January 1st, 1944 (SATURDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: London: General Sir Alan Brooke becomes a field marshal.
London: The US Strategic Air Forces in Europe (USSAFE) Command - covering all US Army Air Forces in Britain - comes into effect; it is headed by General Carl Spaatz, who arrives today. It is established at Bushy Park, Hertfordshire, England, to provide operational control of the two USAAF strategic air forces in Europe, the Eighth Air Force in the U.K. and the Fifteenth Air Force in Italy. The Operational Research Section, organized at Headquarters VIII Bomber Command in October 1943, is made a special staff section, accountable directly to the U.S. Chiefs of Staff (CoS). It is composed mostly of civilian specialists trained in statistical analysis and other disciplines pertinent to studying operations of a strategic bombing force. The section subsequently proves of great value in improving the effectiveness of strategic bombing.
Destroyer HMCS Athabaskan arrived Loch Ewe with Convoy RA-55A.
Minesweeping trawler HMS Fuday launched.
FRANCE: During the night of 1 /2 January, RAF Bomber Command aircraft bomb two targets: two each aircraft bomb V-1 sites at Bristillerie and La Glacerie. Eleven other aircraft drop leaflets over the country.
GERMANY: Field Marshal Erwin Rommel is appointed Commander-in-Chief of Army Group B, the German forces in France north of the Loire River.
During the night of 1/2 January, RAF Bomber Command dispatches 421 Lancasters to Berlin; 386 bomb the target. Despite a Mosquito "spoof" raid on Hamburg, German fighters are directed on to the bomber stream at an early stage and are particularly active en-route to Berlin. Twenty eight Lancasters are lost, 6.7 per cent of the force. Mosquitoes are also active: 14 bomb Hamburg, eight hit Witten (four target the Witten/Ruhrstahl A.G. steel factory and four hit the city), five attack Duisburg (four bomb the Vereinigte Stahl steel factory) and one each bomb Cologne and Gladbeck.
FINLAND: According to the calculations of the General Headquarters, the losses (dead and wounded) from the beginning of the war to the end of 1943 has been 38,144.
ITALY: Lieutenant General George S. Patton turns over command of the U.S. Seventh Army to Lieutenant General Mark Clark. General Clark, who also retains command of the U.S. Fifth Army, is to plan for Operation ANVIL, the early plan for the invasion of southern France.
A complete reorganization of USAAF units in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations (MTO) takes place: US Army Air Forces, North African Theatre of Operations (USAAFNATO) is redesignated AAF Mediterranean Theatre of Operations (AAFMTO); XII Air Force Services Command becomes AAF Services Command Mediterranean Theatre of Operations (AAFSCMTO); III Air Services Area Command (Special) becomes XII Air Force Services Command; II Air Services Area Command becomes XV Air Force Services Command; XII Air Force Engineer Command (Provisional) becomes AAF Engineer Command, Mediterranean Theatre of Operations (Provisional); and XII Air Force Training Command is changed to XII Air Force Training and Replacement Command. The XII Bomber Command, Twelfth Air Force is reorganized as an medium bomber organization, three B-25 Mitchell groups and the three B-26 Marauder groups of the 42d Bombardment Wing (Medium). .
The 12 B-26 Marauder squadrons that were transferred to the USAAF Fifteenth Air Force by the USAAF Twelfth Air Force are reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force. The USAAF Fifteenth Air Force now becomes a strategic air force with four B-17 Flying Fortresses groups, two B-24 Liberators groups, three P-38 Lightning and one P-47 Thunderbolt groups.
FRENCH INDOCHINA: Four USAAF Fourteenth Air Force P-40s bomb and strafe targets of opportunity, including barracks and rafts along the Yuan River in the Cam Duong-Lao Kay area.
BURMA: Six USAAF Tenth Air Force B-25 Mitchells, along with 16 P-38 Lightnings, attack a bridge on the Mu River between Ywataung and Monywa; Major Robert A Erdin, piloting the lead B-25, pulls up during his bomb run to avoid a tree; he releases his bombs as he noses up, and topples two spans of the bridge into the river; subsequent tests prove this a good bridge-bombing manoeuvre; the tactic is refined and the squadron [the 490th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 341st Bombardment Group (Medium)] becomes so proficient as to gain the sobriquet "Burma Bridge Busters." Further north, 11 A-36 Apaches and 15 P-5l Mustangs attack the airfield at Myitkyina.
CHINA: Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell, Commander in Chief US China-Burma-India Theatre of Operations, Chief of Staff to Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, Commander in Chief Northern Area Combat Command and Deputy Commander in Chief South-East Asia Command, creates an operations staff for ZEBRA Force. ZEBRA Force will consist of 30 new Chinese divisions that will defend air bases in eastern China and eventually undertake a counteroffensive against Japanese forces in the Yangtze valley.
