22 - 28 August 1942

22 August 1942

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : A Panama Canal Zone-based B-18 Bolo bomber of US 45th Bombardment Squadron sank German submarine U-654 with depth charges 185 miles north of the Panama Canal in the afternoon, killing all 44 aboard.
ON August 22, a radar-equipped US Army Air Forces B-18 of the 45th Bombardment Squadron caught suprised U-654 running on the surface. Attacking swiftly and skillfully, the pilot, P. A. Koening, dropped four shallow-set Torpex depth charges, which straddled Grman submarine. Moments later oil and debris floated to the surface, the last sign of U-654. There were no survivors.

South Atlantic : German submarine U-507 torpedoed and sank Swedish merchant ship Hammaren 12 miles off the coast of Brazil at 0950 hours; 6 were killed, 25 survived.

Mediterranean Sea : Italian torpedo boat Generale Antonio Cantore struck a mine and sank five miles west of Tobruk, Libya; the mine was laid by Royal Navy submarine HMS Porpoise on 12 Aug 1942

Black Sea : Soviet submarine M-3 became missing in the Black Sea near Odessa, Ukraine, presumably having struck a German naval mine and sank.

Don River , Russia : German 16th Panzer Division began to cross the Don River toward Stalingrad, Russia.

On 21 August 1942, infantry companies from General von Seydlitz’s 51st German Corps crossed the Don at dawn in inflatable assault boats. They rapidly established a bridgehead near the village of Luchinsky. More and more companies paddled furiously over the broad expanse of water. A few miles downstream at Vertyachy, a whole battalion crossed the Don in relays in less than seventy minutes.

Once bridgeheads were secured, pioneer battalions went to work building pontoon bridges to take the tanks and other vehicles of General von Wietersheim’s 24th Panzer Corps. The German pioneers, intrigued by the mysterious contrasts of the ‘quiet Don’, referred to the river affectionately as ‘the stream’. A number of soldiers and officers in the Sixth Army seem to have fallen for this stretch of Don Cossack country. Some dreamed of having a farm there once the war was won.

Soon after midday on 22 August, the bridge was ready, and General Hube’s 16th Panzer Division, ‘the battering ram of the corps’, began to cross. The tanks, half-tracks, self-propelled assault guns, eight-wheeled reconnaissance vehicles and trucks rattled deafeningly over the pontoon bridge.

That night, as soon as the moon rose, Russian aircraft began their bombing runs. Vehicles were hit on both banks, and they burned brightly, illuminating the target area, but the bombs continued to miss the bridge itself. Hube’s divisional headquarters received reports of skirmishes around the edges of the bridgehead. From time to time, the shrieking whoosh of Katyusha rockets from ‘Stalin organs’ could be heard. The sound was unsettling, but the enemy batteries were firing blind. Behind the infantry screen the laagered panzer troops made final checks on their vehicles, or caught up on a little sleep. At 04.30 hours, as the dawn rose ahead of them in the east, Count von Strachwitz’s Abteilung of the 2nd Panzer Regiment, reinforced with panzer grenadier companies, moved forward towards the Volga. The tank crews, conscious of the historic event, found it ’a very exhilarating moment‘.

The steppe between the Don and Volga, stone-hard in the summer drought, offered fast going. Tank commanders standing in their turrets, wearing goggles against the dust, had to keep an eye out ahead for a hidden balka or gully that might not be visible to the driver. For the first dozen miles, the panzer crews sighted few enemy. The slightly rolling terrain of dry, rough grass seemed eerily empty. The sun had still not risen high in the sky when General Hube, after a flurry of radio transmissions, suddenly halted his headquarters. Engines were switched off to conserve fuel. They waited in the baking heat. Soon the droning of a small aeroplane could be heard. A Fieseler Storch liaison aircraft appeared. It circled, then came in to land alongside the armoured vehicles. The pilot climbed out and strode over. It was General von Richthofen. Richthofen, now commander-in-chief of the Fourth Air Fleet, hardly bothered to conceal his mood of impatience with the army. ‘General Paulus is worried about his left flank,’ he had noted in his diary only three days before. He was also displeased when told that the Luftwaffe’s main priority was ‘to shoot up tanks!’ For fighter pilots, ground attack was regarded as menial and unnecessarily dangerous work.

Poland : On August 22, in a village in the Bialystok region, Gestapo and SS men rounded up all the men of the village, then selected ten, who were immediately tortured and shot. On the same day, in the nearby Slonim region, after what a Gestapo report called ‘an armed fight lasting about six hours’, two hundred partisans and villagers, ‘half of them Jews’, were shot, and two partisan camps ‘eradicated’. Gypsies too were being hunted down. Three days after the Slonim action, all German army groups in Russia were warned, by the Army Field Police, that there were also many Gypsy bands roaming the countryside which ‘render many services to the partisans, providing them with supplies etc.’. If only a part of the Gypsies were punished, the Field Police added, ‘the attitude of the remainder would be even more hostile towards the German forces, and would support the partisans even more than before’. It was therefore ‘necessary to exterminate these bands ruthlessly’.

Guadalcanal , SW Pacific : US and Japanese supplying destroyers made contact in the Savo Sound off Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands; Japanese destroyer Kawakaze disabled and sank US destroyer USS Blue with a torpedo hit at 0359 hours (killing 9; she would be scuttled on the following day).

25 P-39 and P40 fighters of 67th Fighter Squadron USAAF landed on Henderson Field.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Haddock fired four torpedoes at a convoy, sinking Japanese transport ship Tatsuho Maru with 2 hits in the East China Sea 50 miles north of Taiwan at 1310 hours; 36 were killed and the cargo of 10,000 gallons of aviation fuel was lost.

2 Likes

23 August 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-506 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Hamla 150 miles southwest of Freetown, British West Africa at 2337 hours; all 40 aboard were killed.

