On March 28, 1942, the first of 6,000 Parisian Jews were sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during the spring of 1942 below.
World War II Timeline: Spring 1942-March 31, 1942
March 22: British and American Air Force units are left exposed to assault as they beat a retreat after the Japanese capture of Burma's Magwe airfield. The loss of the strategic landing strip leaves the Allies unable to call for air support.
Abwehr (German intelligence) captain and double agent Paul Thummel, a British MI6 asset on the ground in Czechoslovakia, is arrested by the Nazis.
March 24: Japan launches an offensive against Bataan.
March 26: The Nazi government orders that all Jewish homes in Germany and the occupied territories must be identified as such.
Admiral Ernest King, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Fleet, becomes the highest-ranking officer in the Navy with his appointment as chief of Naval Operations.
March 28: Allies deliberately slam the HMS Campbeltown into the gates at the Normandy dock at St. Nazaire on the French Atlantic coast, the largest drydock in Nazi-occupied Europe and the only one large enough to handle the Nazi German battleship Tirpitz. Once past the gates, Allied commandos sabotage the facility.
The first of 6,000 Parisian Jews designated for "resettlement" at Auschwitz are loaded onto a train and sent to that extermination camp.
March 31: India's Congress Party demands immediate independence from Britain. It rejects a British offer made the previous day that included Indian independence but only after the conclusion of the war.
World War II Headlines
Below are more details that outline the events of World War II, including the horrific acts carried out by Japanese troops.
Homma Masaharu commands Philippines invasion: Japan's Homma Masaharu, whose 14th Army conquered the Philippines, was an unusual general. Highly intelligent, artistic, and familiar with Western ways through close contact with the British Army in World War I and India, he was said to lack samurai spirit. After experience in China, he was appointed to command the Philippines invasion. He planned meticulously and captured Manila quickly, but his failure to prevent American withdrawal to Bataan precluded victory within the allotted 50 days. His unimpressed superiors effectively ended his career by recalling him in August 1942. Arrested by U.S. troops in 1945 for war crimes in the Philippines, Homma was executed by firing squad in April 1946.
Bataan prisoners beaten and killed by Japanese: American and Filipino troops totaling 78,000 went into captivity on Bataan on April 9, 1942. Their starving and diseased condition influenced Major General Edward King's decision to surrender, though he was unable to extract from the Japanese commanders a commitment to treat the prisoners compassionately. The Japanese decided to march the prisoners to Camp O'Donnell, some 65 miles away. The following quote by U.S. Army tank crewman Lester Tenney describes his experiences following capture on Bataan:
The first Japanese soldier I came into contact with used sign language to ask if I had a cigarette. . . . I had to tell him I did not have any cigarettes. He smiled and then a second later hit me in the face with the butt of his gun. Blood spurted from my nose and from a deep gash on my cheekbone. He laughed and said something that made all of his buddies laugh, too. He walked away from me and went to the GI on my right. He used the same sign language, and this time my buddy had cigarettes and offered him one. The Japanese soldier took the whole pack, and then he and his friends began beating my friend with rifle butts and cane-length pieces of bamboo until he could not stand. Then they left, laughing, laughing at the defeated and weak Americans.
POWs perish in the Bataan Death March: The trek from Bataan to Camp O'Donnell became known as the Bataan Death March. Japanese plans for the march did not take into account the exhaustion, starvation, and illness of the prisoners, who were thus sure to die in large numbers. Added to this neglect was active Japanese persecution. Some senior Japanese officers so despised the prisoners that they wanted them killed en masse. Field officers beheaded many with their swords, and Japanese common soldiers willfully buried prisoners alive or set fire to civilians who sought to aid those suffering. No single factor adequately explains this brutality.
The next timeline carries us into the major events of April 1942.