22 July 1942
Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-582 torpedoed and sank unarmed US cargo ship Honolulan 500 miles west of Freetown, British West Africa between 2012 and 2040 hours. All 39 aboard survived; the German submarine crew gave the survivors two boxes of cigarettes before departing.
El Alamein , Egypt : German tanks counterattacked El Mreir positions gained by the latest Allied offensive in Egypt, inflicting 1.000 casaulties (including 900 captured) among New Zealand troops destroying most of 24th and 25th NZ Battalions . By the time the British 23rd Armoured Brigade arrived, it was bogged down by an Axis minefield as it engaged in battle with German tanks and German anti tank guns; when the engagement ended, 23rd Armored Brigade was practically wiped out.
At daybreak on 22 July, German general Nehring’s 5th and 8th Panzer Regiments responded against New Zealanders intrusion on El Mreir with a rapid counter-attack which quickly overran the New Zealand infantry batalions in the open and rather defenceless at the depression despite fierce resistance of Kiwi infantry armed with sticky bombs and inadequate anti tank guns which were quickly knocked out by German tanks (23 New Zealand anti tank guns were destroyed or captured) , inflicting more than 1.000 casualties on the New Zealanders , routing and destroying most of 24th and 25th NZ Batalions (from latter only one stray company managed to retreat and returned back to British lines) and inflicting heavy casaulties on 6th NZ Zealand Suport Group that caught defenceless in column formation before minefields under heavy Luftwaffe JU-87 Stuka air attack then forcing it to retreat back.
In the early hours of 22 July, Earl Haig , one of 1st British Armored Division liason officers assigned to 24th NZ Battalion witnessed the destruction of one fine Dominion battalion due to stupid decisions from Auchinleck , Eric-Dorman Smith to Gott and Fisher. In the morning Haig found himself ‘trapped in a saucer’ pinned inside his tank under fire from a panzer unit on a ridge above him. ‘Shells were now landing all round us. I saw a New Zealander dreadfully wounded below the waist crawl pitifully towards my tank … Our two pounder gun had no chance … after about half an hour the enemy scored a direct hit on our tank. Smoke and flames came from the engine and my crew of three and I baled out, thankful to be alive and not wounded.’ Haig leaped into a slit trench as the panzers advanced and surrounded the battalion. ‘We rose from our trenches with arms raised in surrender,’ he noted, observing that several of the German soldiers who took their surrender would have been happy to exchange places rather than remain on the battlefield. ‘For you the war is over,’ he quoted them as saying before they left wearily to return to the front line.
British 2nd Armoured Brigade sent forward two regiments to help but after they moved by dawn they were halted by Axis mines and anti-tank fire. Their commanders were still insisting not to move in dark. During at first hours of day , General Inglis commander of 2nd New Zealand Division called 13th Corps HQ and got assurances both from it and General Gott that armor would link up with advanced 6th NZ Brigade then called 1st British Armored Division HQ and got confirmation from them too and have them recorded.
Two hours after 21st Panzer Division cleaned up New Zealanders at El Mreir , gathered their prisoners (900 of them) and brought them to rear to be shipped back to Libya and Italy for an inglorius POW life , 2nd British Armored Brigade moved only to be stalled on another uncleared minefield and then zeroed by Axis anti tank gunfire that knocked out twelve M3 Grant tanks. Rest of 2nd British Armored Brigade withdrew. And these tankers were Desert Veterans in action for last seven months and they have not taken their engineers with them to locate and clean up minefields in darkness or early morning daylight. This is a story of incompatence beyond belief.
Brigadier Clifton , commander of 6th New Zealand Brigade was initially captured by Germans on frontlines at El Mreir , but after taking out his rank badges , he managed to escape a few hours later and returned back to British lines. (after Brig. George Clifton returned back to 2 NZ Division, having made a great escape General Inglis commented. “It looked like becoming a habit for our senior officers to get captured, escape, and have breakfast with me.” Later that day, one of Kippenberger’s company commanders also shows up after his escape.) Clifton was, quite naturally incensed though , at the failure of the British armor to appear. When he returned back New Zealand Division HQ storming back to tell General Inglis commander of New Zealand Division that the armour brigadier was ‘either a cold-footed bastard or not competent to command a sanitary fatigue’. He went across to 2nd Armoured Brigade HQ to tell him personally, but, perhaps fortunately fortunately for future relations, the brigadier was not there.
