World History 1942

About the history of the world in 1942, Irving Berlin writes White Christmas, Roosevelt orders internment for Japanese-Americans, Battle of Midway.



* Russian-American composer Irving Berlin (original name Israel Baline), 54, wrote his biggest hit, "White Christmas," as part of the score for the movie Holiday Inn.

* Japanese forces poured into the Dutch East Indies and Burma and captured Singapore, Java, and Rangoon.

Jan. 6 In the face of advancing Japanese troops, U.S. and Filipino forces under Gen. Douglas MacArthur abandoned Manila and retreated west to the Bataan Peninsula. Crippled by malaria, weakened from their decision to share their rations with the civilian population, and demoralized after MacArthur's departure for Australia in March, the surviving defenders surrendered on Apr. 9, when they became convinced that no outside help would be forthcoming. What followed came to be called the Bataan Death March. The Japanese conquerors led the 10,000 American and 45,000 Filipino POWs on a brutal six-day, 120-mi. trek to prison in Pampanga Province. Each day en route ended with the slaughter of all prisoners too sick to continue. About half the captives died in this way and another 25% perished in the prison camp before war's end.

Jan. 20 A Nazi conference in a Berlin suburb hammered out the details of the "final solution" to the Jewish problem. All European Jews were to be rounded up, packed into ghettos, and finally herded into the gas ovens of specially designed extermination camps. Six million Jews died in the attempted genocide.

Feb. 19 President Roosevelt authorized the internment of all Japanese-Americans for the duration of the war. Although Americans of German and Italian ancestry largely went unmolested, 112,000 Japanese, mostly U.S. citizen, were taken into custody on the West Coast and parceled out to 10 camps inland. Ironically, the many Japanese in Hawaii were not touched, and the more than 17,000 Japanese-Americans in the U.S. armed forces continued to fight for the country that had jailed their relatives.

Apr. 18 In retaliation for the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, 16 U.S. B-25s under strike commander Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle took off from the carrier Hornet well outside the Japanese patrol perimeter and four hours later, around noon, dropped their 2,000-lb. payloads over Tokyo. With insufficient fuel for a return flight, the squad flew on to friendly Chinese territory, where some crash-landed and others bailed out. While inflicting less damage than that suffered at Pearl Harbor, the strike so shocked Japan that Tokyo planners recalled several fighter groups from other theaters in order to defend the capital.

May Reinhard Heydrich, 38, Nazi "protector" of Bohemia and Moravia, long known as the "hangman of Europe" for his brutal treatment of civilians there and elsewhere on the Continent, was assassinated by the Czech underground. In retaliation, German forces burned the Bohemian village of Lidice to the ground, slew its male population, and deported the women and children.

June The FBI arrested eight Nazi saboteurs who had crept onto the coasts of Long Island and Florida from German submarines with orders to blow up defense plants and railroads.

June 3--6 The Battle of Midway: U.S. carrier-based and land-based aircraft turned back a determined Japanese assault in the Central Pacific. Losing just two ships and 150 planes, the U.S. sent Admiral Yamamoto limping back to port with 17 fewer vessels and250 fewer aircraft.

Aug. 24 The German drive into Russia reached the outskirts of Stalingrad, and there Nazi commanders heaped on the industrial city a barrage of air and artillery strikes. An estimated 6,000 Russians fell each day beneath the rubble, but by January, 1943, Soviet reinforcements had ended the siege. The Nazi defeat here on the Volga turned the tide on the eastern front.

Aug.--Nov. The tide of the war also turned in northern Africa as a shake-up of the British command there left Gen. Bernard Montgomery to face Gen. Erwin Rommel's famed Afrika Korps and U.S. forces landed on the continent. On Oct. 23, Montgomery struck near the Egyptian town of El Alamein on the Mediterranean, penetrated German lines, and sent Rommel in full retreat from Egypt across Libya into Tunisia. Some 40,000 American forces landed on Nov. 7--8 under the command of Lt. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and helped secure all of French North Africa, except Axis-held Tunisia.

Dec. 2 Physicist Enrico Fermi, 41, director of a nuclear research team at the University of Chicago, successfully produced an atomic chain reaction.

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