7 August 1942
South Atlantic : German submarine U-108 torpedoed and sank Norwegian cargo ship Brenas off Trinidad
German submarine U-572 torpedoed and sank Dutch cargo ship Delfshaven 800 miles west of Freetown, British West Africa at 0225 hours; 1 was killed, 38 survived.
German submarine U-109 first torpedoed then shelled and sank 6.030-ton Norwegian steam tanker Arthur W. Sewall 1,400 miles west of Freetown, British West Africa.
North Sea : German anti submarine ship/minelayer Sperrbecher 170 Maria struck a mine and sank in the North Sea north west of Ostend, West Flanders, Belgium
Egypt : General William Gott, Winston Churchill’s choice to replace Claude Auchinleck as the head of the Eighth Army, was killed when his Bombay light bomber aircraft was shot down by German ME- 109 fighters while traveling from Borg el-Arab to Cairo in Egypt.
Gott was on his way to Cairo to celebrate his new appointment and preferred to take ride on a Bombay bomber turned to transport craft that carried troops for his appointment with his dentist in Cairo and the air space was considered relatively benign. However, two German Me 109 fighters had been forced down to ground level after a dogfight with British fighters when they spotted the lumbering Bombay transport plane. Rapid bursts of cannon fire damaged Bombay aircraft, wounded the pilots, and forced a crash landing. Gott and seventeen other passengers died when the crippled Bombay suddenly burst into flames. Only pilot , co pilot of Bombay and three passangers survived. The New Zealand brigadier Howard Kippenberger reached the crash site just an hour later. He was haunted by what he saw. “There were,” he recalled, “about 14 burnt bodies lying around.”
On returning to their landing ground, the German fighter pilots that shot down that particular Bombay aircraft were greeted by a very senior officer who congratulated them on successfully killing ‘the new commander of the Eighth Army.’ It appears that German intelligence intercepted an uncoded RAF radio message from Burg el Arab that a very senior officer was about to fly to Cairo and they decided to amnbush him by assigning their fighters on this air space.
Despite the horrific nature of General Gott’s death and grief it caused in British Army upper echalons at Egypt especially in 13th Corps staff where he was lionised, some in Eighth Army regarded the event as fortunate. 2nd New Zealand Division commander General Freyberg wrote to General Inglis soon after that while Gott’s death had been tragic and that Gott himself had “great personal qualities,” nevertheless “the change of regime here has been drastic and I think necessary.”
The South African general Dan Pienaar commanding 2nd South African Division and a bitter enemy of Gott since Operatiıon Crusader , is alleged to have said, on learning of Gott’s death: “Now I know that Heaven is on the side of the British.” (Ironically, General Pienaar would also be killed in an air crash traveling back to South Africa in December 1942.) But even someone as sensitive as the Chief of Imperial General Staff, General Alan Brooke, could see divine intervention in Gott’s fate. Brooke later wrote:
“It seemed almost like the hand of God suddenly appearing to set matters right where we had gone wrong. Looking back on those days with the knowledge of what occurred at Alamein and after it I am convinced that the whole course of the war might well have been altered if Gott had been in command of the Eighth Army.”
There is little doubt that Gott as Eighth Army commander would surely have been a disaster for Allies leading it to even more Eighth Army defeats. As Bierman and Smith aptly surmised, "With Gott’s appointment to army command , the scene was surely now set for another disastrous failure of British leadership in the Western Desert.” With Gott’s demise however, the path had been cleared for Brooke’s preferred candidate for the job: Lieutenant General Bernard Law Montgomery.
Cairo , Egypt : On 7th August Churchill visited the newly arrived 51st Highland Division and then attended a dinner at the British embassy in Cairo.
He met Viscount Cranley there. Cranley had gone down with dysentery in late July and, running a temperature of 104 degrees, was sent to hospital in Cairo. While convalescing, he had been invited to the embassy dinner and found himself recounting to Churchill his own experience of the recent fighting. Churchill, attentive, heard him out and then announced, ‘I have listened to this boy with great interest, as only those who have been in the frying pan have the right to speak of the heat of the fire.’
Later Churchill received word that Gott had been killed in a plane crash that afternoon. With his death, an urgent decision about new commander of Eighth Army was required. General Alan Brooke recommended Bernard Montgomery again, and this time Churchill agreed. He announced the appointment that night and wrote a letter to be handed to Auchinleck anouncing his relief. Alan Brooke later wrote “a telegram has been sent to Cabinet ordering Montgomery out to take command of Eighth Army. I hope we get Alexander and Montgomery out soon so that I may settle details of corps commanders and chiefs of staff with them.”
