit earlier in the night by U-415.

At 0807, U-415 attacked Convoy ONS-3 NE of St John's and claimed two ships with 12,000 tons sunk. The Ashantian was hit and sank, while the Wanstead was only damaged, but was later sunk by U-413. Ashantian was the ship of the convoy commodore Vice-Admiral J. Elliot CBE RN. The master, the commodore, 13 crewmembers and one gunner were lost. 40 crewmembers, nine gunners, six naval staff members and three passengers were picked up by armed trawler HMS Northern Gift and landed at St John's.

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April 21st, 1944 (FRIDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Corvette HMCS Mayflower completed work ups and departed for Greenock to join Western Approaches Command for invasion duties. As was the case before Operation TORCH, the concentration of naval power before Operation NEPTUNE required adjustments in convoy scheduling and escort arrangements. The average size of the ONS convoys for 1944 was 38 ships. In the period between Apr and Sep 44, the average ONS convoy size was 92 ships, with seven that numbered over 100 ships. This included the 'monster' convoy ON-249 of 153 merchant ships. Only one ship was lost to enemy action during this period.

HMCS Hespeler departed Londonderry, to join the escort for the 111-ship Liverpool to New York City Convoy ONS-233. The convoy arrived safely in New York on 09 May 44.

Destroyer HMS Hogue launched.

Frigate HMS Awe commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)

FRANCE: Paris: The Sacrè Couer at Montmartre is damaged in an air raid.

236 Ninth Air Force B-26 Marauders and 34 A-20s attack gun positions, coastal defences and V-weapons sites at Etaples, at Berck-sur-Mer, near Doullens, and in the Saint-Omer, Abbeville, and Amiens area; 4 B-26s are lost.

BELGIUM: ; 175+ Ninth Air Force P-47 Thunderbolts dive-bomb marshalling yards and concentrations at Montignies-sur-Sambre, Hasselt, Namur, and Haine-Saint-Pierre (France).

GERMANY:

U-875 commissioned.

U-2324 laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

ITALY: Naples: Marshal Pietro Badoglio forms a coalition government.

Twelfth Air Force A-20s blast an ammunition dump while P-47s attack train, rail lines, and motor transport behind enemy lines; other P-47s, along with P-40s and A-36 Apaches, attack railway lines and trains between Rome and Terni, between Rome and Tivoli, and between Orte and Attigliano; hit a motor transport concentration northeast of Rome; and attack several bivouac areas and gun positions in the battle areas.

ROMANIA: 100+ Fifteenth Air Force B-24s bomb marshalling yards at Bucharest; all 17 bomb groups dispatched are recalled due to bad weather but 7 groups fail to receive the recall signal; 150+ P-38s and P-51s are dispatched as escort; 40+ rendezvous with the B-24s and battle some 30 enemy fighters that attack the bomber force; the other fighters, failing to meet the bombers, engage about 40 enemy fighters; the bombers and fighters claim 35 aerial  combat victories; 10 US aircraft are shot down.    

U.S.S.R.: Black Sea Fleet: (Sergey Anisimov)(69)Submarine loss."L-6" - by surface ships, North to Constanta. 

German Colonel-General (Generaloberst) Ferdinand Schorner begs Hitler to evacuate the 17th German-Romanian Army from Sevastopol. Once again, Hitler ignores a top military commander. He orders "Fortress Sevastopol" to hold out for eight weeks to discourage Turkey from joining the Allies. Hitler doesn't know that the Turks have already decided to remain neutral. (Mikko Härmeinen)

BURMA: Lt. Carter Harman of the 1st Air Commando made the first helicopter combat rescue in military history flying a Sikorsky YR-4, when he made 4 separate flights some ten miles into Japanese held territory to take out a light plane pilot who had made an emergency landing along with three wounded British soldiers. The underpowered aircraft would only take one passenger at a time. (Chuck Baisden)

The Tenth Air Force dispatches 12 B-25s and 14 P-51 Mustangs to attack Indaw and Mawlu, causing several fires in supply dumps and in the general target areas; 12 B-25s bomb the camp and supply area at Kamaing. 8 B-24s bomb storage and fuel dumps at Lashio and bomb Namtu; 13 B-24s bomb Maymyo while 5 B-25s knock out 3 bridges in the Tangon area; and 4 P-51s knock out a bridge at Shweli.
   Twelve Fourteenth Air Force P-40s fly armed reconnaissance over roads, strafing bridges, buildings, steamrollers, trucks, and troops in areas around Takaw, Bhamo, Loiwing, Kutkai, Hsenwi, and Lashio; at least 3 steamrollers and 7 trucks are destroyed.
(Jack McKillop)

Air Commando Combat Mission No. 47 2:55 Flight Time. Bombed Japanese troops at Mawlu for the 4th day in a row. (Chuck Baisden)

NEW GUINEA: The US TF 58 attacks Japanese airbases at Sawar, Sarmi, Wakde Island and Hollandia to pave the way for tomorrow's landings.

