1942 — Japanese planes attack Darwin

The Japanese air raid on Darwin was mounted by 242 Japanese planes launched from four aircraft carriers. It was intended to soften up the air force and navy bases there in preparation for the Japanese invasion of Timor the following day. Between 9:58 and 10:40AM that day, the planes sank three warships and five merchant ships, while damaging ten more. Twenty-one dock workers were killed in the raids.

This would be the first of a total of 97 air raids against targets either in Australian waters or on the Australian mainland. Most of these were on various sites across the northern coast of Australia between Port Hedland, Western Australia and Townsville, Queensland, with the great majority of them being on military or civilian targets in Darwin. The last air raid took place on November 12, 1943, striking Parap, Adelaide River and Batchelor Airfield (all in the Northern Territory). By that time, the tide of war had turned, and Japan could no longer strike so close to Australia, although the end of the war was still nearly two years away.

Referenced in:
Tojo — Hoodoo Gurus

1942 — Harrison Ford born

Born in Chicago, Harrison Ford would rise from humble beginnings to become one of the best known and highest grossing movie stars of his era. He is best known for his roles as Han Solo in the Star Wars film series and Indiana Jones in the four films of that series. To a certain generation of filmgoer, he defined rugged manliness in the way that Eastwood or Wayne had before him.

Ford’s family has a highly mixed background – his paternal grandfather was Irish, his paternal grandmother German, and his maternal grandparents Jews from Belarus. When asked about the effect this had on his life, Ford jokingly replied “As a man I’ve always felt Irish, as an actor I’ve always felt Jewish.”

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part I) — Adam Sandler

1942 – “To The Shores Of Tripoli” premieres

Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone (best known for his four Charlie Chan films made from 1936 to 1938), “To The Shores of Tripoli” takes its named from a line of the Marine Corps Hymn. Like “Casablanca”, it was in production when that attack on Pearl Harbour took place, and the entry of America into the war led to changes in its plotline. From being simply a romance about Maureen O’Hara’s character, it changed to focus more on John Payne’s character enlisting.

The film was a hit in 1942, grossing 2 million dollars. It was credited by the US Marine Corps (who assisted in the film’s making by allowing the use of the actual Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego) as a major recruitment tool for them during the war.

Referenced in:
Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer

1942 – the defence of the Kokoda Trail begins

It is one of Australia’s greatest military triumphs: a simple holding action across a narrow dirt trail that spanned the inhospitable mountains of the central spine of New Guinea. A much smaller Australian force aided by allied natives struck, fell back, harassed and repeated these steps against the might of the Japanese Army.

Although at almost every step the Australians gave ground, they slowed down the Japanese advance to a crawl, while nibbling away at their forces until the invaders’ supply lines were hopelessly over-extended – and until the Australians could be reinforced. The tide of battle swiftly reversed, but the retreat of the Japanese was much less a fighting retreat than that of the Australians had been.

Referenced in:

All the Fine Young Men — Eric Bogle

1942 – Franz Werfel’s “The Song of Bernadette” is published

A Jew from Prague who fled the Aunschluss in 1938, Franz Werfel was also a playwright noted for his satirical plays about the Nazis (written before 1938). He and his wife Alma (the widow of Gustav Mahler) fled to Paris, where they were safe until the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 – when they fled once more, going into hiding and eventually reaching Portugal, from whence they took ship to New York. It was during this period, sheltered by assorted sympathisers, that Werfel learned the story of St Bernadette Soubirous, who had reported 18 separate visions of the Virgin Mary while at Lourdes. Some of this was told to him by people who had actually met Bernadette, although it is likely that their accounts were somewhat embroidered.

Werfel wrote the saint’s story largely as a tribute and thanks to the people who had helped them in France, Spain and Portugal (something he had promised them while fleeing the Nazis), and it was published in 1942 and spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list, including 13 weeks at the top of it. In 1943, it was adapted as a film which was nominated for 8 Oscars and won 4 of them.

Referenced in:

Alma — Tom Lehrer

1942 — Jimi Hendrix born

While Jimi Hendrix may not have been the greatest guitar player of all time – although that’s not a bet I would take – he is certainly the most legendary. Partly for his stage presence and antics (you seen anyone else set a guitar on fire on stage lately?), partly because he died so tragically young, and but mostly because, DAMN, that man could play.

