31 January 1944

31 January 1944

War at Sea

German submarine U-592 sunk with all hands south east of Ireland


US troops land on Kwajalein Atoll and other islands in the Marshall Group

New Guinea

Australian and Dutch troops engage with the Kapanese in Dutch New Guinea

War Crimes

Australia forms a Commission to investigate Japanese war crimes

D-Day is called off and postponed until June

June 6, 1944 is considered one of the most pivotal moments in modern history. Better known by its codename, D-Day, the Allied assault on five beaches in Nazi-occupied France was the result of over a year of planning and jockeying amongst various military and political leaders. On January 31, 1944, several key leaders agreed to postpone the invasion over concerns that there would not be enough ships available by May, finally setting the stage for the June invasion.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin began urging British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to open a second front almost as soon as the Nazis invaded Russia in 1941. After the American entry into the war at the end of that year, the three nations agreed that such action was necessary but disagreed on how it should proceed. British leadership, for whom the slaughters and stalemates of World War I&aposs Western Front were still relatively recent memories, eventually prevailed upon the other Allies to first attack Italy, which Churchill called Europe&aposs "soft underbelly." With plans to attack German-held North Africa and the Italian island of Sicily underway, the three leaders agreed in May of 1943 to assault the European mainland. In December of 1943, American General Dwight D. Eisenhower and British General Bernard Montgomery were presented with a detailed plan for the invasion, codenamed Operation Overlord.

Both generals argued for increasing the scope of Overlord from three divisions to five divisions supported by three airborne divisions. Eisenhower was eager to enact such a plan in May, but had concerns over the availability of landing craft. The Italian campaign, which provided the Allies with valuable experience in amphibious landings, was also taking up many of the boats that would be necessary for the Normandy invasion. By the 31st, all relevant commanders had come around to this way of thinking and signed off on an early-June invasion.

World War Photos

Troops inspect a bunker after capturing the Kwajalein Marine patrol and Japanese aircraft wrecks at Roi Airfield 7th Infantry Division at Japanese radio and power HQ American flag Kwajalein Atoll
24th Marines assault troops pinned down on a Namur beach 4th Marine Division Machine Gun crew advancing on Namur 4th Division Marine Lt Willis amid ruins on Namur Island Marines landing on Kwajalein Atoll in LVT 31 January 1944 2
Japanese soldier surrenders to Marines on Namur Marine fires on Japanese sniper from Kwajalein shell hole Marines search thru wreckage on Namur Island Row of Shermans
Bodies of fallen Japanese soldiers in trench on Namur Island U.S .Coast Guardsmen with captured Japanese at Kwajalein 1944 7th Division troops attack Japanese pillbox on Kwajalein 7th Division M10 and machine gunners advance on Kwajalein
Japanese soldier surrendering to troops of the 4th Marine on Roi-Namur near concrete blockhouse American flag over ruins of Japanese Headquarters on Namur LVT landing 7th Division troops on Enubuj Landing crafts tanks supplies troops on Kwajalein
Marines at camp after the capture of Kwajalein Marines of V Amphibious Corps pull an injured Japanese soldier from a bunker 4th Division Marines scan the front on blasted Roi Namur Island Battle of Kwajalein 4
7th Infantry Division soldiers and 767th Tank Battalion M10 advance on Kwajalein Landing Crafts transporting troops to Kwajalein Beach Battle of Kwajalein Marines Marines unload equipment on Namur Beach
Soldier with flamethrower views fallen soldiers on Namur Kwajalein on day before bombardment LSTs bringing Seabees and supplies to Kwajalein Avengers flying over Marines advancing to the north end of Namur
Aerial view of US Invasion of Namur and Roi Islands 23rd Marines on Roi watch giant explosion on Namur Battle of Kwajalein 3 M5A1 of Co B, 4th Tank Battalion, roll ashore at 13.00 on Green 2 Namur Island
7th Infantry Division soldiers advance on Kwajalein Marines in action Troops check IDs on fallen soldiers on Kwajalein Corpsmen carry a wounded Marine on a stretcher
Unloading LCM with tractor at Roi 4th Division Marines check Japanese dead at Roi Airfield Bulldozer aids USS LST-241 Roi Island 1st Battalion 24th Marines in action on Namur
Battle of Kwajalein 2 Crane unloads landing craft from USS Leedstown on Kwajalein M5A1 light tanks stalled on Green 2 Namur Marines landing on Kwajalein Atoll in LVT 31 January 1944
4th Division Marines land under fire February 13, 1944 Aerial view of shell torn Kwajalein with U.S. ships offshore 1944 Troops and reconstruction materials on Kwajalein Beach 4th Div Marines work to coax Japanese from pillbox on Namur
LVTs come in to the beach at low tide on Enubuj in the Kwajalein Atoll, landing 7th Division troops and equipment Marines in machine gun nest on Namur Marines landing on beach at Namur 4th Marine Division search for Japanese snipers on Namur
Soldier in action with flame thrower on Namur Island Marines attacking pillbox on Kwajalein Red Cross gives cigarettes to 4th Division Marines on Kwajalein 4th Division Marines guard Japanese soldier on Roi Namur
Marines move inland after landing on Roi Island