North Sea : German minesweeper M 3306 Neubau struck a mine and sank off Holland

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy destroyer HMS Easton and Free Greek Navy destroyer Pindos located German submarine U-458 cruising on the surface and sank her with depth charges east of Pantelleria , Central Mediterranean. Eight of the 46 crew from German submarine were killed in sinking.

Stalingrad , Russia : The attack on Stalingrad in southern Russia opened with massive Luftwaffe air raid lasting 48 hours involving more than 4,000 sorties while German ground units continued to reach the Volga River north and south of the city.

For the citizens of Stalingrad, Sunday, 23 August, was ‘a day which will never be forgotten’. The model city of which they were so proud, with its gardens along the high west bank of the Volga and the tall white apartment buildings which gave the place its modern, cubist look, became an inferno. The loudspeakers in the streets attached to lamp-posts began to repeat: ‘Comrades, an air-raid warning has been sounded in the city. Attention, comrades, an air-raid warning …’ The population had heard so many false air-raid warnings, broadcast in the same monotonous voice, that few took this one seriously at first. Only after anti-aircraft batteries opened fire did people begin to run for cover. Those picnicking on the Mamaev Kurgan, the huge Tartar burial mound which dominated the centre of the city, were the most exposed. Down in the long broad streets which ran parallel to the Volga, the mass of refugees from outlying districts found little protection, apart from trenches in courtyards and gardens dug by block committees for those who could not reach a cellar in time.

Richthofen’s aircraft began to carpet-bomb in relays, ‘not just industrial targets, but everything’, said one student present that day. The high-explosive bombs oscillated gently as they dropped in sticks from the Heinkels. Descriptions of scenes in the city make it hard to imagine anyone surviving outside a cellar. Incendiary bombs showered on the wooden houses down the south-western edge of the city. They burned to the ground, but in the smoking ash, their spindly brick chimneys remained standing in rows like a surrealist graveyard. Closer to the banks of the great river, the shells of the tall white apartment blocks remained standing, even when hit, but most of the floors inside collapsed. Many other buildings were smashed open, or set afire. Mothers cradled dead babies, and children tried to rouse mothers killed beside them. Hundreds of other families were buried alive in rubble.

One German pilot, after his aircraft was hit by one of the women’s anti-aircraft batteries, managed to bale out, but when his parachute opened, he drifted straight down into a blaze. Those citizens of Stalingrad who saw his end were so shocked by the onslaught around that even the satisfaction of poetic justice was beyond them.

The huge petroleum-storage tanks on the Volga bank were also hit. A ball of flame rose about 1,500 feet into the sky, and over the following days, the column of black smoke could be seen from over two hundred miles away. Blazing oil spread across the Volga. Bombs destroyed the telephone exchange and waterworks, and the main Stalingrad hospital was straddled by a stick of bombs. Windows were blasted in and children hurled from their beds. They included Nina Grebennikova, the fourteen-year-old whose spine had been broken a week before by the bomb which fell near the petroleum-storage tanks. The attack on the hospital so terrorized members of the staff that they ran away, abandoning their patients, some of whom were left for five days without food or care.
One mother, caught in the open with a daughter whose legs froze in shell-shock, ‘literally had to drag her home’ through the bombing. No driver would attempt the journey. With virtually all the fathers away at the front, or now mobilized, women were left to cope with the appalling aftermath. Viktor Goncharov’s wife, helped by her eleven-year-old son, Nikolay, buried her father’s corpse in the yard of their apartment block, which had received a direct hit. ’Before filling in the grave,‘ the son remembered, ’we searched for his head, but could not find it.‘ Her mother-in-law, Goncharova, the wife of the Cossack veteran, was lost in the chaos. Somehow the old woman managed to live through the battle to come, surviving for just over five months in a bunker. They did not find each other again until the end of the war, nearly three years later.

The aerial assault on Stalingrad, the most concentrated on the Ostfront, represented the natural culmination of Richthofen’s career since Guernica. Luftwaffe IV Fourth Air Fleet aircraft flew a total of 1,600 sorties that day and dropped 1,000 tons of bombs for the loss of only three machines. According to some estimates, there had been nearly 600,000 people in Stalingrad, and 40,000 were killed during the first week of bombardment.

While Richthofen’s bombers pounded Stalingrad, the armoured spearhead of 16th Panzer Division had advanced virtually unopposed across the steppe for nearly twenty-five miles. ‘Around Gumrak’, the division recorded, ‘enemy resistance became stronger and anti-aircraft guns began firing wildly at our armoured vehicles from the north-west corner of Stalingrad.’

This resistance came from the batteries operated by young women volunteers, barely out of high school. Few had fired the guns before, owing to the shortage of ammunition, and none of them had been trained to take on targets on the ground. They had switched targets from the bombers over the city on sighting the panzers, whose crews ‘seemed to think they were on a Sunday promenade’. The young gun crews furiously wound the handles, depressing the barrels to zero elevation - the Soviet 37-mm anti-aircraft guns were fairly crude copies of the Bofors—and traversed on to the leading armoured vehicles.

The German panzer crews quickly overcame their initial surprise, and deployed to attack some of the batteries. Stukas soon arrived to deal with others. This unequal battle was watched in anguish by Captain Sarkisyan, the commander of a Soviet heavy-mortar battalion, who later related what he saw to the writer Vasily Grossman. Every time the anti-aircraft guns fell silent, Sarkisyan exclaimed: ‘Oh, they’re finished now! They’ve been wiped out!’ But each time, after a pause, the guns started to fire again*. ‘This’,* declared Grossman, ‘was the first page of the Stalingrad defence.’

The German spearhead pushed on for the last few miles. At about four in the afternoon, just as the August sunlight was softening, they reached Rynok, to the north of Stalingrad, and there ‘the soldiers of the 16th Panzer Division gazed on the Volga, flowing past right before their eyes’. They could hardly believe it. ‘We had started early in the morning on the Don,’ recalled one of Strachwitz’s company commanders, ‘and then we were on the Volga’. Somebody in the battalion produced a camera and they took photographs of each other, standing on the backs of their vehicles, gazing through binoculars to the far shore. These were included in Sixth German Army headquarters records with the caption: ‘The Volga is reached!’ The camera, turned southwards, took other souvenir pictures. One showed columns of smoke from the Luftwaffe raids and is recorded as ‘view from the outskirts of Stalingrad on fire’.