2nd New Zealand Division was also “sourly discontented” and its temporary commander General Inglis wrote to General Freyberg who was still ailing in Cairo : “Our people did their stuff, but the armour, so we feel, let us down very badly on both occasions so that we got a severe handling both times, not in the attacks but in the aftermath. For the next show [El Mreir] I took every step I could think of to ensure that there should be no repetition … Anyway the result is that I have flatly refused to do another operation of the same kind while I command. I have said that the sine qua non is my own armour under my own command.” From now on New Zealand Division either would have one British armored brigade as organic armored support unit before operations and train with them and put it under its full authority OR convert one of its own infantry brigades to organic armored brigade support unit (which they will with 4th NZ Brigade a few months later)
Compounding the disaster of Eighth Army at El Mreir, at 08:00 , Brigadier Misa commander of 23rd British Armoured Brigade ordered his brigade forward to breakout Axis lines at north of El Mreir depression , intent on following his orders to the letter. Major-General Gatehouse—commanding 1st Armoured Division—had been unconvinced that a path had been adequately cleared in the minefields and had suggested the advance be cancelled. However, 13th Corps commander—Lieutenant-General William Strafer Gott—rejected this and ordered the attack but on a centre line 1 mile (1.6 km) south of the original plan which he incorrectly believed was mine-free. These orders failed to get through and the attack went ahead as originally planned. One of the squadron commanders shouted “Let’s do a Balaclava boys !” Famous last words. The inexperienced 23rd Armored Brigade with Valentine tanks unsuited for this “cavalry” role and malfunctioning radios on tanks that were cut from higher command (the whole brigade was a Territoral unit recently arrived from UK with insufficient desert training , with Valentine infantry tanks without desert engine filters that lacked infantry protection) blundered and found itself mired in mine fields in dark and then under heavy German anti tank gun fire from one unaccounted 88 mm anti tank battery that knocked out ten tanks in front. They were then counter-attacked by 21st Panzer at 11:00 and forced to withdraw. Between mines , anti tank gun fire , 21st Panzer Division counter attack and on top of that a JU-87 Stuka dive bomber attack , inexperienced 23rd British Armoured Brigade was destroyed, with the loss of 40 tanks knocked out and 47 badly damaged and only eleven tanks remained intact. %44 of tank crews were either killed or wounded. It was total disaster. Armoured tactics had not progressed one inch, either in North Africa or back home in Britain.
The attack by Indian 161st Brigade in north of El Mreir on Ruweisat ridge had mixed fortunes. On the left, the initial attempt to clear the western end of Ruweisat failed under heavy Italian machine gun and artillery fire but at 08:00 a renewed attack by the reserve Indian battalion succeeded to capture entire ridge and driving Italian Trento Motorised division further west. Further northern end of ridge though , Italian Trieste infantry division managed to hold Point 63 with aid of Italian artillery fire. On the right, the attacking Indian battalion broke into the Deir el Shein position but was driven back in hand-to-hand fighting with 90th German Light Division.
Further north at Tel El Eisa , 9th Australian Division resumed offensive from Tel El Eisa and Tel Makd Khad towards Mitierniya Ridge (Ruin Ridge) according to Operation Splendour. At 06:00 on 22 July, Australian 26th Brigade attacked Tel el Eisa to Point 24 and Australian 24th Brigade attacked to western slopes of Tel el Makh Khad then toward Miteirya (Ruin Ridge). It was during this fighting that Arthur Stanley Gurney performed the actions for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
The fighting for Point 24 at Tel el Eisa was a costly failure despite the objective was eventually captured by 26th Australian Brigade. The feature was well fortified by Axis at this stage. By the afternoon the Australians controlled the feature , only to be thrown away and forced to retreat back by an instant counter attack of 164th German Light Infantry Division and a tank detachment from 15th Panzer Division supported by heavy artillery fire from German and Italian guns. By the evening 26th Australian Brigade made a suprise night attack amnd this time captured Point 24 for good then entrenched and fortified it but the brigade had no further orders to exploit this feat and to exhausted and suffered many casaulties anyway.