He was born Johnny Allen Hendrix (which was shortly thereafter changed to James Marshall Hendrix) but the world knows him best as Jimi. Of mixed descent – the man had African-American, Cherokee and Irish genes – he was not merely a great musician but also a great experimentalist, pioneering many of the sounds, effects and techniques that created the modern rock vocabulary of the electric guitar. The debt owed to him by practically ever guitar player who lived after him is immeasurable.

Not bad for a guy who played guitar for only a little over 12 years.

Referenced in:

The Miracle — Queen

1942 – the first Battle of El Alamein begins

The first battle of El Alamein lasted for 27 days, and was one of the key battles of World War Two. It took place in Egypt, only 66 miles short of Alexandria, where British and Commonwealth forces (Indians, New Zealanders, Australians and South Africans) had retreated and dug in to strong defensive positions with the intent of stopping the German advance across the North African coast.

The British gamble paid off. The battle (and its sequel, three months later) was one of the war’s turning points. At the first battle of El Alamein, the German advance was eventually halted. At the second battle of El Alamein, the German lines were broken and pushed back – and after this, and the near simultaneous battle of Stalingrad – the Axis forces in Europe and Africa fought a defensive war that ended the only way it could, with their defeat.

Referenced in:

All the Fine Young Men — Eric Bogle

1942 – The German push to Stalingrad commences

The big German push on Stalingrad and points east was originally intended to begin earlier, but finally got underway on June 28, 1942. Ironically, the push towards Stalingrad was primarily a flanking maneuver, intended to provide cover for the main objective of Case Blue (the official name for the offensive), which was the oil fields of the Baku region (in what is now the Republic of Azerbaijan).

The offensive initially proceeded well for the Germans, but unexpectedly strong resistance at Stalingrad (combined with tactical withdrawals by the Soviet Army which allowed in to resupply and find better defensive positions) led to the drive on Baku stalling as Stalingrad consumed the attention and resources of Case Blue’s commanders. In the end, Stalingrad would be the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war, lasting nearly six months altogether, and the site of the first major German defeat on the Eastern front.

Combined with the near simultaneous defeat of the German North African army at El Alamein, the German forces had precious few victories and were steadily pushed back on all fronts.

Referenced in:

Broken Heroes — Saxon

1942 — Dr Charles Drew patents a method of preserving blood plasma

Born in 1904, Dr Charles Drew was one of the first black surgeons in the United States – although that is far from being his only claim to fame.

His work in the fields of blood transfusions and storage led to breakthroughs in the field, culminating in the development of large scale blood banks that saved thousands of lives of Allied soldiers and civilians during the war. He also protested the segregation of blood supplies along racial lines, on the ground that there was no scientific basis for it (as indeed, there is not). He lost his job over this stance, but it did not deter him from it.

He also became the first black man to be selected to serve as an examiner of the American Board of Surgery.

Referenced in:

Black Man — Stevie Wonder

1942 – Anne Frank and family go into hiding

Anne Frank is perhaps best known for the posthumous publication of her diaries. In them, she recounts how, along with her parents and older sister, she hid in a back room of her father’s office block for two years from 1942, after the Nazi invasion of Holland. During this time, they were joined by four other Jews, also in hiding from the Nazis. Conditions were cramped and food was scarce, leading to occasional outbursts of ill-temper. On the whole, though, the eight people showed remarkable fortitude and self-control, at least as depicted in Anne’s diary.

Only six people outside of it knew of the hiding place: four of Otto Frank’s employees, the spouse of one employee and the father of another. It is believed that none of these six were responsible for the tip off that led to a raid by Nazi forces on August 2, 1944. Whoever was responsible, the results were tragic: all eight were arrested along with two of the conspirators who had helped them, and all but Otto would die in the camps, mere weeks before the Allied forces liberated them.

Anne’s diary was saved from the Nazis, and later published around the world under the title “Diary of a Young Girl.”. It is widely regarded as a moving tale of the human spirit, and also a stark caution regarding fascism. While Holocaust deniers have decried it as a forgery, its authenticity has been repeatedly proven – indeed, one of the Nazi officers who participated in the arrest has verified many of the details in it.

Referenced in:

Anne – Discus
Dear Anne – Ryan Adams
So Fresh, So Clean – Oukast
Oh Comely – Neutral Milk Hotel