The Battle of Kwajalein was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought from 31 January 1944 to 3 February 1944 on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
After the capture of Makin and Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, the next step in the United States Navy’s campaign in the central Pacific was the Marshall Islands. These islands had been German colonies until World War I, then assigned to Japan in the post-war settlement as the “Eastern Mandates”. After the loss of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea in 1943, the Japanese command decided that the Gilbert and Marshall islands would be expendable: they preferred to fight a decisive battle closer to home. However, at the end of 1943 the Marshalls were reinforced to make their taking expensive for the Americans. By January 1944 the regional commander in Truk, Admiral Masashi Kobayashi, had 28,000 troops to defend the Marshalls, but he had very few planes.
Expecting the US to attack the outermost islands in the group first, most of the defenders were stationed on Wotje, Mille, Maloelap, and Jaluit atolls to the east and south. This disposition was revealed to the Americans by ULTRA decryptions of Japanese communications, and Nimitz decided instead to bypass these outposts and land directly on Kwajalein. To do this, sea and air superiority were necessary. Accordingly, on 29 January 1944 US carrier planes attacked the Japanese airfield on Roi-Namur, destroying 92 of the 110 Japanese planes in the Marshalls.
The American forces for the landings were Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner’s 5th Amphibious Force, and Major General Holland M. Smith’s V Amphibious Corps, which was comprised of the 4th Marine Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt, the 7th Infantry Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corlett, plus the 22nd Marine, 106th Infantry, and the 111th Infantry regiments. The 4th and 7th Divisions were assigned to the initial landings at Kwajalein, while the 2nd Battalion of the 106th was assigned to the simultaneous capture of Majuro Atoll, about 490 km to the southeast. The rest of the 106th and the 22nd Marines were in reserve for Kwajalein, while awaiting the following assault on Eniwetok, scheduled for three months later.
The 7th Infantry Division began by capturing the small islands labeled Carlos, Carter, Cecil, and Carlson on 31 January, which were used as artillery bases for the next day’s assault. Kwajalein Island is 4 km long but only 800 m wide. There was therefore no possibility of defence in depth and the Japanese planned to counter-attack the landing beaches. They had not realized until the battle of Tarawa that American amphibious vehicles could cross coral reefs and so land on the lagoon side of an atoll accordingly the strongest defences on Kwajalein faced the ocean. Bombardment by battleships, B-29 bombers and artillery on Carlson was devastating. The US Army history of the battle quotes a participant as saying that “the entire island looked as if it had been picked up 20,000 feet and then dropped”. By the time the 7th Division landed on Kwajalein Island on 1 February 1944 there was little resistance: by night the Americans estimated that only 1,500 of the original 5,000 defenders were still alive.
On the north side of the atoll, the 4th Marine Division followed the same plan, first capturing islets Ivan, Jacob, Albert, Allen, and Abraham on 31 January, and landing on Roi-Namur on 1 February. The airfield on Roi (the eastern half) was captured quickly, and Namur the next day. The worst setback came when a Marine demolition team threw a satchel charge of high explosive into a Japanese bunker which turned out to be a torpedo warhead magazine. The resulting explosion killed twenty Marines and wounded dozens more. Only 51 of the original 3,500 Japanese defenders of Roi-Namur survived to be captured.
The relatively easy capture of Kwajalein demonstrated US amphibious capabilities and showed that the changes to training and tactics after the bloody battle of Tarawa had been effective. It allowed Nimitz to speed up operations in the Marshalls and invade Eniwetok Atoll on 17 February 1944.
The Japanese learned from the battle that beachline defenses were too vulnerable to bombardment by ships and planes. In the campaign for the Mariana Islands the defense in depth on Guam and Peleliu was much harder to overcome than the thin line on Kwajalein.

