3 May 1942

3 May 1942



Eastern Front

Soviet troops attempt to re-close Demyansk pocket.

War at Sea

Air reconnaissance identifies the Scharnhorst at Kiel, the Gneisenau at Gdynia and the Prinz Eugen at Trondheim

3 May 1942 - History

Presidio of San Francisco, California
May 3, 1942


Living in the Following Area:

All of that portion of the City of Los Angeles, State of California, within that boundary beginning at the point at which North Figueron Street meets a line following the middle of the Los Angeles River thence southerly and following the said line to East First Street thence westerly on East First Street to Alameda Street thence southerly on Alameda Street to East Third Street thence northwesterly on East Third Street to Main Street thence northerly on Main Street to First Street thence north- westerly on First Street to Figueron Street thence northeasterly on Figueron Street to the point of beginning.

Pursuant to the provisions of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 33, this Headquarters, dated May 3, 1942, all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien, will be evacuated from the above area by 12 o'clock noon, P. W. T., Saturday, May 9, 1942.

No Japanese person living in the above area will be permitted to change residence after 12 o'clock noon, P. W. T., Sunday, May 3, 1942, without obtaining special permission from the representative of the Commanding General, Southern California Sector, at the Civil Control Station located at:

Japanese Union Church,
120 North San Pedro Street,
Los Angeles, California.

Such permits will only be granted for the purpose of uniting members of a family, or in cases of grave emergency.

The Civil Control Station is equipped to assist the Japanese population affected by this evacuation in the following ways:

1. Give advice and instructions on the evacuation.

2. Provide services with respect to the management, leasing, sale, storage or other disposition of most kinds of property, such as real estate, business and professional equipment, household goods, boats, automobiles and livestock.

3. Provide temporary residence elsewhere for all Japanese in family groups.

4. Transport persons and a limited amount of clothing and equipment to their new residence.

The Following Instructions Must Be Observed:

1. A responsible member of each family, preferably the head of the family, or the person in whose name most of the property is held, and each individual living alone, will report to the Civil Control Station to receive further instructions. This must be done between 8:00 A. M. and 5:00 P. M. on Monday, May 4, 1942, or between 8:00 A. M. and 5:00 P. M. on Tuesday, May 5, 1942.

2. Evacuees must carry with them on departure for the Assembly Center, the following property:

(a) Bedding and linens (no mattress) for each member of the family
(b) Toilet articles for each member of the family
(c) Extra clothing for each member of the family
(d) Sufficient knives, forks, spoons, plates, bowls and cups for each member of the family
(e) Essential personal effects for each member of the family.

All items carried will be securely packaged, tied and plainly marked with the name of the owner and numbered in accordance with instructions obtained at the Civil Control Station. The size and number of packages is limited to that which can be carried by the individual or family group.

3. No pets of any kind will be permitted.

4. No personal items and no household goods will be shipped to the Assembly Center.

5. The United States Government through its agencies will provide for the storage, at the sole risk of the owner, of the more substantial household items, such as iceboxes, washing machines, pianos and other heavy furniture. Cooking utensils and other small items will be accepted for storage if crated, packed and plainly marked with the name and address of the owner. Only one name and address will be used by a given family.

6. Each family, and individual living alone will be furnished transportation to the Assembly Center or will be authorized to travel by private automobile in a supervised group. All instructions pertaining to the movement will be obtained at the Civil Control Station.

Go to the Civil Control Station between the hours of 8:00 A. M. and 5:00 P. M., Monday, May 4, 1942, or between the hours of 8:00 A. M. and 5:00 P. M., Tuesday, May 5, 1942, to receive further instructions.

United States invades Luzon in Philippines

Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the American 6th Army land on the Lingayen Gulf of Luzon, another step in the capture of the Philippine Islands from the Japanese.

The Japanese controlled the Philippines from May 1942, when the defeat of American forces led to General MacArthur’s departure and Gen. Jonathan Wainwright’s capture. But in October 1944, more than 100,000 American soldiers landed on Leyte Island to launch one of one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war𠅊nd herald the beginning of the end for Japan.

Newsreels captured the event as MacArthur waded ashore at Leyte on October 20, returning to the Philippines as he had famously promised he would after the original defeat of American forces there. What the newsreels didn’t capture were the 67 days it took to subdue the island, with the loss of more than 55,000 Japanese soldiers during the two months of battle and approximately 25,000 more soldiers killed in smaller-scale engagements necessary to fully clear the area of enemy troops. The U.S. forces lost about 3,500.

