13 June 1942
Caribbean Sea and Gulf Of Mexico : German submarine U-157 found and sank a 6,400-ton American tanker, Hagan 10th June. Upon learning of this loss, the commander of US Navy Gulf Sea Frontier, Admiral James Kauffman, directed all available forces to “hunt this submarine to exhaustion and destroy it.” An Army Air Forces B-18 picked up U-157 on ASV radar at first light on June 11. Closing to two miles, the aircrew saw U-157 on the surface and attacked, passing over the boat at 900 feet, but the attack failed when the bomb-bay doors malfunctioned.
Making a diving turn, the B-18 came in a second time at 300 feet, but by then U-157 was nearly under. The plane dropped four Mark XVII depth charges set for twenty-five feet. All charges detonated, but the outcome was unknown. An hour and a half later a Pan American Airways commercial airliner saw the U-boat on the surface. But still later that morning, three other Army aircraft could not find her. An armada of ASW vessels sailed from the schools in Key West and Miami. The Key West group, composed of nine ships, included the four-stack destroyers USS Dahlgren and USS Noa, and the 165-foot Coast Guard cutters USS Thetis and USS Triton. The Miami group was composed of five PCs, reinforced by the four-stack destroyer USS Greer, which joined it on June 12. All fifteen vessels converged in the Florida Straits between Key West and Havana.
The American air and sea forces hunted U-157 relentlessly for forty-eight hours, June 11 to June 13. On the night of June 12–13, radar-equipped Army Air Forces B-18s reestablished contact with the U-boat. At dawn on June 13, Kauffman directed the Key West group to the site and recalled the Miami group. At about 4:00 P.M., the 165-foot Coast Guard cutter USS Thetis got a “strong” sonar contact. Her captain, Nelson C. McCormick, who had earlier commanded a sister ship, USS Dione, off Cape Hatteras, carried out an immediate and skillful attack, dropping ten depth charges in two runs, which brought up huge air bubbles and oil. The destroyer USS Noa, the 165-foot Coast Guard cutter USS Triton, and three other vessels converged onUSS Thetis and dropped twenty-two more depth charges at the oil slick.
These attacks without doubt destroyed U-157, with the loss of all hands. USS Thetis and the other vessels found not only great quantities of oil but also two pairs of trousers, a small tube of oil made in Germany, and pieces of deck grating and other wood. The Army Air Forces rightfully claimed part credit for the kill, as did USS Noa and USS Triton and several other vessels, but Admiral Kauffman gave sole credit to McCormick in USS Thetis.
At Kerneval , France, Admiral Dönitz was unaware of the loss for a number of days.
Off Panama, in the Caribbean Sea, German submarine U-159 torpedoed and sank US passenger linker Sixaola at 0412 hours; 29 were killed, 201 survived. At 1938 hours, U-159 struck again, torpedoed and sinking US cargo ship Solon; all 53 aboard survived.
Atlantic Ocean : Battle of Convoy HG-84 (Homebound Gibraltar) starts. June 14, German submarine U-552 made contact with the convoy and brought up other FW-200 Condor aircraft and three U-boats of wolfpack ENDRASS: U-132 , U-89 and U-437.
The British rescue ship Copeland DFed signals of U-552 and alerted escort commander Captain Johnny Walker in Royal Navy sloop HMS Stork, who went to battle stations promptly and directed catapult merchant ship Empire Morn to launch its Hurricane fighter to drive off the German planes. The Hurricane carried out its mission, then ditched alongside HMS Stork, which recovered the pilot. Meanwhile HMS Stork and the corvette HMS Gardenia had found German submarine U-132 astern of the convoy. In a relentless, well-conducted series of attacks, HMS Stork and HMS Gardenia dropped 110 depth charges near U-132, severely damaging the boat and forcing it to fall out and back. At about that same time the corvettes HMS Marigold and HMS Convolvulus found and attacked U-89 and U-437, forcing them off as well. Captain Lohmann commanding U-89 later reported he was hunted and depth-charged for thirty-one hours.
German submarine U-202 landed 4 saboteurs at Amagansett, Long Island, New York, United States in Operation Pastorius.
