U.S. and Mexico sign the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement

Year
1942
Month Day
August 04

On August 4, 1942, the United States and Mexico sign the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement, creating what is known as the “Bracero Program.” The program, which lasted until 1964, was the largest guest-worker program in U.S. history. Throughout its existence, the Bracero Program benefited both farmers and laborers but also gave rise to numerous labor disputes, abuses of workers and other problems that have long characterized the history of farm labor in the Southwestern United States.

The program was born from necessity, as the federal government worried that American entry into World War II would sap the Southwest of much of its farm labor. Manual laborers (braceros in Spanish) from Mexico became an important part of the region’s economy, and the program outlasted the war. The program guaranteed workers a number of basic protections, including a minimum wage, insurance and safe, free housing; however, farm owners frequently failed to live up to these requirements. Housing and food routinely proved to be well below standards, and wages were not only low but also frequently paid late or not at all. Years after the program ended, many braceros were still fighting to receive the money that had been deducted from their salaries and allegedly put into savings accounts. Due to these broken promises, strikes were a common occurrence throughout this period.

Over 4.6 million contracts were issued over the 22 years of the Bracero Program. Though Congress let the program expire in 1964, it set the stage for decades of labor disputes and a dynamic of migrant labor that still exists today. The 60s and 70s saw the rise of the United Farm Workers, a union composed largely of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, which continued fighting many of the same inequalities that faced the braceros. To this day, migrant labor from Mexico continues to be a vital part of the Southwestern economy as well as a source of political and racial tension.

READ MORE: When Millions of Americans Stopped Eating Grapes in Support of Farm Workers

Source

Deportations from Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka begin

Year
1942
Month Day
July 22

On July 22, 1942, the systematic deportation of Jewish people from the Warsaw ghetto begins, as thousands are rounded up daily and transported to a newly constructed concentration/extermination camp at Treblinka, in Poland.

On July 17, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS, arrived at Auschwitz, the concentration camp in eastern Poland, in time to watch the arrival of more than 2,000 Dutch Jews and the gassing of almost 500 of them, mostly the elderly, sick and very young. The next day, Himmler promoted the camp commandant, Rudolph Hoess, to SS major and ordered that the Warsaw ghetto (the Jewish quarter constructed by the Nazis upon the occupation of Poland, enclosed first by barbed wire and then by brick walls), be depopulated–a “total cleansing,” as he described it–and the inhabitants transported to what was to become a second extermination camp constructed at the railway village of Treblinka, 62 miles northeast of Warsaw.

READ MORE: Holocaust Photos Reveal Horrors of Nazi Concentration Camps

Within the first seven weeks of Himmler’s order, more than 250,000 Jews were taken to Treblinka by rail and gassed to death, marking the largest single act of destruction of any population group, Jewish or non-Jewish, civilian or military, in the war. Upon arrival at “T. II,” as this second camp at Treblinka was called, prisoners were separated by sex, stripped, and marched into what were described as “bathhouses,” but were in fact gas chambers. T. II’s first commandant was Dr. Irmfried Eberl, age 32, the man who had headed up the euthanasia program of 1940 and had much experience with the gassing of victims, especially children. He compelled several hundred Ukrainian and about 1,500 Jewish prisoners to assist him. They removed gold teeth from victims before hauling the bodies to mass graves. Eberl was relieved of his duties for “inefficiency.” It seems that he and his workers could not remove the corpses quickly enough, and panic was occurring within the railway cars of newly arrived prisoners.

By the end of the war, between 700,000 and 900,000 would die at either Treblinka I or II. Hoess was tried and sentenced to death by the Nuremberg Tribunal. He was hanged in 1947.

Source

FDR orders “enemy aliens” to register


Year
1942
Month Day
January 14

On January 14, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring aliens from World War II-enemy countries—Italy, Germany and Japan—to register with the United States Department of Justice. Registered persons were then issued a Certificate of Identification for Aliens of Enemy Nationality. A follow-up to the Alien Registration Act of 1940, Proclamation No. 2537 facilitated the beginning of full-scale internment of Japanese Americans the following month.