The sea battle of Leyte Gulf was the same story. The loss of ships and sailors was horrendous for both sides. That battle also saw the introduction of the Japanese kamikaze suicide bombers. More than 5,000 kamikaze pilots died in this gulf battle, taking down 34 ships. But the Japanese were not able to prevent the loss of their biggest and best warships, which meant the virtual end of the Japanese Imperial Fleet.

These American victories on land and sea at Leyte opened the door for the landing of more than 60,000 American troops on Luzon on January 9. Once again, cameras recorded MacArthur walking ashore, this time to greet cheering Filipinos. Although the American troops met little opposition when they landed, they lost the light cruiser Columbia and the battleship Mississippi, to kamikazes, resulting in the deaths of 49 American crewmen.

1942 – Born on this day, Nicholas Ashford, Ashford and Simpson, (1979 US No.36 single ‘Found A Cure’, 1985 UK No. 3 single ‘Solid’).

1942 – Born on this day, Ronnie Bond, The Troggs, (1966 US No.1 & UK No.2 single ‘Wild Thing’). Bond died on 13th November 1992.

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On May 7 Japanese aircraft sank the U.S. destroyer Sims and severely damaged the fleet oiler Neosho, while search aircraft from the carriers Yorktown and Lexington pinpointed the Japanese light carrier Shoho, which was covering an invasion group headed for Port Moresby, at the southeastern end of New Guinea.

Attack planes from the U.S. carriers quickly sank Shoho. Immortalizing the event was the terse radio message, “Scratch one flattop!” from Lt. Cmdr. Robert Dixon, who led Lexington’s dive-bomber squadron.

The sightings of Neosho and Shoho had created more than their share of confusion on both sides. Japanese scout pilots, for example, had misidentified Neosho as an aircraft carrier, convincing commanders they had located an important U.S. warship and prompting the launch of all available aircraft.

Meanwhile, a miscoded message from an American scout plane had reported the sighting of a Japanese screening force as a sighting of the main Japanese carrier force as a result both U.S. carriers also launched all available aircraft.

Fortunately for the Allies, the strike aircraft from Yorktown and Lexington came upon Shoho, and its sinking proved more important than first appeared.

/>A mushroom cloud rises after a massive explosion on board the aircraft carrier Lexington on May 8, 1942. This is probably the great explosion from the detonation of torpedo warheads stowed in the starboard side of the hangar, aft, that followed an explosion amidships at 1727 hrs. Note aircraft carrier Yorktown on the horizon in the left center, and destroyer Hammann at the extreme left. (National Archives)

The climax of the naval battle came on May 8 as the opposing carrier strike forces directly engaged one another. U.S. aircraft severely damaged Shokaku, one of the two Japanese fleet carriers, while Japanese planes hit both Yorktown and Lexington, the latter of which later sank.

The Japanese had prevailed at the tactical level.

Strategically, however, the battle was a pivotal Allied victory.

Due to bomb damage and the loss of planes, neither Shokaku nor its sister carrier, Zuikaku, was available the next month for the Battle of Midway.

Yorktown, on the other hand, was repaired in time and played a critical role in that decisive U.S. victory.

Of greatest importance was the chance sinking of Shoho, which forced the Japanese to turn back the Port Moresby invasion force, marking the abrupt end of Japan’s southward race to achieve undisputed control of the western Pacific.

/>View of the underside of the aircraft carrier Yorktown's flight deck structure, showing the impact hole made by the Japanese bomb that struck amidships during the Battle of Coral Sea on May 8, 1942. This bomb penetrated several decks before exploding, killing or seriously injuring 66 crewmen. This view looks upward, with a patch over the flight deck visible within the hole. Note structural beam in lower part of the photo, distorted by the bomb's passage. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

In geostrategic matters hubris is often a fatal character flaw.

Even industrial potential can shape military events.

In warfare the victory often goes to he who makes the fewest mistakes.

Luck is the wild card in combat.

Sometimes a tactical victory masks a decisive strategic loss.

The aircraft carrier henceforth supplanted the battleship as the centerpiece of major naval actions.

What if the Japanese Had Won the Battle of the Coral Sea?