Italian submarine Da Vinci torpedoed and sank British collier SS Clan MacQuarrie 650 miles south of Cape Verde Islands; 1 was killed, 89 survived.
Gazala , Libya : German 21st Panzer Division, 15th Panzer Division, and 90th Light Division surrounded British troops in the Knightsbridge box near Tobruk, Libya, eventually forcing the British to fall back after sundown. The heavy fighting and the resulting heavy casualties caused the British troops to name this day “Black Saturday”
On 13 June, the 21st Panzer Division advanced from the west and engaged the 22nd Armoured Brigade. The Afrika Korps demonstrated a superiority in tactics, combining tanks with anti-tank guns in the attack; Rommel acted rapidly on intelligence obtained from Allied radio traffic intercepts. By the end of the day, the British tank strength had been reduced from 300 tanks to about 70 and the Afrika Korps had established armour superiority and a dominating line of positions, making 13th Corps on the Gazala line vulnerable to being cut off. By the end of 13 June, the Knightsbridge box was virtually surrounded and it was abandoned by the Guards Brigade later that night, with their commanding officer Thomas Bevan having been killed the previous day. Due to these defeats, 13 June became known as “Black Saturday” to the Eighth Army.
On 13 June, the 21st Panzer Division attacked Rigel Ridge in the middle of a sandstorm. The Germans overran part of the 2nd Scots Guards at the Knightsbridge Box at the west end of Rigel Ridge, overlooked by the 6th South African Anti-tank battery of the 2nd Field Regiment, Natal Field Artillery and a battery of the 11th Regiment RHA nearby. The South African gunners kept firing until their guns were destroyed, allowing the withdrawal of other Allied formations. The South African battery commander had decided to stay and maintain fire against the German tanks, to delay the Germans for as long as possible. The remaining guns were commanded individually and fired at the Panzers over open sights. The German tanks took up positions behind the ridge, with anti-tank guns placed between them. A column of Panzers attacked from the rear, surrounding them and cutting off all escape and the gunners kept firing until the eight guns had been destroyed. About half the gun detachments were killed and wounded, including the battery commander and many officers. The last gun in action was manned by Lieutenant Ashley and a signaller; when the battery had been silenced, the Axis tanks approached cautiously and the South African gunners were taken prisoner. (The entire Natal Field Artillery Regiment was captured and was not re-formed until after the war.) The Germans captured over 3,000 Allied prisoners.
Ritchie was at this time faced with an unenviable choice. With Rommel’s advance threatening to cut off the 1st South African and the 50th Divisions he had to make up his mind whether to fight or to run. If he stood firm his armour might well be destroyed and his infantry cut off, but even if he withdrew to Egypt there was no guarantee that he would escape a severe mauling, and Tobruk would inevitably be left to the enemy. Characteristically he decided to stand and fight it out, a decision endorsed by Auchinleck and applauded by the Prime Minister.
For the coming defensive battle he transferred the 1st Armoured Division to 13th Corps and ordered Lumsden to hold the Acroma-Eluet-Knightsbridge area while fighting generally under the protection of Gott’s guns and infantry. Further to the east the 10th Indian Division was directed to attack at El Adem and the 7th Motor Brigade to strike at the enemy rear between there and Knightsbridge.
By the time these instructions reached Lumsden on the morning of 13th June he was fully occupied with an enveloping attack on Knightsbridge by the Afrikakorps, an action which was to become the decisive armoured battle of the Gazala series. It was from this battle that Rommel emerged for the first time at Gazala definitely superior in armoured strength to the British, and at the end of the day, with 30th Corps reduced to 50 cruisers and unable to recover its damaged vehicles, Ritchie ordered Lumsden to withdraw. Up to this time the recovery and repair units had done sterling work but at Knightsbridge they were given no chance and the Afrikakorps won a great victory.
