World War II Timeline: November 23, 1944-November 29, 1944
In November of 1944, the United States attacked Tokyo with long-range bombers. The detailed World War II timeline below summarizes this and other events in late November 1944.
World War II Timeline: November 23-November 29
November 23: The Canadian Parliament approves a limited draft -- a dramatic departure from what had been a strictly volunteer force. Some 16,000 additional Canadian troops will join the Allies.
November 24: Discouraged by the defeat of the Warsaw uprising and disgusted with Soviet Union manipulation of the Polish border, Premier in Exile Stanislaw Mikolajczyk resigns his post.
The United States attacks Tokyo with 111 B-29 long-range bombers. They operate out of forward bases on the recently occupied Mariana island of Saipan.
November 25: A German V-2 rocket levels a Woolworth department store in London. Of the more than 160 victims, many are children.
Several U.S. aircraft carriers are damaged by kamikaze attacks in the waters off the Philippine Islands.
November 26: As Soviet Union troops advance toward Auschwitz, Heinrich Himmler orders the complex of gas chambers and crematoria destroyed, along with the last of the Sonderkommando Jews, in an effort to hide evidence of Nazi atrocities.
November 27: A munitions dump explodes at Burton-on-Trent, England, killing 68 people and scores of animals.
Antwerp comes under heavy V-2 bomb attacks as the Allies finally open up shipping operations in the Belgian port.
The Chinese remain unable to unite for the common goal of battling Japan, and Chiang Kai-shek again refuses to share his stockpile of American weaponry with the Communists.
November 29: Shinano, a huge Japanese aircraft carrier commissioned earlier in the month, sinks after being torpedoed by the U.S. submarine Archerfish.
U.S. prevails on the Philippine island of Leyte: American troops regard the bodies of Japanese snipers on the Philippine island of Leyte. After two months of fighting, from October to December, U.S. forces secured the island as part of General MacArthur's promise to win back the Philippines. Nevertheless, Leyte was not an unqualified success. A flood of Japanese reinforcements prolonged the battle, and American casualties were higher than anticipated. But the Japanese fared worse. The naval engagements off Leyte effectively destroyed the remnants of the Japanese Navy, while the ground campaign consumed nearly 65,000 troops. In a last-gasp effort, Japanese paratroopers jumped on two U.S. airfields on Leyte on December 6. Despite creating considerable confusion, all were killed or driven off.
General Robert Eichelberger, "MacArthur's Firefighter": General Robert Eichelberger steps up to the firing line near Buna Beach, New Guinea. Known as "MacArthur's Firefighter" for his skills as a battlefield problem solver, Eichelberger was one of the few U.S. generals who strove to maintain warm relations with the Australians. This foresight helped immeasurably when he was ordered to salvage the deteriorating situation at Buna in 1943. Subsequently named to command the Eighth Army, Eichelberger completed the seizure of Leyte in 1944, executed a series of amphibious operations in the Philippines, and defeated the Japanese on Mindanao. He later commanded the Eighth Army in the occupation of Japan.
Filipinos dismiss Japanese propaganda: Filipino civilians examined a Japanese propaganda placard in Manila in October 1944. The message probably refers to an air battle off Taiwan in mid-October in which Japanese airmen claimed to have sunk 11 U.S. carriers and two battleships. In fact, no U.S. ships were lost. Such propaganda claims became less and less credible as the war turned against Japan. The Japanese propaganda machine had an especially difficult task in the pro-American Philippines, where clandestine radio reports kept the population abreast of Allied advances. "I Shall Return" graffiti showed up on everything from buses to brothels.
American submarines take down Japanese forces: General Tojo stated that American submarines were a key factor in Japan's defeat. They sank nearly two-thirds of all the Japanese merchant tonnage that was destroyed and nearly one-third of all combatant ships that were sunk. Initially, they performed disappointingly because of defective torpedoes, overly cautious captains, and unimaginative strategic deployment. These deficiencies were overcome in 1943. The U.S. Navy lost 52 of its 288 submarines, but American sub crews rescued more than 500 downed U.S. airmen, including future president George H. W. Bush. Pictured is the USS Wahoo, a 1,525-ton Gato-class submarine.