While most Americans expected the U.S. to enter the war, presumably in Europe or the Philippines, the nation was shocked to hear of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In the wake of the bombing, the West Coast appeared particularly vulnerable to another Japanese military offensive. A large population of Japanese Americans inhabited the western states and American military analysts feared some would conduct acts of sabotage on west-coast defense and agricultural industries.

Official relations between the governments of Japan and the United States had soured in the 1930s when Japan began its military conquest of Chinese territory. China, weakened by a civil war between nationalists and communists, represented an important strategic relationship for both the U.S. and Japan. Japan desperately needed China’s raw materials in order to continue its program of modernization. The U.S. needed a democratic Chinese government to counter both Japanese military expansion in the Pacific and the spread of communism in Asia. Liberal Japanese resented American anti-Japanese policies, particularly in California, where exclusionary laws were passed to prevent Japanese Americans from competing with U.S. citizens in the agricultural industry. In spite of these tensions, a 1941 federal report requested by Roosevelt indicated that more than 90 percent of Japanese Americans were considered loyal citizens. Nevertheless, under increasing pressure from agricultural associations, military advisors and influential California politicians, Roosevelt agreed to begin the necessary steps for possible internment of the Japanese-American population.

Ostensibly issued in the interest of national security, Proclamation No. 2537 permitted the arrest, detention and internment of enemy aliens who violated restricted areas, such as ports, water treatment plants or even areas prone to brush fires, for the duration of the war. A month later, a reluctant but resigned Roosevelt signed the War Department’s blanket Executive Order 9066, which authorized the physical removal of all Japanese Americans into internment camps.

READ MORE: Life in WWII Japanese Internment Camps

Source

Battle of Midway ends

Year
1942
Month Day
June 07

On June 7, 1942, the Battle of Midway—one of the most decisive U.S. victories in its war against Japan—comes to an end. In the four-day sea and air battle, the outnumbered U.S. Pacific Fleet succeeded in destroying four Japanese aircraft carriers with the loss of only one of its own, the Yorktown, thus reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy.

In six months of offensives, the Japanese had triumphed in lands throughout the Pacific, including Malaysia, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and numerous island groups. The United States, however, was a growing threat, and Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto sought to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet before it was large enough to outmatch his own. A thousand miles northwest of Honolulu, the strategic island of Midway became the focus of his scheme to smash U.S. resistance to Japan’s imperial designs. Yamamoto’s plan consisted of a feint toward Alaska followed by an invasion of Midway by a Japanese strike force. When the U.S. Pacific Fleet arrived at Midway to respond to the invasion, it would be destroyed by the superior Japanese fleet waiting unseen to the west. If successful, the plan would eliminate the U.S. Pacific Fleet and provide a forward outpost from which the Japanese could eliminate any future American threat in the Central Pacific.

READ MORE: How Codebreakers Helped Secure U.S. Victory in the Battle of Midway

Unfortunately for the Japanese, U.S. intelligence broke the Japanese naval code, and the Americans anticipated the surprise attack. Three heavy aircraft carriers of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were mustered to challenge the four heavy Japanese carriers steaming toward Midway. In early June, U.S. command correctly recognized a Japanese movement against Alaska’s Aleutian Islands as a diversionary tactic and kept its forces massed around Midway. On June 3, the Japanese occupation force was spotted steaming toward the island, and B-17 Flying Fortresses were sent out from Midway to bomb the strike force but failed to inflict damage. Early in the morning on June 4, a PBY Catalina flying boat torpedoed a Japanese tanker transport, striking the first blow of the Battle of Midway.

