18 July - 24 July 1942

18 July 1942

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-575 torpedoed and damaged British tanker San Gaspar (12 were killed, 40 survived) 50 miles east of Trinidad at 0625 hours; several hours later, 100 miles further east, U-575 struck again, sinking sailing vessels Glacier and Comrade with her deck gun.

German submarine U-160 attacked Panamanian transport Carmona with multiple torpedoes southeast of Trinidad between 1633 and about 1715 hours, sinking her; 4 were killed, 31 survived)

Egypt : On 18th July there was no attack or counter attack by either side in Alamein front. Both sides consolidated their positions. Rommel deployed German 90th Light Infantry and German 164 Infantry Division along with a few detachments of 21st Panzer Divison to corset and strengthen Italian positions.

A 5th Indian Division patrol on Ruweisat ridge brought back ten German and Italian prisoners. A patrol of twelve men from D Company of 26th New Zealand Battalion under Lieutenant Gifford found a post held by fourteen Germans about 3000 yards west of the battalion’s forward posts. Twelve of the Germans were killed in a bayonet charge and a sergeant and corporal from 382nd German Regiment were taken prisoner. On 18 July, 15th Panzer Division had only nine battleworthy tanks, and 21st Panzer Division 19 tanks. 25 more German tanks would arrive to reinforce Afrikakorps within a few days.

1st British Armored Division commander General Herbert Lumdsen was wounded during a Luftwaffe JU-87 Stuka air raid to his headquarters and retired to rear. Brigadier Fisher assumwed command of 1st British Armored Division temporarily.

In a Cairo bar where Australian troops on leave are testing their capacity for alcohol consumption, when some South African troops walked in. An Australian said, “Sit down, cobber, and take a drink. You look all in. What’s the matter – just run all the way from Tobruk?” The resulting fracas is one of the Middle East’s more spectacular bar fights. All military policemen in town called in to contain the brawl that spread all around red light district.

To restore order, Auchinlek asks Whitehall for permission to re-introduce the death penalty for desertion. Despite this, 8th Army is still suffering from a lack of clear guidance, coordination, and direction from army command and corps headquarters.

Churchill constantly prodding Auchinlek to attack and destroy the Afrika Korps. Auchinlek would like to oblige. He had just received the 161st Indian Motor Brigade from Iraq and the 23rd Armoured Brigade at Suez, the latter part of 8th Armoured Division. 23rd has 156 Valentine tanks, still armed with 2-lbr. guns, but fitted with desert filters. Auchinlek has 323 tanks, 61 of them Grants. He works on planning a new offensive.

Auchinleck was determined to keep Rommel off balance and from mid-July, he mounted several attacks using primarily the Australian and New Zealand infantry formations. These followed a depressingly familiar pattern in that they were poorly coordinated and were unnecessarily costly for those infantry units at the sharp end. Nor did they achieve the desired breakthrough of the Axis positions. In fact, they seldom achieved the attainment of their first specified objective. Adhering to the principle of envelopment from either flank, General Auchinleck issued an order on the evening of the 17th July calling for a renewal of the flank attacks about the end of the month and for constant pressure meanwhile in all sectors; for example, 30th Corps was to destroy the Italians on its front . Next day, however, he issued a very different order. Now he planned to attack as soon as possible—about 21st July—at the centre, in the Ruweisat Ridge region, where the German main strength
lay, with cooperating thrusts in the south against the left flank and int o the enemy’s rear. To accompolish this , Eighth Army now enjoyed a massive superiority in material over the Axis forces: 1st British Armoured Division had 173 tanks and more in reserve or in transit, including 61 Grants.

The intention was still to destroy the Panzer Army but now called for an attack ‘in the centre with subsidiary attacks on each flank directed against the enemy’s rear’. In this version of attack called Operation Splendour, 13th Corps would mount the main attack with the objective of seizing Deir el Shein, throwing back the enemy’s southern flank and also being prepared, in the case of a withdrawal by the Axis, of pursuing towards El Daba and Fuka. Meanwhile, 30th Corps were also to be ready to pursue and to secure Tel el Eisa along with Ruin ridge on receipt of orders. Two days of planning and preparation now had to be turned to a different style of operation. Although main planner Brigadier Eric Dorman-Smith could keep track of all the changes he was making in planning and dispositions of the army, the corps and divisional staffs could not. Coherent planning and organisation were very difficult for the commanders and their staffs who were faced with seemingly ever changing orders and intentions from army command (Auchinleck and Eric-Dorman Smith).

Both 13th Corps and 30th Corps were to attack simultaneously to maximise the impact in breaking the Panzerarmee’s power of resistance. 13th Corps was to have the main task with the newly arrived 6th New Zealand Brigade and 5th Indian Division once again making an assault on the centre of the Axis position around the Ruweisat ridge. 6th New Zealand Brigade would make a night assault and take hold of the El Mreir depression which lay just south of Deir el Shein. Meanwhile, 5th Indian Division, using the newly arrived 161st Indian Motor Brigade, would advance along the Ruweisat ridge and capture Point 63. These infantry actions were designed to clear the way for 1st Armoured Division to ‘exploit’ into the rear of the Axis army. Meanwhile in the north, 26th Australian Infantry Brigade was to attack Tel el Eisa again, while 24th Australian Infantry Brigade was to make another attempt to seize Ruin ridge.

Caucaus Campaign , Russia : German troops from 1st Panzer Army captured Voroshilovgrad (now Luhansk) an important coal mining and steel industry town in eastern Ukraine.

17th German Army began to enter outskirts of Rostov-on-Don despite fierce resistance of 56th Soviet Army and NKVD detachments that fought every streeet in house to house fighting. German vanguard units also reached the Don at Tsimlyansk.

Soviet Far East : Soviet Pacific Fleet submarine Shch-138 suffered an accidental detonation of her own torpedoes at Nikolayevsk-on-Amur, Khabarovsk Krai, far eastern Russia and was lost with 17 men. Shch-118 was also damaged in this incident.

Germany : Prototype jet fighter Me 262 V3 Schwalbe took its maiden flight with Fritz Wendel in the cockpit over Leipheim, Germany.

London , UK : US Army Chief of Staff General Marshall and US Navy CiC Admiral King arrived London to convince or pressure British govermenrt to land and open up a Second Front in France in 1942 (Operation Sledgehammer)

Belarussia : SS killing squads mow down 600 Jews in Szarkowszczyzna , Belorussia, but a further 900 flee into nearby forests.

New Ireland , South West Pacific : American submarine USS S-43 disembarked RAAF Flight Officer Cecil John Trevelyan Mason on New Ireland for Mason to check in with coast watchers. She would embark Mason before the end of the day and set sail.

Solomon Islands , South West Pacific : A USAAF Fifth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, with two US Marine Corps observers aboard, flew a reconnaissance mission over Gavutu, Guadalcanal, and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands.

Tonga , South West Pacific : American carrier USS Wasp arrived Tonga , New Hebrides

Wellington , New Zealand : US Navy Rear Admiral Richmond Turner took command of the Amphibious Forces South Pacific at Wellington, New Zealand.

Frank Fletcher was promoted to the rank of vice admiral. He broke his flag aboard carrier USS Saratoga.

Australia : US Southwest Army Command under command of General MacArthur gave the movement order for Operation Providence, occupation of Buna in New Guinea, is issued. The Allies plan to seize it on August 10th. The Japanese will get there first.

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19 July 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-564 intercepted and attacked Allied convoy OS-34 (Outbound South) 200 miles north of the Azores islands at 0230 hours, torpedoed and sank British cargo ships Lavington Court (7 were killed, 41 survived) and Empire Hawksbill (all 47 aboard were killed). The rest of the convoy changed course according to HF/DF radio intelligence from British Y Service radio intelligence and avoided German submarines.

German submarine U-332 attacked Greek transport vessel Leonidas M. south of Newfoundland at 1655 hours, but the torpedo missed; at 1711 hours she opened fire with her deck gun, followed by another torpedo at 1725 hours and another at 1742 hours; Leonidas M. was hit by the third torpedo, sinking her (all 31 aboard survived and 2 were captured).

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-84 torpedoed and sank Honduran cargo ship Baja California off the Florida Keys archipelago; 3 were killed, 34 survived. In the same area at 1912 hours, German submarine U-129 torpedoed and sank Norwegian cargo ship Port Antonio; 13 were killed, 11 survived.

Germany’s Second Happy Time drew to a close as with orders of BdU (German submarine Headquarters in Paris , France) German submarines were ordered withdrawn from the U.S. east coast because of the increasing effectiveness of American antisubmarine measures. By that time almost all Allied shipping in the Caribbean Sea had been organized into convoys, running between Key West, Trinidad, Aruba, Curaçao, and Guantánamo Bay. Most of the air and surface escorts for these convoys were American, but the British and Canadians had each contributed one surface escort group, and the British a squadron of twenty Hudsons from Coastal Command based on Trinidad.

Libya : US Middle East Air Force launched B-24 bombers to attack Benghazi, Libya; at the same time, B-17 bombers of the same air force struck Tobruk.

El Alamein , Egypt : Rommel’s plan is to hold his ground and rely on landmines, most of them captured British devices unearthed at Matruh. Rommel devotes every man and vehicle to distributing these mines.

