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This Week in World War II: 75 Years Ago

Eisenhower’s Replacement: High Command, Left to right: Gen. George C. Marshall, Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Echols. (Witness mock Glider attack on Wright Field) – Date not given. Click here for more information. Click on photo to enlarge.

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

Benito Mussolini on February 5, 1943, sacks his son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano, as Italy’s foreign minister, taking over the position himself. Il Duce also holds the posts of Interior Minister, War Minister and Air Minister. U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Gen. Frank Andrews takes over as commander of all U.S. forces in Europe, replacing Army Lt. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower.

Lt. Gen. Eisenhower on February 6 is appointed commander-in-chief of all Allied forces in North Africa. In the Netherlands, 600 college students are arrested at various schools by the Gestapo after a fatally wounded German officer says he was shot by students. The 600 are sent to the Kamp Vucht concentration camp outside of ’s-Hertegenbosch, Netherlands. Several days later, 1,200 more students are arrested and sent to Kamp Vucht. In the U.S., shoe rationing begins, limiting civilians to three new pairs of leather shoes per year. House slippers, ballet slippers and baby shoes are exempt. Crooner Frank Sinatra makes his debut as a cast member on the popular NBC radio show, “Your Hit Parade.”

In the Solomon Islands on February 7, the last run of the “Tokyo Express” (the name given by Allied troops to Japanese flotillas sailing down “The Slot” — the channel between the various islands) leaves Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal, evacuating the final Japanese troops there. The Americans now control Guadalcanal. In Germany, Hitler meets with top-ranking German and Nazi officials and reassures them that, despite the catastrophic events in Russia, Germany can still win the war. He tells them: “Either we will be the master of Europe, or we will experience a complete liquidation and extermination.” He pledges total war against the remaining Jews in Germany and the “international Jews” who, he says, have forged an alliance against the Third Reich.

The Soviets retake Kursk, Russia, from the Germans on February 8. The Chindits — officially the British 77th Indian Brigade — cross the Chindwin River into Burma from India, catching the Japanese by surprise. Created by British Brig. Gen. Orde Wingate, the Chindits are a long-range-penetration group intended to operate deep behind Japanese lines and to be resupplied by air. The U.S. Territory of Hawaii — under martial law since December 7, 1941 — is partially restored to civilian control.

On February 9, organized Japanese resistance on Guadalcanal is declared ended by American commanders. The Japanese have lost some 24,000 men killed; the Americans, 1,600. Guadalcanal is the first strategic defeat of the Japanese in the war. In the U.S., President Roosevelt — in preparation for a second front in Europe — issues an executive order increasing the “minimum war-time work week” to 48 hours in 32 cities where there are shortages of workers. At night during a gale, in the waters east of Japan, the American sub USS Tarpon fires four torpedoes at the Imperial Japanese Navy troopship Tatsuta Maru and sinks it; 1,223 troops and 198 crewmen are lost.

The towns of Volchansk, Russia, and Chuhuiv, Ukraine, are taken from the Germans by the Red Army on February 10. The latter is only 20 miles from Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine. In the Nazi-created Independent State of Croatia, the 13th Waffen-SS begins recruiting troops from among Bosnian Muslims. The 13th Waffen is the first SS division to use non-Germanic people as soldiers. Mohandas Gandhi, imprisoned in India, begins a hunger strike to protest the British Empire. The British Cabinet, feeling that a corner has been turned in the war and that the risk of rebellion in India is lower than it had been, decides that if Gandhi fasts, he will be allowed to die. In North Africa, populist leader Ferhat Abbas issues “The Manifesto of the Algerian People,” condemning French colonial rule and demanding Algerian independence.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower on February 11 is promoted to the four-star rank of General. The Soviet Union begins a nuclear-weapons research program. Physicist Igor Kurchatov is appointed as the program’s director.

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