United States and American History: Early 1942 & WII

About the history of the United States in 1942, America at war with Japan, Roosevelt orders Japanese-Americans into concentration camps, the Bataan Death March, and the Battle of Coral Sea, gas rationing.


Feb. 10 The world's fastest ocean liner, France's Normandie, was gutted by fire and capsized at her New York pier. The cause was never discovered.

Feb. 19 President Roosevelt signed into law Executive Order No. 9066 which allowed the military to move 112,000 Japanese-Americans from their homes on the West Coast to concentration camps inland. Apparently, the U.S. Government hoped to use them as bargaining items to regain American POWs after the war, because the Government arranged to have 2,000 Japanese living in Peru rounded up and incarcerated in the camps as well.

Mar. 17 Obeying a direct order from President Roosevelt, Gen. Douglas MacArthur left the hopeless fight on Bataan, traveling by submarine from the Philippines to Australia. He assumed command of the Southwest Pacific forces.

Apr. 10 The Bataan Death March began. Japanese soldiers forced 10,000 U.S. prisoners-of-war and about 45,000 Filipino Scouts to undergo a forced march of 120 mi. to San Fernando, in Pampanga Province. All sick and wounded prisoners who were unable to walk any further at the end of each day were shot, stabbed, or buried alive. Held to one meal of rice per day and denied any fresh water, over 5,200 Americans and uncounted thousands of the Filipinos died in the 6-day-long atrocity. In their 1st 2 months of stockade life, another 2,200 U.S. and 27,000 Filipinos succumbed to maltreatment, malnutrition, and cold-blooded murder.

Apr. 18 In the 1st U.S. offensive strike against the Japanese, Col. James Doolittle's carrier-based flyers bombed Tokyo on a one-way trip. They continued past Japan, bailing out over or crashing in mainland China.

May 3-8 Milestone Battle: Coral Sea. In a showdown fought exclusively by carrier-based aircraft--the surface ships never fired upon, or saw, each other, with 180 mi. between them--the U.S. fleet under Adm. Frank Fletcher disrupted Japanese High Command plans to expand the war into a land invasion of Australia.

In the initial phase, Fletcher struck at an auxiliary force of invasion transports escorted by the light carrier Shoho. He sank the Shoho, depriving the troop ships of their vital air cover, and Japanese Vice Admiral Inouye, dismayed with the carrier's loss, ordered them to turn around. But Fletcher's commitment gave away his position to the Japanese main fleet, headed by the carriers Zuikaku and Shokaku with heavy cruisers in support. Helpless because of having no time to rearm his planes for adequate defense or a fresh attack, Fletcher was fortunately aided by bad weather that hid his carriers Yorktown and Lexington from the 29 bombers sent to find them. The heavy rain did not prevent Fletcher--who had spotted the approaching bombers by radar--from sending fighters up to shoot down nearly all of the enemy planes.

On May 8, the decisive air battle was fought. Fletcher lost 33 planes, the Japanese 43. His slight margin of victory was more than over-shadowed by disaster on the surface: The Lexington was badly damaged by torpedo and bomb hits. Within an hour after the fight ended, the carrier had to be scuttled.

May 4 The last of 67 escort vessels, built under a "crash" 2-month program, was delivered, and the 2nd "60 vessels in 60 days" effort began. The armed ships were urgently needed to protect Atlantic shipping from the U-boat menace.

May 15 Gasoline rationing was put into effect. Allocation: 3 gallons per week, to cover ordinary driving demands.

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