Many “what if” scenarios rely on close calls, in which the outcome pivoted on a single event that went one way but might easily have gone another. But in the case of Coral Sea, it's almost easier to explain how the Japanese could have won the battle than explain how they managed to lose it.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Military History, a sister publication of Navy Times. To subscribe, click here.

3 May 1942 - History

Robert L. Wagner, a native Texan, was born in 1925. He attended graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, and studied with the historian Walter Prescott Webb. In 1954, he received his M.A. He lived in Austin, Texas and Nacogdoches, Texas, where he taught in the history department of Stephen F. Austin State University.

Wagner served as an aerial gunner with the American 8th Air Force in England during World War II. After the war, he served in the 36th Division National Guard from 1947 to 1949.

In 1963, Wagner began working on the book, The Texas Army: A History of the 36th Division in the Italian Campaign, which was published in 1972. As part of his research efforts, Wagner solicited wartime correspondence, photographs, maps, newspaper clippings, diaries and journals from former 36th Division soldiers throughout Texas and the United States. He solicited these materials through letters, announcements in the 36th Division Association Bulletin and other magazines and newspapers, and a speech at a 36th Division reunion. Dr. Dorman Winfrey, Director and State Librarian of the Texas State Library (now known as the Texas State Library and Archives Commission), assisted Wagner and arranged for the material to be donated to the Texas State Library.

36th Division

The 36th Division, also known as the "Texas Division" and the "T-Patchers," was organized at Camp Bowie (then in Fort Worth, Texas) on July 18, 1917 from National Guard units. The division served in France during World War I, remained for occupation duty, and then returned to Camp Bowie and was released from active duty on June 20, 1919.

On November 25, 1940, the 36th Division was once again called to active duty at Camp Bowie in Brownwood, Texas. In 1941, the Division went to Louisiana for maneuvers, where they had mock battles with General Walter Kreuger's Third Army. In February 1942, they moved to Camp Blanding, Florida and prepared to go overseas. Orders changed, however, and instead of shipping out in the summer, the Division continued training in the Carolinas. The Division then spent the winter in Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, and, in April 1943, left for North Africa, where they were held in combat reserve.

The 36th Division finally saw action on September 9, 1943, when they landed at Paestum, Italy in the Gulf of Salerno. They were the first American combat unit to land in Europe. They spent the next 11 months fighting in the Italian campaign. After securing Salerno, the 36th Division moved forward to attack Altavilla and Hill 424. Heavy fighting ensued through September 14, and then, with reinforcements, Allied forces won, securing the Salerno plain.

From the Salerno plain, the 36th Division began a slow move toward Rome. Italian mountains and winter weather combined with German forces to make the advance to Rome slow and dangerous. In the months between November 1943 and the fall of Rome on June 5, 1944, the 36th Division saw some of the heaviest fighting in the Italian campaign. Significant engagements included San Pietro, Anzio and Velletri.

Not all 36th Division engagements were successful. One of the bloodiest and most heavily debated engagements was the attempt to cross the Rapido River January 20 and 21, 1944. Although most officers thought an attempt to cross the Rapido was doomed to fail, General Mark W. Clark ordered the crossing. The operation did fail, and the result was 2,128 casualties and the loss of the better part of the 141st and 143rd regiments. In 1946, the 36th Division Association requested an investigation into the Rapido River crossing and the role of General Clark. The United States House of Representatives' Committee on Military Affairs held a hearing and exonerated Clark, although they did acknowledge the heavy price in lives that the 36th Division paid.

On August 15, 1944, the 36th Division left Italy and landed on the beaches of Southern France. They fought their way northward in France, entered Germany and Austria, and served until the war ended in May of 1945. After six months as occupation troops, the 36th Division returned home.

After World War II, the 36th Division became part of the Texas National Guard. In 1968, the Division was deactivated. Today, its lineage and honors rest with the 36th Brigade of the 49th Armored Division of the United States Army.