OIn British side , two Army orders were prepared for the Operation Splendour (Battle of Mreir). The first, issued on 17 July, said in its information paragraph: ‘During the last few days the enemy has been conforming to our movements. He is clearly sensitive about our occupation of Ruweisat Ridge and of the Tell el Eisa area.’ The second order was issued the next day. It cancelled the first and substituted a completely new plan. Its information paragraph said: ‘The Italian infantry formations are at present north of Ruweisat Ridge with the German armour centred about Deir el Abyad. The enemy has been moving his German forces north and south to conform to our threats.’ Additional ideas concerning Panzer Army are contained in Auchinleck’s despatch. Opening a review of the Battle of Mreir, Auchinleck says: ‘Having made the enemy extend his front and disperse his reserves to some extent, I thought the time had come to strike hard at the centre of his line with the object of cutting his forces in half.’

A very faulty and over optimistic judgement of situation by Auchinleck who while prepaing for an offensive battle to breakthrough , was also preparing defences on Nile bank !

Whether Rommel had conformed or reacted to Eighth Army’s movements and threats may be a question of opinion. The evidence, however, suggests that ever since he had first gone over to the defensive on 4 July to regroup, he had reacted to Eighth Army’s attacks with sufficient vigour to upset its plans and make it do a great deal of conforming. His seeming threat to the centre from the Ruweisat salient had induced Auchinleck to withdraw New Zealand Division when it was poised at Mungar Wahla and Mreir against the enemy’s rear. Rommel had prevented the Australians and South Africans on 10 and 11 July from taking the objectives essential to their planned eruption into his rear in conjunction with the projected advance of 13 Corps over Ruweisat in the night of 11–12 July. This, in turn, had induced Auchinleck to make 13 Corps’ attack over Ruweisat on 14–15 July the main Army operation, one independent of any action by 30 Corps.

When the Battle of Ruweisat failed to achieve all that was hoped, Rommel’s riposte was such that Auchinleck was compelled to order the Australians in the north and 7 Armoured Division in the south to act offensively to relieve the pressure on 5 Indian Division in the centre.2 The Australians had still to capture Tell el Eisa, and after taking Tell el Makh Khad and the ruin on Miteiriya Ridge, they had been compelled to fall back almost to their start line. In the south, 7 Armoured Division could not hold all of its gains and 5 Indian Division had had to give up Point 62 on Ruweisat.

Considerable violence had been done to Panzer Army in these operations. Its commands and staff as well as the troops had been subjected to severe strain. But Eighth Army’s losses in men and equipment had also been heavy. It had not taken and held all of its objectives in any one of its attacks. Success in each case was only partial and, in most instances, was offset by a reverse. The significance of this feature of the operations appears to have been ignored at Eighth Army Headquarters. It may also be noted that Auchinleck did not mention in his despatch the decisive intention of the Battle of Ruweisat. That battle is subordinated to or made a preliminary to Mreir. Yet had it been won, as Auchinleck intended and hoped, there would have been no need to fight Mreir and, incidentally, to put further troops to work in the rear defences.

How Eighth Army reached the conclusion that Rommel had been compelled to extend his front is difficult to understand. The extension in the period 5 to 9 July when he tried to envelop the British southern flank had been halted by the Australians’ attack towards Tell el Eisa. Since then there had been successive withdrawals of the enemy forces in the south. This fact was clearly apparent to 7 Armoured Division’s columns, and was confirmed by prisoners taken in attacks and by raiders and from wireless interceptions. An estimate of the enemy dispositions was circulated by 13th Corps on 18 July. Although it was out of date, being more true of the situation on the 15th, it recorded a belief that 361st German Infantry Regiment and the remainder of 90th German Light Division were shortly moving north from the southern sector. The fighting on Ruweisat and its environs on and after the 15th supplied additional confirmation of enemy concentration in the centre.

So far from having an extended front when the Battle of Mreir was projected, Rommel had contracted it. Against the strongest sector of this contracted front, a sector supported by the German armour, part of Eighth Army was now to be committed in yet another effort to win a decisive victory.

Eighth Army Operation Order No. 100, the first of the two orders previously mentioned, was issued in the evening of 17 July. It called for the envelopment of the enemy from both flanks on a date provisionally fixed as 30 July. In the meantime, 30th Corps, by means of local actions, was to destroy the Italian forces on its front, ‘as without these the Germans will be unable to hold an extended position and may give us an opportunity of surrounding them.’ Thirteenth Corps was to improve its positions on Ruweisat but without giving the enemy a chance of making a successful counterattack. The corps was also to press vigorously in the south with the object of holding the maximum number of the enemy in that area, and generally carry out all possible deceptive measures to focus Rommel’s attention on the centre and south.

Then Auchinleck (in an unexplained reasoning) changed the plan. On 19th July , a plan for an almost immediate attack in the centre by 13th Corps substituted. Why the change was made cannot be explained. Auchinleck makes no reference in his despatch either to the original plan or the change. No reason is given in the new Army order sent out on the 18th. There is nothing in reports from the front line or from wireless interceptions to suggest that the new plan was made to exploit an unexpectedly advantageous situation. It may be that Auchinleck was influenced by reports concerning the low state of the German panzer divisions and that he thought a decisive blow might induce them to withdraw and thus leave the Italians to be dealt with later. Against this is the fact that the German strength in men, guns, and tanks was overestimated by about 30 per cent.

Mediterranean Sea : Luftwaffe HE-111 torpedo bombers damaged Royal Navy convoy escort vessel HMS Maline off Port Said, Egypt; HMS Maline beached to prevent sinking but would not be repaired later.

Royal Navy light cruisers HMS Dido and HMS Euryalus and four destroyers bombarded Mersa Matruh, Egypt.

Caucaus Front : The splitting of German Army Group South to Army Gropup A and Army Group B enabled the launching of Operation Edelweiss and Operation Fischreiher, the two main thrusts of the Army Groups , one to Caucaus , other to Stalingrad. Both groups had to achieve their objectives simultaneously, instead of consecutively. The success of the initial advance was such that Hitler ordered the Fourth Panzer Army south to assist the First Panzer Army to cross the lower Don river. This assistance was not needed and General Ewald Von Kleist later complained that Fourth Panzer Army clogged the roads of his own First Panzer Army and that if they had carried on toward Stalingrad, they could have taken it in July. When it turned north again two weeks later, the Soviets had gathered enough forces together at Stalingrad to check its advance.

German 17th Army continued to fight in street fight in Rostov-on-Don against Red Army garrison , rearguard units and NKVD detachments

Stalingrad Front , Russia : The Soviet 66th Naval Rifle Brigade arrived at Stalingrad, Russia and was assigned to the Soviet 64th Army.

So rapid was the German advance on Caucaus and Don at this time that, on 19 July, Stalin personally ordered the Stalingrad Defence Committee to prepare the city for war immediately. The STAVKA feared that Rostov would not hold out for long. The Seventeenth Army was poised to cross the Don on the Black Sea side, First Panzer Army was advancing on the city from the north, and part of Fourth Panzer Army was about to strike across the Don to the east of it.

Germany : 99 British bombers (40 Halifax, 31 Stirling, and 28 Lancaster) from RAF Bomber Command were launched to attack the Vulkan submarine yard at Vegesack district of Bremen, Germany; most bombs missed the shipyard; 3 bombers were lost on this mission.

Berlin , Germany : Heinrich Himmler ordered “Aktion Reinhard”, the deportation of Jews in the General Government, was to be completed by 31 Dec 1942

Belaurussia : A thousand Jews had been shot and executed by SS Einsatzgruppen killing squads at Bereza Kartuska on July 15

Rabaul , New Britain : While on a reconnaissance mission, a US B-17 bomber spotted a Japanese convoy departing Rabaul, New Britain toward the island of New Guinea. The Japanese offensive continues to roll as amphibious forces Japanese South Seas Naval Detachment left Rabaul to invade Buna on the north coast of New Guinea, at the other end of the Kokoda Trail from Port Moresby.

Wellington , New Zealand : An Australian cruiser squadron, sailing as US Navy Task Force 44 and under British Royal Navy Rear-Admiral Victor A. C. Crutchley’s command, arrived at Wellington, New Zealand.

On the piers of Wellington’s five-berth Aotea Quay, US Marines are discovering that the supplies sent to them from the States were commercially loaded, not combat-loaded. This means the supplies are crammed into each hull to fill it, instead of reverse order of that in which it will be needed, such that ammunition is on top, toilet paper below.

Col. Randolph M. Pate, division supply officer, has to take all the cargo out of the merchant ships and re-pack. Lacking time and space, all excess bedrolls and company property is stored, along with 75 percent of the heavy vehicles. Supply stocks are slimmed from 90 days to 60 and ammunition reserves down to 10 days.

To make life hell, New Zealand dock unions do not cooperate. They insist on regular tea breaks and will not work in inclement weather. The furious Marines summon New Zealand police, who order the wharfies off the docks. In New Zealand’s driving winter rain, Marines off-load and re-load their supplies. Rain melts flimsy cardboard packaging, washes labels off cans, and makes cartons split open and spill their contents on the ground. The docks turn into a marsh with dunes of cornflakes, clothing, candy bars, cigarettes and tin cans, damaging US morale.

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20 July 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-132 torpedoed and damaged transport Frederika Lensen of Allied convoy QS-19 off Anticosti Island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Canada at 1839 hours; 4 were killed, 36 survived. Frederika Lensen would be beached to prevent sinking although she would ultimately be declared a total loss due to extensive damage.

North Sea : Two German cargo ships Consul Horn and Sud , both entered a British minefield and sank off Borkum , Netherlands.