Soon after their arrival, Luftwaffe fighter ace Kurt Ebener and a companion from the ‘Udet’ fighter wing wheeled over the Volga just north of Stalingrad. The pilots spotted the tanks and panzer grenadiers below, and ’a feeling of overwhelming joy and relief for their comrades on the ground below’ inspired victory rolls and other aerobatics in celebration.

Like the other panzer commanders, Captain Freytag-Loringhoven stood on top of his tank to gaze through binoculars across the wide river. The view was excellent from the much higher western bank. ‘We looked at the immense, immense steppe towards Asia, and I was overwhelmed,’ he remembered. ‘But I could not think about it for very long because we had to make an attack against another anti-aircraft battery that had started firing at us.’

The anti-aircraft battery crews were astonishingly resilient. According to Captain Sarkisyan, ‘the girls refused to go down into the bunkers’. One of them, called Masha, is said to have ‘stayed at her post for four days without being relieved’, and was credited with nine hits. Even if that figure is an exaggeration, like many at the time, the 16th Panzer Division’s report casts no doubts on their bravery. ‘Right until the late afternoon’, stated one account, ‘we had to fight, shot for shot, against thirty-seven enemy anti-aircraft positions, manned by tenacious fighting women, until they were all destroyed.’

The panzer troops were horrified when they found that they had been firing at women. The Russians still find this squeamishness curiously illogical, considering that Richthofen’s bombers had killed many thousands of women and children in Stalingrad that very same afternoon. German officers in Stalingrad did not suffer chivalresque illusions much longer. ‘It is completely wrong to describe Russian women as “soldiers in skirts”,’ wrote one of them later. ‘The Russian woman has long been fully prepared for combat duties and to fill any post of which a woman might be capable. Russian soldiers treat such women with great wariness.’

Gen. Andrei Yeremenko, Stalingrad’s top defender, gets an early wake-up call…the Germans are attacking. Defense is the 62nd and 4th Tank Armies. The latter has no tanks. Yeremenko alerts his reserve, the 10th NKVD Division of political policemen. He has no time for breakfast.

By 8 a.m., the panzers are clearly heading for the city. battles rage at Malaya Rossoshka. Russian pilots report everything on the ground as burning, and two columns of 100 German tanks each, followed by dense infantry in trucks, headed for Stalingrad, and many enemy aircraft.

Yeremenko scrambles all his fighters at once and orders his light bombers to harass Hube’s column. Amid this, Yeremenko’s zampolit, Nikita Khrushchev, phones from his quarters. “What’s new?”

“Not specially pleasant news.”

“I’ll come to HQ at once.”

Breakfast arrives, but Yeremenko has no time to eat it. German tanks are so close to Stalingrad’s AA guns their sound locators can her the treads squealing. Yeremenko orders the remnants of two tank corps (which are actually divisions) to regroup and block the German advance. These two corps have 50 obsolete T-70 tanks between them.

10th NKVD Division and the two tank corps dig in around the Tractor Factory, using ruins to good advantage. Tanks and armored vehicles can’t move through blasted streets, bomb craters, and ruined buildings. The fighting gains intensity amid the destruction. General Hube’s tanks from 16tth Panzer Division rip through improvised defenses and flak guns manned by female workers of the “Barricades” factory.

By 11 a.m., Khrushchev has mobilized Stalingrad’s Communist Party organizations for the defense. Yeremenko, who still hasn’t eaten, stays calm.

Maj. Gen. Korshunov phones up to say that a trainload of ammunition, food, and reinforcements has been shot up by the Germans. “Enemy tanks are moving on Stalingrad. What are we to do?” Korshunov pleads.

“Your duty. Stop panicking,” Yeremenko says. 4th Panzer Army captures Tinguta station by noon and the siding at the 74-kilometer marker. They surround 38th Rifle Division, but elsewhere German attacks are beaten off. Yeremenko scrapes up 56 Tank Brigade to counterattack. Waiters bring in lunch, but he has no time to eat.

Bad news continues. German troops of Sixth Army tear up a regiment of 87th Rifle Division north of Malaya Rossoshka. Yeremenko starts reaching into his reserves, which include tanks being built at the Stalingrad Tractor Factory.

At the factory, the defenders can see the enemy. They have 2,000 men and 30 tanks. Maj. Gen. Feklenko calls Yeremenko to say, “I have decided to defend the factory.”

“A correct decision,” Yeremenko says. “I appoint you sector commander.” Yeremenko sends Feklenko a tank brigade and an infantry brigade.

Amid the battle comes good news for the Russians, the pontoon bridge across the Volga, two miles long, is now complete, in 10 days instead of 12. Yeremenko says, “Thank the men who built it and the officers who supervised them. As for the bridge, I order it to be destroyed.” The bridge is too close to the Germans.

By late afternoon, the Germans are being slowed down or dragged to a halt. Hube’s tanks run smack into heavy antitank fire on the Sukhaya Mechetka Creek, half a mile north of the Tractor Factory. After hours of hard fighting, Hube’s battered tanks withdraw, while the Soviets reinforce. The Germans have split Stalingrad Front in two and wrecked Soviet communications, but the Soviets are still in business.

At 6 p.m. Yeremenko gets word that the German offensive has been stopped. At last he can have his breakfast.

At Chebotarevskiy 115 miles to the northeast, 700 Italian horse-mounted cavalry troops overran a Soviet artillery position by surprise, capturing 500 troops, 4 guns, 10 mortars, and 50 machine guns. This is the last big recorded cavalry charge of the war.

Murmansk , Kola Peninsula , Russia : US light cruiser USS Tuscaloosa, destroyers USS Rodman, USS Emmons, and HMS Onslaught arrived at Vaenga Bay near Murmansk, Russia; they disembarked personnel of two RAF Bomber Command squadrons, torpedoes, ammunition, and medical supplies.