Amplifying the above, Task Forces 58 and 78 begin a preinvasion aerial bombardment. Fighters from Task Group 58.1 attack Wakde Island and Sarmi at dawn and then surface vessels and aircraft of the two Task Forces attack Aitape, Hollandia, airfields in the Hollandia area and Wakde Islands. Many Japanese aircraft are strafed on the ground but the fuel has been removed from them and few burn.

     The aviation composition of these two Task Forces is:

          TF 58

TG 58.1

    USS Bataan (CVL-29) with Light Carrier Air Group Fifty (CVLG-50)

    USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) with CVLG-24

    USS Cowpens (CVL-25) with CVLG-22

    USS Hornet (CV-12) with Carrier Air Group Two (CVG-2) TG 58.2

    USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) with CVG-8

    USS Cabot (CVL-28) with CVLG-29

    USS Monterey (CVL-26) with CVLG-30

    USS Yorktown (CV-10) with CVG-5

TG 58.3

    USS Enterprise (CV-6) with CVG-10

    USS Langley (CVL-27) with CVLG-32

    USS Lexington (CV-16) with CVG-16

    USS Princeton (CVL-23) with CVLG-23

          TF 78

TG 78.1

    USS Chenango (CVE-28) with Escort Carrier Air Group Thirty Five (CVEG-35)

    USS Sangamon (CVE-26) with CVEG-37

    USS Santee (CVE-29) with CVEG-26

    USS Suwannee (CVE-27) with Composite Squadron Three (VC-3) TG 78.2

    USS Coral Sea (CVE-57) with VC-33

    USS Corregidor (CVE-58) with VC-41

    USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) with VC-7

    USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62) with VC-63 (Jack McKillop)

21 Fifth Air Force B-24s bomb airstrips on Noemfoor Island, Schouten Islands while about 320 B-24s, B-25s, and A-20s hit numerous targets in the Tadji, Wewak, and Madang areas.

BISMARCK ARCHIPELAGO: In spite of heavy weather in the Bismarck Archipelago, 24 Thirteenth Air Force B-25s bomb the Matupi supply area on New Britain Island.

MARSHALL ISLANDS: Seventh Air Force B-25s based on Abemama Island use Majuro Atoll as a shuttle base to bomb Jaluit and Maloelap Atolls.

CAROLINE ISLANDS: Seventh Air Force B-24s from Kwajalein Atoll hit Wotje Atoll while B-24s from Eniwetok Atoll, staging through Kwajalein, bomb Truk Atoll. B-25s from Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, bomb Ponape Island.

SOLOMON ISLANDS: 11 Thirteenth Air Force P-39Airacobras, closed out of Rabaul, New Britain Island in the Bismarck Archipelago, bomb Tinputs Harbor on Bougainville Island.

CANADA: Frigate HMCS Poundmaker launched Montreal, Province of Quebec. (Dave Shirlaw)

U.S.A.: Destroyer USS Frank E Evans laid down.

Destroyer minelayer USS Henry A Wiley launched.

Destroyer escort USS Conklin commissioned.

Submarine USS Croaker commissioned.

Minesweeper USS Mainstay commissioned.

Escort carrier USS Thetis Bay commissioned.

(Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: 2 men died when they were stranded topside during an emergency dive by U-860 to avoid an incoming aircraft. [Matrosengefreiter Alfons Robalewsky, Bootsmaat Rudolf Versic]. (Dave Shirlaw)

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21 April 1945

Yesterday      Tomorrow

April 21st, 1945

UNITED KINGDOM: London: Churchill's fears about Stalin's post-war ambitions grew today with news of the signing of a mutual assistance pact between the USSR and its client Polish government based in Lublin. Meeting in Washington, the Big Three's foreign ministers, Eden, Stettinius and Molotov, have set out their positions, with Britain and America insisting on the widening of the government into one of National Unity.

Molotov refuses to budge, and Eden has written to Churchill: "No sign of progress. My impression is that the Soviet government is still cavalier in its attitude and will not accept the seriousness of the situation, unless it is brought up sharply against realities."

Frigate HMCS Royalmount and corvette HMCS Orangeville departed UK with escort for Convoy ONS-48.

Frigate HMCS St Pierre arrived Londonderry with convoy SC-172. (Dave Shirlaw)

GERMANY: Zhukov's leading units reach the Berlin suburbs.

In the East: the Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front captures Bautzen and Cottbus 70 miles (113 km) southeast of Berlin while Soviet forces fighting south of Berlin, at Zossen, assault the headquarters of the German High Command. 