Meditterranean Sea : Guided by information from British codebreakers , Royal Navy submarine HMS Proteus intercepted , torpedoed and sank German freighter Wachtfels (which was full of supplies for Panzer Army Afrika and en route to Tobruk) 100 miles south of Athens, Greece.
After that in midnight off Crete , HMS Proteus intercepted , shelled and sank German schrooner Marigula full of German troops and supplies en route to Africa.
Palestine : British Middle East Command create a Palestine Regiment from seperate Jewish anmd Arab battalions
Kalach , Don River , Russia : Elements of German Sixth Army crossed the Don River near Kalach-na-Donu, southern Russia, west of Stalingrad and began advancing to link up with leading panzer divisions of Fourth Panzer Army to encircle and destroy Soviet 62nd and 64th Armies west of Don river.
At dawn on 7 August, 14th and 24th Panzer Corps shredded the Soviet front line near Kalach from the north and the south, all the while receiving immense support from Fiebig’s air corps and parts of Pflugbeil’s. From the northeast and southwest, tight against the Don River, 14th and 24th Panzer Corps struck into the Kalach bridgehead. Their spearheads made contact southwest of Kalach by late afternoon, trapping the main body (eight rifle divisions) of the Soviet 62nd Army in an encirclement. Joined by 51st German Corps the Germans began systematically destroying the surrounded Soviet forces.
Stalingrad : Panic breaks out in the city. Military police and NKVD troops force civilian refugees off the roads, while an improvised force of tanks, AT guns, and Katyusha rocket launchers are rushed down the road to face Hoth’s panzers at Abanerovo. Fierce tank clashes follow.
Even so, German morale is high. A German soldier diaries, "Our company is tearing ahead. Today I wrote to Elsa, ‘We shall soon see each other. All of us feel that the end, Victory, is near.’
Berlin , Germany : Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering presided over a meeting to discuss the German Four Year Plan for industrial production. Slave labour was to be an essential part in the plan. But as the notes of the discussion show, there were areas from which Jewish labour could no longer come. In White Russia, the meeting was told, ‘Only a few Jews are still alive. Tens of thousands were eliminated.’
Netherlands : 987 Dutch Jews were transported to Auschwitz , Poland.
Rabaul , New Britain : At 0730 hours, 13 US B-17 Flying Fortress bombers took off from Port Moresby, Australian Papua to attack Rabaul, New Britain. Between 0950 and 1045 hours, prior to the arrival of the US attack, 17 Zero fighters of the Japanese Tainan Air Group, 27 Type 1 G4M aircraft of 4th Air Group, and 9 Type 99 D3A aircraft of 2nd Air Group were launched from Rabaul area airfields to join the battle in the Guadalcanal area in the Solomon Islands. The US attack caused minimal damage to runways and minor damage to 12 defending Zero fighters.
Guadalcanal - Tulagi , Solomon Islands , South West Pacific : US Marines landed on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands with the aim of safeguarding the sea supply lines between Australia and America and to form the first of the island “stepping stones” which would carry the Americans across the Pacific to Japan; the recently constructed Japanese airfield on the island provided the Marines with a vital facility. In the morning , after a heavy air and naval gunfire bombartment on Japanese positions , the first attack waves of 11.000 strong 1st US Marine Division landed on northern shore of Guadalcanal between Koli Point and Lunga Point without meeting any resistance. About 2.600 Japanese and Korean forced labourers and engineers (who were not combat troops) panicked and mostly escaped to jungle to further south and west) US Marines quickly established a beachead perimeter that was enlarged towards Japanese airfield.