London , UK : Dwight Eisenhower submitted an appraisal of the current situation to the Combined Chiefs stating that in his opinion an invasion of northwestern Africa would not be possible before 10 Nov 1942. A full month later than the date proposed by the Combined Chiefs.

Truk , Caroline Islands , Central Pacific : The remainder of Japanese 28th Infantry Regiment (1,411 troops) and several hundred Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops departed Truk, Caroline Islands aboard 3 transports for Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands; they were escorted by a powerful fleet of cruisers and destroyers up close and an even larger force, including fleet carriers and battleships, from a distance; at 0950 hours, the convoy was spotted by a US PBY Catalina aircraft, but the resulting carrier strike launched at 1410 hours failed to locate the convoy.

Guadalcanal : After dark, Japanese destroyer Kagero bombarded Henderson Field from nearby Savo Sound, causing little damage.

The Guadalcanal battle moves to sea. Japanese carriers are moving to cover the journey of a group of transports to Guadalcanal. Amid gray clouds and squalls, American aircraft grope for Rear Adm. Raizo Tanaka’s convoy. The Americans find it, but score no hits. Aviators from USS Saratoga fly to Guadalcanal for the night.

That evening, the American task force commander, Vice Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher, gets word that the Japanese are fleeing. He detaches one-third of his carrier strength, USS Wasp and her escorts, to refuel. “Always fuelling,” sighs naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison in his analysis of the battle. As Wasp heads south, she takes out of the battle her 62 aircraft and America’s best chance to have a decisive quantitative superiority in a carrier action.

That evening, destroyer USS Henley continues to tow her battered sister USS Blue to Tulagi. Blue can’t move. Japanese ships are due in this evening for the usual shellfire. Adm. Richmond Kelly Turner orders Blue scuttled, and the Pearl Harbor survivor, which sailed out amid the air attack commanded by a young Jewish ensign, Nathan Asher, (her skipper was trapped ashore) sinks at 10:21 p.m.

USS Saratoga airmen bed down in Guadalcanal in foxholes, while their planes are refuelled by night. At 11:30 p.m., the Japanese destroyer Kagero turns up to light up the night with shells. After she leaves, Tanaka turns his transports back for Guadalcanal. The Battle of the Eastern Solomons is about to begin.

Darwin , Australia : Japanese and American aircraft engaged in combat over Darwin, Australia between 1200 and 1245 hours; 7 Japanese bombers, 8 Japanese Zero fighters were shot down by P-40 Warhawk fighters of US 49th Fighter Group. This was to be the last Japanese attempt to raid Darwin.

2 Likes

24 August 1942

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-162 torpedoed and sank Dutch cargo ship Moena 100 miles east of Barbados at 1113 hours; 4 were killed, 83 survived.

Barents Sea : American light cruiser USS Tuscaloosa, escorted by US destroyers USS Rodman, USS Emmons, and Royal Navy destroyer HMS Onslaught departed Murmansk, Russia. Other Royal Navy destroyers HMS Marne, HMS Martin, HMS Middleton, and HMS Blankney departed Arkhangelsk, Russia. Both groups of Allied warships were sailing for Iceland; some of them carried Soviet diplomats and survivors of various sunken or damaged merchant ships.

At 2002 hours, German minelayer Ulm, which had departed Narvik, Norway at 0400 hours earlier on the same day, was attacked by Royal Navy destroyers HMS Onslaught, HMS Marne, and HMS Martin; HMS Marne was hit twice in the engagement (4 were killed), but the British destroyers were able to sink Ulm with gunfire at 2235 hours; 132 of German crew were killed, 54 survived (30 to 40 of whom were captured by the British)

Arctic Ocean : German submarine U-601 torpedoed and sank Soviet cargo ship Kujbyshev in the Kara Sea 55 miles west of Dikson Island in northern Russia at 1409 hours; at 1442 hours, U-601 struck again, sinking tug Medvezhonok with her deck gun; all aboard both ships were killed.

Leningrad Front : Soviet Volkhov Front launched an offensive near Leningrad in northern Russia. The besieged defenders of Leningrad hurl Soviet 55th Army at the town of the same name, seeking to break through and hook up with relieving forces of Volkhov Front. That front sends in 2nd Shock Army as its main punch.

Soviet Volkhov Front’s attack run into trouble from poor roads, but concentrated 100 artillery pieces and nine tanks per kilometer of front.

The assault goes in with a prolonged artillery bombardment on German fortifications. By day’s end, the Soviets drive a mile deep. German troops counterattacked with no success.

Stalingrad , Russia : Marshal Georgy Zhukov was sent to Stalingrad, Russia to take over the defense.

The Soviet defenders of Stalingrad were in a dangerous position, partly because General Yeremenko had concentrated most of his available forces to slow Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army advancing on Stalingrad from the south-west. He had never imagined that Paulus’s forces would break through so suddenly and so boldly on his right.

Nikita Khrushchev joined him at the underground headquarters tunnelled deep into the Tsaritsa gorge. The threat they faced was so urgent that when two engineer officers arrived to report that their men had just finished building a pontoon bridge across the Volga, they were told to destroy it immediately. The two sappers stared at their commander-in-chief in horrified disbelief. Protests were cut short. It is not hard to imagine the panic there would have been in Stalingrad, to say nothing of the reaction in Moscow, if the Germans were to have carried straight through in one swoop and seized a bridgehead on the east bank of the Volga - as Strachwitz had in fact wanted to do.

Stalin was furious when he heard that German troops had reached the Volga. He forbade the mining of factories, the evacuation of machinery or any other action which ‘might be taken as a decision to surrender Stalingrad’. The city was to be defended to the very end. The Military Council had posters put up all over the city proclaiming a state of siege: ‘We shall never surrender the city of our birth. Let us barricade every street. Let us transform each district, each block, each building into an impregnable fortress.’ Many men panicked, including even the secretary of the Stalingrad Komsomol Committee, who ‘deserted his post’ and fled to the eastern bank without permission.

