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21 Jan 1942
  • German General Erwin Rommel began his counterattack into Cyrenaica from El Agheila, Libya. ww2dbase [Operation Crusader | TH]
  • American carriers Enterprise and Yorktown and their task forces set course to raid Marshall and Gilbert Islands. ww2dbase [Enterprise | CPC]
  • USS Edsall and Australian minesweepers attacked and sank Japanese submarine I-22 off Darwin, Australia; I-22 was on a mine-laying mission. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Shokaku launched strikes against Lae. ww2dbase [Shokaku | CPC]
  • HMS Indomitable refueled at Addu Atoll, Maldive Islands and departed for Java. ww2dbase [Indomitable | CPC]
  • Following the catastrophe of the previous day, Japanese Mitsubishi A6M fighters escorted the bombers to Singapore and shot down five of the defending Hurricane fighters without loss; during the period 30 Dec 1941 to 15 Feb 1942, Singapore would suffer 18 heavy air raids and 25 lesser attacks. Meanwhile, to the north in Malaya, the retreat of Indian and Australian troops from Bakri was blocked at the Parit Sulong bridge at 0930 hours. ww2dbase [Invasion of Malaya and Singapore | AC]
  • Destroyer HMS Opportune (G-80) was launched. ww2dbase [AC]
  • Dutch motor launch Attla embarked the crew of USS S-36, which became stuck on Taka Bakang Reef in the Makassar Strait between British Borneo and Celebes, Dutch East Indies on the prior date. ww2dbase [S-36 | CPC]
  • Japanese troops penetrated the west side of the Abucay-Mauban defensive line at Mount Natib on Luzon, Philippine Islands and began to cut off supplies to US-Filipino troops on the line. ww2dbase [Invasion of the Philippine Islands | CPC]
  • Japanese submarine I-66 sank British ship Chak Sang (5 were killed, 61 survived) and Panamanian ship Nord 125 miles southwest of Rangoon, Burma. ww2dbase [CPC]
Atlantic Ocean
  • German submarine U-754 sank unescorted Norwegian 2,135-ton ship Belize off Newfoundland at 1922 hours; 20 crew members were killed during the sinking, and 4 took to lifeboats; when HMCS Spikenard found the lifeboat four days later, the Canadian sailors discovered only dead bodies. At 2221 hours, German submarine U-130 sank unescorted Norwegian 8,248-ton tanker Alexandra H√łegh 200 miles east of Rhodes Island, United States; the first torpedo hit struck in the forward section of the ship, forcing the crew to abandon ship in three lifeboats; a second torpedo hit caused a huge explosion and broke the ship in half; all 28 crew members survived. ww2dbase [Second Happy Time | CPC, HM]
Australian New Guinea
  • Akagi's aircraft carried out strikes against Kavieng, New Ireland. ww2dbase [Akagi | Kavieng, New Ireland | CPC]
  • Frustrated Australian Chaplain John May at Rabaul, New Britain sent a message to Townsville, Australia containing the Latin phrase "Morituri vos salutamus", or "we who are about to die salute you", referring to the Australian government's abandonment of those deployed to Rabaul. To the east, a Catalina aircraft from Buka Island took off at dawn and spotted a Japanese cruiser force 6 hours later; the aircraft was shot down by fighters; 3 were killed, 5 were captured by cruiser Aoba. Shortly after, 52 carrier aircraft attacked Kavieng, New Ireland. At 1630 hours, RAAF command ordered the No. 24 Squadron to attack any Japanese fleets that might be approaching Rabaul as if it did not know that No. 24 Squadron had effectively been wiped out by Japanese attacks on the previous day; nevertheless, the last surviving Hudson bomber was launched on patrol, and would return after failing to find any Japanese ships. ww2dbase [New Guinea-Papua Campaign, Phase 1, Bismarck Islands | Rabaul, New Britain | CPC]
Caroline Islands
  • Hiryu, Soryu, Ariake, Yugure, Ushio, and Sazanami departed Palau, Caroline Islands at 1600 hours for air strikes on Maluku Islands, Dutch East Indies. ww2dbase [Soryu | Hiryu | Yugure | Palau | CPC]
Dutch East Indies
  • Japanese Sakaguchi Detachment departed the island of Tarakan for Balikpapan, Dutch Borneo. Cruiser USS Boise, cruiser USS Marblehead, and four destroyers departed Koepang, Dutch Timor to intercept; en route, USS Boise hit a rock and USS Marblehead suffered engine trouble, thus the destroyers would sail on by themselves. ww2dbase [Dutch East Indies Campaign, Borneo | Tarakan, Borneo | CPC]
  • Naka departed Tarakan, Dutch Borneo. ww2dbase [Naka | Tarakan, Borneo | CPC]
Hawaii Pacific Ocean
  • In the morning, Dutch launch Attla picked up 30 members of S-36's crew at the southern end of Makassar Strait, while commanding officer Lieutenant John McKnight, Jr. led a small group in a final attempt to save the ship which had ran aground on the previous day. After noon, Dutch cargo ship Siberote arrived. McKnight gave the order to board Siberote and abandon S-36. The submarine was scuttled at 1330 hours. ww2dbase [S-36 | Makassar Strait | CPC]
United Kingdom
  • The German Luftwaffe resumed bombing London, England, United Kingdom and a number of southern British ports. ww2dbase [London, England | TH]
United States Photo(s) dated 21 Jan 1942
Brigadier General Clarence Tinker and Colonel Willis Hale being sworn into their new, next higher ranks by Colonel Cheney Bertholf, Adjutant General of the 7th Air Force, Hickam Field, 21 Jan 1942.

21 Jan 1942 Interactive Map

Timeline Section Founder: Thomas Houlihan
Contributors: Alan Chanter, C. Peter Chen, Thomas Houlihan, Hugh Martyr, David Stubblebine
Special Thanks: Rory Curtis

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