Site statistics:
photos of World War 2 : over 31500
aircraft models: 184
tank models: 95
vehicle models: 92
gun models: 5
units: 2
ships: 49

January 31: ON THIS DAY in 1944, Marshalls Invaded by U.S., Japs Report

ON THIS DAY IN 1937 , the Eagle reported, “Vienna (AP) — The Viennese noted today that a more serious mood — possibly a fundamental change in character – has settled down on the Duke of Windsor. Vienna first became acquainted with him as the Prince of Wales. When he was heir to the British throne, he came to Austria for light-hearted vacations. He went skiing at Kitzbuehl, gladdened proprietors of night clubs with his patronage, sang the lilting Viennese songs, and rewarded dancers with 100 schilling tips. Then Vienna saw him as King Edward VIII. Mrs. Wallis Simpson was with him, and again there were rounds of merry-making. The Viennese are now observing him as the Duke of Windsor, the man who preferred to be beside the woman he loved than on the throne. Austrian people, who know a thing or two about love, welcomed him sympathetically, and exercised all their vaunted tact to make him feel at home. But they welcomed a man somehow changed.”

ON THIS DAY IN 1942 , the Eagle reported, “San Francisco (U.P.) — Federal orders barring enemy aliens from defense zones brought consternation today to alien Italian fishermen, including the father of the DiMaggio brothers. About 1,500 of the 2,200 fishermen who embark from Fisherman’s Wharf here fall under the order covering the San Francisco waterfront. Some of the fishermen have sons in the armed forces some have first citizenship papers. Giuseppe DiMaggio, 67, has raised a large family. Three of his sons have won fame as baseball players — Joe with the Yankees, Dominic with the Red Sox and Vince with the Pirates.”

ON THIS DAY IN 1944 , the Eagle reported, “Japanese Imperial Headquarters reported today that powerful American forces are attacking the Marshall Islands athwart the eastern invasion route to Japan and said ‘furious fighting is now in progress’ between Japanese garrisons and ‘enemy troops.’ The implication was plain that United States invasion forces had gone ashore in the Marshalls and had met with at least some initial success in establishing footholds. Even before the Tokio radio broadcast, a communique reporting ‘powerful enemy troops since Sunday morning have raided the Marshall Islands,’ American fleet headquarters in the Pacific revealed that the air-sea assault on the islands had mounted to a pitch of intensity regarded as a possible forerunner to invasion.”

Problem of Post-War Jobs Ties In with Labor Party

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 5, 31 January 1944, p.ف.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Judging by the contribution made by Mr. Wallace at the conference on post-war problems, just held in New York City under the auspices of the CIO Political Action Committee, there is very little else to recommend Mr. Wallace to labor except his good intentions – if that can be considered a recommendation.

As is to be expected from Mr. Wallace, he lambasted the cartels. This time he added something new, accusing some business men of financing “anti-Semitic movements.” Also, as usual, he did not say how the cartels and fascistic big business can be fought without fighting capitalism as such.

The article on the Chase National Bank on page three of this issue of Labor Action shows how all branches of capitalism are so interlocked it cannot be divided into good and bad.

Muffs the Point

When Mr. Wallace finally got around to the problem of unemployment in his speech, he did not look it straight in the face. He said:

“When the European war ends, there will probably be a $40,000,000,000 curtailment in war production. This could conceivably cost the jobs of more than 10,000,000 men, unless plans are made.”

And what about the total war, the global war, including the war with Japan? Will not the end of that bit of business mean more curtailment in war productions – and more unemployed?

A large chunk of the Vice-President’s comments was on the subject of reconversion to peacetime production. He spoke of “suggestions as to how the government may help business finance its reconversion.” However, though he used some fine-sounding words about the common man, he did not mention a word about help to finance the workers in THEIR reconversion.

But reconversion of industry is not the basic problem, though it is something that has to be done. The point is to get jobs for the tens of millions of workers and soldiers for whom there will not be jobs AFTER RECONVERSION!

Generalities Mr. Wallace has a-plenty: We must utilize full productive capacity – unemployment hurts business – consumption capacity is as great as productive capacity if “labor is kept fully employed.”

Certainly, most certainly! But HOW is labor to be kept fully employed when there are no more war orders and when the boys come marching home?

Mr. Wallace asks for a stockpile of blueprints for post-war construction. All optimistic supporters of capitalism are so very optimistic about post-war construction. However, on this subject another speaker at the conference, Alvin H. Hansen, economic adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank, gave some significant facts. He said that while $15,000,000,000 to $20,000,000,000 might help bridge the gap, at the moment only about $700,000,000 in post-war government projects are in the blueprint stage.

