CBI - China: Day 959 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
Day 98 of 381 of the Battle of South Guangxi.
Day 24 of 67 of the Battle of Wuyuan.
1941 — , February 20
ETO - UK: The Australian Prime Minister, R G Menzies arrives in Britain for talks with Churchill.
ETO - UK: Day 168 of 258 of the Blitz.
East Africa: Day 256 of 537 of Italy's East African campaign in the lands south of Egypt.
East Africa - Eritrea: Day 16 of 56 of the Battle of Keren.
CBI - China: Day 1,325 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
Day 22 of 31 of the Battle of South Henan.
CBI - Thailand: Day 143 of 221 of the Franco-Thai War (Vichy France vs Thailand).
1942 — , February 20
PTO - New Guinea: Flying off the carrier USS LEXINGTON in action attacking Rabaul, Lt Edward "Butch" O'Hare becomes the first US fighter Ace of the war when he attacks a formation of 9 Japanese heavy "Betty" bombers, downing five and damaging a sixth.
This spotlight is under construction. Be patient.
Lt "Butch" O'Hare in his Grumman F4F Wildcat, spring 1942
On this day, Lt O'Hare and his wingman were the only US Navy fighters available in the air when a second wave of Japanese bombers were attacking his aircraft carrier USS LEXINGTON, which had been assigned the task of penetrating enemy-held waters north of New Ireland.
The enemy formation was a V of Vs flying very close together and using their rear-facing guns for mutual protection. O'Hare's Wildcat, armed with four 50-caliber guns, with 450 rounds per gun, had enough ammunition for about 34 seconds of firing.
O'Hare's initial maneuver was a high-side diving attack employing accurate deflection shooting. He accurately placed bursts of gunfire into a Betty's right engine and wing fuel tanks. He then ducked to the other side of the formation and aimed at the enemy bombers on the extreme left. When he made his third and fourth firing passes, the Japanese planes were close enough to the American ships for them to fire their anti-aircraft guns. The five surviving bombers managed to drop their ordnance, but all ten of their bombs missed.
With his ammunition expended, O'Hare returned to his carrier and was fired on accidentally, but with no effect, by a .50-caliber machine gun from the LEXINGTON. O'Hare's fighter had, in fact, been hit by only one bullet during his flight, the single bullet hole in his F-15's port wing disabling the airspeed indicator. Butch then approached the gun platform to calmly say to the embarrassed anti-aircraft gunner who had fired at him, "Son, if you don't stop shooting at me when I've got my wheels down, I'm going to have to report you to the gunnery officer."
It is calculated that O'Hare had used only 60 rounds of ammo for each bomber destroyed; an impressive feat of marksmanship.
O'Hare's Capone Connection
Butch O'Hare was the son of Eddie O'Hare, an attorney and business partner of the famous gangster Al Capone. "Easy Eddie," as he was known, helped run Capone's horse and dog track operation in Chicago. At some point Easy Eddie secretly become an informant for the Internal Revenue Service and it was with his help that the government convicted and imprisoned Capone for income tax evasion. Within the year, however, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street. It has been said that Easy Eddie ratted out Capone in order to right his wrongs and to pass a good name on to his son Butch.
Butch O'Hare related dates...
20 Feb 42: O'Hare becomes the first US fighter Ace of the war
26 Mar 42: O'Hare greeted as celebrity by reporters in Hawaii
21 Apr 42: O'Hare receives the Medal of Honor at White the House
25 Apr 42: O'Hare given a hero's parade in his hometown St Louis
19 Jun 42: O'Hare is relocated to Maui to instruct other pilots
31 Aug 43: O'Hare is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross
05 Oct 43: O'Hare is awarded a Gold Star in lieu of another DFC
26 Nov 43: O'Hare is shot down in combat, never to be found
09 Dec 43: Official word arrives from the PTO that O'Hare is MIA
27 Jan 45: US Navy launches the destroyer USS O'Hare in his honor
19 Sep 49: Chicago's airport is renamed O'Hare International
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Atlantic: Day 38 of 169 of Germany's Second "Happy Time," during which U-boats sink 609 Allied ships with little risk.
