Archive for February 15th, 2009
February 15, 1942
Japan celebrates major victory in the Pacific
In one of the greatest defeats in British military history, Britain’s supposedly impregnable Singapore fortress surrenders to Japanese forces after a weeklong siege. More than 60,000 British, Australian, and Indian soldiers were taken prisoner, joining 70,000 other Allied soldiers captured during Britain’s disastrous defense of the Malay Peninsula.
On December 8, 1941–the day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor–the Japanese moved against British-controlled Malay, steamrollering across Thailand and landing in northern Malay. The Japanese made rapid advances against British positions, capturing British airfields and gaining air superiority. British General A.E. Percival was reluctant to leave Malay’s roads and thus was outflanked again and again by the Japanese, who demonstrated an innovative grasp of the logistics of jungle warfare. The Allies could do little more than delay the Japanese and continued to retreat south.
By January, the Allied force was outnumbered and held just the lower half of the peninsula. General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s 25th Army continued to push forward, and on January 31 the Allies were forced to retreat across the causeway over the Johor Strait to the great British naval base on the island of Singapore, located on the southern tip of the peninsula. The British dynamited the causeway behind them but failed to entirely destroy the bridge.
Singapore, with its big defensive guns, was considered invulnerable to attack. However, the guns, which used armor-piercing shells and the flat trajectories necessary to decimate an enemy fleet, were not designed to defend against a land attack on the unfortified northern end of the island.
On February 5, Yamashita brought up heavy siege guns to the tip of the peninsula and began bombarding Singapore. On February 8, thousands of Japanese troops began streaming across the narrow waterway and established several bridgeheads. Japanese engineers quickly repaired the causeway, and troops, tanks, and artillery began pouring on to Singapore. The Japanese pushed forward to Singapore City, capturing key British positions and splitting the Allied defenders into isolated groups.
On February 15, Percival–lacking a water supply and nearly out of food and ammunition–agreed to surrender. With the loss of Singapore, the British lost control of a highly strategic waterway and opened the Indian Ocean to Japanese invasion. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called it the “worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.” Many thousands of the 130,000 Allied troops captured died in Japanese captivity.
Later in the war, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the supreme Allied commander in Southeast Asia, made plans for the liberation of the Malay Peninsula, but Japan surrendered before they could be carried out.
“Japan celebrates major victory in the Pacific.” 2009. The History Channel website. 15 Feb 2009, 06:56 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6808.
1758 – Mustard was advertised for the first time in America.
1898 – The USS Maine sank when it exploded in Havana Harbor for unknown reasons. More than 260 crew members were killed.
1933 – U.S. President-elect Roosevelt escaped an assassination attempt in Miami. Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak was killed in the attack.
1946 – Edith Houghton, at age 33, was signed as a baseball scout by the Philadelphia Phillies becoming the first female scout in the major leagues.
1965 – Canada displayed its new red and white maple leaf flag. The flag was to replace the old Red Ensign standard.
1982 – During a storm, the Ocean Ranger, a drilling rig, sank off the coast of Newfoundland. 84 men were killed.
1989 – After nine years of intervention, the Soviet Union announced that the remainder of its troops had left Afghanistan.
February 15, 1996
Oil tanker runs aground near Wales
On this day in 1996, a supertanker, the Sea Empress, runs aground near Wales, spilling 70,000 tons of crude oil. The oil spill did not take any human lives, but severely damaged several bird sanctuaries.
The Pembrokeshire coast of South Wales is an area teeming with wildlife, particularly seals and seabirds such as shelducks, teals and curlews. It is also an area often traveled by oil tankers carrying oil from North Sea drilling operations. On the evening of Thursday, February 15, at 8 p.m., the Sea Empress, a 1,300-foot, 147,000-ton tanker was traveling to Milford Haven on the Welsh coast through poor weather conditions. The ship, registered in Liberia, was carrying 128,000 tons of crude oil for Texaco.
The Sea Empress slammed into some underwater rocks and ran aground. The hull was pierced, causing oil to leak from the ship. The 28-member Russian crew worked feverishly to re-float the tanker, while attempting to move the oil to undamaged holding areas. Despite the quick response, the foul weather reduced the effectiveness of these measures. The Sea Empress was pushed aground a second time when tow lines from a towboat snapped.
Eventually the crew was pulled off the ship by Royal Air Force helicopters. High winds prevented most salvage operations, so the only measure officials could take was to drop detergent and dispersal chemicals on the growing oil spill. Approximately 70,000 tons of oil spilled from the tanker, causing a 12-mile-long oil slick. Nearby beaches were covered with the slimy oil, resulting in the deaths of thousands of seabirds.
The bird sanctuaries on nearby Skomer and Skokholm islands suffered severe damage that was still being repaired 10 years later. Nearly a week after the accident, the Sea Empress was finally pulled in to port.
“Oil tanker runs aground near Wales.” 2009. The History Channel website. 15 Feb 2009, 06:58 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=53078.
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2008 Darwin Award Nominee
Unconfirmed by Darwin
Snowmobiles and alcohol are a dangerous mix. Then came the rabbit.
After a day spent partying and racing snowmobiles in the wilderness, a group of snowmobilers were headed back to their cabin, when up popped a jackrabbit! They gave chase. Several collisions were narrowly averted, and so all the snowmobiles backed off… except one.
This snowmobiler kept his eye on the quarry and rapidly closed in. The rabbit darted aside to save itself. The snowmobiler closed in again. The rabbit ran toward the road, where there was less snow. Trying to ram his rabbit before it crossed the road, the man accelerated to Mach 1.
But the rabbit had other ideas. It darted into the culvert beneath the road. Witnesses stated that the snowmobiler never even braked. There was a metallic crunch as the accelerating vehicle rammed into the culvert, followed by a blast that shattered the snowmobile into a thousand bits.
This brand of snowmobile had a fuel tank mounted in front. The culvert admitted the tip of the snowmobile, then cut into the cowling, spilling fuel over the hot engine. The body of the snowmobiler was blown twenty feet back into the field.
The rabbit’s whereabouts was unknown.
Moderator Bruce speculates, “Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd?”
Alternate title: “Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow”
Reader Marya says “Wetawd”