That evening, Australian 24th Brigade attacked western slopes of Tel el Makh Khad with the tanks of 50th Royal Tank Regiment in support. The tank unit was detached from inexperienced 23rd Armored Brigade and had not been trained in close infantry support and failed to co-ordinate with the Australian infantry. The result was that the infantry and armour advanced independently and having reached the objective 50th RTR lost 23 tanks either to minefields or Axis anti tank guns because they lacked infantry support , advanced towards wrong objective at the bottom of Ruin ridge and blundered into minefields. Still meanwhile 24th Australian Brigade captured entire Tel El Makh Khad ridge in the afternoon but due to lack of armored support to advance further , Australians could not advance further to Mitierniya ridge because of heavy Axis small arms , machine gun and artillery fire that caused heavy casaulties on 24th Australian Brigade.
An Australian infantryman summarized the attack of July 22, part of Operation Splendour, as “a balls-up altogether" It was a recipe for disaster. On 23rd July , 9th Australian Division’s War Diary recorded that its infantry had been “heavily counter attacked causing substantial casualties during the morning.” Armored support was provided to the Australians but it was poorly coordinated and overshot the objective. When ordered back, half of the 50th Royal Tank Regiments tanks were casualties, with 23 of them left “burning in the desert.” Still Australian infantry managed to hold recently captured western slopes of Tel El Makh Khad ridge despite suffering heavy casaulties under Axis artillery and mortar fire.
Some Australian soldiers had been impressed with the courage of the tank crews. Sitting on a Valentine tank, Bill Loffman of 2/28 Battalion remarked to a crew member that the tank’s gun was very small. “Yes, we know,” was the reply. “It’s only a two-pounder and we do know what we are up against.” To Loffman, the tank crews were “bloody heroes.” He stated that, “*British armour was crap taken into action by heroes.”*Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Evans, commanding the 2/23 Australian Battalion, recorded sadly in his report on the action that his casualties had been “very heavy.” He wrote: “In the past week, the fighting has been so hy [heavy], that I have had all Coy Comds killed and all their replacements made casualties too. In all, 19 offr casualties and 270 wounded and dead, and 50 (roughly) missing.” In exchance 9th Australian Division captured 222 Germans , killed or wouned 200 more , mostly from German 90th and 164th Light Infantry Divisions during Operation Splendour.
Lt. Colonel Evans noted that most of his battalion’s casualties had been caused by concealed machine gun and mortar positions. He lamented that, “In this respect, the absence of tk [tank] support was sorely felt.
Once more, the Eighth Army had failed to destroy Rommel’s forces, despite its overwhelming superiority in men and equipment. On the contrary they delivered a fine defensive victory to Panzer Army , letting two brigades almost totally destroyed and other two suffering heavy casaulties. On the other hand, for Rommel the situation continued to be grave as, despite successful defensive operations, his infantry had suffered heavy losses and he reported that “the situation is critical in the extreme” Still at the end of the day The Intelligence Diary of 15th Panzer Division, the formation that had shattered the 6 New Zealand Brigade at El Mreir, contained a neat summary of the day’s events:
“The enemy lost heavily, and our defence held firm in most places, with the result that the enemy was thrown into some confusion … and seemed to be fighting with no sure plan of action.”
That evening, an elated Rommel sent a congratulatory message to his troops: “I send all ranks my special appreciation of their gallant action during our victorious defence of 22nd July. I am positive that any further enemy attack will meet with the same reception.”
Surprisingly, Auchinleck issued a similar statement to his army just three days later. In a Special Order of the Day sent on July 25, Auchinleck informed the soldiers of his Army that:
“You have done well. You have turned a retreat into a firm stand and stopped the enemy on the threshold of EGYPT. You have done more. You have wrenched the initiative from him by sheer guts and hard fighting and put HIM on the defensive in these last weeks … You have borne much but I ask you for more. We must not slacken. If we can stick it, we will break him. STICK TO IT.”