The significance of these figures is that the planners are going easy – a bit concerned about how to finance a stupendous construction program when depression hits the land. The trifling amount of post-war construction now provided for indicates that the “free enterprise” boys are pretty influential where the plans are being made. Not willing to surrender their “just rewards” in war profits, they will be even less willing to pay high taxes to finance “socialistic ideas” when there are no more war orders.

The above about summarizes Mr. Wallace’s contribution to the postwar conference of the CIO – only generalities and more generalities, worth a dime a dozen.

Hillman or Sloan

Sidney Hillman, who as head of the CIO Political Action Committee, was a leading light at the conference, in his own way did no better than Mr. Wallace.

He was indeed quite angry because Alfred P. Sloan, chairman of the General Motors Company board of directors – an astute business man – is proceeding on the basis of a post-war national income of $100,000,000,000.

“Under such an estimate,” Mr. Hillman declared, “our economy would operate at two-thirds capacity or less. A drop in national income to one hundred billion dollars would add up to unemployment for ten to fifteen million American workers.”

Mr. Hillman is lots more optimistic about the future than is Mr. Sloan. He believes that even the present national income of $140,000,000,000 “falls far short of providing the American people with purchasing power to satisfy their demand for goods and services, despite the fact that it is the highest national income in United States history.” This is also true.

But the question that must be answered is: How can the national income be increased without breaking down the obstructions of production for profit? Mr. Hillman, who was once a socialist, no longer has any bones of contention with the capitalist system of production. Within the limits of capitalism, Mr. Hillman’s optimism is unwarranted.

What Mr. Hillman and other labor leaders are banking on is that the government will intervene in production, curb the voraciousness of the “free enterprisers,” and plan everything out nicely for the working people.

But what kind of government does Mr. Hillman have in mind to do this job for labor? The CIO leadership opposes a national independent Labor Party aiming at a workers’ government. What the CIO Political Action Committee is working for is a houseful of “friends of labor” from the Democratic and Republican parties. How can responsible labor leaders still rely on this debunked political method?

A Sound Program

The CIO intends to bring out a full post-war program on the basis of the conference just held. It is to be honed that it will be more fundamentally sound than the two speeches above considered. Certainly foremost among demands to prevent million-mass unemployment are the following:

  1. A thirty-hour work week with no reduction in wages – to provide jobs for all and a decent standard of living.
  2. Government-owned plants not to go to the capitalists to stand idle while workers starve, but to be held by the government and placed under workers’ control.
  3. Similarly all private factories closed by the capitalists should be taken over and operated by the workers to produce the needs of the population.
  4. Large-scale construction of housing, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks, beaches and all public utilities that will add to the well-being and happiness of the people – a program for life as great as the present gigantic program for war!

A glance at these demands makes it clear that any serious approach to the problem of unemployment opposes the interests of the “free enterprisers” and the limitations of production for profit.

For such a program the labor movement must be willing to assume full political responsibility to the working people of the nation. That means coming forth with an independent tabor Party ready to fight for labor’s needs against the capitalists and against their political parties including all the “friends of labor.”

Of Special Interest to Women

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 5, 31 January 1944, p.ل.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A woman writes to the editor of the New York Sun as follows:

“Listening to the radio, I heard, purporting to come from Madame Perkins, that the cost of living had risen only three per cent. I never got beyond the simple rudiments of arithmetic, so cannot determine how this figure was arrived at. One thing I do know: whereas I could buy six lamb chops cut thinly for forty cents, now two thin chops cost forty cents. Take eggs at sixty cents a dozen against thirty-five cents three pounds of onions formerly cost ten cents, but one pound now costs nine cents. I cannot get Secretary Perkins’ three per cent rise in food costs to fit into this pattern.”

Neither can any other woman concerned with feeding, clothing and sheltering a family.

Jackpot question: How can a government that doesn’t even state the price situation honestly, solve that problem to the satisfaction of working people?

Labor Action has been calling for the formation of committees of organized labor, organized housewives and organized working farmers to tackle on their own the food food problem. At least, such committees would start with the real facts about high prices – AND THEY WOULD LOOK AT THE QUESTION WITH THE SOBER EYES OF PEOPLE LIKE THIS WOMAN WHO WRITES TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK SUN.

And here is another reason why Labor Action continues its campaign for the organization of people’s committees to solve people’s problems.

A few days ago Mayor LaGuardia bawled out Chester Bowles, head of the OPA, for not keeping his promises to protect consumers and for not keeping the skirts of the OPA clean of “political influences.”

But what else could be expected from Mr. Bowles except that he should break promises to the consumers and dabble in politics?

Mr. Bowles is a top-shelf advertising executive, boss of the Benton & Bowles advertising agency. Catering to big business and pulling political strings are in the very life-blood of men with his background.

