April 2014

Apr

20

1944

580 men die as SS Paul Hamilton explodes

The ammunition-laden Liberty ship SS Paul Hamilton is completely destroyed after being struck by a German aerial torpedo launched from a Junkers Ju 88A, 20 April 1944. None of the 8 officers, 39 crew, 29 armed guards, and 504 troops aboard survived. About 21:00 hrs on 20 April the convoy UGS-38 had been heavily attacked with torpedoes from 23 German aircraft of III./KG 26, I. and III./KG 77, just north of Algiers in the Mediterranean Sea. During the engagement five ships were torpedoed, three of them being sunk. Sunk were the destroyer USS Lansdale (DD-426) and the SS Paul Hamilton. The SS Royal Star was torpedoed aft and was abandoned by her crew. The SS Samite and the SS Stephen F. Austin were both torpedoed in the bow, but managed to reach Algiers.

When I arrived at the side of the ship, I found that they had rigged up a cargo net over the side for us to climb up on. The waves were running maybe three to five feet at the time, so I waited until I was lifted by a wave and grabbed the cargo net. However, I was so weakened by the cold that I could not hold on and fell back into the sea. The next time I tried, when the wave lifted me and I reached for the net, two sailors grabbed me by the seat of my pants and heaved me up on deck.

Apr

19

1944

Operation Cockpit – the Japanese surprised at Sabang

A surprise raid on Sabang in northern Sumatra. A general view from one of the attacking planes showing a blazing oil tank with oil spreading out over the harbour area, burning docks, warehouses and ships. In the foreground is a Japanese destroyer which was set on fire by fighters. 19 April 1944

At the rate of ten tons a minute, 350 tons of steel and high explosive struck Sabang in the 35 minutes the bombardment lasted. Battleships; cruisers and destroyers poured shells varying from 4-in. to 15-in. into the base at close range. When the flagship turned away after completing her firing she was only two miles from the green, jungle-covered hills which rise steeply from the sea around Sabang.

Apr

18

1944

The relief of Kohima begins

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - July 1944: The mined tennis court and terraces of the District Commissioner's bungalow in Kohima.

At 09.30 hours Corporal Judges and his section consisting of Privates Johnson,Thrussel and myself, as well as Corporal Veal’s section, went onto the road to help evacuate the wounded Indians, BORs, walking and stretcher cases. It was my job to look at the stretcher cases. If they were dead I had to send the Indian stretcher bearers round the back of the feature where they put the bodies in a heap to be buried later.

Apr

17

1944

The bombing of Semlin Judenlager

The post raid evaluation of bomb strikes with the target area marked in white and the area of Semlin subsequently make in red.

Besides the dead, there were several hundred wounded, so the surviving pavilions were turned into hospitals. There were no beds, and certainly no bandages or surgical equipment, although we did have several doctors and surgeons among the interns

Apr

16

1944

‘Black Sunday’ as tropical storm hits US 5th Air Force

B-25 Mitchells from the 42d Bombardment fly over Bougainville from their base at Stirling Airfield, Stirling Island, Solomon Islands, 1944

The whole area was full of planes-B-24s, B-25s, A-20s and P-38s. We got down to 50 feet above the coast and followed it towards Saidor. I directed Polecat (Pilot Ed P. Poltrack) to the right and left along the coast. He and Jack were both flying, dodging planes. Once our airspeed went down to 120 – looked like we would have to ditch any minute. Now and then we would lose sight of the coast and weave back and forth along our course to pick it up again.

Apr

15

1944

HMS Storm torpedoes a Japanese destroyer

The First Lieutenant, Lieutenant R Bulkeley at the periscope of HMS TRIBUNE.

Two muffled depth-charges were heard shortly after the first two explosions, but the hit on the destroyer seemed to have demoralised the screen, as no further attempt at a counter-attack was made. I was able to watch the whole affair quite happily from a range of two miles or so, and Petty Officer E. R. Evans, the T.G.M., was able to have a look at his victim burning furiously.

Apr

14

1944

Surprise as the Norfolks arrive at Kohima

An infantry section on patrol in Burma, 1944.

I thought to myself, “Crumbs! Now what have I done wrong!” I went over to him and he said, “Where the bloody hell have you been?” I said, “Well we ran into a little bit of trouble…” He said, “I know, I’ve had it all, chapter and verse, on the telephone!”

Apr

13

1944

A day in the life of a 8th Air Force radio operator

B-17s en route to another target in Germany.

British and American pursuit ships are always buzzing our field, sometimes within 15 feet of the runways, I guess it’s to help us along in our aircraft recognition. Today my pilot took some us and returned the compliment. He did a good job too. I wish you could have seen us. The Limey’s seldom see such a big ship out buzzing them and they were all eyes, we could see them from where we were.

Apr

12

1944

Avoiding Japanese ‘doctors’ in Shinagawa Camp, Tokyo

Shinagawa POW camp. An aerial shot taken towards the end of the war.

If they got worse, they were operated on at night while he was out of camp. This was done in the face of his direct orders forbidding any surgery being done other than by Dr. Tokuda. Black with anger the next morning, he cussed and howled when he found out that a victim – had escaped his tender ministration. We told him blandly that it was an emergency and we were unable to reach him.

Apr

11

1944

Easter – a ‘macabre idyll’ in a ‘grotesque’ Berlin

Charred corpses are removed from the cellars of bombed out buildings in Berlin. 8th April 1944

Children play on the lake, although they are forbidden to do so, and have made themselves rafts out of charred planks. A child was almost drowned the other day and was only saved at the last minute by an attaché from the Swiss legation. Flowers grow in the rubble, rank and yellow, but the air is clean and the weeds are green and fish have already settled down in the lake. It is a kind of macabre idyll.