By 13 June, the Eighth Army was at the point of collapse. No longer able to hold out against the renewed assault, the exhausted Guards Brigade finally evacuated ‘Knightsbridge’. With a sand-storm raging of such intensity that visibility was no more than a few yards, Rommel advanced towards Tobruk virtually unimpeded, recording that the ‘slaughter of British tanks went on … murderous fire struck from several sides into the tightly packed British formations, whose strength gradually diminished’. By night fall Knightsbridge was cut off and overrun with appalling losses for British Guards brigade ; the few survivors slipped away after dark leaving a battlefield carpeted with British dead. A German soldier, Rolf Werner Völker, was shocked by the sights he saw and observed, ‘It was like a naughty child had had a tantrum and thrown his toys all over the room, there were upturned guns, trucks and tanks everywhere – a lot of them burning.’ Another witness said, ‘I have never seen so many dead Englishmen before.’
Auchinleck had, up until this point, offered Ritchie advice but the tone of the advice altered and Ritchie’s attempts to run his own command could be seen to wane. Auchinleck was now giving the orders (asll the way from Cairo , muddling chain of command and destroying Ritchie’s authority further). The possibility that the 8th Army could be cut off and destroyed piecemeal was now more and more likely. The political interference coupled with poor communications and compounded by imprecise objectives led to the next great debacle as the bulk of the 8th Army was scrambling to get out of the path of the German juggernaut.
The rout that was now in the offing did not spring from a lack of courage on the part of the British, Indian, Australian and Free French troops caught in this inferno but from the numbed and dilatory leadership of their commanding officers. Though Ritchie dithered, he was not alone to blame. His subordinates – Generals Norrie, Gott , Messervy and Lumsden – were not only out of touch with the calamitous turn of events on the battlefield but very often with each other as well. With their armour, artillery and infantry scattered and isolated, their commanders knew neither what was happening nor the extent of their losses. On that grim day, the 13th, when the mutual carnage of men and machines reached hideous proportions, the Eighth Army’s official log was reduced to recording that there had ‘evidently’ been ‘losses on both sides in these engagements’.
If Ritchie was in denial, Auchinleck, who returned on the same day to Cairo from a flying visit to the front, was at a loss, still unaware of how desperate the situation had become. But by the next day, with only seventy tanks left in entire Eighth Army, Ritchie finally realised the scale of his defeat. He at once ordered the bulk of his forces to retreat to the Egyptian frontier in what became known – self-mockingly but despairingly – as ‘the Gazala Gallop’.
Mediterranean Sea : Operation Harpoon and Operation Vigorous convoys continue unaware that the wireless reports of US military attache Col. Bonnar Fellers to Washington already betrayed their presence to Axis and both German Italian naval and air forces are ready and awaiting them.
On Vigorous convoy : The three convoy elements met off Mersa Matruh during the afternoon and made for Malta as the 7th Destroyer Flotilla put into Alexandria to refuel, the rest of the destroyers sailing on and the rest leaving Alexandria with the main force, seven cruisers and their destroyer screen. During the afternoon, the weather deteriorated and the MTBs (motor torpedoboats) on tow were cast off to return to Alexandria but MTB 259 was damaged and sunk, the rest made port the next day.
During the night a five-man raiding party was landed by submarine on Crete and damaged or destroyed about 20 aircraft of Lehrgeschwader 1 at Maleme airfield. The activity of raiding parties was reported to Washington by Bonner Fellers; three SBS parties had landed the week previous, one to attack the aircraft but had not been able to penetrate the airfield security.
After dark, Axis aircraft continuously illuminated the convoy with flares and dropped occasional bombs, then at 4:30 a.m. the Luftwaffe attacked the main escort force catching up from the east, dropping more bombs and flares until British fighters arrived after dawn. RAF Douglas Bostons and Wellington bombers attacked Axis airfields near Derna and other places during the night, to interfere with Axis air operations against the convoy.
On Harpoon Convoy : Operation Harpoon continued and more aircraft of the Regia Aeronautica were transferred to Sardinia but lost contact with the convoy. Two Italian cruisers and three destroyers departed Cagliari during the evening for Palermo, ready to stop a fast ship from dashing to Malta.
German submarine U-83 torpedoed and sank British Q-ship HMS Farouk off Chekka, Syria-Lebanon at 1110 hours; 9 were killed.
Crete : Greek submarines Papanicolis and Triton delivered British Commandos on Crete, Greece; while this new group of arrivals failed to achieve their objectives, a group landed on 10 Jun reached parked German aircraft on this date and destroyed 20 German Ju 88 bombers at Heraklion airbase.