Those workers not directly involved in producing weapons for immediate use were mobilized in militia ‘special brigades’ under the commander of the loth NKVD Division, Colonel Sarayev. Ammunition and rifles were distributed, but many men received a weapon only after a comrade was killed. In the northern industrial suburb of Spartakovka, badly armed worker militia battalions were sent into battle against the 16th Panzer Division with predictable results. Students from the technical university, digging trenches on the northern flank of the city, carried on although already under direct fire from 16th Panzer Division. Their faculty buildings near the Stalingrad tractor plant had been destroyed by bombs dropped in the first waves. The teaching staff helped form the nucleus of a local defence ’destroyer battalion‘. One of the professors was a company commander. The battalion commissar was a young woman mechanic from the tractor plant, which had been converted to build T-34s. There, volunteers jumped into the tanks even before they had been painted. As soon as ammunition, stacked in the factory, had been loaded, they drove them off the production line and straight into battle. These tanks lacked gunsights, and could only be aimed at almost point-blank range by the loader peering down the barrel while the gunner traversed the turret.

General Hube , commander of 16th Panzer Division sent off his motorcycle battalion, probing the northern flank. ‘Yesterday we reached the railway line’, a corporal wrote home next day, ‘and captured a train with weapons and supply vehicles, which had not even been unloaded. We also took many prisoners. Among them were many “soldiers in skirts”, whose faces are so repulsive that one can scarcely bear to look at them. Hopefully this operation won’t last much longer.’ The booty of American Lend-Lease material proved very popular. The officers of 16th Panzer Division especially appreciated the American jeeps, fresh in their new Russian markings, which they considered a much better vehicle than their own equivalent - the Kübelwagen.

However German advance was halted there. Hube’s tanks attack again, along the Suchaya Mechetka, meeting a determined but mixed bag of opposition from Russian defences. Russian infantry counterattacks, forcing tanks and infantry of Hube (who were spread too thinly on the ground and isolated since following echalons of German Sixth Army were left behind) back a mile and a quarter. The German bombing has turned Stalingrad into a heap of rubble, and panzers cannot advance through cratered streets, fires, and ruined buildings. Soviet troops turn the wreckage into perfect entrenchments.

The Germans will not reach their deadline of August 25th. Stalingrad sucks in more men and supplies, derailing the drive into the Caucasus

Red Army aviation regiments were also thrown into the battle on 24 August, but an obsolate Soviet Yakfighter model stood little chance against a Messerschmitt 109, and the Shturmovik fighter-bombers, although armoured underneath, were extremely vulnerable when tailed by a competent pilot. German soldiers cheered from below when Luftwaffe pilots dispatched their enemy ‘mit Eleganz’, as if the air war was a sort of bullfight conducted for the pleasure of spectators on the ground.

Baltic Sea : Soviet torpedo boat Burya and minesweeper T-204 struck mines and sank in the Gulf of Finland while attempting to sweep a German minefield.

Germany : 226 British bombers (104 Wellington, 61 Lancaster, 53 Stirling, and 8 Halifax) from RAF Bomber Command attacked Frankfurt, Germany; most bombs missed their targets and fell on the villages of Schwalbach and Eschborn; 16 bombers were lost on this mission.

US : The US Army assumed command of the Amphibious Corps of the Atlantic Fleet, which was previously under the command of the US Marine Corps. The previous commanding officer, USMC Major General Holland Smith, was named the chief of the Amphibious Training Staff of the Fleet Marine Force and was relocated to Quantico, Virginia, United States.

Guadalcanal , South West Pacific : A Japanese force centered around carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku sailed down into the Solomon Islands with Japanese light carrier Ryujo near the spearhead as bait to draw out US carriers known to be in the general area. In the ensuing Battle of the Eastern Solomons, Ryujo was promptly discovered and fatally damaged with several 1,000-pound bombs dropped by torpedo bombers from US carriers USS Enterprise and USS Saratoga , Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku also suffered light damage from bomb fragments but this in turn allowed aircraft from Shokaku and Zuikaku to locate USS Saratoga and USS Enterprise. USS Enterprise would suffer heavy damage by three bomb hits (70 were killed, 70 were injured). 21 Japanese aircraft and three US aircraft shot down in todays battle. Japanese warships attempted to engage the US fleet after dark, but the force failed to locate the American fleet, and discontinued the search at 2330 hours.

US Marine Corps Major John L. Smith’s VMF-223 Squadron based on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands accompanied by five USAAF P-39 fighters intercepted twenty-seven Japanese aircraft, shooting down ten bombers and fighters. Captain Marion E. Carl, who was to become the first USMC ace of the war, scored three of the kills. His Commanding Officer Major Smith would become the third Wildcat pilot to be awarded the Medal of Honour. Three Wildcat fighters were lost in the engagement. On the same day, 11 US Navy dive bombers arrived at Henderson Field as reinforcements.

Along the Papuan north coast, coastwatchers report Japanese ships. Their target is Milne Bay, an airfield at the very eastern tip of Papua, about 370 kilometers from Port Moresby. The Japanese are sending in three cruisers, two transports, two tankers, and two minesweepers, loaded with troops of the 3rd and 5th Kure Special Naval Landing Forces and the 5th Sasebo Special Naval Landing Force, determined Japanese Sailors and Marines in ballcaps with sewn anchors. These men have swept the Pacific. Their orders: “At the dead of night quickly complete the landing and strike the white soldiers without reserve. Unitedly smash to pieces the enemy lines and take the aerodrome by storm.”

Defending the area are 9,000 men, mostly Australians of 18th Brigade from 7th Division, veterans of Tobruk, and Australian militia. They are backed up by RAAF P-40 fighter-bombers and some US Army engineers. The boss is Australia’s Brig. Cyril Clowes.

Off Guadalcanal, the Japanese Main Body under Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo, victor at Pearl Harbor and loser at Midway, advances, headed by fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku. The Advance Force with the light carrier Ryujo is spotted at 7:13 am.