Just across the water to the north, Brigadier General William H. Rupertus, Deputy Commander of the US 1st Marine Division, led an assault on Tulagi and smaller neighboring islands Gavatu and Tanbambogo. After heavy air attacks on Japanese targets from US Navy carriers USS Saratoga and USS Wasp in the morning that destroyed 15 Japanese flying boats on Tulagi harbour , Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. Edson’s 1st Raider Battalion landed on Tulagi first, followed by Lieutenant Colonel Harold E. Rosecran’s 2nd Battalion 5th Marines. 1.000 men strong Japanese defenders from elite 3rd Kure Special Naval Detachment defending Tulagi , put up a much stiffer resistance than their comrades on Guadalcanal (though Japanese marksmanship was very poor) but by nightfall with tank support , Edsons’s Marines had reached the former British residency overlooking Tulagi’s harbour and dug in for the night on a hill overlooking the Japanese final positions , destroyed or overrun most of Japanese defences on the way. At the same time the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines with air strikes suppoort from US Navy carriers had fought their way through to the north shore clearing the sector of enemy positions at Tulagi, after which they moved into support of the Raiders. The fight for Tulagi was very violent but shorter than expected since Japanese naval garison trooops from Kure Detachmernt usually made suicidal counter attacks against US Marine advancing positions and these coıunter attacks were crushed by firepower of Marines. The days fighting had cost the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines 56 men killed and wounded, whilst the 1st Raiders had suffered 99 casualties. Japanese casaulties are over 800.
Gavutu was assaulted by the U.S. Marine 1st Parachute Battalion consisting of 397 men. The assault was scheduled for noon because there were not enough aircraft to provide air cover for the Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu landings at the same time. The preceding naval bombardment had damaged the seaplane ramp, forcing the naval landing craft to land the Marines in a more exposed location on a nearby small beach and dock. Japanese machine gun fire began inflicting heavy casualties, killing or wounding one in ten of the landing Marines as they scrambled inland in an attempt to get out of the crossfire coming from the two islets.
Surviving Marines were able to deploy two M1919 Browning machine guns to provide suppressing fire on Gavutu’s caves, allowing more Marines to push inland from the landing area. Seeking cover, the Marines became scattered and were quickly pinned down. Captain George Stallings—the battalion operations officer—directed Marines to begin suppressive fire with machine guns and mortars on the Japanese machine gun emplacements on Tanambogo. Shortly thereafter, US Navy dive bombers dropped several bombs on Tanambogo, diminishing some of the volume of fire from that location.
After about two hours, Marines reached and climbed Hill 148. Working from the top, the Marines began clearing the Japanese fighting positions on the hill, most of which still remained, with explosive charges, grenades, and hand-to-hand combat. From the top of the hill, the Marines were also able to put increased suppressive fire on Tanambogo. The Marine battalion commander on Gavutu radioed General Rupertus with a request for reinforcements before attempting to assault Tanambogo.
Most of the 240 Japanese defenders on Tanambogo were aircrew and maintenance personnel from the Yokohama Air Group. Many of these were aircraft maintenance personnel and construction units not equipped for combat. One of the few Japanese soldiers captured recounts fighting armed with only hand sickles and poles. Rupertus detached one company of Marines from the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment on Florida Island to assist in assaulting Tanambogo, in spite of advice from his staff that one company was not enough. Incorrectly believing Tanambogo to be only lightly defended, this company attempted an amphibious assault directly on Tanambogo shortly after dark on 7 August. Illuminated by fires started during a U.S. naval bombardment of the islet, the five landing craft carrying the Marines were hit by heavy fire as they approached the shore, with many of the U.S. Navy boatcrews being killed or wounded, as well as heavily damaging three of the boats. Realizing the position was untenable, the Marine company commander ordered the remaining boats to depart with the wounded marines, and he and 12 men who had already landed sprinted across the causeway to cover on Gavutu. The Japanese on Tanambogo suffered 10 killed in the day’s fighting.
As the Americans invade, desperate Japanese garrison at Tulagi fires off a stream of messages in angry Japanese to headquarters. The last one is at 8:05, “We pray for enduring fortunes of war,” and pledge to fight “to the last man.” Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the entire Imperial Navy, gives a simple order; counterattack.
The Japanese are preparing an attack on Milne Bay in New Guinea, so their 32 Betty bombers at Rabaul are already bombed- up. 11th Air Fleet orders them south. The strike is led by the two prides of Mitsubishi, the Betty bomber and the Zero fighter. Both have ruled the Pacific since Pearl Harbor. But both planes lack self-sealing fuel tanks and armor protection, unlike the American F4Fs. The Betty is quite vulnerable. It’s official designation is “Type One Land Attack Plane,” but its crews call it the “Type One Lighter.” More importantly, the Zeros streaking south, being the land-based version, do not carry radios.
The American F4F, which looks like a knock-kneed bumblebee, has a quicker rate of roll and faster dive than the Zero, and can take more punishment.
Most importantly, the Imperial Navy has started the war with 3,500 well-trained elite pilots. They have taken increasingly serious losses, most notably at Coral Sea and Midway. They are the best pilots in the world. But they have no replacements behind them.