The only remaining opposing "force" to the Russian invasion of Berlin are the "battle groups" of Hitler Youth, teenagers with anti-tank guns, strategically placed in parks and suburban streets. In a battle at Eggersdorf, 70 of these Hitler teens strove to fight off a Russian assault with a mere three anti-tank guns. They were bulldozed by Russian tanks and infantry. 

The town of Treuenbrietzen is occupied by the Russians.

In East Prussia, remnants of AOK Ostpreussen (von Saucken) are still resisting in the port of Pillau, the Frische Nehrung and the Vistula delta between Danzig and Marienburg.
   Hitler announces he will remain in Berlin. Goering, Himmler and other top Nazis flee so they can surrender to the Americans or British.  

Göring takes his last trip by his personal train ASIEN. From Karinhall he travels to Berchtesgaden to his lodge on the Obersalzberg.

In the West, Stuttgart is overrun by De Lattre de Tassigny's 1st French Army while there is continued German resistance around Elbingerode in the Harz Mountains.
   British Guardsman Edward Charlton is later posthumously awarded the last Victoria Cross of the war for saving the lives of several men trapped in their tank during a battle in the village of Wistedt. He is so badly wounded during his act of heroism that he dies shortly after being taken prisoner. A total of 182 Victoria Crosses--Britain's highest honour for valour--were finally awarded for World War II.
   The Eighth Air Force flies Mission 963: 532 bombers and 444 fighters are dispatched to attack jet fighter airfields and rail targets in south-eastern Germany; 2 bombers and 2 fighters are lost:
   - 111 B-17s hit the marshalling yard at Munich, a target of last resort, with H2X radar. Escorting are 90 P-51s.
   - 186 B-24s are sent to hit the Salzburg marshalling yard and rail bridge but abort the mission due to 10/10 cloud cover; 1 B-24 is lost. The escort is 99 P-51s.
   - 6 B-17s hit the secondary target, the Amlech Airfield at Landsberg; 212 hit a target of last resort, the town of Ingolstadt; 1 B-17 is lost. 144 P-51s escort; 2 are lost.

The lost B-24 was the last American bomber shot down over Germany during World War II. The 'Black Cat' was hit at 22,000 feet and broke into pieces.

One of the crewmembers was Howard Goodner.

Twenty-one year old Goodner had no parachute. He came down in freefall alongside bombs and oxygen tanks, spinning toward the Bavarian village of Scharmassing.

He landed in a field outside the town, his body striking the earth so hard that it left a crater nearly six inches deep.

Maria Wittig, then 19, saw him there. He was athletic looking, fair-skinned, handsome. Long fingers.

"I can see him before me," she told an interviewer, a half century later, so clear was her memory. Shown a picture of the entire crew, she picked out Goodner immediately. "That's him," she said, her voice breaking. (Drew Philip Halevy)


   The Ninth Air Force dispatches 121 B-26 Marauders to hit the Attnang-Puchheim marshalling yard; fighters fly escort, patrols, armed reconnaissance and cooperate with the US VIII Corps as elements of the 6th Cavalry Group cross the Czechoslovakian border to reach Hranice and Trojmezi, the XII Corps in the Grafenwohr-Weiden area, and the XX Corps east of Nurnberg.
   Fifteenth Air Force bombers bomb the marshalling yard at Rosenheim while 138 P-38s bomb railroad lines and facilities in the Munich and Rosenheim, Germany-Rattenberg, Austria areas

Wustrow: Himmler meets Norbert Masur of the World Jewish Congress and refuses to free the Jews under his control.

Ruhr: Three days ago the commander of German forces in the Ruhr, Field Marshal Walter Model, drove to the forest beyond Dusseldorf, left his car, drew his service pistol and shot himself. A few months ago, when he took over the western command, he issued a ringing call to battle: "None of us gives up a square foot of German soil while still alive ... Long live our Germany and our beloved Führer!"

Now the Battle of the Ruhr has ended, with 325,000 prisoners in Allied hands; these include 30 generals and an admiral. Eisenhower, in an order of the day, says that "21 enemy divisions, including three Panzer, one Panzergrenadier and three Parachute divisions" have been smashed.

During an air raid on Kiel, U-2539 commander Oblt Erich Jewinski was killed.

U-2552 commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)

AUSTRIA: Weather curtails daytime operations but Twelfth Air Force B-25s score hits on the Matrei am Brenner bridge on the Brenner rail line.
   About 200 Fifteenth Air Force bombers, with P-51 escort, bomb marshalling yards at Attnang-Puchheim, Spittal an der Drau, and Vocklabruck.