Both sides are bringing old and new weapons to the battle. The Japanese have their familiar Vals, Kates, and Zeros, but the new American toy is the Grumman TBF Avenger, a rugged plane with angular wings, husky fuselage, armor plating, self-sealing fuel tanks, and a unique turret gun. This powerful machine, however, still carries the useless Mark 13 torpedo. The Americans also have radar.

When Fletcher gets word that Ryujo is spotted, he doesn’t believe the report. No airstrike. He waits until his planes from Guadalcanal are recovered.

Meanwhile, Ryujo launches a strike at Guadalcanal. They report the destruction of Henderson Field. Not likely: the airstrike consists of six planes. The air fight is a draw, but that’s good enough for US morale on Guadalcanal.

At 1 p.m., American carrier radar picks off Ryujo’s strike. Fletcher finally gets the idea, and orders USS Saratoga to attack the light carrier. At 2 p.m., a Japanese float plane sights the American carriers. USS Enterprise fighters splash it, but it gets off a signal in time. Nagumo orders his two carriers to attack immediately.

While this goes on, Ryujo does not even bother to spot her flight deck for combat air patrol. Capt. Tameichi Hara of the escorting tincan Amatsukaze blinkers the carrier, contacting Hara’s academy pal, Cdr. Hisakichi Kishi, Ryujo’s XO. “Fully realizing my impertinence, am forced to advise you of my impression. Your flight operations are far short of expectations. What is the matter?” Kishi blinkers back, “Deeply appreciate your admonition. We shall do better and count on your cooperation.” Ryujo spots seven fighters on the flight deck.

Just as the Zeros are rolled out, the American air strike arrives. USS Saratoga’s planes swoop in on the carrier, but Ryujo’s skipper, Cap. Tadao Kato, zigzags successfully. The US Avenger torpedo planes move in for an “anvil” attack from both sides, and score two fatal torpedo hits in Japanese carrier’s engines. Then US SBD Dauntless dive bombers also hit flight deck of Ryujo with two bombs that started a severe fire aboard. Hara moves Amatsukaze in to save the carrier’s crew.

At the same time, American pilots spot two “light cruisers.” Lt. Ray Davis swings down and the cruisers turn out to be Shokaku’s distinctive flight deck jammed with planes. The Americans launch another air strike.

The Japanese reach USS Enterprise first, at 4:19 p.m. American F4F Wildcat fighters charge the Japanese. American aviators fill radio channels with frivolous patter, hampering air defense. Kill claims prove bizarre, as Ensign Francis R. Register claims an Me-109.

On USS Enterprise, everyone mans the guns as the ship cranks up to 27 knots. Machinist W.E. Fluitt drains the ship’s avgas lines, filling them with firefighting carbon dioxide. The entire Japanese strike attacks USS Enterprise. Capt. Arthur C. Davis notes with icy professionalism the seven-second intervals between planes and the 70-degree dives. USS Portland’s gunnery officer says the Japanese have done better in other attacks. Maybe so, the Shokaku and Zuikaku air groups, before Midway, were considered the worst in the Imperial Navy. The best have died at Midway.

The Japanese, however, prove tenacious, toggling bomb- release levers at 1,500 feet, splintering the wooden flight deck at 4:44. The bomb explodes in a petty officers’ messroom and kills 35 men. PH2 Robert C. Read, his camera running, films the entire hit. A second bomb hits 15 feet away, killing 39 more men, including Read.

While damage control parties go to work, another bomb explodes on the flight deck near the number two elevator, leaving a 10-foot hole in the flight deck.

Other Japanese pounce on battleship USS North Carolina. Unlike the older ships caught at Pearl Harbor, USS North Carolina can do 27 knots and bristles with 107 AA guns. She sustains only superficial damage.

15 minutes later, the Japanese pull out. They have lost 17 Val torpedo planes and three Zero fighters, while roughing up USS Enterprise and splashing eight F4F Wildcat fighters.

On USS Enterprise, Lt. Cdr. Herschel A. Smith, the damage control assistant, goes to work. American damage-control training proves the advantage. Sailors repair the ripped deck to take returning planes. Seaman Henry Dunn walks into the flaming aviation metal shop and saves two injured men. Chief Shipfitter Jim Brewer coolly searches for the sources of fires and directs teams until he passes out. Carpenter W.L. Reames builds a cofferdam of planks and packs it with mattresses and pillows to buy time until pumps are operating again.

An aviator goes to the starboard after 5-inch gun mount and finds the bodies still there. Most have died of concussion and are then roasted by the blast.

In the engine room, crews endure 170F temperatures to keep the ship moving.

At 5:46, exactly one hour after the last bomb hits, USS Enterprise turns into the wind at 24 knots and recovers her aircraft. At 5:50, the last F4F fighter plummets onto the deck. Suddenly the carrier starts to twist and turn. Davis orders full left rudder. But USS Enterprise swings round at 20 degrees right rudder, heading for destroyer USS Balch. Davis leaps to a microphone and shouts, “All back emergency.” USS Balch goes to flank and avoids the carrier’s onrushing bow.

What has happened is that a ventilation trunk opened by remote control has burned out USS Enterprise’s rudder motor. Before crewmen can switch over to the alternate, they become unconscious from the 170-degree temperature. SN William Marcoux has to keep his ship from hitting Balch. He turns a valve, engages a clutch, and throws the first of two switches…then passes out. The carrier grazes USS Balch and begins to circle.

MMC William A. Smith dons a rescue breathing apparatus, and plunges into the oven around the steering gear compartment. The 30-year veteran wades into the heat. Joined by MM1 Cecil Robinson, he pushes back jammed clutches and pours hydraulic oil to repair the steering motor. After 38 harrowing minutes, USS Enterprise regains control of her rudders, just as the second Japanese strike is inbound.

But the Japanese have messed up their navigation, and the force flies by 50 miles off, then goes home.