Later that morning, an advance Japanese squadron numbering more than 100 bombers and Zero fighters took off from the Japanese carriers to bomb Midway. Twenty-six Wildcat fighters were sent up to intercept the Japanese force and suffered heavy losses in their heroic defense of Midway’s air base. Soon after, bombers and torpedo planes based on Midway took off to attack the Japanese carriers but failed to inflict serious damage. The first phase of the battle was over by 7:00 a.m.

In the meantime, 200 miles to the northeast, two U.S. attack fleets caught the Japanese force entirely by surprise. Beginning around 9:30 a.m., torpedo bombers from the three U.S. carriers descended on the Japanese carriers. Although nearly wiped out, they drew off enemy fighters, and U.S. dive bombers penetrated, catching the Japanese carriers while their decks were cluttered with aircraft and fuel. The dive-bombers quickly destroyed three of the heavy Japanese carriers and one heavy cruiser. The only Japanese carrier that initially escaped destruction, the Hiryu, loosed all its aircraft against the American task force and managed to seriously damage the U.S. carrier Yorktown, forcing its abandonment. At about 5:00 p.m., dive-bombers from the U.S. carrier Enterprise returned the favor, mortally damaging the Hiryu. It was scuttled the next morning.

READ MORE: 5 Things You Might Not Know About the Battle of Midway 

Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto still had numerous warships at his command, but without his carriers and aircraft he was forced to abandon his Midway invasion plans and begin a westward retreat. On June 5, a U.S. task force pursued his fleet, but bad weather saved it from further destruction. On June 6, the skies cleared, and U.S. aircraft resumed their assault, sinking a cruiser and damaging several other warships. After the planes returned to their carriers, the Americans broke off from the pursuit. Meanwhile, a Japanese submarine torpedoed and fatally wounded the Yorktown, which was in the process of being salvaged. It finally rolled over and sank at dawn on June 7, bringing an end to the battle.

At the Battle of Midway, Japan lost four carriers, a cruiser, and 292 aircraft, and suffered 2,500 casualties. The U.S. lost the Yorktown, the destroyer USS Hammann, 145 aircraft, and suffered 307 casualties. Japan’s losses hobbled its naval might–bringing Japanese and American sea power to approximate parity–and marked the turning point in the Pacific theater of World War II. In August 1942, the great U.S. counteroffensive began at Guadalcanal and did not cease until Japan’s surrender three years later.

HISTORY Vault

Source

General MacArthur leaves Corregidor


Year
1942
Month Day
March 11

After struggling against great odds to save the Philippines from Japanese conquest, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur abandons the island fortress of Corregidor under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt. Left behind at Corregidor and on the Bataan Peninsula were 90,000 American and Filipino troops, who, lacking food, supplies, and support, would soon succumb to the Japanese offensive.

After leaving Corregidor, MacArthur and his family traveled by boat 560 miles to the Philippine island of Mindanao, braving mines, rough seas, and the Japanese Navy. At the end of the hair-raising 35-hour journey, MacArthur told the boat commander, John D. Bulkeley, “You’ve taken me out of the jaws of death, and I won’t forget it.” On March 17, the general and his family boarded a B-17 Flying Fortress for Northern Australia. He then took another aircraft and a long train ride down to Melbourne. During this journey, he was informed that there were far fewer Allied troops in Australia than he had hoped. Relief of his forces trapped in the Philippines would not be forthcoming. Deeply disappointed, he issued a statement to the press in which he promised his men and the people of the Philippines, “I shall return.” The promise would become his mantra during the next two and a half years, and he would repeat it often in public appearances.

For his valiant defense of the Philippines, MacArthur was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and celebrated as “America’s First Soldier.” Put in command of Allied forces in the Southwestern Pacific, his first duty was conducting the defense of Australia. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Bataan fell in April, and the 70,000 American and Filipino soldiers captured there were forced to undertake a death march in which at least 7,000 perished. Then, in May, Corregidor surrendered, and 15,000 more Americans and Filipinos were captured. The Philippines–MacArthur’s adopted home–were lost, and the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff had no immediate plans for their liberation.