Coming immediately after the debacles of Ruweisat and Ruin Ridges, El Mreir, and the destruction of 23th Armoured Brigade, such an order must have had an especially hollow ring.
Operation Splendour had damaged the Axis a little bit , scared Rommel for a moment (though not really posed a danger for Panzer Army) and gained some ground for Eighth Army but not sufficiently to balance the loss of about 116 tanks and 1,000 prisoners plus 700 more killed and wounded lost by Eighth Army. In summary “it was a bloody disaster” just like New Zealand Brigadier Howard Kippenberger predicted. The indifferent planning and doubtful tactics of their generals had not matched the courage of the Allied soldiers. Relations between the 2nd New Zealand Infantry Division and Ist Armoured Division were fraught and the mistrust was evident. Strafer Gott was one of the two corps commanders in the field and to him must be attributed a portion of the blame for the failure of Splendour. But main culprits this whole Splendour fiasco were up higher in chain of command : General Claude Auıchinleck Eighth Army and Middle East Commander in Chief and his unofficial chief of staff Brigadier Eric-Dorman Smith.
In the western desert in Egypt, Australian Private Arthur Gurney won a posthumous Victoria Cross for taking two enemy machine gun positions despite being blown up by a grenade. During an attack on a third position he was cut down and killed. He would be awarded the Victoria Cross medal posthumously.
Tobruk , Libya : B-17 bombers of US Middle East Air Force attacked Tobruk, Libya.
Crete , Mediterranean Sea : B-24 bombers of US Middle East Air Force attacked Suda Bay, Crete, Greece, damaging two German vessels.
Mediterranean Sea : Italian cargo ship Città di Agrigento , laden with supplies for Panzer Army Afrika and escorted by three German fast torpedoboats , was intercepted , torpedoed and sunk by Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Fairey Albacore torpedo bombers off Mersa Matruh
German submarine U-77 sank Greek sailboat Vassiliki with her deck gun in the eastern Mediterranean Sea at 0453 hours; all aboard survived.
Don river , Russia : German 6th Army reached the great bend in the Don River near Stalingrad, Russia. Tomorrow they will start Operation Fischreirer , thhe drive on Don and destroying Soviet bridgehead west of Don river (Stalingrad Front) and crossing the river if possible and advance from Don towards the city of Stalingrad on the Western bend of the Volga river.
The German Sixth Army had ranged from north to south the 8th, 14th Panzer, 51st Corps, and 24th Panzer Corps, commanding some 270,000 men, over 500 tanks, and 3,000 guns and mortars. The German forces had superior battle experience and excellent gunnery skills. Their movement and attacks enjoyed air support, but the Sixth Army had temporarily outrun its supplies, particularly in the cases of fuel and ammunition.
Soviet opposition , titled Stalingrad Front in the Don bend was still weak, but it was increasing. Soviet 62nd Army had six rifle divisions, a tank brigade, and six independent tank battalions on its half of the line, and Soviet 64th Army had two rifle divisions and a tank brigade. To the north of the 62nd Army was the Soviet 63rd Army. The force committed by the Soviets to defend in front of Kalach included 160,000 men, some 400 tanks, and 2,200 guns and mortars, but suffered from serious shortages of anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns. Rifle divisions of the Stalingrad Front were in a perilous state, with over half of them understrength, ranging in strength between 300 and 4,000 men. Between the Volga and the Don, 57th Army was being reformed as the front reserve and the Headquarters, 38th and 28th Armies, together with those of their troops that had survived earlier battles, were being used as cadres for building the 1st and 4th Tank Armies. The tank armies would be committed before their organization was complete and without the cohesion enjoyed by more experienced and better trained formations. The Soviet forces in the Kalach Bridgehead were subordinated to the Stalingrad Front under the command of General-Lieutenant Vasiliy N. Gordov.