El Alamein , Libya : General Strafer Gott , commander of 13th Corps held a coordinating conference on 20 July but Alec Gatehouse, the new commander of 1st British Armoured Division, did not arrive until the evening of 20 July due to reorganisation workj of recently formed 10th Armored Division at Cairo. Brigadier AF Fisher, the temporary Divisional Commander of 1st British Armored Division and the officer whose brigade was responsible for supporting the New Zealanders, had represented Gatehouse at the conference.

Unfortunately, Inglis (commander of 2nd New Zealand Division) thought that Fisher was commander of 1st Armoured Division and this led to a series of misunderstandings. Both General Strafer Gott and Inglis had made his wishes ‘perfectly clear’ to Fisher at the conference in respect of the deployment of his armour, but not to the absent Gatehouse. Thus, when the attack began, Gatehouse was not fully aware of what was expected of his division – not least, very close support of 6th NZ Infantry Brigade.
In the light of the Ruweisat operation, Inglis insisted on closer cooperation between his division and the British armour. He pointed out that the 6th New Zealand Brigade: “would not be in a position to defend itself against enemy armour until some hours after first light and insisted that our own armour should be on the Mreir Depression at first light ready to deal with any counter-attacks or tanks which we had over-run.”

Although Inglis perhaps exaggerated the length of time after first light that the infantry would be vulnerable, he was quite right to insist on armoured support. Brigadier Fisher refused to place any armour under the command of 2nd New Zealand Division but he did offer to provide extra liaison officers to be attached to 6th New Zealand Brigade Headquarters. Inglis also pressed for the armoured division’s reconnaissance tanks to be up with the leading infantry and Gott agreed to this modification. Fisher gave Inglis an ‘assurance that his tanks would not at any stage be more than half a mile from my infantry’. Inglis believed that the:

Role of Armd Division was made perfectly clear by Corps Comd –(a) to attack on our reaching our objective and minefield cleared.(b) to closely support and frustrate any counter-attack against 6 New Zealand Brigade.

Already there were deep, albeit hidden, flaws inherent in the operation. Inglis had accepted the role of the armour and the assurances of Fisher thinking he was dealing with the commander of 1st Armoured Division when he was not. This fact alone led to confusion. Gott had made the armour’s role ‘perfectly clear’ in conference to Fisher but not to Gatehouse. When the new commander of 1st Armoured Division arrived, he was pitched into a major operation without sufficient time to grasp the details of the armour’s role before the attack began.

Once again, Inglis accepted considerable risk on behalf of his division. The task of 6th New Zealand Brigade was to capture the eastern end of the El Mreir depression after a long night march and ‘to breach the minefield and roll up the skin of Anti-tank guns working from South to North along the enemy forward area’. Its basic task was to clear the way for the armour but it was understood that ‘unless the armour moved quickly and hit hard, one stripped brigade could NOT hold such wide areas against full scale counter attack’. Yet assistance from armour could be expected only after the brigade had reached its objective and the deep minefield in front of the Axis positions cleared. These preconditions might have appeared simple in the conference, but both were more difficult to achieve than either Inglis or Fisher estimated. Both were to result in real delays and confusion.With the minefield gapped and the Axis anti-tank-gun screen breached, the next phase of Splendour would be launched on the assumption that 6th New Zealand Brigade held the El Mreir depression and 161st Indian Motor Brigade held Point 63. With these two positions on its flanks cleared, the newly arrived 23rd Armoured Brigade would drive forward six miles and push through into the rear areas of the Panzer Army. The brigade was to reach and hold a position around Point 59, which lay between Deir el Shein and the northern escarpment of El Mreir. The idea was to place a British armoured brigade, with both its flanks protected, in the very centre of the Afrika Korps’ position. If this position could be held against the inevitable German counterattack, then Rommel would have little choice but to withdraw his army to save it from destruction.

General Gatehouse was briefed that evening in 1st British Armored HQ and their meeting concentrated upon the role of 23rd Armoured Brigade, about which Gott was far from happy. Gatehouse recorded:

“Straffer Gott told me he did not care about the plan much, and when I heard it, I did not think much of it either, and said so. Straffer gave me a promise that (a) if point 63 was not captured by the Indian Brigade and (b) if the minefield was not lifted, that the attack of 23 Armd Bde was off.”

(On 20 July, Gott wrote to Freyberg, who was still convalescing in hospital:We have great hopes of getting a more definite success soon. I don’t think the enemy are in very good shape and ours is improving daily. Your chaps are always cheerful and in good heart, and I feel very confident with them in the Corps.)

Meanwhile, General Morshead (9th Australian Division) and Ramsden (30th Corps) were at loggerheads over the employment of the Australian Division. 9th Australian Division was expected to make two attacks in three different directions to support Operation Splendour , on both Point 24 in front of Tel el Eisa and Mitieriya Ridge (again) These attacks in fact resembled a bomb burst, going out in all directions with none of sufficient strength to deal properly with the opposition. Such divergent attacks would be difficult to support with artillery, hence the need for a second phase for which it was necessary to redeploy the field artillery for the attack on Ruin ridge. The delay would inevitably alert the Axis defence and ensure that 50th Royal Tank Regiment and 2/28th Battalion met a warm reception.

Morshead disliked the plan and had a stormy two-hour conference with General Ramsden comander of 30th Corps on the morning of 21 July in which he ‘objected strongly to scope of my attack . . . and several changes in timings’. Morshead ‘stood on his constitutional rights and duties insisting on referring to his government before agreeing to attack’

There was talk about references to the Australian government and once again the ‘command’ of Dominion forces was revealed as little more than a myth. Ramsden passed the buck upwards to the Commander-in-Chief General Auchinleck who was unable to impose authority and still ignorant how to use various arms of infantry , armor and air force in cooperation and coodination.

Morshead was quite right to object if he thought that the plan was flawed but the situation had escalated when Auchinleck arrived on the scene. There had been strong words and misunderstandings on both sides but matters were resolved … Over a cup of tea! It was all very British. Nevertheless, it had been unfortunate that Auchinleck and one of his most effective divisional commanders were in disagreement.

Auchinleck seems to have believed that Morshead objected to his orders because his division, after a fine fighting performance, ‘had had about enough of it’. Morshead’s diary gives a very different impression. He argued with Ramsden and Auchinleck on the basis that:

“I did not like our plan because of wide dispersions and difficulty to support and pointed out that our immediate objectives were much more difficult than realised by Army and Corps. Commander-in-Chief according to Ramsden was very annoyed and perturbed but he did not show it. He stressed that he realised he must have a willing commander. I stressed that my concern was a task which was reasonably certain of success and could be held and supported, and that my job was to minimise casualties.”

Morshead’s objections to his division’s role could well have been echoed by 2nd New Zealand Division, 5th Indian Division and 23rd Armoured Brigade. They were well founded and he was right to argue the point. Nonetheless, the episode reveals the depth of misunderstanding which had developed between Auchinleck and one of his most capable divisional commanders. Contrary to Auchinleck’s assumptions, Morshead was in fact quite willing to engage in further attacks but he wanted those attacks to be well planned, properly supported and far less ambitious. Unfortunately, after persuasion and some flattery, Morshead backed down and agreed to the attacks. 9th Australian Division would pay a high price for bad planning of Operation Splendour and low command performance of Auchinleck (again)

It was against a backcloth of confused planning and disagreement that 23rd Armoured Brigade prepared to go into action for the first time under the direction of General Strafer Gott on Ruweisat ridge on El Mreir. The Brigade was a Territorial formation and it was commanded by Brigadier L Misa. Neither the Brigadier nor his officers and men were remotely prepared for the battle ahead. There was a general perception within Middle East Command that the level of training received by units in the United Kingdom was insufficient and inappropriate for desert conditions. Unfortunately, units which embarked on ships at a British port generally had no idea whether they would be landing in Egypt, Iraq, India or Burma and Brigadier Misa had not known until 30 June that his brigade would disembark in the Middle East. This made a realistic training programme which was specific to a particular theatre impossible in the United Kingdom. It also meant that Middle East Command believed that every unit, after disembarkation, required a period of at least a month for full acclimatisation and desert training.

Yet even before the brigade had disembarked, Churchill was pressuring General Headquarters Middle East to fling 23rd Armoured Brigade into battle. Churchill had always taken a proprietary interest in the armoured brigades sent to Egypt, and he had demanded immediate action in battle for every fresh armoured brigade since the ‘Tigercub’ convoy of tanks sent in 1940. In this instance, Auchinleck desperately needed a fresh armoured formation which could lift some of the burden from the exhausted fragments which had fought through Gazala and were still in the line during July. A new armoured brigade appeared to be exactly what was required to exploit the success which Splendour might achieve. 23rd Armoured Brigade would be committed to battle before it was ready.

In short, the men were not ready, nor were the tanks. The radios were not adapted to desert conditions and the few that worked were not ‘netted in’. The level of competence is illustrated by the ignorance of all ranks of how to take a ‘hull-down’ position using the natural contours of the desert to conceal the bulk of the tank but leaving its gun with line of sight to a target. Similarly there was no awareness that the Germans had anti-tank guns that could penetrate a Valentine tank.

2nd New Zealand Division held its own conference on 21 July, the morning before the battle was due to start. This gave very little time to fix all the details for the coming attack, and no time to iron out any potential problems. Brigadier Fisher, now in his proper role as commander of 2nd Armoured Brigade, attended the conference to sort out the details of the support he would give to the advancing New Zealand infantry, but again an impasse was reached. The commander of 6th New Zealand Brigade Brigadier Clifton noted that Fisher ‘said his 22nd Armd Bde could not fight in moonlight and reluctant to move in it. Asked for Regt under my Comd to come round outside minefield . . . but they would not play. 1st Armored Division , in fact British armor commanders were still acting insubordinate , operating in their leisure and reluctant to cooperate or support other arms and most importantly against operating in the dark since tank crews in their haste to be deployed , received no night fighting or night advance training !

