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This Week in World War II — 75 Years Ago

In Washington, D.C., by agreement of Arcadia Conference participants, Chiang Kai-shek is named commander-in- chief of Allied forces in China on on January 3, 1942.

By Phil Kohn. Dedicated to the memory of his father, GM3 Walter Kohn, U.S. Navy Armed Guard, USNR, and all men and women who have answered the country’s call in time of need. Phil can be contacted at

In the Philippines, Japanese forces capture Manila on January 2. American and Filipino troops continue their fighting retreat onto the Bataan Peninsula. At Bardia, Libya, on the Egyptian border, the Axis garrison surrenders. In Malaya, Japanese advances continue to push British and Commonwealth troops southward toward Singapore. East of New Guinea, Japanese planes bomb Rabaul, on New Britain Island. On the Eastern Front, the Red Army continues to make advances south of Moscow. Around 130 miles west of Moscow, the Red Army breaks through the German front lines at Rzhev

In Washington, D.C., by agreement of Arcadia Conference participants, Chiang Kai-shek on January 3 is named commander-in-chief of Allied forces in China. By the same authority, British Gen. Archibald Wavell is appointed to head the newly formed ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) Command. His task is to hold the so-called “Malay Barrier” stretching from Malaya through the Dutch East Indies to Borneo. In Russia, the Leningrad Radio Orchestra ceases operation because “too many players are ill, starving or dead.”

The 11th Indian Division on January 4 prepares to make a stand against the Japanese at Malaya’s River Slim but takes heavy casualties from air attacks by Japanese planes flying sorties out of newly established airbases in Thailand.

On the Eastern Front, Stalin — overruling Gen. Georgy Zhukov and other military leaders — on January 5 orders the Red Army to attack on all fronts, rather than concentrating on attacking German Army Group Center. In the Netherlands, the Dutch Council of Churches publicly protests the German treatment of Jews.

On January 6, President Roosevelt, in his State of the Union speech, calls for more aid for the United Kingdom, including planes and troops. In North Africa, British advances westward continue, with troops reaching El Agheila, in western Libya. On the other side of the world, the Japanese land troops at Brunei Bay on British Borneo. Pan American Airways becomes the first airline to successfully offer “around-the-world” service when it’s “Pacific Clipper” completes a scheduled globe-girdling flight in New York.

In the Philippines, Japanese troops on January 7 begin a siege of the Bataan Peninsula. In Malaya, Japanese forces attack Allied (British-Indian-Australian) defensive positions along the River Slim. In the Mediterranean, Axis planes begin heavy air attacks against the island of Malta. It is estimated that the total tonnage of bombs dropped is twice that used on London during the Blitz. The USS POLLACK sinks the cargo ship UNKAI MARU NUMBER 1 off Tokyo Bay, the first Japanese vessel to be sunk by an American submarine. In Washington, President Roosevelt presents Congress with the largest budget seen to that time: $77 billion over the next 18 months, with $56 billion earmarked for the war.

On January 8, Japanese troops penetrate the outer defenses of Kuala Lumpur, Malaya.

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