Pacific fleets rely on the USS New Jersey: With a speed of 33 knots, the battleship USS New Jersey -- like all Iowa-class vessels -- could keep up with aircraft carriers. It had less armor protection than comparable Japanese battleships, but its nine 16-inch guns were formidable. As the flagship of Admiral Spruance's Fifth Fleet in 1944, it screened aircraft carriers, destroyed enemy vessels and aircraft, and provided shore bombardment. The New Jersey supported operations in the Carolines, the Marshalls, the Palaus, New Guinea, the Marianas, the Philippines, and Formosa, and acted as flagship for the Fifth and Third fleets. Its service continued into 1945, notably at Okinawa.
Kamikaze pilots attack Allied forces: Early in the Pacific war, the Allies noted a Japanese willingness to die in battle. When Japan's strategic situation became dire, its leaders methodically exploited that enthusiasm. Vice Admiral Onishi Takijiro instigated aerial suicide attacks on enemy ships at Leyte Gulf in October 1944. The suicide units were called "kamikaze," or "divine wind," after the 13th century typhoon that smashed a Mongol invasion. Kamikaze attacks appealed to the Japanese command because they negated pilot inexperience and aircraft obsolescence, and reduced fuel consumption. Moreover, they could demoralize the Allies and demonstrate the supposed spiritual superiority of a freshly inspired Japan.
Carriers key to U.S. victory: A kamikaze hits the USS Essex in November 1944. Accurate statistics concerning the kamikaze are elusive, but apparently between 2,500 and 5,000 Japanese suicide pilots were killed, at least 34 Allied vessels were sunk, and 288 to 368 vessels were damaged throughout the war. Whereas the kamikaze could not change the course of the war, the Essex-class carriers did. Prime Minister Tojo identified their ability to operate for months without entering harbor as critical in Japan's defeat. In the pictured attack, the Essex was damaged, 15 crew members were killed, and 44 were wounded. However, the ship was back in action some three weeks later.
Japanese balloon bombs reach U.S.: On May 5, 1945, a woman and five children were killed while moving a large balloon they discovered near Bly, Oregon. It was one of about 9,000 balloons that the Japanese launched in the direction of the United States from November 1944 to April 1945. Each was 33 feet in diameter and carried one 33-pound antipersonnel bomb and four incendiaries. They reached an altitude of 35,000 feet and traveled about 100 mph. Approximately 300 balloon bomb incidents were reported in the U.S. and Canada, but the deaths in Oregon were the only casualties. The balloon in this picture was discovered in Montana.
British hunt down the Tirpitz: A sister ship to the Bismarck, the Tirpitz was a serious threat, and the British were intent on destroying it. In 1943 X-class midget submarines -- three-man subs carrying a mine on each side -- placed timed explosive charges that disabled the ship. In April 1944, the repaired Tirpitz was again damaged by carrier-borne aircraft. Effective German defenses, including smoke screens, as well as cloudy weather protected the Tirpitz during several more air strikes. However, on November 12, the Red Army Forces bombed and finally sank the ship.
Nazis play mind games with propeganda: Propaganda was used by both sides during the war to undermine the fighting spirit of the enemy. Late in the war, the Germans circulated fake copies of Life magazine to remind American soldiers of home and to play with their minds. One particular "issue" of the magazine features a smiling woman on front and a skull on back. This piece of propaganda was circulated by three German soldiers along various trails used by Americans. Two of the Germans were killed and the third captured. Members of the 91st Division, who saw the pamphlet, "agreed unanimously," wrote Bernie Smith, a member of the unit, "that the unholy wench who posed for the picture on the front is far more gruesome than the old gaffer on the reverse side."
The B-29 Superfortress: American-built B-29 Superfortresses take to the air. The most advanced bomber of its time, the Superfortress had a pressurized cabin, a central fire-control system, and remote-control machine gun turrets. The advanced design, complex manufacturing requirements, and rush to production created major reliability problems in the early aircraft. However, the long-range bomber ultimately became the mainstay of the air campaign against Japan.
Bombers fly over Tokyo: Japanese soldiers manned an air-defense machine gun on the roof of a Tokyo department store. Such improvised defenses were largely useless against the high-flying B-29 bombers that began to appear over the capital in 1944. The limited numbers of Japanese fighter planes were only slightly more effective. The U.S. 20th Bomber Command reported losing only 20 bombers to enemy fighters and five to antiaircraft fire in 1944. Within a year, the heavy bombers would be flying over Japan with near impunity, even dropping leaflets warning the populace of future targets.
More kamikaze attacks and the Malmedy massacre are covered in the World War II timeline of events in December 1944 on the next page.