After the U.S. victory at the Battle of Midway in June 1942, most Allied resources in the Pacific went to U.S. Admiral Chester Nimitz, who as commander of the Pacific Fleet planned a more direct route to Japan than via the Philippines. Unperturbed, MacArthur launched a major offensive in New Guinea, winning a string of victories with his limited forces. By September 1944, he was poised to launch an invasion of the Philippines, but he needed the support of Nimitz’s Pacific Fleet. After a period of indecision about whether to invade the Philippines or Formosa, the Joint Chiefs put their support behind MacArthur’s plan, which logistically could be carried out sooner than a Formosa invasion.

On October 20, 1944, a few hours after his troops landed, MacArthur waded ashore onto the Philippine island of Leyte. That day, he made a radio broadcast in which he declared, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!” In January 1945, his forces invaded the main Philippine island of Luzon. In February, Japanese forces at Bataan were cut off, and Corregidor was captured. Manila, the Philippine capital, fell in March, and in June MacArthur announced his offensive operations on Luzon to be at an end; although scattered Japanese resistance continued until the end of the war in August. Only one-third of the men MacArthur left behind on March 11, 1942, survived to see his return. “I’m a little late,” he told them, “but we finally came.”

Source

Bataan Death March begins

Year
1942
Month Day
April 10

The day after the surrender of the main Philippine island of Luzon to the Japanese, the 75,000 Filipino and American troops captured on the Bataan Peninsula begin a forced march to a prison camp near Cabanatuan. During this infamous trek, known as the “Bataan Death March,” the prisoners were forced to march 85 miles in six days, with only one meal of rice during the entire journey. By the end of the march, which was punctuated with atrocities committed by the Japanese guards, hundreds of Americans and many more Filipinos had died.

The day after Japan bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invasion of the Philippines began. Within a month, the Japanese had captured Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and the U.S. and Filipino defenders of Luzon were forced to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula. For the next three months, the combined U.S.-Filipino army, under the command of U.S. General Jonathan Wainwright, held out impressively despite a lack of naval and air support. 

Finally, on April 7, with his army crippled by starvation and disease, Wainwright began withdrawing as many troops as possible to the island fortress of Corregidor in Manila Bay. However, two days later, 75,000 Allied troops were trapped by the Japanese and forced to surrender. The next day, the Bataan Death March began. Of those who survived to reach the Japanese prison camp near Cabanatuan, few lived to celebrate U.S. General Douglas MacArthur’s liberation of Luzon in 1945.

In the Philippines, homage is paid to the victims of the Bataan Death March every April on Bataan Day, a national holiday that sees large groups of Filipinos solemnly re-walking parts of the death route.

Source

Soviets launch counterattack at Stalingrad

Year
1942
Month Day
November 19

The Soviet Red Army under General Georgy Zhukov launches Operation Uranus, the great Soviet counteroffensive that turned the tide in the Battle of Stalingrad.

On June 22, 1941, despite the terms of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, Nazi Germany launched a massive invasion against the USSR. Aided by its greatly superior air force, the German army raced across the Russian plains, inflicting terrible casualties on the Red Army and the Soviet population. With the assistance of troops from their Axis allies, the Germans conquered vast territory, and by mid October the great Russian cities of Leningrad and Moscow were under siege. However, the Soviets held on, and the coming of winter forced the German offensive to pause.

For the 1942 summer offensive, Adolf Hitler ordered the Sixth Army, under General Friedrich von Paulus, to take Stalingrad in the south, an industrial center and obstacle to Nazi control of the precious Caucasus oil wells. In August, the German Sixth Army made advances across the Volga River while the German Fourth Air Fleet reduced Stalingrad to burning rubble, killing more than 40,000 civilians. In early September, General Paulus ordered the first offensives into Stalingrad, estimating that it would take his army about 10 days to capture the city. Thus began one of the most horrific battles of World War II and arguably the most important because it was the turning point in the war between Germany and the USSR.