The 53-plane strike is seen heading south by a British Coastwatcher on Bougainville, Paul Mason, who teleradios from Malabaita Hill at 10:37, “From STO, 27 bombers headed southeast.”
On Australian light cruiser HMAS Canberra ,embedded in US Task Force off Guadalcanal the 1MC blares, “This ship will be attacked at noon. Hands will pipe to lunch at 11 a.m.”
Australian Coastwatcher Martin Clemens writes at noon, “On combat radio I hear Tulagi is taken, and at 1205 Marines land on Gavutu. Wizard!”
At 12:30 the enemy air force turns up. Radar picks up an enemy force headed for Tulagi. Intercepting fighters spot 30 twin-engine Betty bombers in a tight V of Vs, escorted by Zero fighters, coming in at 180 knots. Four F4Fs attack this massive force at once. Lt. Vince DePoix splashes one Zero, and then another. The Japanese counterattack, and the four Americans escape.
The Americans send in more F4Fs from all three carriers, and the Japanese discover that the F4F Wildcat can take considerable punishment. The Americans go for the bombers, and splash two before the Zeros can counterattack. The Japanese shoot down three Enterprise fighters.
Lt. James Southerland of Saratoga finds himself facing three Zeros. He damages two, but is forced to bail out, at the hands of famed ace Saburo Sakai. “Flaps and radio hade been put out of commission. The after part of my fuselage was like a sieve,” Southerland says. He survives to fight again.
Sakai rejoins his buddies and shoots down an SBD, his 60th kill. The other SBDs in the group open up and riddle Sakai’s Zero, grievously wounding the aviator. He loses blood, which generates a potentially lethal anesthetic. Sakai strikes himself on the wound to produce jolts of pain to stay awake, and he nurses the crippled plane back, despite losing one eye, over the 565 miles back to Rabaul. Incredibly, he will return to duty.
The bombers arrive at 1:15 p.m., and their aim is disrupted by cloud cover. No hits.
The Japanese try another airstrike that afternoon at 2:30 p.m., this time using dive bombers to hit the anchored transports, and Lt. A.O. Vorse splashes a bomber. The Americans claim more kills than Japanese planes present. The Japanese put a hit on destroyer Mugford’s afterdeck house, knocking out two guns and killing 19 men.
The Americans lose half their Wildcats that fight in the battle, but the Japanese lose five Bettys, nine Val dive bombers, and two Zeros, for one nonfatal hit on a destroyer. The Japanese also lose the services of a 60-kill ace, Sakai.
While all this is going on, the Japanese Navy is also active. The soft-spoken intellectual Rear Adm. Gunichi Mikawa, 53, is fast asleep at his flag quarters in Rabaul when Tulagi is invaded, and his staff communicator, Capt. Teraoka Hadai, rushes in, trembling and shocked, to deliver the bad news. The groggy Mikawa reads the message, “Tulagi under severe bombardment from the air and sea. Enemy task force sighted. One battleship, two carriers, three cruisers, 15 destroyers, 30 to 40 transports.” Mikawa bolts uprights, and snaps, “Wake the staff. Arrange for all charts and maps. Find out the disposition of our forces here and at Kavieng.”
Mikawa, a veteran cruiser admiral, fires off a stream of orders. He hurls his aircraft (mentioned earlier) at Guadalcanal, diverts submarines to the area, and scrapes up 310 riflemen and machine gunners of the Sasebo Special Naval Landing Force, loads them on the transport Meiyo Maru, and sends them south. Finally, Mikawa summons his Cruiser Division 6, heavy cruisers Chokai, Aoba, Kinugasa, Furutaka, and Kako, back to Rabaul.
At 1 p.m. the big ships arrive in Rabaul, and Mikawa adds the light cruisers Tenryu and Yubari and the ancient destroyer Yunagito the mix. He boards his flagship Chokai at 2:30 and the force (which never gets a name until historians call it the Striking Force) heads to sea.
At 7:37, the still-anonymous force stumbles over the US submarine S-38 off Cape St. George. The antique submarine fires off a radio contact report of three cruisers and two destroyers on course 140. The message does not get to Turner until 7 a.m. the next day.
Kiska , Aleutian islands , Northern Pacific : American light cruiser USS Nashville shelled Japanese shore installations on Kiska Island in the Aleutians causing considerable damage
Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Tambor torpedoed and sank Japanese auxiliary net layer Shofuku Maru off Wotje, Marshall Islands