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 email@example.com.
On April 10, the Japanese land on Cebu Island in the Philippines. The Imperial Japanese Navy’s “Operation C” ends. In 11 days, the Japanese strike force has sunk an aircraft carrier, two heavy cruisers, two destroyers. one corvette, one sloop and 23 merchant vessels. More than 40 Allied planes have been destroyed. Japanese losses: around 20 aircraft. At Manila, the Philippines, the U.S. minesweeper USS Finch is bombed and damaged by Japanese aircraft. It sinks the next day.
The Japanese attack the 48th Indian Infantry Brigade at Kokkogwa, Burma, on April 11 in an attempt to take over the Yenangyaung oil fields in the Irrawaddy River Valley of Burma. At Malta, the Luftwaffe bombs and sinks the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Kingston. In India, Stafford Cripps officially withdraws his proposal — already rejected — for Indian independence in return for loyalty to Britain during the war.
Japanese forces capture Migyaungye, Burma, on April 12. In India, political leader Jawaharlal Nehru pledges “no surrender to the Axis,” despite agreeing with his mentor and colleague, Mohandas Gandhi, in rejecting earlier in the month Great Britain’s independence plan for India as laid out by Stafford Cripps.
Iran on April 13 breaks off diplomatic relations with Japan. In Vilnius, Lithuania, Sgt. Anton Schmid, an Austrian electrician conscripted into the German Wehrmacht, is executed by his superiors for helping 250 Jewish men, women and children avoid extermination by the SS. Sgt. Schmid hid them and supplied them with false identification papers. Schmid had felt horror at witnessing the beating and shooting of Jews in nearby Ponary. After his arrest, Schmid explained his motivation in a letter to his wife: “I have only acted as a human and I did not want to hurt anyone.” (In the Ponary Massacre, which lasted from July 1941 to August 1944, German SS and security forces and Lithuanian Nazi collaborators murdered some 72,000 Jews, 20,000 Poles and 8,000 Soviet prisoners of war.) In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission reduces the required minimum of programming time for television stations from 15 hours per week to 4 hours per week for the duration of the war. In golf, Byron Nelson wins the Masters Tournament, beating Ben Hogan in a playoff. It will be the last Masters held until 1946.
On April 14, the destroyer USS Roper becomes the first American ship to sink a German U-boat. Roper spots the submarine U-85 on the surface off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and sinks it with artillery fire. Premier Philippe Pétain, under pressure from Germany, reinstates Pierre Laval as Vice Premier of Vichy France. Laval had been dismissed from the government by Pétain in 1941 for making pro-German decisions on his own without consulting any other officials.
Britain’s King George VI on April 15 awards the island of Malta the George Cross “to bear witness to the heroism and devotion of its people.” In the United Kingdom’s honors system, the George Cross is the highest gallantry award for civilians. The George Cross is subsequently incorporated into the design of the flag of Malta, which henceforth will style itself, “Malta, G.C.” In Burma, soldiers of the Indian Army’s 1st Burma Division begin destroying the infrastructure of the Yenangyaung oil fields to prevent their capture and use by the advancing Japanese. The Japanese 55th Infantry Division captures Thawatt, on the road to Mandalay, Burma. The U.S. government warns all Americans in unoccupied (Vichy) France to leave as soon as possible.
The Japanese 41st Infantry Regiment on April 16 invades the island of Panay in the west central Philippines. In Burma, 7,000 soldiers of the British Indian Army’s 1st Burma Division, along with around 500 prisoners and civilians, are surrounded by a like number of the Japanese 33rd Infantry Division at Yenangyaung.