Scope and Contents of the Records

The materials in this collection include correspondence (letters, V-mail, telegrams, postcards, memoranda and greeting cards), diaries, journals and reminiscences, military records, journal and newspaper clippings, printed material, photographs, negatives, maps, ribbons, patches, money, audio tapes of interviews, an armband, a book, drawings, minutes, notes, sheet music, poems, congressional testimony, transcripts of interviews, press statements, speeches, reports, outlines, index cards, bibliographies, copies of published chapters and articles, and a design for a book jacket. The collection is the research material of Robert Wagner, historian and author of The Texas Army: A History of the 36th Division in the Italian Campaign, and date [1922?], 1936-1938, 1940-1971, [1975?] (bulk 1942-1945). The bulk of the material is correspondence, clippings, printed material and military records, 1942 to 1945, created by and collected by 36th Division soldiers which Wagner gathered for his research. Much of the correspondence is in V-mail format. V-mail is a process where the U.S. Army microfilmed soldiers' letters, and mailed the microfilm rolls to distribution centers where they were enlarged to 4 x 5 inch prints and sent to the addressees through regular mail. Subjects discussed in the papers include camp and army life, military strategy and operations, family life in the United States, Prisoner of War experiences, the religious life of soldiers, and combat experiences. A great deal of information concerns the Rapido River Crossing, an operation that resulted in heavy losses and accusations of incompetent leadership against the commanding officer, Mark W. Clark. In addition to gathering original materials and remembrances from 36th Division soldiers, Wagner collected World War II photographs, maps and military records relating to the 36th Division's wartime activities. He also collected information from the 36th Division Association, the association for all who had served in the 36th Division at any time, and interviewed some of its World War II-era servicemen at the 1966 Association reunion. Wagner's notes, bibliographies and drafts of chapters document his research and writing process.

When the materials arrived, some were roughly organized by creator, but much of it was not organized in any discernible way. It appeared that an archivist had begun to organize the materials at some time in the past, but did not progress very far.

Letters were removed from envelopes and filed behind the envelopes in which they were contained, in keeping with the method Wagner used. Clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper. Original maps were separated to the Historic Map Archive. Photographs and negatives were separated to the Prints and Photographs Collection.

On May 28, 1942, air-raid warning bells sound at 2:25 pm and more than 50,000 students at public schools throughout Seattle are immediately sent home. Only civilian defense authorities and officers of the Fourth Interceptor Command are aware that the bells signal a practice drill rather than a genuine air raid. Parents, students, teachers, principals, and the general public receive no advance warning, and many students report being terrified that enemy air attack is imminent.

Enemy Planes?

Even the school operators who sounded the alert that sent the students home were unaware that their warning was a drill -- they, too, thought enemy planes had been sighted heading toward Seattle. The alert was code yellow, meaning that citizens had a half-hour before the arrival of enemy planes.

Most students proceeded home quickly but without panic. Calls from parents, however, flooded the school administration switchboard for several hours after their children arrived home unexpectedly. After determining that the event was only a drill, some parents voiced criticism of the unannounced drill on the basis that it had been unfair to frighten the children unnecessarily.

Seattle Public School Superintendent Ward McClure defended the surprise drill to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "'Air raid drills must become as automatic as fire drills. We have a definite responsibility to handle the situation. If we announce that a drill is to be held it is impossible to judge its success. The system must function the same, whether the raid is real or not'" (May 29, 1942).

Practice Makes Perfect

The drill was unannounced, but the students had been practicing for such occasions and knew what to do. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer explained:

"Immediately through Seattle school buildings, air raid warning bells sounded, youngsters lined up as they have been taught to do since danger of attack became imminent, and in less than five minutes buildings were clear. The alert, giving half-hour warning of approaching planes, made it possible for nearly all of the city's students to go to their homes. Those who go to and from school on buses or must wait for their parents at the end of the school day were ordered to air raid shelter stations in the buildings.

"Had the alarm been another type of alert, only those students who can reach their homes in ten minutes would have left the buildings, and had the alert signaled immediate danger, all students would have remained in the buildings, taking safety stations" (May 29, 1942).

The All Clear signal came at 2:40 pm.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

A May 30, 1942, editorial in The Seattle Times compared the decision to manage the drill by allowing students and teachers to believe they were in imminent danger with the fable of the "The Shepherd's Boy," commonly known as the Boy Who Cried Wolf. The shepherd in the fable "shouted 'Wolf, wolf' to fool his companions and wound up by double crossing himself . we believe that a serious mistake has been made in this instance. The inevitable result -- if the mistake is not corrected -- is that teachers will have less confidence in any future warning that may come from the school administration and that students and their parents will have less confidence in the teachers" ("Air Raid Drills").

The editorial called for clear distinction between practice drills and actual attacks, concluding, "then there will be efficiency without panic, if and when we get the message that the people of Honolulu did -- 'This is the real McCoy.'"

