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31 Jan 1942
  • German SS Einsatzgruppe A reported a tally of 229,052 Jews killed in the Baltic States and in Byelorussia, while Estonia was reported to be free of Jews. Extermination activities had paused in Lithuania, it reported, but would soon be picked up again. ww2dbase [Discovery of Concentration Camps and the Holocaust | CPC]
  • More than 200,000 Russians had died in Leningrad this month from starvation, disease and illness. Reports began to circulate of cannibalism amongst the besieged population. ww2dbase [Siege of Leningrad | AC]
  • The German support ship Spreewald, disguised as British Royal Mail steamer Brittany, was carrying 200 British seamen captured from sunken merchantmen when German submarine U-333 found her. Believing she was indeed a British ship, Spreewald was torpedoed and sunk off Bordeaux, France. Only 24 crewmen and 58 POWs were rescued. The U-boat captain, Peter Cremer, was exonerated by a Royal Navy inquiry because he identified the ship as the Royal Mail steamer, Brittany, which was precisely what the Spreewald's captain had disguised his ship to resemble. ww2dbase [AC]
  • Commander Yahachi Tanabe became the commanding officer of I-68. ww2dbase [I-68/I-168 | CPC]
  • German submarine U-107 sank British tanker San Arcadio 425 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, United States at 0445 hours; 41 were killed, 9 survived. To the south, U-109 sank British tanker Tacoma Star 200 kilometers east of Virginia, United States. Out to sea, U-333 sank German freighter Spreewald by mistake (Spreewald was under disguise as British Royal Mail transport Brittany); 41 German crew members and 31 British prisoners of war were killed, 25 German crew members and 55 British prisoners of war survived. At 2212 hours, U-82 attacked Allied troop convoy NA-2 in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and sank British destroyer HMS Belmont, killing all 138 aboard. At 2331 hours, U-105 attacked Allied convoy SL-98 500 miles southwest of Ireland, sinking British Sloop HMS Culver with 2 torpedoes which detonated the magazine; 126 were killed, 12 survived. ww2dbase [Second Happy Time | CPC]
  • Japanese 55th Infantry Division captured the town of Moulmein, Burma one day after the nearby airfield was captured; Burmese 2nd Infantry Brigade (Brigadier Roger Ekin) retreated across the Salween River during the night after having lost 617 men (mostly missing); Archibald Wavell however, unaware of the true situation, was appalled and angry to hear of the ease with which the Japanese had driven Burmese 2nd Infantry Brigade from the town. On the same day, Slim issued a report summarizing the air situation in Burma, noting the Allies had 35 aircraft in the area to defend against about 150 Japanese aircraft; while a few more Allied aircraft were en route for Burma, by mid-Mar 1942 there would be 400 operational Japanese aircraft in this theater of war. ww2dbase [Invasion of Burma | AC]
  • USS Finback was commissioned into service, Lieutenant Commander Jesse L. Hull in command. ww2dbase [Finback | CPC]
  • Destroyer Yukikaze escorted the Japanese invasion force for Ambon, Dutch East Indies. ww2dbase [Yukikaze | CPC]
  • Japanese troops captured Batugong and Passo on Ambon, Dutch East Indies. ww2dbase [Dutch East Indies Campaign, Celebes and Moluccas | CPC]
  • Japanese submarine I-64 sank Indian merchant ship Jalapalaka 63 miles southeast of Madras, India with the deck gun; 13 were killed, 54 survived. ww2dbase [CPC]
Australian New Guinea Caroline Islands
  • Yugure arrived at Palau, Caroline Islands at 0730 hours. ww2dbase [Yugure | Palau | CPC]
  • Pan Yukun was promoted to the rank of colonel. ww2dbase [Pan Yukun | CPC]
  • American carrier USS Lexington was ordered to sail south to cover the return of carriers USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown from their Marshall and Gilbert Islands raid. To that end, she set sail for Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii with Task Force 11. ww2dbase [Lexington (Lexington-class) | Pearl Harbor, Oahu | CPC]
Malaya Russia
  • He 111 bombers of German Luftwaffe I./KG 4 attacked a depot of transport vehicles at Grodino, central Russia. ww2dbase [Grodino | CPC]
South Africa
  • HMS Hermes completed her refit at Simon's Town, South Africa. ww2dbase [Hermes | Simon's Town | CPC]
United States Photo(s) dated 31 Jan 1942
USS Ancon at San Francisco, California, United States, 31 Jan 1942British Army Lieutenant General Arthur Percival meeting with war correspondents shortly before the surrender of Singapore, circa late Jan 1942

31 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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"Goddam it, you'll never get the Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!"

Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943

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