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February 1944

Page Created
September 29th, 2022
Last Updated
March 19th, 2023
Special Forces Operations in February 1944

February 3rd, 1944 – March 4th, 1944
Combat air support mission.
1st Air Commando Group
P-51’s and B-25’s of the fighter bomber unit. Their mission is to provide air support for the Chindits concentrating their flights on attacking Japanese lines of communication and increasing their air-to-ground. proficiency.

On February 3rd, 1944, Colonel Cochran leads five Mustangs on the unit’s initial combat mission, and the B-25 section joins the fight on February 12th, 1944. The 1st Air Commando force flies a total of fifty-four fighter/bomber missions during this period. From the beginning, fighter and bomber missions concentrate on road and railroad bridges, warehouses, truck convoys, railroad locomotives, and river barges. As the assault section attacks these targets, their accuracy, proficiency, and selection of ordnance improves drastically.
Just as crucial as the missions themselves is the intelligence that is collected during each flight. High-ranking Chindits joined the B-25 missions to identify and assess jungle clearings that could potentially be used during the invasion. They are assisted by a small detachment from the 10th Combat Camera Unit, who use handheld cameras to capture images. However, with no facilities for processing film, the commander of the unit, 1st Lieutenant Charles L. Russhon, must be creative. He develops the pictures at night in the open air, with a sentry standing guard to keep the area dark. A nearby well provides the necessary water. In addition to the photographs, the pilots report on enemy defenses, troop movements, and supply lines. This information, combined with the aerial images, was used by General Wingate’s staff to plan Operation Thursday.

February 4th, 1944 – February 26th, 1944
Support Mission.
1st Air Commando Group
D Squadron Light Aircraft. Their mission is to support the XV Corps during the Japanese offensive known as Operation Hago or Operation Z.
D Squadron becomes involved in the Battles of Admin Box. At the start of February, the British are caught in a Japanese counterattack and are in danger of being defeated. Admiral Mountbatten orders the British to hold their ground and be resupplied by air, and from February 4th until the end of the month, the British fought back and eventually won the battle. During that time, D Squadron, flying at low altitudes, keeps the British spirits high by delivering mail and newspapers, bringing in reinforcements, and evacuating the wounded. In total, the squadron safely removes almost seven hundred British soldiers to a rear airfield for transport on C-47 Dakotas. Air Marshal Sir John E. A. Baldwin, Commander of the 3rd Tactical Air Force, is so impressed by the bravery and skill of the light plane pilots that he makes a personal visit to offer his congratulations.

February 5th, 1944 – March 11th, 1944
Operation Thursday (Insertion Phase)
3rd Indian Infantry Division (Chindits), Galahad (Merrlil’s Marauders), No.1 Air Commando Force
Operation Thursday is launched on March 5th, 1944, by the air commandos and air squadrons of both Great Britain and the United States to deliver troops, equipment, and supplies behind Japanese lines in Burma. The operation involves towing gliders and faces initial challenges due to the overloaded gliders causing problems for C-47 tow planes and ropes. However, the units successfully deliver Wingate’s forces to the jungle clearings and improve the strips to facilitate safe landings. The units also protect British ground forces by attacking and destroying the Japanese infrastructure using P-51’s and B-25’s equipped with a 75 mm cannon and twelve .50 caliber machine guns. Additionally, the air commandos conduct unique techniques such as cutting Japanese telephone lines by attaching a weighted cable to P-51’s. The operation results in impressively low casualties and the successful evacuation of all killed, wounded, and sick behind enemy lines, leading to the Distinguished Unit Citation for the 1st Air Commando Group. The unit was responsible for bringing in 2,038 personnel, sixteen horses, 136 mules, and 50,000 kilograms of stores. Including the glider dispatched from Broadway, a total of eighty gliders were launched to Broadway and seventeen to Chowringhee. Personnel sent to the two landing strips by glider totaled 971. Altogether the British and US transport units fly in 9,052 troops, 175 horses, 1,283 mules and 250,000 kilograms of equipment and supplies.

February 5th, 1944 – August 27th, 1944
Operation Thursday
3rd Indian Infantry Division (Chindits), Galahad (Merrlil’s Marauders), No.1 Air Commando Force
3rd Indian Infantry Division (Chindits), Galahad (Merrlil’s Marauders), No.1 Air Commando Force. Their mission is to set up operating bases and airfields behind Japanese lines to disrupt the Japanese supply lines.

The objective of establishing a new airbase behind Japanese lines for the purpose of supporting ground forces. The operation involves the deployment of the Chindits, who are to establish a base in the jungle from which to launch guerrilla raids on Japanese supply lines. The operation is named Thursday as the plan is to launch the mission on a Thursday.

The Chindits are supported by the 1st Air Commando Group, a US Army Air Force unit equipped with transport aircraft, fighters, and bombers. The 1st Air Commando Group drops supplies and reinforcements to the Chindits and conducts airstrikes against Japanese targets.
The operation is successful in establishing a new airbase, and the Chindits are able to conduct a number of successful raids on Japanese supply lines, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. However, the operation is also costly, with many casualties on both sides. The Chindits are eventually withdrawn after suffering heavy losses due to disease, malnutrition, and combat. Despite this, Operation Thursday is considered a significant achievement and paves the way for further Allied advances in Burma.