WTCN radio announcer Roger Krupp read what is regarded as the first, or one of the first, news flash announcements alerting the American public to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Krupp's announcement included the assurance "This is not a maneuver. This is the real McCoy" ("Sotheby's to Auction. ").

Crossed Signals

Lincoln High School, Broadway High School, and several elementary schools failed to participate in the drill. The Seattle Star reported that the clerk who answered the telephone at Lincoln misunderstood the call to be a simple test and never announced the warning. Broadway High students were already conducting their own internal air raid drill when the call announcing the citywide alert came. A student took the call and misunderstood what the Star called "the terse instructions -- 'Air raid message: yellow'" (May 29, 1942). Broadway High's 1,400 students finished their own drill and returned to their classrooms.

At Stevens Elementary the children were evacuated from the building and then immediately returned to their classrooms. At John B. Allen Elementary the students were sent to air raid stations within the school building.

The Real Thing For Them

Most Seattle schoolchildren, however, cast worried glances skyward and hurried home. The Seattle Star reported:

"Children were rushed out of their school buildings so rapidly that in many cases they went home without wraps, lunch boxes, and books.

'I was never so scared in my life,' said 14-year-old Dolores Devoice of Alexander Hamilton Middle School. 'We just moved here from Montana. Over there we didn't even know there was a war going on.' Dolores. went home with Lois (Jackie) Welch. 'We ran all the way,' said Jackie. 'Dolores cried on the way home and I started to cry after we got there'" (May 29, 1949). Despite the tears, Jackie Welch's mother thought the experience was beneficial, telling the Star "'They don't take this war seriously enough. It's a good thing to scare them a little.'"

John Muir Elementary School students being sent home during air raid drill, Seattle, May 28, 1942

Courtesy The Seattle Star

John Muir Elementary School students evacuating their building during air raid drill, Seattle, May 28, 1942

Courtesy The Seattle Star

Whitworth School students evacuating their building during air raid drill, Seattle, May 28, 1942

Courtesy Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Seattle Public School students (probably at John Muir Elementary) shield their heads with coats during air raid drill, Seattle, May 28, 1942

Nazi Germany Surrenders: February 1945-May 1945

Nazi Germany's World War II campaign officially came to an end on May 7, 1945, when German general Alfred Jodl signed the formal surrender documents in Reims, France. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the war from May 3, 1945, to May 7, 1945.

World War II Timeline: May 3-May 7

May 3: British Royal Air Force (RAF) planes attack and sink three German ships -- the Cap Arcona,Thielbek, and Deutschland. Unknown to the RAF, these ships -- under the direction of the Red Cross -- are carrying rescued prisoners (mostly Jews) from German concentration camps. Some 8,000 lose their lives.

May 4: German troops surrender en masse throughout northern Germany and the Netherlands.

May 5: German and Allied officials meet in Reims, France, to reach agreement on the terms of Germany's capitulation.

The German army lays down its weapons throughout Bavaria.

American troops performing mop-up operations near Berchtesgaden capture Hans Frank, occupied Poland's Nazi governor general, who had established his headquarters in the city of Kraków.

U.S. forces liberate French and Austrian officials -- including premiers Reynaud, Daladier, Blum, and Schuschnigg -- from captivity in Austria.

Czech partisans rise up against the German occupation force in Prague.

A Japanese balloon bomb kills a woman and five children in Oregon, becoming the only such bomb of the war to induce casualties.

May 6: Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, supreme Allied commander of the Southeast Asia theater, announces that the Allied campaign in Burma has come to an end.

May 7: German general Alfred Jodl signs the formal surrender documents in Reims, France, as Nazi Germany surrenders unconditionally to the Allies.

The Red Army captures Breslau, Germany, after laying siege to the German garrison for 82 days.

U-2336 sinks two merchant ships in the North Atlantic -- the last U-boat "kills" of the war.

World War II Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the liberation of Dachau, as well as the execution of Dachau guards by U.S. troops in late April 1945.