One of the critical elements in the entire plan rested on the ability of the New Zealand engineers to make a number of gaps in the 300-yard deep minefield which was known to exist in front of the Axis positions. 8 Field Company was to clear a route along each of the advancing battalion axes and trucks of armed anti-tank mines were to follow brigade headquarters to consolidate the position. Three 40-foot gaps were to be cleared for 24 Battalion and brigade headquarters, while others were to be made for 26 Battalion. Yet Brigadier Clifton of 6th New Zealand Brigade only received his orders a few hours before the attack was to begin. This meant that the subordinate formations, including the sappers, had very little time for detailed planning or ensuring that every unit understood the plan and their part in it. There was no standard mine-lifting and lane-marking drill which was understood by all the sappers, let alone the other formations, and this was bound to lead to misunderstandings. The New Zealand Engineer History commented, ‘Judged by later standards, Operation Splendour (Battle of El Mreir) was hastily mounted and loosely organised.

Brigadier Howard Kippenberger , commander of 5th New Zealand Brigade , with memories of the failure of the British tanks at Ruweisat fresh in his mind, was pessimistic. On his return to his command truck he turned everyone out except the brigade major and intelligence officer, and then ordered the following entry to be made in the brigade log: ‘The Brigadier has returned from the divisional conference and says there will be another bloody disaster.’

Gibraltar : Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Eagle departed Gibraltar with 31 Spitfire fighters and 4 Swordfish torpedo bombers for Malta in Operation Insect.

Italy : Benito Mussolini bored in waiting in Derna for his triumphal entry to Cairo , returned back to Italy with his white charger , arrived in Rome, Italy. The future does not look very bright, he says. “He looked desperately ill and tired,” writes one of his ministers. “It was announced that the exhaustion caused by his strenuous duties had brought on an attack of amoebic dysentery.” A rumor flies around Rome that Il Duce is dying. “Perhaps he is dying,” says another minister, “But not of dysentery. It’s a less commonplace disease. It’s called humiliation.”

Voronezh Front , Russia : Soviet troops retook the German bridgehead at Voronezh, Russia.

Rostov-on-Don , Caucasian Front : 17th German Army captured most most the town after a brurtal fighting. Marshal Timoshenko pulled out 51st and 56st Soviet Armies and most of the rest of recently formed Stalingrad Front from the pocket around Rostov and puled them to deploy them across Don for redeployment. Despite considerable chaos and even panic among Red Army frontline units during these retreats so far since beginning of Case Blue on 28th June , only 41.000 Red Army troops were captured thanks to timely retreats authorised by STAVKA and Stalin this time. Still Timoshenko is under severe critism not holding and defending Rostov on Don longer with better means. Though since wasting his best field armies during Kharkov Offensive and receiving no reinforcements , that was impossible anyway.

Once again, the fate awaiting Soviet prisoners was terrible. Stepan Ignatevich Odiniktsev, a clerk in 60th Cavalry Division, was one of those captured at Millerovo on 17 July. Along with thousands of other Russian prisoners, he was herded to a makeshift cage at Morozovsk, next to the main railway line which ran east to Stalingrad and westwards back through the Ukraine. Some prisoners were dispersed over the following weeks to other hastily erected camps, and Odiniktsev found himself in another open barbed-wire cage near the village of Golubaya. ‘We were starved to death,’ he recounted after being found over three months later by Red Army troops. ‘On the best days we received a little rye in boiled water. Meat from a dead horse was a delicacy. We were constantly beaten with rifle butts, sometimes without any reason. Each day, dozens of people died from starvation or beating.’ Although the NKVD was highly suspicious of any Red Army soldier taken by the Germans, Odiniktsev’s interrogator believed his story. ‘This man’, he scribbled in pencil at the bottom of the typed report, ‘looks like a skeleton covered with skin.

Meanwhile 1st Panzer Army s captured Krasnodon and Morozovsk and reached lower Don.

Across the steppes, German tanks rumble on towards Rostov, through thick clouds of dust. The Soviets are retreating in good order, leaving behind only a few wounded and some flags, taking their heavy equipment. But Hitler’s mood is euphoric at his Tac HQ at Vinnitsa in the Ukraine. He tells Gen. Franz Halder, “The Russian is finished.”

Halder replies, “I must admit, it looks like it.”

Although a huge encirclement at Rostov eluded Hitler, for Soviet forces did escape east and south, the Red Army had taken some further fearful punishment: the Donbas had fallen in its entirety to the Germans, German armies were in the great bend of the Don while the threat to the Caucasus was great and growing. Three reserve armies were being rushed into the Stalingrad Front, which had a nominal strength by 20 July of 38 divisions, 20 of which were below 2,500 men actually mustered: 14 divisions had a complement of between 300–1,000 men. Between them, 63rd and 62nd Armies had 160,000 men, up to 400 tanks and 2,200 guns and mortars. The 8th Air Army attached to the Front could put 454 planes (172 fighters) into the air. As the South-Western Front was slowly wound up, 38th Army added the remnants of ten divisions, 28th Army the remainder of six divisions and 21st Army also what was left of six divisions to the Stalingrad Front. The directive of 12 July envisaged a German thrust to slice the Soviet ‘strategic front’ in two halves, cutting the last remaining north-south railway line running from Stalingrad-Tikhoretsk, and closing the Volga to traffic. The two reserve armies, 64th and 62nd, were ordered to hold west of the Don and under no circumstances to allow a German breakthrough to the east; 63rd would hold the eastern bank, while 21st – once it was regrouped – took up a defensive position on the northern bank of the Don between 63rd and 62nd Armies, to secure their junction. The Southern Front received orders to hold the German south-easterly drive at Millerovo. Slowly the remnants of Soviet armoured forces crossed the Don, to the north and south of Kalach: 22nd and 23rd Tank Corps, with 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps moved into 63rd Army area, while 13th Tank Corps reformed north-east of Surovikono with 62nd Army. The Stalingrad Front ran for some 220 miles, with 63rd on the left bank of the Don from Pavlovsk to Serafimovich, with 21st holding twenty-five miles to Kletskaya, and where the front swept southwards, 62nd and 64th Armies (their advanced elements on the rivers Chir and Tsimla) holding from Kletskaya to Verkhne-Kurmoyarskaya.

In Stalingrad itself, the military cupboard was terrifyingly bare: since three armies to the west (63rd, 62nd and 64th) had exactly four anti-arcraft guns between them, Stalingrad’s own AA guns were moved in part to cover the Don crossings and the bridge over the Chir at Oblivskaya. For the aerial defence of the city eighty-five fighters were attached to the Air Defence Command (PVO), set up earlier as a command entity.

Stalin had already telephoned the Party and administrative authorities headed by A.S. Chuyanov, chairman of the Stalingrad Gorodskoi komitet oborony (City Defence Committee, established in October 1941) on 19 July, putting Stalingrad on an immediate war footing: the following day, after a meeting of the Obkom (Party) committee, Chuyanov reported back to Stalin and the GKO about the measures they proposed to adopt. A certain amount had already been done, especially the attempts to improve AA defences, but to convert an industrial city of half a million people into a fortress was a different matter: in what was now a familiar cycle, the civilian population, at least 180,000 of them, marched out to build the rushed and rude defences, trenches, fire-points and tank-traps, laid out for mile after mile, while the GKO rdered in the 5th Pioneer Army and the 28th Military-Construction Administration. In May, Narkomstroi (People’s Commissariat for Construction) had moved in some of its men and materials, and these were now worked to the hilt. Although militia (opolchenie) units existed, these now went over to full alert and manning; to deal with possible German parachute drops, eighty ‘annihilation battalions’ formed up with some 11,000 men in their ranks. The industrial evacuation, halted a while ago, now resumed, and stores and livestock were shipped in increasing quantities over to the eastern bank of the Volga. The city was turned inside out and the surrounding steppe dotted with parties of men and women labouring by the river; streets were blocked with improvised barricades.

Belarussia : On July 20 the Germans launched yet another anti-partisan operation in White Russia, Operation Eagle, against Soviet partisans in the Chechivichi region.

That same day, in the village of Kletsk, several hundred Jews who were about to be murdered by SS Einstazgruppen killing squads , set their ghetto on fire and ran. Most were killed by German machine gun fire. A few, reaching the forests, joined the partisans, where their leader, Moshe Fish, was killed in a battle with the Germans six months later.

On the day after the revolt in Kletsk, the Jews of nearby Nieswiez also fought back against their fate. They too were almost all shot down, though one of their leaders, Shalom Cholawski, reaching the forests, set up a ‘family camp’ of Jews who had managed to escape the daily slaughter, protected the camp against German manhunts, and set up a Jewish partisan unit to harass the German lines of communication.

Paris , France : SS Lieutenant General Kurt Oberg decrees that if any identified resistant do not surrender within 12 hours of his/her crime , that resistants male relatives will be executed and female relatives would be sent to hard labour camps.