Russian Front - North: Day 166 of 872 of the Siege of Leningrad.
Russian Front - North: Day 13 of 102 of the Battle of the Demyansk Pocket, another failed attempt to break the siege at Leningrad.
Russian Front - North: Day 29 of 103 of the Battle of the Kholm Pocket. Another attempt to break the siege at Leningrad.
Russian Front - Center: Day 44 of 103 of the Battle of Vyazma, Russia.
Russian Front - Center: Day 44 of 103 of the Battle of Sychevsk, Russia.
Russian Front - South: Day 114 of 248 of the Siege of Sevastopol, Crimean Peninsula. All German attacks against Sevastopol are stopped for the winter.
CBI - Burma: Day 69 of 164 of Japan's Invasion of Burma.
CBI - Burma: Day 2 of 5 of the Battle of Sittang Bridge. British troops continue to withdraw across the river Sittang.
CBI - China: Day 1,690 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
Day 59 of 99 of the 3rd Battle of Changsha.
PTO - Borneo: Day 67 of 107 of the Battle of Borneo.
PTO - Dutch East Indies: Day 3 of 3 of the Naval Battle of Badung Strait off Bali. Resulted in a Japanese naval victory which allowed the Japanese troops to land on Bali.
PTO - Malaya: Day 2 of 357 of the Battle of Timor Island. Japanese troops land on the Portuguese Island of Timor.
PTO - Philippines: Day 75 of 152 of the 1st Battle of the Philippines. 5th Air Force provides air support. Having suffered heavy casualties, Japanese troops begin to slack off their pressure. Philippine President Quezon leaves for Australia in a US submarine.
1943 — , February 20
ETO - UK: US 8th Air Force: Flying Spitfires, the 4th Fighter Group flies shipping patrols over the Channel
Russian Front - North: Day 531 of 872 of the Siege of Leningrad.
Russian Front - North: Day 11 of 51 of the USSR's Operation POLAR STAR, a failed offensive north of Leningrad, hoping to take the southern shore of Lake Ladoga, Russia.
Russian Front - North: Day 292 of 658 of the Siege of the Kholm Pocket, USSR lays siege to the Kholm Pocket but the Germans hold out for a about a year and a half.
Russian Front - South: Day 2 of 25 of the 3rd Battle of Kharkov, Ukraine. USSR briefly takes and holds Kharkov, but will lose it again.
MTO - Greece: US 9th Air Force RAF bombers night bomb airfields on Crete.
MTO - Italy: US 9th Air Force B-24s bomb at Crotone, Naples, Amantea, Palmi, Nicotera and Rosarno.
MTO - Tunisia: Day 96 of 178 of the Battle of Tunisia.
MTO - Tunisia: Day 2 of 7 of the Battle of Kasserine Pass. Germans break through the US lines but are ordered to withdraw to the Mareth line.
CBI - Burma: Day 62 of 104 of the 1st Battle of Arakan. US 10th Air Force provides air support.
CBI - Burma: Day 13 of 79 of the Allied Operation LONGCLOTH.
CBI - China: Day 2,055 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
PTO - Alaska: Day 259 of 435 of the Battle of Kiska, Aleutian Islands. US 11th Air Force attacks at Kiska Island hitting the Main Camp, North Head and the runway.
1944 — , February 20
ETO - Norway: The railway ferry Hydro, carrying the remaining heavy water production from Telemark back to Germany, is sabotaged by Norwegian resistance with a time bomb and sinks 1,200 feet to the bottom of Lake Tinnsjo.
The railway ferry Hydro in 1925
This action was undertaken by Norwegian resistance saboteurs to prevent the Nazi nuclear energy project from acquiring heavy water (deuterium oxide), which could be used to produce an atomic bomb. The stakes were high; so high that it was decided to sabotage the ferry carrying the heavy water across Lake Tinnsjo, even knowing that innocent Norwegian civilians, including women and children, would likely be aboard.