February 20th, 1944 – February 21st, 1944
Sinking of the SF Hydro
Norwegian Independent Company 1, Special Operations Executive
One man of the Norwegian Independent Company 1 (Kompani Linge), three men of the Norwegian Resistance. Their mission is to sink the SF Hydro and prevent the Germans from moving potassium hydroxide to Germany in support of their Atomic Bomb program.

After one failed attack, one successful attack and two U.S. Air Force bombings the Germans decide to cancel the production of heavy water at Rjukan and move the remainder of the potassium hydroxide, to Germany. The resistance movement is aware of this plan, and considers blowing up the train at various places, but instead choses to target the ferry SF Hydro.

To minimize the civilian losses, Kjell Nielsen at Norsk Hydro delays the tapping of the potassium hydroxide one day to allow the shipment to be carried out on a Sunday. They are moved by train to the SF Hydro on Saturday.

The saboteurs Alf Larsen, Knut Lier-Hansen, Rolf Sørlie and Knut Haukelid break into the ferry quay by cutting through a fence. While Alf Larsen and Knut Lier-Hansen stands guard, Sørlie and Haukelid enter the ship. One of the two guards guarding the SF Hydro, discover the two men. They convince the guard with telling him they are workers and want to sleep on board. Allowed aboard, Sørlie and Haukelid go below deck to the keel where they spend two hours placing 8.4 kilograms of plastic explosive in a circular formation of 3.6 metres long. The explosives are placed in the bow. This would cause the ship’s screws and rudder to be quickly lifted out of the water, leaving the captain and crew without control. The explosion would be big enough to sink the ship, but not devastating enough to cause casualties among the passengers and crew. The fuses would be set to cause the ship to sink at the deepest part of the lake, but close enough to shore to allow any survivors to be rescued.

On February 20th, 1944, just before reaching the lighthouse at Urdalen the bomb explodes. The ship immediately heads for land, but the ship’s crew fails to prepare the lifeboats and no instructions are given for using the lifebelts. By the time the crew leaves the bridge, the ship has listed so much that they could walk down the side. At 10:30 the SF Hydro sinks, settling on the bottom at 430 metres depth. Despite the intention to minimize casualties, eighteen people are killed. Twenty-nine survive. The dead comprised fourteen Norwegian crew and passengers and four German soldiers. Farmers from across the lake come to the rescue of the crew and passengers with their boats. Some of the Norwegian rescuers feel that the Germans should not be saved, but this attitude did not prevail, and four German soldiers are saved.

The saboteurs leave the ship unseen. Larsen and Haukelid leave for Sweden while Sørlie leaves for Hardangervidda, Norway.

February 27th, 1944 – February 28th, 1944
Operation Ginny I
Operational Groups, Office of Strategic Services
Fifteen men from the Italian/United States Operational Group, Office of Strategic Services (OSS), U.S. Navy torpedo boats PT 214 and PT 210, Dinghy. Their mission is the purpose of the mission is to destroy a railroad tunnel on the Genoa-Pisa line, in Framura, Italy.
The men are transported to the lading area by a PT Boat and are transported to the beach by dinghy. The mission is aborted after the assault force lands to far from the intended landing point.

February 27th, 1944 – February 28th, 1944
Operation Premium
No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando
Six men from No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando, Motor Torpedo Boat 682. A raid on the Dutch coast near Wassenaar, The Netherlands.

Captain Charles Trepel and the five other French Commandos disappear that night until the area around Scheveningen was liberated. During investigations into their disappearance their graves are found. Five graves are described as unknown Allied airmen, and one as unknown English soldier. The graves are disinterred, and the men identified. There have been numerous suggestions as to how they met their death from drowning to execution.

February 28th, 1944 – February 29th, 1944
Glider resupply Mission.
1st Air Commando Group
Glider Unit, three WACO CG-4A gliders. Their mission is to deliver a patrol, folding boats, outboard engines, and gasoline to the 16th Brigade of the Chindits.
On February 28th, 1944, a British patrol is loaded onto a Waco glider and towed across the Chindwin River. The glider is cut loose near Minsin. It suffers damage during the landing, is burned and the pilots had to return to India on foot. The next day, February 29th, 1944, two gliders are sent to assist the 16th Brigade of the Chindits, led by Brigadier Bernard E. Fergusson. The brigade has set off from Ledo on February 1st, 1944, and needs help crossing the Chindwin River. The gliders carry folding boats, outboard engines, and gasoline, and land on a sandbar in the river. After unloading the supplies, they are picked up by a C-47 crew and brought back to Lalaghat.

February 1944
Reconnaissance mission
Commandos, Royal Marine Commandos, Office of Strategic Services
Eight officers of No. 2 Commando and No. 43 RM Commando, the Office of Strategic Services accompanied by Petar Vidan, commander of the Šolta flotilla, Yugoslav boat NB-2. Their mission is to reconnoitre the Island of Šolta, for Operation Detained.

Since the Garrison rarely leave the town Grohote on the the Island of Šolta, the Allied Reconnaissance Team can move freely around the island. After completion of the reconnaissance U.S. Army First Lieutenant Walter F. Ruthowski makes a report which puts the German strength at 150-160 soldiers of which at least twenty-five are Polish soldiers. Of the latter the locals say that they are willing to surrender to Western Allies. Local population also provide detailed information about the armament of the German garrison.