London , UK : The talks between Admiral King and General Marshal and at British side Chief of Imperial General Staff General Alan Brooke , chief military consultants for govermnent and Chief of Staff General Pug Ismay , Director of Military Operations General Kennedy and Churchill began in earnest on 20 July. Clearly ignoring their orders from the President to ‘save the Middle East’, Marshall and King not only reiterated the case for Sledgehammer , for an early premature invasion of France but also argued that military action against the Japanese in the Pacific should precede the invasion of North Africa. Alan Brooke and his team countered the Americans point by point. Much the same happened on the following day, leading Alan Brooke to note wearily in his diary, ‘Disappointing start! Found ourselves much where we started yesterday morning.’

The next day, they failed to break the impasse yet again. Marshall said that he would have to consult the President – as though he was quite unaware of Roosevelt’s written instructions (which were very probably held securely in his briefcase). In the absence of any other explanation, it seems clear that Marshall was either defying his commander-in-chief or that Roosevelt had privately indicated that he was content to allow his advisors to test the British resolve to the limit regardless of his presidential instructions to them. Whatever the case, after three days of inconsequential negotiation, the two sides had expended a great deal of energy and time. The diplomatic quadrille could not go on indefinitely; a denouement was required.

Indian Ocean : German armed merchant cruiser Thor intercepted , shelled and sank British cargo ship Indus 1,950 miles west of Australia; 22 were killed, 49 survived

Port Moresby , Papua New Guinea : 24 Japanese G4M bombers and 15 A6M fighters attacked Port Moresby, Papua on the island of New Guinea.

Rabaul , New Britain : Meanwhile, at Rabaul, New Britain, 5th Sasebo Special Naval Landing Force of the Japanese Navy and Yokoyama Detachment of the Japanese 17th Army departed on three transports.

South West Pacific : Japanese submarine I-11 torpedoed and sank Greek cargo ship G. S. Livanos 75 miles south of Sydney, Australia.

Wellington , New Zealand : US 1st Marine Division issued the Operation Watchtower plans for the invasion of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

US Marines sailed from New Zealand for exercises at Fiji.

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21 July 1942

Caribbean Sea : After a four-hour pursuit, German submarine U-160 sank British transport Donovania 5 miles off Grand Matelot Point, Trinidad at 1029 hours, hitting her with 1 of 3 torpedoes fired; 5 were killed, 45 survived.

German submarine U-84 torpedoed and damaged US Liberty Ship William Cullen Bryant of Allied convoy TAW-4J 40 miles southwest of Key West archipelago, Florida, United States at 0908 hours; all 54 aboard survived.

The civilian schooner Roamar, belonging to a Colombian diplomat, was sunk by U-505 off San Andrés island in the Caribbean Sea with two deck gun shells between 1335 and 1500 hours.

El Alamein , Egypt : New Zealand 6th Brigade launched an offensive south of Ruweisat Ridge near El Alamein, Egypt at 1630 hours, gaining several key positions early in the attack, but the British tanks failed to follow up as planned, thus leaving the forward units vulnerable to the counterattacks that would arrive on the next day.

After a very good artillery barrage by British and New Zealand guns and RAF air bombing support over Axis positions on El Mreir , New Zealand infantry night attack began at 16:30 on 21 July. 6th New Zealand Brigade , suffered 200 casualties in night attack, but occupied the eastern side of the El Mreir depression , took their objectives in the El Mreir depression but, once again, 2nd Brtitish Armored Brigade failed to arrive at dawn as “sworn by Brigade commander Brigadier Fisher” and they were short of support arms in an exposed position. At daybreak on 22 July, the British armoured brigades again still failed to advance due to bad coordination , communication , staffwork , planning and failure of leadership from Eighth Army command (Auchinleck and his chief of staff Dorman-Smith) and 13th Corps commander General Strafer Gott’s inability to lead undiciplined British armored brigades and impose authority and order on them. For all the seeming eagerness of British armour to be in at the kill, buried in the orders was a statement that 6th RTR ‘will not be committed without the consent of the commander of 2nd Armoured Brigade unless communications fail, when the decision will rest with the commander of the regiment’. All liason officers from 1st British Armored Division assigned to New Zealand Division for cooperation and cooperation were unbriefed and none had any idea what to do and what their mission were.

Auchinleck may have been a far more experienced battlefield commander than Ritchie, but basic tactical mistakes and simple but colossal operational blunders were still being made. There was still no proper, coordinated use of all arms by Eighth Army. As had been shown time and again during the preceding fortnight, infantry could not defeat armour single-handedly. Auchinleck still refused to solve the situation either by committing an armored support brigade even briefly suborned to attacking Dominion divisions (fiercely opposed by British armor commanders and in middle of campaign very hard to establish) or personally take reins over authority over British armor and order thewm directly to commit battle as expected (which he did not do)

While close cooperation was required to make the plan work, no combined training had been undertaken nor was there even a corps conference for the senior commanders. Armored commanders were adamant that their tanks would be on the objective in support of the infantry at first light. But despite being pressed to do so, they refused to move their tanks into position during the night because they were not trained to operate in night they insisted. As predicted by all the infantry commanders, British tank support arrived late for both attacks with tragic results. Three New Zealand battalions were on the edge of the El Mreir depression on the morning of July 22 after making another long night march , they even chased away a detachment of 8th Panzer Regiment in front of them. (British and Dominion infantry trained to fight in night and against enemy tanks but British armor was not ! Irony) Then delays and blunders started. 6th New Zealand Brigade headquarters column and support battalion were struck in an unchartered minefield and got delayed. Then one battalion (25th NZ Battalion), recognising the presence of German tanks immediately in front of them and realising no British armor arriving to support them , wisely withdrew to New Zealand lines at Ruweisat ridge before first light. The other two battalions (24th and 26th NZ Battalions ) held their positions at El Mreir and awaited the arrival of the British tanks and literally doomed…

Message from Afrika Korps to panzer divisions (timed at 2.15am Eighth Army time):

‘21st Panzer Division will restore situation in the 15th Panzer Division sector. It will advance at 0415 hours (5.15 am Eighth Army time) and attack the flank of enemy penetration … 15th Panzer with Baade Group will attack the same objective as 21st Panzer (advancing to the NE). 20th Italian Corps has been asked to send Ariete tanks forward in support of the attack from right rear.’

Only good news for Allies in North Africa was on air. RAF still had the upper hand over both overstretched Luftwaffe and Panzer Army and Desert Air Force was destroying, on average, around thirty Axis vehicles a day. During the day and into the night of 21–22 July, the RAF made continuous and very heavy raids on the agreed targets.

“15th Panzer Division noted on 21 July:All day long enemy bombers and fighters were over our area, particularly 21 and 15 Pz Divs, on a scale hardly ever before seen. It looked as if the enemy was trying to knock out our HQ and guns in preparation for an attack.” (As a result heavy RAF air attacks on El Mreir and rear of Axis frontline actually alerted Panzer Army that British would stage an attack on that sector.)

Even so, there was a heavy price to pay for this sustained air assault. Mary Coningham’s Desert Air Force was losing plenty of aircraft, especially fighters.

Meanwhile further south on Ruweisat ridge , Indian units of Eighth Army also started to advance according to Operation Splendour. 161st Indian Motor Brigade had been transferred from 7th Armoured Division to 5th Indian Division for the attack along Ruweisat ridge. The brigade was, like the 18th Indian Brigade before it, fresh from Iraq and consisted of 1/1st Punjab, 1/2nd Punjab, and 3/7th Rajput Regiments with a battery of six-pounder guns. Its task was to capture Deir el Shein and Point 63 on Ruweisat ridge. At 20.30 hours on 21 July, the brigade mounted its attack but 1/1st Punjab were held up by intense fire in front of Point 63. The 3/7th Rajput Regiments managed to break into Deir el Shein with a bayonet charge. The Indian soldiers reached the gun emplacements of 15th Panzer Division but were counterattacked and eventually ejected. The regiment lost two companies in the attack although they had caused great concern in the Afrika Korps. Unfortunately, even with the efforts of 161st Indian Brigade to clear the northern shoulder of the attack, Point 63 remained in German hands.

At 01.50 hours on 22 July, 5th Indian Division reported to Gott that the attack had not secured Point 63. Gott then ordered the division to capture Point 63 ‘in conjunction with the tank attack of 23 Armd. Bde’. This, however, diverged from the agreed plan which was that 23rd Armoured Brigade would not attack unless its northern flank was secured first.

Malta : Royal Navy carrier HMS Eagle launched 29 Spitfire fighters and 4 Swordfish torpedo bombers for Malta in Operation Inspect; 1 Spitfire fighter would be lost en route from a leaky fuel tank , rest landed on Malta.

Caucaus Front , Russia : German 1st Panzer Army and German 17th Army established positions west, north, and east of Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

German Army Special Forces Brandenburg Regiment, took the bridges over the Don, the Bataysk Bridge and the dike to the south of the city and prevented the flooding of swamp, which allowed them to continue their progress towards the Caucasus

Stalin removed Timoshenko from command; on the evening of 21 July, Gordov, commander of 21st Army and latterly in charge of the 6th Army, was summoned to Moscow and returned the next day as commander of the Stalingrad Front. Instead of Bodin, who had been chief of the Operations Section of STAVKA Soviet General Staff, Major-General N.D. Nikishev, who had clashed so violently with Voroshilov at Leningrad, came in as Operations Section chief of staff.

Rabaul , New Britain : Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa of the Japanese 8th Fleet based at Rabaul, New Britain, Bismarck Archipelago issued a request for more destroyers.