Martin Bormann is Germany's "secret leader" : Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Parteikanzlei (Chancellery), completely controlled personal access to the Führer. By manipulating Adolf Hitler, Martin Bormann also affected Nazi Party directives, promotions, appointments, and finances. Present in the bunker during Adolf Hitler's final days, Martin Bormann was a witness to the wedding of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. After that, he disappeared. Evidence indicates that he perished in Berlin while attempting to escape through heavy gunfire. After the war, Martin Bormann was tried at Nuremberg in absentia. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

American skepticism over Adolf Hitler suicide leads to an extensive 11-year investigation by the FBI: A cover of Time, illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff, showed Adolf Hitler's face with a blood-red X over it. It appeared on the issue dated May 7, 1945, a week after the German leader's suicide. When word reached America that Adolf Hitler had taken his own life, the report was met with skepticism. In fact, the FBI conducted an extensive, 11-year investigation into whether the German leader faked his death. His suicide was confirmed in the 1960s by Russian journalist Lev Bezymenski. He reported that Soviets had performed an autopsy on corpses found buried in a shallow grave that were identified as belonging to Adolf Hitler, his wife, and their two dogs.

Traumatized World War II soldiers suffer from "shell shock" -- today called Combat Stress Reactions (CSRs): At the front lines in Nazi Germany in 1945, doctors routinely gave traumatized, exhausted American soldiers sedatives. Throughout World War II, Allied forces were troubled by incidents of what is today called Combat Stress Reactions (CSRs). It was then referred to as "shell shock," "battle fatigue," or "war neurosis." The 1943 episode in which General Patton slapped two troubled soldiers in Sicily generated concern about the problem, and by 1944 a psychiatrist was assigned to each American division. Some soldiers were sent to rear hospitals for psychological treatment.

The liberation of Dachau uncovers 30,000 prisoners and hundreds of unburied corpses: Flat-bed trucks were used to haul away bodies of prisoners who died at Dachau. Located near Munich, Germany, the Dachau concentration camp had been built in 1933 to confine political opponents of the Nazi movement, and in November 1938, 11,000 Jewish prisoners were sent there. Dachau was used as a model for other concentration camps in Nazi Germany and Eastern Europe. In spring 1943, a crematorium with four ovens was put into use at the camp. Upon liberating Dachau on April 30, Americans discovered more than 30,000 prisoners and hundreds of unburied corpses. In its 12 years, more than 30,000 of Dachau's 200,000 prisoners died.

U.S. troops execute Dachau guards on liberation day -- April 30, 1945: When Dachau was liberated on April 30, 1945, an unknown number of American GIs lined 16 SS camp guards against a coal yard wall in the adjacent SS training camp and executed them (pictured). Additional executions took place at Dachau's rail yard, at a guard tower, and at Würm creek. In all, 37 to 39 SS personnel were dispatched that day. These actions were "unauthorized" and did not reflect U.S. Army policy toward captured SS.

German commodore Karl Dönitz named president of Germany: In 1935 Adolf Hitler named German commodore Karl Dönitz as the first commander-in-chief of U-boats. He advanced in rank and command until 1943, when he became grand admiral of the German Navy. When two of Adolf Hitler's highest lieutenants, Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring, betrayed him, Adolf Hitler named Dönitz as his successor with the title of president. The only part of the Reich not in Allied hands by the end of April was an area near Flensburg in northern Germany. Dönitz's government there was never acknowledged by the Allies and came to an end on May 23, 1945, when he was arrested by British troops.

German troops continued to surrender to Allied forces throughout Europe, and Victory (V-E) Day was declared. Continue on to the next page for a detailed timeline highlighting this and other important World War II events that occurred from May 8, 1945, to May 16, 1945.

This week in history: The Battle of Midway

One of the most important battles of World War II was fought on June 4-7, 1942, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Battle of Midway not only denied the totalitarian Japanese empire the Midway Atoll, and thus a staging area for further attacks upon Hawaii, it also destroyed forever Japan's strategic initiative in the war.

By spring 1942, the United States was still reeling from Japan's sneak attack against Pearl Harbor. Much of the U.S. fleet's striking power had been sent to the bottom, and the prospect of the U.S. Navy hitting back at Japan, or even being able to defend America in the Pacific, was in doubt. In April, Army Air Corps officer Jimmy Doolittle led a daring attack that successfully bombed the Japanese home islands. Questions of morale aside, Doolittle's mission did little to halt the Japanese advance.

In early May, American and Japanese carriers fought the Battle of the Coral Sea. It was the first naval battle in world history where the fighting ships never saw each other — the battle was conducted entirely by aircraft launched from opposing ships. The battle was a strategic draw, and the U.S. Navy had to scuttle one carrier, the Lexington, and a second carrier, the Yorktown, was badly damaged.