Four Germans and 14 Norwegian civilians were drowned, but Germany's chances of developing an atomic bomb was all but ended.
Unknown to the saboteurs, a "Plan B" had been established by the British SOE, who had arranged a second team to attack the shipment at Heroya, should the first attempt have failed.
Dates related to Norway, heavy water and Quisling...
ETO - Germany: The US Strategic Air Forces launches Operation ARGUMENT, a series of missions against the Third Reich that will come to be known as BIG WEEK.
B-17 Flying Fortresses over Europe
Between 20 and 25 Feb 44, the US Army Air Forces began running massive raids against the economic heart of Hitler's Germany. It was a six-day battle of epic proportions on a three- dimensional battlefield. On this first day, for the first time, over 1,000 bombers were dispatched along with 835 escort fighters (including the recently introduced and unexpected P-51 Mustang long-range fighter with drop tanks), making today's action the largest daylight raid thus far.
The ultimate intention of what would come to be called BIG WEEK was to lure the Luftwaffe into decisive battles by launching massive attacks on German aircraft industry, to which Luftwaffe fighters had to respond. Only by defeating the Luftwaffe could the Allies achieve air superiority, without which the invasion of Europe could not proceed.
It was a watershed moment in World War II, the point after which nothing would be as it had been before. It marked the birth of strategic airpower as a means of effecting the outcome of military action and the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.
In six days, the 8th Air Force bombers based in England would fly more than 3,300 missions and the 15th Air Force based in Italy more than 500. Together they dropped roughly 10,000 tons of bombs on targets that accounted for 90 percent of German aircraft production. The British RAF Bomber Command flew more than 2,350 nighttime missions against the same targets during BIG WEEK.
Prior to the BIG WEEK, throughout 1943, the US 8th Air Force had been growing in size and experience, and started pressing attacks deeper into Germany. It was believed that the defensive firepower of the B-17 and B-24 bombers, typically ten .50 caliber machine guns or more, would allow them to defend themselves as long as they remained arranged into tight formations, allowing for overlapping fire. In practice this proved less than successful. Although the bombers did claim a fair number of German fighters, losses among the bombers were unsustainable.
BIG WEEK bolstered the confidence of US strategic bombing crews. Until that time, Allied bombers avoided contact with the Luftwaffe. Now the Americans used any method that would force the Luftwaffe into combat.
During BIG WEEK, the Allies lost 392 bombers, 33 fighters and 2,600 airmen. The Luftwaffe lost 355 fighters and nearly 100 pilots. The Allies replaced their losses. The Luftwaffe could not.
By the end of March 1944, Allied airmen were well on the way to achieving air superiority over all of Europe. While they continued strategic bombing, the AAF turned its attention to the tactical air battle in support of the Normandy invasion.
Related WWII Store items...
Big Week: Six Days that Changed the Course of World War II
ETO - Netherlands: US 9th Air Force B-26s bomb the Haamstede Airfield.
Russian Front - North: Day 657 of 658 of the Siege of the Kholm Pocket. USSR lays siege to the Kholm Pocket but the Germans hold out for a about a year and a half.
Russian Front - North: Day 38 of 48 of the Battle toward the Narva River, Estonia. This drive helped lift the Leningrad siege and goes on to liberate Narva.
Russian Front - North: Day 19 of 191 of the Battle of the Narva Isthmus, Estonia.
Russian Front - South: Day 59 of 113 of the USSR's Dnieper-Carpathian Offensive in southwestern Ukraine.
Russian Front - South: Day 22 of 31 of the Battle of Nikopol, Ukraine.
MTO: The British Admiralty announces an 11-day battle with U-boats in Straits of Gibraltar, during which three ships are sunk and several damaged.
MTO - Italy: Day 35 of 123 of the Battle of Monte Cassino. RAF and US Air Forces provides air support for the Allied ground troops.
MTO - Italy: Day 30 of 136 of the Battle of Anzio. RAF and US Air Forces provides air support for the Allied ground troops.
CBI - Burma: Day 53 of 99 of the 2nd Battle of Arakan.