NORWAY: U-2511 put in to Bergen with diesel engine trouble. (Dave Shirlaw)

U.S.S.R.: A Mutual Assistance Pact between the USSR and the Lublin Polish Government is signed.

ITALY: Bologna is captured by the Polish II Corps.

It was 5.50am when the last of the German garrison motored out of this university city. Bologna slept. Fifteen minutes later, advance units of the Polish II Corps drove in from the east and hoisted their national flag on the town hall, just a few minutes before American tanks rumbled in from the north, soon to be joined by Italian troops of the Eighth Army, their British steel helmets adorned with flowers and feathers.

Only then did Bologna awake to go noisily, crazily, mad with joy and relief. A stiff street-by-street battle had been expected. The German commander had received the now almost rubber-stamped order to fight to the last man. Instead, it seems that he made a deal with the city's archbishop and the Fascist mayor. If partisans did not molest his retreating troops, he would not demolish Bologna's public services.

As the Poles advanced along the Via Emilia, a coded signal had to be sent to the partisans to rise up. Anticipating this, the Germans arrested and shot two of their leaders. Today, as Bologna went wild, the partisans shot two leading Fascists in revenge.

San Terenzo: US 2nd Lt. Daniel K. Inouye (442nd Infantry)  while leading his platoon in an attack on German positions on Mount Musatello, performs acts of heroism which later result in him being awarded the MOH. Inouye is wounded in the right arm by a grenade and the right leg by another bullet.

During the night of 20/21 April, Twelfth Air Force A-20s and A-26 Invaders bomb Po River crossings with good results and in the late afternoon hit Po River crossings; XXII Tactical Air Command fighters and fighter bombers, grounded most of the day, fly close support to the US Fifth Army which drives into Bologna (a longstanding objective) and begins to push rapidly across the plain toward the Po River.

ARCTIC OCEAN: In the Arctic Sea, an Allied U-boat hunter group attacked U-997 with depth charges. Due to some damage to the periscope, the boat had to return to base. (Dave Shirlaw)

BURMA: Bad weather over central Burma causes cancelling or aborting of all Tenth Air Force combat missions however, transports complete 464 sorties, landing or dropping 682 tons of supplies to forward areas.

CHINA: 5 Fourteenth Air Force B-25s bomb Loyang; a single B-24 hits targets of opportunity in Bakli Bay on Hainan Island; 30 P-51s and P-47s attack railroad and road targets, barracks area, buildings, and bridges at or near Paoching, Chihsien, Taiku, Hsihhsiassuchi, Shaho, Linfen, Luan, Yutze, and Shanhsien. C-47 Skytrains commence Operation ROOSTER, the movement by air of a Chinese infantry division to the Chichiang area.

NETHERLANDS EAST INDIES: On Borneo, Thirteenth Air Force B-24s bomb Miri, Kudat, Manggar, and Sepinggang Airfields and P-38s hit Tarakan Island and Sandakan, Miri Airfield, oil storage near Lutong, and, with B-24s, attack targets of opportunity along the southwest Celebes coast. USN PV Venturas also attack various targets on Borneo.

U-183 sailed from Surabaya on her final patrol. (Dave Shirlaw)

COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES: The US 37th Division makes some gains in heavy fighting near Baguio, Luzon.

The Fifth and Thirteenth Air Force continue large scale support of ground forces on Luzon, Cebu, Negros, and Jolo Islands. USMC F4U Corsairs and SBD Dauntlesses attack highways and roads supporting the US X Corps on Mindanao. USMC SBDs also attack Japanese positions on Mount Daho on Jolo Island.

RYUKYU ISLANDS: Organized Japanese resistance on Ie Shima ends. Nearly 5,000 Japanese have been killed, 149 captured. The Americans have suffered 1,000 casualties.                     

JAPAN: The XXI Bomber Command flies Missions 82 to 90 bombing airfields in Japan; 217 B-29 Superfortresses blast airfields at Oita, 2 at Kanoya, Usa, Kokubu, Kushira, Tachiarai, Izumi, and Nittagahara; 21 other B-29s hit targets of opportunity including the city of Kagoshima.

Off Okinawa, the destroyer USS Ammen (DD-527) is damaged by a bomb that misses. (Jack McKillop)

NORTH PACIFIC: 18 Seventh Air Force Guam Island-based B-24s bomb Marcus Island.

U.S.A.: Minesweeper USS Wheatear launched. (Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: U-636 sunk in the North Atlantic west of Ireland, in position 55.50N, 10.31W, by depth charges from frigates HMS Bazely, Drury and Bentinck. 42 dead (all hands lost). (Dave Shirlaw)

1997:   The death of Ben Prime, USAAF; graduated Aviation Cadet School May 22, 1944. He flew the Hump and was a member of this list.  October 29, 1923 - April 21, 1997.


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