Furthermore, Mr. Bowles has given jobs in OPA to many of his former associates in the firm of Benton & Bowles, who brought with them into OPA the same qualities and methods that made them valuable as employees of a business serving big business.

As boss of OPA, Mr. Bowles’ accomplishments are mainly those of catering to big business – just as he did as boss of Benton & Bowles. Thus even the Wall Street Journal is obliged to admit: “The OPA is permitting dozens of higher prices, but rolls back few.”

In this way big business permeates and dominates all government departments, supposedly concerned with the problems of the working people – and that is why these problems are “solved” by big business getting more profits.

Under pressure of dire necessity, Congress enacted a bill providing a minimum of financial help in defraying the expenses of childbirth to the wives of men in the armed forces. Naturally, the pay of the soldier is not munificent enough to cover the unusual expense involved in childbirth.

Many sad cases of neglect brought a clamor for government help. Finally, provision was made for a physician’s fee of fifty dollars and for hospital confinement of sixty dollars.

You may think now things are not so bad for the expectant mothers of soldiers’ children. But if you do, you figure without the many ramifications of that atrocious institution known as “free enterprise.”

One of the staunchest upholders of this system of freedom for the few at the expense of the many is the American Medical Association. With all its state and county branches, AMA is the big business organization in medicine in this country. Just as the National Association of Manufacturers protects the profits for big industrialists, so the AMA protects big fees for the big shots in medicine.

These big shots look down their noses at fifty dollars as a fee for a delivery. They much prefer fees running into the hundreds. So they set up a shout that Congress was “socializing medicine.” They went ahead and sabotaged the plan to help soldiers’ wives. They as good as instructed their members to be “TOO BUSY” to take the cases of soldiers’ wives. These champions of “free enterprise” threatened individual physicians with loss of all hospital connections if they did not obey orders. At this writing this shameful spectacle still goes on.

This is one of the things about the system of private profit that makes words poor instruments for expressing one’s feelings. The only outlet is to grit one’s teeth in determination to work like sixty to make the working people see the need for socialism as the means to end private profit in all its hideous forms.

The wives of soldiers and workers have plenty of heartaches bringing their children into the world and keeping them here – and you can’t any longer say: “It shouldn’t happen to a dog.” For the life of a dog of the social set, at any rate, is something to be envied.

There is, for example, the Dog Bath Club in the swanky Fifties off Park Avenue in New York. There a pedigreed dog or unpedigreed mutt whose. owner has the do-re-mi can get sprayed with coconut oil, shampooed, dried and curled by electric dryers. A modern barber shop has been installed for the little dears, with electric clippers for manicuring their tootsies.

These precious pets have their teeth examined and scaled, and their pyorrhea treated – AS MANY MILLION CHILDREN OF WORKING CLASS FAMILIES SHOULD HAVE DONE AND CANNOT. A veterinarian is in charge. To climax this canine paradise, there is a private swimming pool where their royal highness can frolic about.

We have no grudge against dogs – not even against the dogs of the rich. But we oppose such injustice in the distribution of the wealth of the wealth of the nation that the dogs of the rich are better off than the children of the workers who produce that wealth.

Over the radio the other night, Dorothy Thompson, radio commentator and newspaper columnist, declared herself to be an optimist about the post-war period. She thinks that the rate of war production can, continue into peacetime, that everybody can have jobs, good wages and more of the good things of life.

It’s nice to be cheerful – provided there is a foundation for it. However, when Miss Thompson began to substantiate her cheerfulness, an intelligence was being insulted.

For instance, Miss Thompson came out with whole-hearted praise of Beardsley Ruml’s plan for a “new America in each generation.” What is this new idea of the genius who devised the pay-as-you-go tax plan? Mr Ruml is in favor of tearing down all factories, buildings, schools, roads, bridges, etc., every twenty to thirty years. And why engage in this orgy of destruction? To be able to rebuild it all – to be able to use up material, employ labor, pay wages, etc.

Such fantastic ideas only indicate the inability of the capitalists to give a really sensible answer to the problem of post-war production and employment – so important to every man, woman and child. Especially is this apparent when – as Miss Thompson herself pointed out – even this crazy scheme of creating work by tearing down and rebuilding everything, would employ only 6,000,000 men and cost only $10,000,000,000. This is only onetenth of the manpower employed today and about one fourteenth of national war income.

The only basis for cheerfulness for the future is the revolutionary reorganization of society to produce for the needs of human beings and no longer for the acquisition of profits for the few.

However, we haven’t heard that Miss Thompson is in favor of the working class solving its problems this way.

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