Friday, November 11, 2011

November 11th

Twenty four years after the guns fell silent across the fields of France, the sounds of battle reverberated again in France and in fact across the whole world. Vichy French forces in North Africa signed an armistice with the invading American and British forces. While Hitler ordered the invasion of Vichy France itself.

On November 8, 1942 allied forces went ashore in North Africa as part of Operation Torch. At first Vichy French forces resisted the invasion. At one point American forces had to storm a fortress right out of a French Foreign Legion film to clear the way to seize an airfield. On D-Day + 4 USS Joseph Hewes [AP-50] was anchored off shore and acting as a hospital ship since its 1,200 soldiers were now ashore. Then that night, a lookout yelled out 'Torpedo in the water!' and before anything could be done the weapon struck. In 17 minutes the ship had gone down, taking 100 crew with it. But every wounded soldier was evacuated safely.

General von Paulus in southern Russia was still moving on Stalingrad. The 6th Army was making another attempt to secure the city and protect the flanks of the German forces driving into the Caucus region to seize Soviet oil fields for the Third Reich. Soviet forces inside Stalingrad grimly hold on resisting the fascist invaders in vicious house to house fighting.

November 11, 1942 found the US Navy offshore of a stinking ugly island that four months prior almost no one had heard of. The place was Guadalcanal and ashore Marines were engaged in hand to hand fighting with Japanese soldiers hell bent on dieing for their Emperor. Far to the north at Rabaul the Japanese were assembling a massive naval task force, their mission is to wipe out the Marines who are tenaciously holding onto Henderson Field. This climatic battle will happen on November 13, 1942.

Even the Indian Ocean had some action on this day in 1942. Two Japanese commerce raiders pounced on the minesweeper Bengal and its charge the tanker Ondina. In the ensuing engagement Bengal managed to sink the vastly better armed Hokoku Maru and drive the Aikoku Maru off.

Meanwhile off the shores of Brazil a recently refitted warship was back at sea spoiling for some payback. The ship is the Omaha class light cruiser USS Marblehead, sole surviving cruiser of ABDA Afloat after a heroic trip back to the United States. In helping to defend Java and Free Dutch allies, she was struck by three armor-piercing bombs but stayed afloat. The ship would see action off Normandie as part of Operation Overlord and would earn two Battle Stars during the war.

USS Marblehead story.
USS Fletcher war diary.
USS Joseph Hewes survivor.
Timeline for November 11, 1942.


Keads said...

Great post! May I crosslink?

Anna said...

Thank you! And yes you may. Thanks.

John said...

Nice blog. Followed Keads suggestion and took a read. Good stuff.

Anna said...

Thank you John. I will strive to keep it up.