NEW GUINEA: In Northeast New Guinea, the Australian 20th Brigade, 9th Division, finds the Japanese have abandoned Nanda. The airlift of the Australian 18th Brigade, 7th Division, to Dumpu begins.
In Northeast New Guinea, over 120 USAAF Fifth Air Force A-20 Havocs, B-24 Liberators and B-25 Mitchells bomb the Saidor area with over 200 tons (181 metric tonnes) in preparation for an Allied invasion; other B-25s bomb Madang and Alexishafen.
BISMARCK ARCHIPELAGO: On New Britain Island, Brigadier General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Assistant Division Commander 1st Marine Division, issues the first order to the ADC Group, calling for an attack southwest toward Borgen Bay tomorrow. The ADC Group, as strengthened for the attack, consists of the 7th Marine Regiment, reinforced by the 3d Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment, and supporting units.
USN aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) and small aircraft carrier USS Monterey (CVL-26) (USN Task Group 37.2) bomb shipping escorted by cruisers and destroyers, damaging the light cruiser HIJMS Noshiro; two F6F Hellcats and an SB2C Helldiver are lost. Task Group 37.2 consists of the two aircraft carriers, the battleship USS Washington (BB-56) and six destroyers.
On New Britain Island, USAAF Fifth Air Force A-20 Havocs continue to hit troop concentrations in the Cape Gloucester area while B-25 Mitchells hit positions at Borgen Bay and P-39 Airacobras strafe barges along the north coast of the island.
Fifteen USAAF Thirteenth Air Force B-24 Liberators, escorted by over 70 P-38 Lightnings and USN F6F Hellcats, bomb Lakunai Airfield on New Britain Island; fighter and antiaircraft opposition is heavy, with 80-90 Japanese fighters attempting interception. U.S. aircraft claim 20 fighters shot down; one B-24 is lost and two, severely damaged, crash-land at Torokina on Bougainville Island in the Solomon Islands.
PACIFIC OCEAN: Aircraft from a US carrier task force, under Admiral Sherman
attack a Japanese convoy off Kavieng, New Ireland.
The carriers of Task Group 37.2 launched their aircraft and the raid on Kavieng begins at 0611 hours local. Two light cruisers and two destroyers are the targets but damage is negligible.
USN losses consist of one Curtiss SB2C Helldiver and two Grumman F6F Hellcats.
Japanese losses consist of 13 Mitsubishi A6M, Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighters, Allied Code Name "Zeke," to fighter pilots of Fighting Squadrons Eighteen and Thirty (VF-18 and VF-30). [VF-18 was serving in USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) and VF-30 was serving in USS Monterey (CVL-26); both units were equipped with F6F-3s.] One VF-18 pilot shoots down a Kawasaki Ki-61, Army Type 3 Fighter Hien (Swallow), Allied Code Name "Tony."
From Glen Boren's diary aboard the USS BUNKER HILL: It was reported that the japs moved some ships in to the area. We sent out some scouts for a look. Reports that a destroyer and a cruiser are in Kavieng Harbor. A strike group was launched for attack. At about 1030, the CAP lands aboard and one fighter made a hard landing. The tail section pulled off, just forward of the vertical stabilizer. The main portion started up the deck, the engine revs up and it went over the port side, just aft of the deck edge elevator. Pilot was not recovered. The attack group returns, all fighters and TBF's return and all but one SB2C's return. Photo plane reported missing.
Eight zeros shot down. Scramble! 12 - 15 boggies, 55 miles out. Combat Air Patrol attacks. We launch eight more fighters. Reported that one of the planes shot down was a new Tony, latest of the zero fighters.
General Quarters sounded at about 1930. 3 - 5 boggies, 27 miles out. They came to within 18 miles and left. Hope no more find us. We head for E.S.
SOLOMON ISLANDS: The USAAF Thirteenth Air Force activates the 868th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) to work directly under the XIII Bomber Command. The unit, equipped with radar equipped B-24 Liberators used for night missions, becomes known as the "Snooper Squadron." They will fly their first mission on 4 January and use their airborne radar for low-level attacks at night, and for pathfinder operations.
On Bougainville Island, Allied fighters join USN SBD Dauntlesses in support of ground forces in the Torokina area. Six B-25 Mitchells and two B-24 Liberators bomb Kahili and four B-24s hit Manob.
MARSHALL ISLANDS: Sixteen USAAF Seventh Air Force P-39 Airacobras strafe the harbour of Mili Atoll and attack shipping north of the atoll; two small vessels are heavily damaged.
NEWFOUNDLAND: Corvette HMCS Halifax arrived St John's to join EG C-1.
HMCS Andrew Lee chartered.
U.S.A.: U.S. Marine General Thomas Holcomb, the 17th Commandant, retires today. He is also promoted from lieutenant general to general, four star, by reason of combat citation, as provided by the Act of 23 February 1942. More... (Stu Kohn)
Destroyer escort USS Eisner commissioned.
Frigate USS Orange commissioned.
Submarine USS Pintado commissioned.
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