Gona and Buna , Papua New Guinea : 2,000 Japanese Army troops, Special Naval Landing Force commanded by General Tomitora Horii, Naval units, including a company of 5th Sasebo Special Naval Landing Force and a company of 15th Naval Pioneer Unit were also being landed to establish an airfield near Buna, along with labourers , field guns and horses, landed at Gona on the northern coast of New Guinea aiming to advance inland over Owen Staley mountains via Kokoda Track and capture Port Moresby. 10 kilometers to the east, another group of 1,000 Japanese landed at Buna.

The small Australian party manning the wireless station at Buna withdrew without engaging Japanese landing troops. The Japanese landings were observed by patrols of the PIB (Papuan New Guinan Battalion) and officers of the ANGAU (Australian New Guinean Administrative Unit) . Captain Templeton from B Company of 39th Australian Militia Battalion had been at Buna on the morning of the landings. As he was returning that day, he received word of the landings. He ordered 11 Platoon to join him at Awala village and 12 Platoon to advance to Gorari village inland. His remaining platoon was to protect Kokoda.

The landings were opposed by Allied air attacks until darkness fell and again from the following morning. Attacks were made by land-based United States Army Air Forces (USSAF) B-17 and B-26 bombers but they did not damage any Japanese vessels on 21st July. The Japanese transport vessel , Ayatosan Maru, was hit and sunk on 22 July by B-26 bombers (USAAF ) while unloading her cargo and the destroyer, Uzuki damaged slightly off Gona.

Kokoda Track Campaign began

In 1942, Papua was a territory of Australia. There had been little development and it was largely devoid of infrastructure beyond that around Port Moresby. The pre-war economy was based primarily upon copra and rubber—with plantations established intermittently in coastal regions—and mining. The administrative centre of Port Moresby had basic airfield and port facilities. There were no roads beyond the vicinity of Port Moresby and, by modern standards, these were little more than tracks. As a result, travel north of Port Moresby was largely undertaken by air, or sea. There were a few landing fields around Port Moresby, with others on the northern side of the Owen Stanley Range at the government stations of Buna and Kokoda.

The village of Kokoda is positioned on a plateau in northern foot-hills of the Owen Stanley Range. It overlooks the Yodda Valley (formed by the Mambare River) to its north. The Mambare runs roughly south-east to north-west. Kokoda is approximately 100-kilometre (62 mi) direct line from the coastal village of Buna, which formed part of the Japanese beachhead positions occupied on their landing. However, the overland route was approximately 160 kilometres (100 mi). The track to the coast crosses the Kumusi River at Wairopi, approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) east of Kokoda. The river was spanned there by a wire-rope bridge (Wairopi being Pidgin for wire rope). There was a wide track leading from there to the coast which the Japanese subsequently set about developing as a road for vehicle traffic.

In 1942, the village was the site of a government station, rubber plantation and strategically important airstrip. The Kokoda Track is a foot track that runs roughly southwest from Kokoda 96 kilometres (60 mi) overland (60 kilometres (37 mi) in a straight line) through the Owen Stanley Range towards Port Moresby. It was known before the war and had been used as an overland mail route. While there is a “main track” that is associated with the fighting during the campaign, there are many parallel, interlocking tracks that follow much the same general course. The southern end of the track is now considered to start at Owers’ Corner, 61 kilometres (38 mi) from Port Moresby. The vehicle track from Port Moresby originally terminated at McDonald’s Corner], where it serviced the McDonald homestead. Between June and late September 1942, around 11 kilometres (7 mi) of road was completed, extending it to Owers’ Corner.

The Kokoda Track passed through what was referred to during the early war years as “the (Kokoda) Gap”. To the Japanese, who had learned of the Gap through vague explorer’s accounts, it potentially offered a corridor from Buna through the Owen Stanleys along which they could launch a quick advance on Port Moresby. Conversely, the Allies believed it was a narrow and largely impassable path that could be blocked and held with only limited resources. In reality, the Gap is a dip in the Owen Stanley Range about 11 kilometres (7 mi) wide, convenient for aircraft crossing the range to pass through.

The track reaches a height of 2,190 metres (7,185 ft) as it passes around the peak of Mount Bellamy. The terrain rises and falls with regularity, up to 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) up and down over the full length of the track. This markedly increases the distance to be traversed, although there are several flat areas, particularly around Myola. The vegetation is largely dense jungle. The climate is mostly hot and humid with high rainfall, although the higher parts are cold, particularly at night. The higher elevations are frequently above cloud level, resulting in foggy weather.

Australia : Japanese submarine I-11 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Coast Farmer 90 miles south of Sydney, Australia; 1 was killed, 40 survived.

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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.

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23 July 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-752 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Garmula 200 miles southwest of Freetown, British West Africa; 21 were killed, 67 survived.

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-129 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Onondaga five miles north of Cayo Guillermo, Cuba at 2222 hours; 20 were killed, 14 survived.

El Alamein , Egypt : Indian troops launched an attack on Deir el Shein near El Alamein, Egypt in failure.

Due to failure of Operation Splendour the day before and letting of infantry down by armour , angry waves were now lapping at the door of Eighth Army command. The commander of 2nd New Zealand Division General Inglis, according to Kippenberger, was ‘angry almost beyond words and swore he would never again place faith in British armour’. Some British tank men themselves were angry towards their own commanders and chain of command , and a regimental commander from 2nd Armored Brigade stopped his tank to apologise to Kippenberger. ‘He said he felt bitterly humiliated but I’m afraid I did not answer very graciously,’ Kippenberger said later. Clifton, in ‘observations’ accompanying his official report, says: ‘The failure of 2nd Armoured Brigade to carry out their orders was in my opinion, opinion, criminally negligent.’ Harsh words, and in the circumstances understandable. He had just lost his brigade except one batalion , support group and headquarters.

In correspondence with Liddell Hart after the war, Gatehouse, who, of course, arrived to command 1st Armoured Division too late to play any part in the planning (he was in Cairo , organising formation of 10th Artmored Division during planning conferances of Operatiıon Splendour) and who was himself wounded in short order, wrote: ‘I do not know what arrangements were made by Fisher with the New Zealanders but I am prepared to believe they are as stated in the New Zealand official history – and this appears quite certain, that the 2nd Armoured Brigade should have made arrangements to be in position at first light so that they could intervene if the New Zealanders were attacked at first light. This was apparently not done and 2nd Armoured Brigade was, apparently, motionless when NZ Brigade was overrun.’

Did Auchinleck comprehend all this? Reporting to Imperial Chief of Staff in London on 25 July, he said in part: ‘I was disappointed when our big effort of 21–22 July came to nothing, as I had great hopes of it. I still do not know the full story of the battle in the centre, but it does seem as if the 23rd Armoured Brigade, though gallant enough, lost control and missed direction. The infantry, too, seem to have made some avoidable mistakes. Perhaps I ask too much of them. Well, there it is; we undoubtedly gave the enemy a rude shock, judging from the many intercepted messages from various enemy units, but we failed to get our objective, which was to break through.’ Mistakes? Yes. But the blame, it seems, lay everywhere but with army and corps command. As Kippenberger saw 21–22 July, two infantry and two armoured brigades made three unrelated attacks from different directions at different times. ‘A single small panzer division of some 20 or 30 tanks and a fifth rate Italian division easily dealt with all three attacks in succession and inflicted crippling losses,’ he wrote. By the evening of 22 July the Eighth Army was really a spent force. Auchinleck, however, did not yet recognise this, planning one further huge attack that was bound to fail just like others but ironically that almost toppled Panzer Army Africa also.

Cairo , Egypt : British intelligence oficer assigned to Eighth Army HQ , Captain Peter Vaux was writing up his latest intelligence summary. He decided to circulate another document with it, a translation of a diary taken from a German captured up on the Ruweisat ridge. Things had been tough for Eighth Army over the past few months, but this little account showed that the Germans were under tremendous strain as well:

Diary of a soldier from 11 Company,4 104 Lorried Infantry Regiment, 21 Panzer Division :

17 July: In the morning another attack. Heavy losses. We attacked with 2 Company with 40 men and 3 tanks. Are under heavy fire. At midday were once more in full flight. It was terrible. Very heavy losses in our 3 Battalion. Hauptmann Reissmann is finished and can’t get through. My platoon consists of 5 men. At 1000 we are ordered to advance again. It’s all the same to us; we only long to be put out of our misery. During the night 20 reinforcements arrived. When everyone rushed back at midday the police put pistols at our breasts to force us to go back into the line. This was the most terrible moment.

18 July: We remained in the old position under artillery fire. The Tommies attacked. We went back 3 kms, suffering losses. In the evening we attacked again; only 8 men in my company, and occupied the old holes.

19 July: In the old position 100 metres from the Tommies – a very dangerous situation. I can see myself captured. The 3rd Battalion has always got to be right up. Let’s hope we soon get relieved.

20 July: Back in the line. Real trench warfare. One can’t raise one’s head. Our Hauptmann Kraus has just been granted the German Cross in Gold.

21 July: Still in the line. The Tommies have fixed Machine Guns on our positions. We are to be relieved tonight. In any case we are virtually surrounded. Have not had a bite to eat for three days and still am not hungry – only suffer from the heat and thirst. At 1930 the Tommies attacked [this was the first attack of Operation Splendour]. They surrounded us and covered us with artillery fire. During the night the infantry attacked but we were the victors. We held our ground and took 500 prisoners. Dead niggers [sic, i.e. Indians] are lying around all over the place.

22 July: In the old position. We had to surrender at 1030 hrs. It was either death or capture; we were quite alone and were surrounded. The tanks took us over, and so we entered imprisonment together with our Company Command.