Rostov-on-Don , Russia : German 1st Panzer Army and 17th Army captured city center of Rostov-on-Don and began clearing outskirts of town, Russia despite fierce resistance of Russian garrison and NKVD detachments
London , UK : The discussions between US commitee by General Marshal and Admiral King visiting UK to insist a Second Front in France (Operation Sledgehammer) as soon as possible in 1942 and Brşitish goverment and British Imperial Chiefs of Staff reached a breaking point of arguements. That evening, at a meeting of the War Cabinet, Churchill went round the table asking each minister of British goverment for his views. To a man, they took his part and said no. British Imperial Chief of Staff General Alan Brooke also agred with that decision : There was no sealift capacity and no assets or necessary conditions to land and fight in France.
Marshall was immediately informed that the British government had formally rejected Sledgehammer. When the news reached Washington, Secretary of War Henry Stimson expostulated that Britain was led by ‘a fatigued and defeatist government which had lost its initiative, blocking the help of a young and vigorous nation whose strength had not yet been tapped’. On the following day, however, a reassuring cable arrived from Roosevelt, allowing Churchill to inform the Chiefs of Staff that the President had accepted that a ‘western front in 1942 was off’ and also ‘that he was in favour of attack in North Africa’. This was a seminal moment and a triumph for Churchill’s obdurate diplomacy. It may be presumed – in the absence of clear evidence – that the President was convinced that the British government was not bluffing; that he was deeply reluctant to provoke a damaging breach with Churchill; that he was, in any case, persuaded by the thrust of the Prime Minister’s strategic vision; and that, in the absence of any other alternative, North Africa offered the only available battlefield to which he could commit US troops without too much risk in established theater of Mediterranean to fight alongside the British in the run-up to the 1942 mid-term elections, a political imperative that weighed far more heavily with him than with his military advisors. To this extent, he had in effect accepted Churchill’s proposal: North Africa was to be ‘the true Second Front in 1942’. There were to be many more transatlantic wrangles and rows about the implications of the President’s decision, but the formal burial of Operation Sledgehammer breathed new life into Operation Gymnast , invasion of French North west Africa– which, at Churchill’s behest, was now to be renamed Operation Torch and to proceed.
That evening Brooke was able to note that the Americans had delivered ‘almost everything we had asked them to agree to from the start’. It had been, he wrote, a ‘very trying week’ but he and his team had ‘got just what we wanted out of the USA Chiefs’.With his emissaries back in Washington, the President cabled Churchill welcoming the agreement they had reached in London, adding, ‘I cannot help feeling that the past week represented a turning-point in the whole war and that we are now on our way shoulder to shoulder.’
Both General Marshall and Eisenhower who took over US Army Forces in UK were still quite reluctant for a North African landing but they had to obey their Commander in Chief. Roosevelt told them there was no longer any point pressing for a cross-Channel landing and urged his delegation to reach an agreement whereby American troops could be used in land operations against the Axis powers some time that year. Furthermore, Roosevelt had been warming to the North Africa idea since Churchill’s talks with him in June; in his brief to Marshall before the London conference, he warned the American team to consider the effects of losing the Middle East and suggested an operation in Morocco and Algeria could be worth their consideration. At breakfast the following day, Ike was depressed. Wednesday 22 July, he added, could well go down as the ‘blackest in history’, especially if Russia was defeated during this latest drive by the Germans , never recognising huge obstacles , lack of assets , planing or preperation for a Cross Channel invasion in 1942.
Either way, the die was cast. In what was a crucial victory for the partnership between Churchill and Roosevelt, the military focus now shifted unambiguously from Europe to North Africa and the Middle East. In so doing, it not only charted the future course of the war in the west but, in the words of Max Hastings, it also saved the Allies from the ‘colossal folly’ of a premature second front in Europe.
Belgium : Deportation of Belgian Jews to Auschwitz Concentration Camp in occupied Poland began.