In their attempt to take Stalingrad, the German Sixth Army faced General Vasily Zhukov leading a bitter Red Army employing the ruined city to their advantage, transforming destroyed buildings and rubble into natural defensive fortifications. In a method of fighting the Germans began to call the Rattenkrieg, or “Rat’s War,” the opposing forces broke into squads eight or 10 strong and fought each other for every house and yard of territory. The battle saw rapid advances in street-fighting technology, such as a German machine gun that shot around corners and a light Russian plane that glided silently over German positions at night, dropping bombs without warning. However, both sides lacked necessary food, water, or medical supplies, and tens of thousands perished every week.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was determined to liberate the city named after him, and in November he ordered massive reinforcements to the area. On November 19, General Zhukov launched a great Soviet counteroffensive out of the rubble of Stalingrad. German command underestimated the scale of the counterattack, and the Sixth Army was quickly overwhelmed by the offensive, which involved 500,000 Soviet troops, 900 tanks, and 1,400 aircraft. Within three days, the entire German force of more than 200,000 men was encircled.

Italian and Romanian troops at Stalingrad surrendered, but the Germans hung on, receiving limited supplies by air and waiting for reinforcements. Hitler ordered Von Paulus to remain in place and promoted him to field marshal, as no Nazi field marshal had ever surrendered. Starvation and the bitter Russian winter took as many lives as the merciless Soviet troops, and on January 21, 1943, the last of the airports held by the Germans fell to the Soviets, completely cutting off the Germans from supplies. On January 31, Von Paulus surrendered German forces in the southern sector, and on February 2 the remaining German troops surrendered. Only 90,000 German soldiers were still alive, and of these only 5,000 troops would survive the Soviet prisoner-of-war camps and make it back to Germany.

The Battle of Stalingrad turned the tide in the war between Germany and the Soviet Union. General Zhukov, who had played such an important role in the victory, later led the Soviet drive on Berlin. On May 1, 1945, he personally accepted the German surrender of Berlin. Von Paulus, meanwhile, agitated against Adolf Hitler among the German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union and in 1946 provided testimony at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. After his release by the Soviets in 1953, he settled in East Germany.

Source

German saboteurs executed in Washington, D.C.

Year
1942
Month Day
August 08

During World War II, six German saboteurs who secretly entered the United States on a mission to attack its civil infrastructure are executed by the United States for spying. Two other saboteurs who disclosed the plot to the FBI and aided U.S. authorities in their manhunt for their collaborators were imprisoned.

In 1942, under Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s orders, the defense branch of the German Military Intelligence Corps initiated a program to infiltrate the United States and destroy industrial plants, bridges, railroads, waterworks, and Jewish-owned department stores. The Nazis hoped that sabotage teams would be able to slip into America at the rate of one or two every six weeks. The first two teams, made up of eight Germans who had all lived in the United States before the war, departed the German submarine base at Lorient, France, in late May.

READ MORE: World War II’s ‘Most Dangerous’ Allied Spy Was a Woman With a Wooden Leg

Just before midnight on June 12, in a heavy fog, a German submarine reached the American coast off Amagansett, Long Island, and deployed a team who rowed ashore in an inflatable boat. Just as the Germans finished burying their explosives in the sand, John C. Cullen, a young U.S. Coast Guardsman, came upon them during his regular patrol of the beach. The leader of the team, George Dasch, bribed the suspicious Cullen, and he accepted the money, promising to keep quiet. However, as soon as he passed safely back into the fog, he sprinted the two miles back to the Coast Guard station and informed his superiors of his discovery. After retrieving the German supplies from the beach, the Coast Guard called the FBI, which launched a massive manhunt for the saboteurs, who had fled to New York City.