23 July: On the way to the prison camp in Alexandria. So we got there after all, but without our weapons!

They were tough buggers, thought Vaux, but they were not invincible. Put enough fire on them and they cracked just like anyone else.

All sorts of prisoners had been brought to 7th Armoured Division headquarters in the aftermath of Operation Splendour, and most of them were uninteresting. As usual Vaux had Sgt. Paxton do the interrogations while he went though the captured materials – diaries, letters, photographs – with one ear on what was being said on the other side of the room. And that was how he heard about the women. The man in question was just an ordinary soldier, one of a group. Paxton was doing the talking and Vaux was studying their possessions.

The photograph showed an ordinary street, somewhere in central or eastern Europe to judge from the houses either side of the road. What was unusual was that there were naked women running along the pavement. The camera had focused on one, quite attractive, quite young. She was obviously both frightened and embarrassed and was holding her hands between her legs. And the soldiers in the picture were laughing. Vaux interrupted Paxton’s routine interrogation with a question of his own in English. ‘Who are these?’ He struggled to contain the surging anger in his voice. The soldier was quite startled. ‘Who? Them? Oh, only Jews.’

Benghazi , Libya : Italian transport Rosolino Pilo, escorted by two destroyers and two smaller vessels, safely arrived at Benghazi, Libya after a three-day trip from Brindisi, Italy.

Don River , Russia : German Army Group B (German Sixth Army , Italian Eighth Army , Hungarian Second Army , Romanian Fourth Army) under command of General Maximilian von Weichs , began Operation Fischreirer , advancing against Soviet armies west of Don , to destroy or drive them back across Don river , cross the river and advance Volga river and Stalingrad. On this day Hitler ordered him to try to take Stalingrad in a surprise attack, but that proved impossible. The Russian Sixty-Second and Sixty-Fourth Armies held a bridgehead on the west bank, inside the bend, and refused to give way.

Still after a ten-day hiatus caused by a lack of transportation, German Sixth Army (under the command of General Friedrich Paulus) returned to the offensive. On 23 July, Paulus submitted his plan to take Stalingrad. He proposed to sweep to the Don on both sides of Kalach, take bridgeheads on the run, and then drive a wedge of armor flanked by infantry across the remaining thirty miles. On 23 July the German main body started its advance toward the Don River. The Germans now met with increasing Soviet resistance from the 62nd and 64th Armies of the newly formed Stalingrad Front.

The German Sixth Army had been running into and over 62nd and 64th Armies’ outposts since 17 July without knowing it. On the 23rd, German Sixth Army hit the Soviet main line east of the Chir River. The 8th Corps, on the north, encountered several Soviet rifle divisions in the morning, and those delayed its march east four or five hours. The 14th Panzer Corps, bearing in toward Kalach, reported 200 enemy tanks in its path and claimed to have knocked out 40 during the day. The German advance of 23 July caved in part of the 62nd Army’s front and encircled two rifle divisions and a tank brigade of the army

Vinnitsa , Ukraine : Führer Directive Number 45 was issued, ordering Operation Brunswick, the capture of the Caucasus region; Army Group A (1st and 4th Panzer Armies and German 17th Army) would move through Maikop and Grozny to the Black Sea and Army Group B would take Stalingrad on the drive to Astrakhan.

With this Direcrtive 45 , according to Hitler , in Operation Edelweiss, Army Group A would take Batum and seize ‘the entire eastern coastline of the Black Sea’, thereby eliminating the Black Sea ports and the Russian Black Sea fleet. Other forces would strike towards the Grozny oilfields. Army Group B would take Stalingrad and then prepare defensive positions along the Don against possible counter-attack, assuming the Russians had any fight left in them. It was an impossibly grandiose plan. The main effort lay towards the Caucasus, and Hitler assumed that Stalingrad could be taken easily.

Unable to bear the wait, he kept goading Halder to speed the operation. He had so convinced himself that the Red Army was in the final stages of collapse that on 23 July he rewrote Operation Blue, in Führer Directive No. 45. ‘In a campaign which has lasted little more than three weeks, the deep objectives outlined by me for the south flank of the Eastern Front have been largely achieved. Only weak enemy forces have succeeded in escaping encirclement and reaching the far bank of the Don.’

Hitler, having already ignored the strategic rationale on which the whole plan had been based, now increased its objectives at a stroke. Germsn Sixth Army would take and occupy Stalingrad. He was no longer content with the original idea of just advancing to the Volga and destroying the arms factories. Paulus should then send motorized groups down the Volga to Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea. Army Group A under Field Marshal List was now ordered to seize the whole of the eastern seaboard of the Black Sea and most of the rest of the Caucasus.

Field Marshal Wilhelm List commander of Army Group A, on receiving this order two days later, stared in disbelief. He could only conclude that Hitler possessed intelligence confirming the collapse of the Red Army which had not been passed down. The army commanders also heard that Manstein’s Eleventh Army, having now completed the conquest of the Crimea, was leaving for the Leningrad front, and that the Grossdeutschland and the SS Leibstandarte panzer grenadier divisions were to be sent back to France. ‘The constant underestimation of enemy potential’, wrote Halder in his diary, ‘is gradually taking on a grotesque form and becoming dangerous.’

Hitler tried to justify this high-risk gamble on the basis of reinforcements arriving from their allies. Although the Führer could be most persuasive in his full, uplifting, propaganda flow—what Rommel cynically called a ‘sun-ray cure’—he convinced few generals on this particular subject. When he spoke in grandiose terms of the Third and Fourth Romanian Armies, the Second Hungarian Army and the Eighth Italian Army, they knew perfectly well that they could never be equated to a full German corps, let alone an army, mainly because of their lack of defence against tank attack. German generals also shared the opinion formed by Field Marshal von Rundstedt about this ’absolute League of Nations army‘, which included Romanians (whose officers and NCOs were in his view ’beyond description‘), Italians (’terrible people‘) and Hungarians (’only wanted to get home quickly‘). With a couple of exceptions, such as the Slovaks (’first rate, very unassuming‘) and Romanian mountain troops, he and other German commanders considered them ill-equipped, ill-armed, ill-trained, and completely unprepared for warfare on the Ostfront.

Another distraction which diverted Hitler in these crucial weeks was the possibility that as Russian resistance in the east was cracking (as Hitler believed it was), the British and Americans might be more likely to invade France. After explaining this on 9 July Hitler immediately transferred the two senior SS divisions — Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and Das Reich — to the west, followed, two weeks later, by the Army Großdeutschland division. A month later he also ordered the creation of the Atlantic wall along the Atlantic and Channel coasts, which would consume vast resources, including the very fuel he was now also heading for the Caucasus to replenish

Rostov-on-Don , Russia : Meanwhile, in southern Russia, German 13th Panzer Division, German 22nd Panzer Division, and Czechoslovakian Mobile Slovak Division captured the Kommolomny Bridge over the Don River at Rostov-on-Don.

Same day Rostov officially fell to Germans. Fighting in the city was fierce, especially the defence by NKVD troops of their headquarters, but by the end of the following day, the last main pockets of resistance were crushed in an operation of systematic clearance, building by building. Hitler was exultant. The retaking of Rostov obliterated his bad memories of the previous winter. The route to Caucausia was open.

The fall of Rostov (23–4 July) and the capture of the great bridge over the Don leading to the south, towards the Caucasus, was turned into a fiery sign of the great distress of the Soviet state. Now was the time for all men to do their duty to the utmost. Not that Rostov had surrendered lightly: NKVD units, crack, fanatical troops under rigid command, turned the city into a death-trap, the streets tangled with spectacular barricades, houses sealed up into firing-points. For fifty hours German assault troops fought ferocious battles in each sector of Rostov, and none more fierce than against the NKVD machine-gunners sited on the Taganrog road leading to the bridge. By dawn on 25 July Soviet units had fallen back behind the Don, but there still remained the embankment over the swampland leading to Bataisk and one more major bridge, though in the evening that too was in German hands and Army Group A could spill out from its bridgeheads into the Caucasus down through the steppe and into the high mountains to the south, on to the great goal of the oilfields.

Moscow : Aleksandr Vasilevsky was named a representative of the Soviet Stavka at Stalingrad, Russia.

Berlin , Germany : Martin Bormann relayed Adolf Hitler’s orders to Alfred Rosenberg, noting that the Slavic population in occupied Eastern Europe were to be nothing more than laborers of Germany, thus they did not need to be fed more food than absolutely necessary, and they were not to be educated

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : At about 16:00 on 23 July, a PIB (Papuan Infantry Battalion) patrol led by Lieutenant Chalk engaged advancing Japanese near Awala. The Japanese returned a heavy fire and the majority of the patrol “fled into the jungle”.

New Caledenia , South West Pacific : US Marines land in New Caledonia to ensure that the wavering pro-Vichy government of this French overseas department support the Allies.

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I made some additions to this last post. It seems that only placing a Soviet NKVD punishment unit behind them would convince British armor unit generals to move in First Battle of Alamein. Probably at this point , Auckinleck , Dorman-Smith , Gott etc were definetely on bad graces of everyone and (Thanos voice) “Montgomery was inevitable”

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24 July 1942

Atlantic Ocean : Canadian destroyer HMCS St. Croix sank German submarine U-90 , 560 miles east of St. John’s, Newfoundland; all 44 aboard were killed.

German submarines began returning to North Atlantic to hunt down Allied North Atlantic convoys. However their initial attempts to locate and attack these convoys in July 1942 were not successful. Wolfpack WOLF formed west of Iceland in Allied air gap , found two convoys but each time lost them before attacking.