Warsaw , Poland : At a meeting of the Judenrat, the Jewish Council which the Germans had set up to relay their orders to the people of the ghetto, SS Sturmbannführer (Major) Hermann Höfle, the Resettlement Commissar, announced that all Jews living in Warsaw, Poland, regardless of age or sex, were to hold themselves in readiness for “resettlement on the east”, ie. deportation. It was an order without appeal. Hofle ordered Jewish Cıouncil to deliver at least 7.000 inhabitants of Ghetto each day seven days in a week on each morning on 04:00 AM at train station. Failure to comply these orders and SS would execute 60 hostages each day.
A brutal roundup of Jews , starting with children inside walled Warsaw Ghetto started immediately led mostly SS Order Police , SS militia , Totenskompfverbande and SS Einsatzgruppen Killing Squad units who surrounded walled ghetto. Other SS units began roaming streets of ghetto block by block. For nine weeks the Ghetto Jews were herded onto cattle trucks and transported to Belzec and Treblinka Concentration Camps, where, on arrival, they were marched to the gas chambers and killed in their thousands.
Treblinka , Poland : The Nazis open the Treblinka Concentration Camp. Dr. Irmfried Eberl is appointed the first commandant. He already has considerable skill at mass murder. As head of the Nazi euthanasia program, he has overseen the deaths of 18,000 Germans in the last year and a half. At Treblinka, he is less effective. A month later, he is fired for inefficiency. His failure to dispose of bodies quickly creates panic among those in the incoming trains.
The camp is filled with Jews railroaded from the Warsaw Ghetto. In the first seven weeks of deportations from Warsaw, more than 250,000 Jews are taken to Treblinka and killed. It is the largest and swiftest slaughter of a community in World War II.
USA : The United States implemented a gasoline rationing scheme.
Gona-Buna , Papua New Guinea : Troops of the Japanese South Seas Detachment began to march across the Kokoda Trail from Buna toward Port Moresby in Australian Papua. All through the day of the 22nd Buna was a scene of constant, well-drilled activity, as if a movie shoot or a circus had come to town. Japanese troops and support labour went about constructing an operational base. Unit headquarters were built, fortified bunkers dug and anti-aircraft guns installed along the coast. Work began on an airbase at Buna, to be constructed in haste by expanding and improving the existing airfield. A wharf was built to land supplies and reinforcements and was later used to evacuate the sick and wounded. Another base was built at Sanananda, at what before the war had been a shipping terminal for the Sangara rubber plantation.
USAAF B-17, B-25, and B-26 bombers, escorted by P-39 and P-40 fighters and supported by RAAF P-40 fighters, in five separate attacks, targeted Japanese shipping in the area. After dark, Australian Lieutenant John Chalk led a small contingent of natives in small engagements with advancing Japanese soldiers in the vanguard battalion of South Seas Detachment marching on Kokoda village. Lieutenant Chalk fell back further south towards Wairopi village.
Australia : Japanese submarine I-11 torpedoed and sank US Liberty Ship William Dawes 185 south of Sydney, Australia 5 miles from the coast line at 0530 hours, killing 5; William Dawes would finally sink at 1630 hours along with her full cargo of military vehicles and explosives.
Wellington , New Zealand : US 1st Marine Division set sail from Wellington, New Zealand for Koro island, Fiji.
Pearl Harbour , Hawaii : Two transports with the final elements of the US 1st Marine Division departed from Pearl Harbor for New Zealand aboard 12 ships.
Tokyo , Japan : The Japanese Imperial General Headquarters agreed to the study of a follow-up to the conquest of Burma with an invasion of Assam, India to be called Operation 21. The plan involved two divisions moving through the Hukawng valley in northern Burma, two taking Imphal, and a fifth capturing Chittagong. The plan was dropped, however, after opposition from Generals Renya Mutaguchi (18th Division), Yanagida Motozo (33rd Division) and Shojiro Iidas (55th Division).
Aleutian Islans , North Pacific : 8 B-24 Liberator and 2 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers of US 11th Air Force were launched to attack Japanese positions on Kiska, Aleutian Islands. Only 8 reached Kiska, and due to fog only 7 bombs were dropped. 1 B-24 bomber became missing on the return flight.