CBI - Burma: Day 16 of 19 of the Battle of the Admin Box. US 10th Air Force provides air support.
CBI - China: Day 2,420 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
PTO - Marshall Islands: Day 5 of 8 of the Battle of Eniwetok. US 7th Air Force provides air support.
PTO - New Guinea: US carrier-based and land-based planes destroy the Japanese base at Rabaul.
PTO - New Guinea: Day 155 of 219 of the Battle of Shaggy Ridge. 5th Air Force provides air support.
PTO - New Guinea: Day 152 of 162 of the Battle of the Huon Peninsula. 5th Air Force provides air support.
PTO - New Guinea: Day 68 of 597 of the Battle of New Britain. US 13th Air Force provides air support.
PTO - Solomon Islands: Day 112 of 295 of the Battle of the Bougainville Islands. US 13th Air Force provides air support.
1945 — , February 20
ETO - France: Day 204 of 284 of the Battle of Brittany.
ETO - France: Day 159 of 236 of the Siege of Dunkirk.
ETO - Germany: Day 13 of 16 of Operation GRENADE, the US drive into Germany. US 9th Air Force provides air support.
ETO - Germany: Day 13 of 17 of Operation VERITABLE, the British and Canadian drive into Germany.
ETO: Day 32 of 66 of the Battle to the Rhine. US 9th Air Force provides air support.
ETO - Germany: Day 1 of 36 consecutive RAF night raids on Berlin.
ETO - Germany: US 8th Air Force B-17s bomb at Nurnberg and Schiltach. At night the B-24s bomb the marshalling yard at Neustadt.
Russian Front - Finland: Day 159 of 223 of the Lapland War. Finland and Russia have joined forces to kick the Germans out of Finland's most northern province.
Russian Front - Center: Day 129 of 206 of the Battle of the Courland Pocket in Latvia. Soviet troops attack the German lines but falter in the face of stubborn German resistance.
Russian Front - Center: Day 27 of 75 of the Battle of Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia).
Russian Front - Center: Day 26 of 63 of the Battle of the Heiligenbeil Pocket in East Prussia.
Russian Front - Center: Day 11 of 54 of the Battle of East Pomerania, Germany.
Russian Front - Center: Day 13 of 17 of the USSR's Lower Silesian Offensive (Poland).
Russian Front - Center: Day 8 of 83 of the German Siege of Breslau (today Wroclaw, Poland).
Russian Front - Center: Day 20 of 31 of the Battle of Schwedt, Germany.
MTO: US 15th Air Force B-17s and B-24s bomb targets in Austria, Yugoslavia, and Italy.
MTO - Italy: RAF and US Air Forces provide air support for the Allied ground units.
CBI - Burma: Day 33 of 61 of the Battles of Meiktila and Mandalay. The US 10th Air Force provides air support.
CBI - Burma: Day 31 of 39 of the Battle of Ramree Island. The US 10th Air Force provides air support.
CBI - Burma: Day 17 of 99 of the Battle of Pakokku and Irrawaddy River operations in central Burma. The US 10th Air Force provides air support.
CBI - China: Day 2,786 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
US 14th Air Force attacks targets in China.
PTO: Day 2 of 36 of the Battle of Iwo Jima. US 7th Air Force provides air support.
PTO - New Guinea: Day 421 of 597 of the Battle of New Britain.
PTO - New Guinea: Day 305 of 481 of the Battle of Western New Guinea.
PTO - Philippines: Day 124 of 299 of the 2nd Battle of the Philippines, aka the Liberation of the Philippines or the Philippines Campaign.
PTO - Philippines: Day 68 of 244 of the Battle of Luzon. 5th Air Force provides air support.
PTO - Philippines: Day 21 of 22 of the Battle of the Bataan Peninsula. 5th Air Force provides air support. Except for a few small isolated pockets, US troops capture the whole of the Bataan Peninsula.
PTO - Philippines: Day 18 of 29 of the Battle of Manila.
Day-By-Day listings for February 20 were last modified on Tuesday, February 2, 2016