Admiral Fletcher still has two strikes out. One, led by Enterprise’s Max Leslie launches a brilliant dusk attack on the Roncador Reef. Leslie aborts the attack, heads home to find Enterprise is not at the “Point Option.” His radioman finds a weak signal, and the carrier is 100 miles south. With the last remaining gas, Leslie’s pilots – most of them brand-new – stagger home.

The remaining strike pounces on a target they think is the battleship Mutsu. It’s actually the seaplane tender Chitose. The Americans damage her with two near-misses that burn three seaplanes. The Americans lumber home.

Meanwhile Japanese light carrier Ryujo continues to blaze. Tameichi Hara thinks she can be repaired, but the ship is gutted. Amatsukaze deploys long poles and planks to transfer men. The carrier evacuates her wounded, her Sailors, and finally officers lugging classified documents. More than 300 board Amatsukaze.

As the ship sinks, Hara yells, “Everyone off?”

“Yes, sir!” shouts an officer on Ryujo. “Please cast off. It’s getting dangerous!”

Amatsukaze moves off 500 meters. Then Ryujo sinks.

Hara hears a voice behind him say, “Commander Hara, I do not know how to thank you.”

Hara turns to face Ryujo’s skipper, Kato, who was last to leave. “Please accept my thanks on behalf of my men.”

Hara feels sorry for Kato and asks about Kishi.

Kato turns back speechless, his haggard face wrinkled with sorrow. Hara knows the answer.

The third high seas carrier battle of the war is over.

Papua New Guinea : 809 Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops departed Rabaul, New Britain at 0700 hours aboard transports Nankai Maru and Kinai Maru, sailing for Milne Bay, Australian Papua. At about the same time, 450 Japanese Army troops departed Buna, Australian Papua aboard 7 barges, sailing for Goodenough Bay to support the Milne Bay invasion. The latter convoy was attacked by 12 Australian Kittyhawk fighters while stopped at Goodenough Island and all barges were destroyed.

South China Sea : Japanese tanker Otasawan Maru was torpedoed and sunk by American submarine USS Seawolf off Philippines

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Guardfish torpedoed and sank Japanese passenger-cargo ship Seikai Maru off Sendai, Japan.

1 Like

25 August 1942

Atlantic Ocean : A wolfpack of German submarines located and attacked Allied convoy ONS-122 in the middle of the North Atlantic, with German submarine U-605 torpedoed and sinking British cargo ship Katvaldis (3 were killed, 40 survived) and British cargo ship Sheaf Mount (31 were killed, 20 survived) at 0145 hours, another submarine U-176 torpedoed and sinking British cargo ship Empire Breeze at 0200 hours (1 was killed, 48 survived), and U-438 torpedoed and sinking Norwegian cargo ship Trolla at 0205 hours; convoy escorts counter attacked with depth charges, lightly damaging six German submarines and seriously damaging two other German submarines U-174 and U-256. After a 12-hour chase, German submarine U-604 torpedoed and sank Dutch merchant ship Abbekerk 15 miles to the southeast of ONS-122 at 0348 hours; 2 were killed, 62 survived.

German submarine U-130 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Viking Star 160 miles south of Freetown, British West Africa at 1944 hours; 7 were killed, 54 survived.

Caribbean Sea : German submarines U-164 and U-558 attacked Allied convoy WAT-15 between Jamaica and Haiti, torpedoed and sinking Dutch cargo ship Stad Amsterdam (3 were killed, 35 survived) and British cargo ship Amakura (13 were killed, 31 survived).

Arctic Ocean : German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer spotted Soviet ice breaker Alexander Sibiyakov in the Kara Sea at 1100 hours. At 1500 hours, Admiral Scheer sank Alexander Sibiyakov by gunfire, killing 80; the Soviet ship was able to send out a distress signal before her sinking. At 1545 hours, Admiral Scheer intercepted a radio message from the Soviet Western Sector Command Headquarters of Northern Sea Route Main Directorate, informing Soviet ships of her presence. Out of precaution, Admiral Scheer turned to the northwest, away from known Soviet bases.

Caucasian Front , Russia : German troops from 1st Panzer Army captured Mozdok, Russia, 50 miles west of Grozny.

Stalingrad , Russia : Joseph Stalin declared Stalingrad, Russia to be in a state of siege, but ordered all heavy factories to remain in position to supply combat vehicles directly to front line units. Meanwhile, German 6th Army continued the attempt to break into the city from the north, but making little advance.

German bombing raids on the city continued, with another ‘major air attack’ on the afternoon of 25 August. The power station at Beketovka was badly damaged, but soon repaired. Otherwise Luftwaffe squadrons continued pulverizing the length of the city. Many people lost all their possessions, but families spontaneously shared whatever they had left. They knew well that the next day they might find themselves in the same state; and nothing reduced the notion of private property more rapidly than such destruction from the sky.

Permission was at last given to allow Stalingrad women and children to cross to the east bank on the NKVD’s commandeered craft. Only a few steamers were spared, however, because most were needed for evacuating wounded and bringing back ammunition and reinforcements. The journey was certainly as hazardous as remaining on the west bank, because the Luftwaffe continued to attack boats crossing the Volga. The ferry jetty, upstream of the Tsaritsa gorge, was hit again, and the Shanghai restaurant just above it, a favourite peacetime meeting-place in a strip of park on top of the river bank, was burned to a shell. The families crossing saw blackened bodies floating past like charred logs, and patches of the river still burned with oil from the storage tanks. The children from the hospital, including Nina Grebennikova, tied to a stretcher, were moved across the Volga on 28 August, and taken to a field hospital on the east bank.

The guns of 16th Panzer Division had also been at work since that first Sunday evening, announcing their presence on the Volga by sinking a freight steamer and shelling a gunboat. They also shelled the railway ferry, leaving a tangle of burnt and destroyed carriages, and over the next few days sank seven river craft. The tank crews claimed them as ‘gunboats’ and did not seem to realize that they might be evacuating civilians.