The Japanese were in the superior position, however. After the Battle of the Coral Sea, and led by the brilliant tactician Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, the Imperial Japanese Navy boasted four fleet carriers, huge naval behemoths that could each carry 70 aircrafts. By contrast, the United States Navy had only two carriers to meet them, the Enterprise and the Hornet, with the Yorktown in such bad shape that no one thought it could ever be ready for the impending showdown.

The commander-in-chief of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet, Adm. Chester Nimitz, had a daunting task. No one knew where the Japanese would strike. Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, San Francisco and the Panama Canal were all possible targets. With a chessboard the size of the ocean, anticipating Japan's move wouldn't be easy. Fortunately, he had an ace in the hole: The U.S. could read Japanese codes.

Historian Barrett Tillman notes the important role that intelligence played: “Chester Nimitz possessed the priceless asset of knowledge of enemy plans. His code breakers had reached into the atmosphere and plucked down enough information to give (his command) a look over Yamamoto's shoulder at the strategic card table.” The Japanese target was Midway Atoll, northwest of the Hawaiian islands.

When the U.S. and Japanese forces met in earnest on the morning of June 4, no one could be sure what would happen. The odds would be somewhat better than predicted, however. The Yorktown had been repaired in only three days, an astonishing feat of engineering, and the Americans went into the battle with three fleet carriers to Japan's four.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson describes the chaos of the American attack upon one of Japan's carriers: “(A) bomb from one of the American dive-bombers plowed into the hanger and ignited the Akagi's stored torpedoes, which immediately began to rip the ship open from the inside out. . (The Japanese) wooden runways offered poor protection for the fuel, planes and bombs in storage below. . The best naval pilots of the imperial fleet were being slaughtered in a matter of minutes.”

America's victory at Midway stemmed not from just one great leader, but from several men in varying positions whose intelligence, daring and bravery sealed the fate of the four Japanese carriers that day. In addition to the admirals, whose intuition and willingness to gamble paid off, the pilots who flew the attacks, sailors who withstood the repeated Japanese assaults, and the teams that worked round the clock to repair the Yorktown, proved themselves to be the engineers of victory.

Japan lost all four of its fleet carriers at Midway, three of them in under an hour. America only lost one. As for the human cost, the Japanese lost more than 3,000, while the United States lost more than 300 — a relatively small count when compared with casualty rates in other major World War II battles.

Japan would never again enjoy such naval superiority, and thus lost the strategic initiative for the rest of the war. As Hanson writes: “During the four years of the war the Americans constructed 16 major warships for every one the Japanese built.” Simply put, Japan could not make good its losses. The United States could.

Every major American victory in the Pacific War was built upon the triumph at Midway. In a very real sense, it proved the turning point in America's war against Japan and ended the fear of a major Japanese invasion elsewhere in the Pacific.

Historian Craig L. Sydmods summed up the significance of the battle: “That the Americans at Midway changed the course of World War II is indisputable. At 10 o'clock on the morning of June 4, 1942, the Japanese were winning the Pacific War an hour later, three Japanese aircraft carriers were on fire and sinking.”

How do these more or less theoretical expectations conform to the facts? We have two main sources of information by which to check our opinions. One is a compilation of the crimes known to the police in towns and cities, which is made annually by the Federal Bureau of Investigation the other is the number of convictions for major offenses in a group of selected states, which is gathered by the Census Bureau.

Table I shows the number of offenses known to the police for each 100,000 people living in cities and towns. It should be explained that the rates shown for the years from 1935 to 1940 were based on the estimated population in 1933, while, beginning with 1940, the population figure of 1940 was used. This had the effect of making the rates up to 1940 a little higher than they would have been if we had had exact population figures for each year.

Table I

Selected Major Offenses Known to Police in Cities and Towns (Rates per 100,000 population)

Criminal Homicide

Aggravated Assault

A study of the table shows that criminal homicide rates dropped steadily after 1937, except for slight upturns in 1941 and 1944. Crimes of aggravated assault were fairly stable until 1940, but tended to increase thereafter. The robbery rate steadily decreased through the ten-year period. Burglary rates went up gradually until 1941, dropped for two years, then turned upward once more. Theft rates, except for automobiles, reached a peak in 1941. Automobile thefts reached a low point in 1942, but the rate then climbed upward again, possibly because of the rise in prices of secondhand cars.