Baltic Sea : Soviet submarine ShCh-405 was lost in the Tiger minefield off Seskar Island, Russia (taken from Finland in 1940) in the Baltic Sea; all 38 aboard were killed.
Sevastapol , Crimea : Troops of 16.Regiment of German 22.Luftlande Division attacked Fort Stalin at Sevastopol, Russia at 0300 hours, capturing it by 0530 hours on 13th June; Germans suffered 32 killed and 126 wounded, and the Soviets 100 killed and 20 captured.
The primary objective for the 22nd Infantry Division on 12-13 June was Fort Stalin, blocking the advance to Severnaya Bay. It was a tough position. The fortifications allowed the Soviet forces to concentrate artillery against breakthroughs and machine gun posts protected the fort from southern and eastern attacks, but it was vulnerable from a northern assault. In addition, only 200 men from the 345th Rifle Division were stationed there. The Germans launched their assault on the position at 03:00 on 13 June with just 813 men. The 3rd Battalion was assigned to suppress Soviet machine gun and mortar positions located on the southeast as a diversion. The 1st Battalion, supported by five StuG assault guns, two 37mm guns and an Engineer Company, were to serve as the main effort. Some 200 and 110 men were committed respectively in each unit.
German bombardment began on 12 June. Artillery fire from ‘Dora’ had failed to neutralise the fort. Nevertheless, a combined arms attack from eleven 420 mm mortars and dive-bombing by Ju 87s of StG 77 knocked out the fort’s main armament (three of the four 76.2 mm guns). At 19:00 the 22nd divisional artillery began shelling the fort and its smaller supporting fortress, Volga, located to Stalin’s rear, with 210, 280 and 305 mm weapons. At 03:00 the German infantry attacked. The fog of war intervened. The Soviet mortar teams were not suppressed, and a fierce battle developed which lasted until 05:30. The Germans, with the support of five assault guns and a few 37 mm weapons, silenced the fort, bunker by bunker. In the heavy fighting a large number of company commanders were killed.
As the Germans seized this vital fort, the neighbouring Volga fort realised it had fallen and shelled the position. A company-sized counterattack by the Soviet forces was wiped out by German small arms fire. The Germans declared the position secured at 07:00, though some bunkers held out until 15:00. German casualties amounted to 32 dead, 126 wounded and two missing – half of the force committed. Soviet casualties amounted to 20 captured, the remainder were killed. With only 91 men left near the fort, Petrov did not order a recovery attempt – a grave mistake
In Sevastapol harbor, Luftwaffe bombers hit and sank Soviet transport ship Gruzyia (Her cargo of ammunition exploded resulting in most of the 4,000 troops on board being killed.) , transport TSch-27, patrol boat SKA-092, motor boat SP-40, five barges, and a floating crane.
Black Sea : A Soviet torpedo boat attacked and sank Italian midget submarine CB-5 in the Black Sea off Yalta, Ukraine.
Italian torpedo boat MTSM-210 damaged a Soviet ferry in the Black Sea; German aircraft arrived shortly after to sink the damaged ship.
Peenemunde , Germany : The first launch of an A4 rocket was achieved at Peenemünde, Germany, but after only 54 seconds the motor cut out and the missile fell into the sea less than a mile from its launch pad.
Berlin , Germany : General Eduard Wagner, Quartermaster General and head of the supply section of the German High Command informed Adolf Hitler that there was a real risk of supplies drying up by mid-September, 1942. Hitler refused to heed the warning which proved to be optimistic - By late July whole units on the Eastern Front were immobilised for days by lack of fuel. ww2dbase
Washington , USA : The United States established the Office of War Information and the Office of Strategic Services.
Darwin , Australia : 27 aircraft of Japanese 23rd Air Flotilla from Kendari, Celebes, Dutch East Indies attacked Darwin, Australia.
Hawaii : Task Force 16 (USS Enterprise , USS Hornet and their escorts) returned back and arrived at Pearl Harbour.
Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Sargo torpedoed and sank Japanese troop transport ship Konan Maru off Caroline Islands