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This Week in World War II: 75 Years Ago

Field Marshall von Manstein, third from right, plans action with General Hermann Hoth, seated second from right. For more information about World War II generals in Spanish, click here.

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

The British deliver more fighter planes to Malta on March 6, 1942, to aid in the defense of the island, located roughly midway between North Africa and Sicily. Elements of the Japanese 2nd Infantry Division on Java enter the town of Bogor; Dutch defenders withdraw to Bandung, some 60 miles to the southeast. Romania breaks off diplomatic relations with Brazil.

The German 17th Army, pushing hard under Gen. Hermann Hoth, begins retaking Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 7. In Southeast Asia, Netherlands Indies Radio goes off the air; its final message: “Goodbye ’til better times. Long live the Queen!” Elsewhere in Asia, British forces evacuate Rangoon, Burma. In Alabama, five African-Americans graduate from the pilot-training program at Tuskegee Army Air Field. They are the first African-American aviators ever permitted to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Through the course of the war, 987 additional black pilots will join their ranks, becoming known collectively as “The Tuskegee Airmen.”

On March 8, the Japanese land at Lae and Salamaua on New Guinea, beginning a move on Port Moresby on the island. They hope to use Port Moresby as a stepping-off place for an invasion of Australia. Japanese forces enter Rangoon, Burma, abandoned by the British a day earlier. In Washington and in London, the U.S. and British governments loan $500 million and $50 million, respectively, to the Nationalist Chinese government.

Solidifying their occupation of Rangoon, Burma, on March 9, the Japanese are now in control of Java, Burma, New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies. Japanese troops invade Buka and Bougainville Islands, north of the Solomons. Vannevar Bush, director of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development, delivers a report to President Roosevelt expressing optimism that an atomic bomb could be successfully produced. In Europe, authorities in Slovakia require all Jews in the country to wear a yellow badge.

Over 100,000 British, Dutch, Australian and American troops defending Java surrender to the Japanese on March 10 outside of Bandung. The Japanese capture the port of Finschhafen, New Guinea, 50 miles east of Lae. In Washington, the Lend-Lease program is extended to Iran.

Japanese troops land on Mindanao, the southernmost island of the Philippines on March 11. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, as he had been ordered in February, departs the Philippines. MacArthur and his party — including his wife and four-year-old son — are taken by four PT boats from Corregidor to Mindanao, a 36-hour voyage through Japanese-controlled waters. From Mindanao, two B-17 bombers transport the group to Australia. In the Aegean Sea south of Crete, the British light cruiser HMS Naiad is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-565.

On March 12, American troops begin landing at Noumea, New Caledonia, which will become an important staging point for an invasion of Guadalcanal. In Ukraine, the Germans reach the suburbs of Kharkiv and heavy fighting once again resumes in and around the city. Off Cape San Antonio, Cuba, the American cargo ship SS Texan is torpedoed, shelled and sunk. Nine crewmen die in the attack; 38 survive. Mobs riot in Rio de Janeiro after the sinking of four Brazilian merchant ships by German submarines. German, Italian and Japanese businesses, especially, are targeted. Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas seizes 30% of Germany’s assets in the country as compensation for the sunken vessels.

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