Table II, which shows the rate of convictions for major crimes, seems to show a very favorable picture. The war years 1942 and 1943 show lower rates than 1940 and 1941 and much lower rates than 1938 and 1939. It should be borne in mind that when all major crimes are lumped together, as in this table, the combined rate is likely to follow the trend of the burglary and larceny rates, for these crimes are far more numerous than the others taken into consideration.

Table II

Conviction Rates for Major Offenses (Rates per 100,000 population)

What do these figures mean?

From a study of these figures, one is tempted to conclude that the war had a favorable effect on the crime rate in this country, with the possible exception of crimes of violence against life. In all probability this was due to the removal of a large proportion of young men into the armed services and to growing economic prosperity. It should be remembered, however, that these tables do not show the growth in racketeering which accompanied rationing.

Women and crime

Women commit only a small proportion of crimes in normal times. Murder is almost the only crime of violence in which they are likely to figure. There are almost no women robbers or burglars. The woman criminal depends on deceit, fraud, and the use of sex appeal as a rule, rather than on strength, skill, or agility.

Students of criminology have always assumed that one reason for this state of affairs was the fact that woman&rsquos role as wife, mother, and housekeeper sheltered her from many of the conflicts and temptations that confront men. But the war wrought enormous changes in women&rsquos lives. Millions of them went out from their homes to take jobs in war plants or to do other kinds of work. If the old explanation for their low crime rates was correct, their new role in the working world should have caused an increase in the number of crimes committed by women.

Did it actually work out that way? Unfortunately our criminal statistics are too meager to make a conclusive answer possible at present, but what little is known bears out this theory.

How about juvenile delinquency?

We heard a great deal about juvenile delinquency during the war. Most GI&rsquos had a chance at one time or another to visit one of the country&rsquos large cities and to form their own opinions about the so-called &ldquoVictory girls.&rdquo In most communities, juvenile courts usually handle children under 16, and in some states the age limits go up to 17 or 18. We ought to remember however, that these courts handle not only children who have committed crimes, but also children who are in danger of becoming delinquents, which is quite another matter.

Juvenile court statistics have been collected for a number of years by the Children&rsquos Bureau of the United States Department of Labor, which gets these figures from 225 courts, most of which are in large cities. The first thing we find is that four times as many boys as girls come before these courts.

If we compare 1938 with 1944, there has been a sharp and fairly steady increase in both girls&rsquo and boys&rsquo cases. In 19 there were 51 percent more boys&rsquo cases and 82 percent more girls&rsquo cases than in 1938. The change has not been uniform throughout the country. Some areas have been especially hard hit, while others have actually shown a decline. One especially interesting point to note is that the beginning of the rise occurred before the start of the war.

We really don&rsquot know whether or not these figures are true guides. Much of the increase in the number of girls&rsquo cases was the direct result of the public furor over girls&rsquo sexual behavior in wartime. Parents and public authorities appealed to juvenile courts to do something about sex misbehavior, which may have been as frequent before the war, but less flagrant.

We have one other source of information on the subject. The FBI regularly receives fingerprints from police authorities all over the nation for checking against its file. In 1943, the number of boys under 18 who were fingerprinted was 23 percent greater than in 1942 in 1944, it was 21.5 percent above the 1942 figure. Both years showed a progressive increase in homicide and assault charges against boys of this age group. Girls under the age of 21 are all classified in a single age group by the FBI. In 1940 it received the fingerprints of about 8,400 of them. Since then it has not released actual figures but has only shown the percentage of increases and decreases on various charges. However, these figures indicate that about 13,000 girls were fingerprinted in 1942, and about 22,000 arrests are estimated for each of the two succeeding years.

These facts confirm the experience of other nations at war. Wartime strains weakened our social fabric in many ways. Many children were deprived of the supervision that their fathers or older brothers would ordinarily have given them. Other youngsters worked in war plants and received wages that were fantastic by peacetime standards. They had the money, and they thought they had the right, to amuse themselves in any way they saw fit. Many children quit school at the earliest possible moment to try for some of the &ldquobig money&rdquo and thereby were exposed to temptations they would not otherwise have encountered.

Thus our police and court statistics plainly show that moral hazards were increased for children in wartime.

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