Finally, on the evening of July 24, U-552 found and held on doggedly to a convoy. It was the westbound Outbound North ON 113, composed of thirty-three empty ships escorted by six warships: the four-stack destroyers HMS Burnham of the Royal Navy and HMCS St. Croix of the Royal Canadian Navy, and four Royal Navy corvettes. Upon picking up German submarine shadow signals on Huff Duff, the HMS Burnham and HMCS St. Croix raced ahead of the convoy and found two submarines on the surface. HMS Burnham chased one boat, the St. Croix the other. St. Croix’s quarry was U-90, twenty-six days out from Kiel on her maiden voyage. Commanded by A. H. Dobson, HMCS St. Croix drove U-90 under and blasted her with three well-conducted depth-charge attacks. Running in for a fourth attack, HMCS St. Croix heard an unusually loud underwater explosion, then saw debris rising to the surface. That was all that could be found of U-90, which went down with all hands, the second confirmed U-boat to be sunk by Canadian surface forces.

The U-90 was the tenth boat of the Atlantic force to be lost since June 1. Dönitz well knew that the resumption of U-boat warfare against North Atlantic convoys would result in still greater losses. Believing that he should soften this coming blow to the German public, on July 27 he announced that the campaign in the Americas had been more difficult than portrayed in the media and that yet “harder times” lay ahead. Upon hearing this unusual public address, Rodger Winn in the Admiralty’s U-boat Tracking Room speculated correctly that it signaled a resumption of full-scale U-boat war against the North Atlantic convoy run.

Mediterranean Sea : German submarine U-77 sank Syrian sailboat Toufic El Rahman with her deck gun 30 miles east of Cape Greco, Cyprus at 1817 hours; all aboard survived.

Kalach , Don Rover , Russia : On the 24th, German 8th Corps from Sixth Army cleared the northern quarter of the Don bend except for a Soviet bridgehead at Serafimovich and another around Kremenskaya and Sirotinskaya. To the south, as the daily report put it, German Sixth Army “consolidated,” because 14th Panzer Corps ran out of motor fuel and German infantry divisions could not make headway against stiffening resistance north and east of Kalach.

The advance across the Don steppe provided many mixed experiences for the Sixth Army after the winter snows. General Strecker, the commander of 11th German Corps, found it ‘as hot as Africa, with huge dust clouds’. On 22 July, his chief of staff, Helmuth Groscurth, recorded a temperature of ‘53 degrees in the sun’.

Sudden rains, while temporarily turning tracks to mire, did little to solve the water shortage, which was the main preoccupation of the German Landser during that time. The Red Army polluted wells during the retreat, while collective farm buildings were destroyed, and tractors and cattle driven to the rear. Supplies which could not be moved in time were rendered unusable. ‘The Russians have poured petrol over the grain supplies,’ a corporal wrote home on 10 August. ‘Soviet bombers drop phosphorus bombs at night to set the steppe on fire,’ reported a panzer division. But many of the columns of black smoke on the horizon were started by cordite burns round artillery positions.

The German gunners in shorts, with their bronzed torsos muscled from the lifting of shells, looked like athletes from a Nazi propaganda film, but conditions were not as healthy as they might have appeared. Cases of dysentery, typhus and paratyphus began to increase. Around field ambulances, cookhouses and especially butchery sections, ‘the plague of flies was horrible’, reported one doctor. They were most dangerous for those with open wounds, such as the burns of tank crewmen. The continual movement forward made it very difficult to care for the sick and wounded. Evacuation by a ‘Sanitäts-Ju’ (JU-52) air ambulance was the best hope, but Hitler’s insistence on speed meant that almost every transport aircraft had been diverted to deliver fuel to halted panzer divisions.

For soldiers of the Sixth Army, the summer of 1942 offered the last idylls of war. In Don Cossack country, the villages of whitewashed cottages with thatched roofs, surrounded by small cherry orchards, willows and horses in meadows provided an attractive contrast to the usual dilapidation of villages taken over by collective farms. Most of the civilians, who had stayed behind in defiance of Communist evacuation orders, were friendly. Many of the older men had fought the Bolsheviks in the Russian civil war. Only the previous spring, just a few weeks before the German invasion, Cossacks had risen in revolt at Shakhty, north of Rostov, declaring an independent republic. This had been stamped out by NKVD troops with a rapid and predictable brutality.

To the surprise of a company commander in the 384th Infantry Division, Cossacks remained friendly even after looting by his soldiers. They handed over eggs, milk, salted cucumber and even a whole ham as a gift. He then arranged to purchase geese for two Reichsmarks a bird. ‘To be honest, people give everything they have if you treat them correctly,’ he wrote in his diary. ‘I’ve never eaten so much as here. We eat honey with spoons until we’re sick, and in the evening we eat boiled ham.’

Rostov-on-Don , Russia : German SS Wiking Division captured the airfield near Rostov-on-Don, Russia while German 125th Infantry Division entered the city center.

German Army Group A occupied Novocherkassk

London , UK : On 24 July, GYMNAST – or Operation TORCH, as Churchill had renamed it – was agreed in principle. The Allies believe that an American-led invasion of French North Africa could shift wavering French generals towards the Allied side, thus putting powerful Vichy French holdings, if not the country, into the war on the Allied side, and trapping Rommel’s Afrika Korps in Libya in a giant vice.

The next morning, the Joint Chiefs thrashed out the basic form such an operation should take. A supreme commander was needed, which Brooke suggested should be American. It was also suggested the operation should be led by US troops. Partly this was a sop to their ally, but principally it was because French antipathy to the British was now considerable and they would probably be more amenable to the Americans. This was agreed. Two simultaneous operations were envisaged – one on the west coast of Africa, the other on the north-west coast. Planning would be conducted from London, with the US team of a joint planning staff hurrying to London as soon as possible, because the date suggested for the landings was October – a mere twelve weeks away.

Ike had not been at this final session but was briefed by Marshall that afternoon whilst the American Chief of Staff scrubbed himself in his bath. A detailed plan for TORCH was needed as soon as possible, which would then be presented to the Joint Chiefs for approval. He was backing Ike to command the whole operation, and imagined this would soon be confirmed. In the meantime, Ike was to be given the new title of Deputy Allied Commander in Charge of Planning for TORCH. He was to get cracking right away.

Spruced and cleaned up, Marshall and the rest of the American party left by plane for Washington on 25th July , leaving Ike to ponder the prospect of even greater responsibility and the task of preparing a plan for an operation that a few days before he had strenuously opposed. But at least the Prime Minister was happy. He had brushed aside the dissenters at Westminster: Rommel had been halted, and he’d manoeuvred not only his own military chiefs but also the Americans into his way of thinking. The United States might be rich and increasingly powerful, but there was no question of Churchill playing lapdog to the American President in this war. ‘All was therefore agreed and settled in accordance with my long-conceived ideas,’ he wrote with satisfaction. ‘I had enough to be thankful for"

Manhattan Project : Dr. Robert Oppenhheimer was selected to head the atomic bomb research efforts.

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : Company B of Australian 39th Battalion ambushed 500 Japanese troops at Gorari Creek along the Kokoda Trail in Australian Papua; after killing 15, the company fell back two miles to Oivi.

Captain Templeton had returned to Kokoda, leaving Major William Watson, of the PIB (Papuan Infantry Battalion), to command the forward action. Watson was planning a further ambush between Awala and Wairopi but 11 Platoon withdrew all the way to Wairopi. There, he destroyed the bridge and harassed Japanese as they attempted to cross the Kumusi River, before withdrawing 11 Platoon and what remained of his PIB on the afternoon of 24 July.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Narwhal sank Japanese guard boat Shinsei Maru No. 83, merchant ship Nissho Maru, and merchant ship Kofuji Maru with her deck gun between Hokkaido and Kurile Islands in northern Japan.

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Only Jews. Yes there was no clean German army. That answer speaks volumes for teaching what today would be called critical race theory. Oops hope I don’t get banned but this is infuriating.

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The truth is infuriating,thanks merdiolu for posting! :+1:

Well to put in stronger the most famous German words were “Dass haben wir nicht gewusst” we didn’t know which in the Netherlands became an expression to indicate that everyone knows and willfully lies. Sadly the casual mass raping by the Axis and their Allies became infamous. Even the e.g. Dutch girls who dated Germans were often coerced into a relationship, break-up and bad things will happen to your family. The sad thing is that many of these girlsl ended up being shaved bald, beaten and humiliated by vengeful “liberated Dutch people”. :slightly_smiling_face: The Jewish/other minorities women had it even worse as the often were raped before being killed. This happened in units from Germany and every willing partner of Nazi Germany.

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Thanks for that reply. I tend to get quite emotional when I read about how women and children were treated.

As far as coercion, I am sure starvation was a good tool. I read the Dutch were so starved in 1945 that the allies dropped food for them. I think it was the Dutch. I suppose it could be Denmark. I need to check.
Found the Mark Felton video. Great story. Even in war, decency can reign occasionally.

https://youtu.be/wbt4e87DvWc

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It was the West of the Netherlands above the rivers. It was a horrible winter, the estimations are somewhere in the area of 20,000 hunger deaths and many had lifelong issues and traumas from the severe hunger. On the 29th April 1945 Germans allowed allied planes to drop food for the population. This was very close to the capitulation however and the Allies used these contacts to push for capitulation. The German authorities probably also feared the Allied wrath.

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