Although unaware that the FBI was looking for them, Dasch and another saboteur, Ernest Burger, decided to turn themselves in and betray their colleagues, perhaps because they feared capture was inevitable after the botched landing. On July 15, Dasch called the FBI in New York, but they failed to take his claims seriously, so he decided to travel to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. On July 18, the same day that a second four-man team successfully landed at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Dasch turned himself in. He agreed to help the FBI capture the rest of the saboteurs.

Burger and the rest of the Long Island team were picked up by July 22, and by July 27 the whole of the Florida team was arrested. To preserve wartime secrecy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered a special military tribunal consisting of seven generals to try the saboteurs. At the end of July, Dasch was sentenced to 30 years in prison, Burger was sentenced to hard labor for life, and the other six Germans were sentenced to die. The six condemned saboteurs were executed by electric chair in Washington, D.C., on August 8. In 1944, two other German spies were caught after a landing in Maine. No other instances of German sabotage within wartime America has come to light.

In 1948, Dasch and Burger were freed by order of President Harry S. Truman, and they both returned to Germany.

Source

Anne Frank’s family takes refuge

Year
1942
Month Day
July 06

In Nazi-occupied Holland, 13-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family are forced to take refuge in a secret sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The day before, Anne’s older sister, Margot, had received a call-up notice to be deported to a Nazi “work camp.”

Born in Germany on June 12, 1929, Anne Frank fled to Amsterdam with her family in 1933 to escape Nazi persecution. In the summer of 1942, with the German occupation of Holland underway, 13-year-old Anne began a diary relating her everyday experiences, her relationship with her family and friends, and observations about the increasingly dangerous world around her. 

READ MORE: How Anne Frank’s Private Diary Became an International Sensation

On July 6, fearing deportation to a Nazi concentration camp, Anne’ Frank’s father, Otto Frank, approached his Austrian-born bookkeeper, Miep Gies, and asked if she would help hide his family. Otto also asked his employees Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler en Bep Voskuijl to help. They agreed and then risked their own lives to smuggle food, supplies and news of the outside world into the so-called Secret Annex, whose entrance was hidden behind a movable bookcase.

During the next two years, under the threat of murder by the Nazi officers patrolling just outside the warehouse, Anne kept a diary that is marked by poignancy, humor and insight.

On August 4, 1944, just two months after the successful Allied landing at Normandy, the Nazi Gestapo discovered the Frank’s “Secret Annex.” The Franks were sent to the Nazi concentration camps, along with two of the Christians who had helped shelter them, and another Jewish family and a single Jewish man with whom they had shared the hiding place. Anne and the other 7 persons in hiding ended up at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. 

READ MORE: Who Betrayed Anne Frank?

In early 1945, with the Soviet liberation of Poland underway, Anne was moved with her sister, Margot, to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Suffering under the deplorable conditions of the camp, the two sisters caught typhus and died.

After the war, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam following his release from Auschwitz. Upon learning of Anne’s death, Miep Gies gave Otto Frank five notebooks and some 300 loose papers containing Anne’s writings. Gies had recovered the materials from the Secret Annex shortly after the Franks’ arrest by the Nazis and had hidden them in her desk. 

Anne’s dairy was published in Dutch in 1947 and was published in English in 1952. An instant best-seller and eventually translated into more than 70 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank has served as a literary testament to the six million Jews, including Anne herself, who were silenced in the Holocaust.

Source

Doolittle leads air raid on Tokyo

Year
1942
Month Day
April 18

On April 18, 1942, 16 American B-25 bombers, launched from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet 650 miles east of Japan and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, attack the Japanese mainland.

The now-famous Tokyo Raid did little real damage to Japan (wartime Premier Hideki Tojo was inspecting military bases during the raid; one B-25 came so close, Tojo could see the pilot, though the American bomber never fired a shot)–but it did hurt the Japanese government’s prestige. Believing the air raid had been launched from Midway Island, approval was given to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plans for an attack on Midway–which would also damage Japanese “prestige.” Doolittle was eventually awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A book describing the raid, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo by Ted Lawson, was adapted into a film starring Spencer Tracy in 1944.

Source