On their third evening, German panzers sank a paddle-steamer taking women and children from the city to the east bank. Hearing screams and cries for help, soldiers asked their commander if they could use some of the pioneers’ inflatable boats to rescue them. But the lieutenant refused. ‘We know how the enemy fights this war,’ he replied. After night had fallen, the panzer crews pulled their blankets up over their heads so that they did not hear the cries any more. Some women managed to swim to the west bank, but most swam to a sandbank where they stayed the whole of the next day. The Germans did not fire when they were evacuated the next night, as proof that they were different from the Russians. ‘We wouldn’t hinder such a thing!’

Behind the foremost German positions on the Volga bank was a sort of semi-cultivated parkland, with oaks, walnut trees, sweet chestnut and oleanders, bordered by allotments with melons, tomatoes, vines and fruit trees. There the advance units of 16th Panzer Division dug in, using the vegetation for cover. The pioneer battalion’s headquarters was hidden under a large pear tree. During lulls in the firing, panzer crews and combat engineers picked ripe fruit, using caps and helmets as baskets. After the weeks of desiccated steppe, to gaze upon the broad Volga, ‘like a calm lake’, from leafy shade, somehow intensified the sensation of having reached the end of their journey to the frontier of Europe. It seemed such a pity that the Russians continued to resist. Soldiers, at the very first opportunity, wrote home from the Volga, proud to be among the first to stand at the new eastern extremity of the German Reich. A few who had served in the Balkan campaign the year before found that their first glimpse of white apartment buildings on the high western bank had reminded them of Athens. This curiously inapposite connection led some of them to refer to Stalingrad as the ‘Akropolis’.

Units of German Sixth Army still waiting to cross the Don were jealous of the glory seized by the vanguard. An anti-aircraft gunner wrote home: ‘Soon we too will have the right to sing: “There stands a soldier on the Volga bank”.’ An artilleryman also wrote home about the Wolgalied, for which Franz Lehár wrote the music: ‘The song will really be true in our case.’

Many were convinced that victory could not be far off. ‘You can’t imagine the speed of our dear motorized comrades,’ a soldier in the 389th Infantry Division wrote home. ‘And with it the rolling attacks of our Luftwaffe. What a feeling of security we get when our pilots are above us, because you never see any Russian aircraft. I would like to share with you a little glimmer of hope. Our division will have fulfilled its duty as soon as Stalingrad falls. We should then, God willing, see each other again this year. If Stalingrad falls, the Russian Army in the south is destroyed.’

The position of Hube’s division, however, was far from secure. The threat to the Volga river traffic, to say nothing of furious telephone calls from the Kremlin, increased the urgency for Yeremenko to order counter-attacks from the northern flank to crush the Germans’ narrow corridor. Russian artillery could fire into this strip, little more than four miles wide, from both sides, and the Germans were in no position to respond. Not only Hube’s 16th Panzer Division, but the rest of Wietersheim’s Corps was almost out of fuel.

Next day on 26th August , German Sixth Army tries to take Stalingrad from the west, sending 25 tanks from 16th Panzer Division and an infantry division across the Don south of Rubezhnoye. They advance on central Stalingrad and slam into a tank brigade and an infantry division. The Soviets counterattack and drive to relieve the partially encircled 87th Rifle Division.

33 soldiers from that outfit, all from Siberia, hold out for two days against a force of 70 German tanks that have surrounded them, destroying 27, making good use of “a bottle with an inflammable mixture,” which will be better known to historians and guerrillas as a “Molotov cocktail.”

Yeremenko sends the 63rd Army to counterattack, but his artillery isn’t coordinated. The Luftwaffe is. The drive fails to gain ground, but the counterattacks keep the Germans off-balance.

As the Germans move into the city, their plans begin to disintegrate. Mobile forces cannot maneuver in Stalingrad’s maze of ruined buildings, factories, and ravines. The Soviets, knowing the terrain, are well dug-in, and fire small arms and mortars at a fantastic rate. They keep their artillery on the opposite bank of the Volga, along with the vital support forces. Vast amounts of ammunition are expended to seize small piles of rubble.

Paulus’ tactics are questionable, too, relying on brute force instead of skill and versatility.

On 25 August, Richthofen flew to join Paulus and General von Seydlitz at the headquarters of German 76th Infantry Division. Paulus’s nervous tic on the left side of his face became more pronounced when he was under strain, and he also suffered from recurrent dysentery—what the Germans called ‘the Russian sickness’ - which did not help him relax. The intolerant Richthofen noted that the commander-in-chief of Grman Sixth Army was ’very nervous’ about the situation. That night, the Luftwaffe dropped supplies to Wietersheim’s 24th Panzer Corps by parachute, but most fell into no man’s land or into enemy hands. The following morning, German air reconnaissance reported Soviet armoured forces gathering to the north.

Richthofen, like Hitler, subscribed to the view that a rapid victory at Stalingrad would solve all the problems of an extended left flank at a stroke by bringing about the final collapse of the Red Army. To weaken now was the biggest danger, like teetering on a tightrope. Paulus was perfectly aware of such logic. He persevered, keeping his faith in Hitler’s judgement that the Russian forces must be all but finished. When General von Wietersheim subsequently recommended the partial withdrawal of 24th Panzer Corps, Paulus dismissed him and promoted General Hube to take his place.

Much depended on the rapid advance of the Fourth Panzer Army from the south, but Hitler had obliged Hoth to leave a panzer corps behind in the Caucasus. He was thus reduced to 48th Panzer Corps and 4th Corps. Also, as General Strecker observed at this time, ‘the closer the German attack gets to the city, the smaller are the daily gains’. An even fiercer defence was being prepared behind the lines. The Stalingrad Defence Committee issued its orders: ‘We will not abandon our city to the Germans! All of you, organize brigades, go to build barricades. Barricade every street … quickly in such a way so that the soldiers defending Stalingrad will destroy the enemy without mercy!’

El Alamein , Egypt : In Egypt, Rommel plans his offensive. His two Afrika Korps panzer divisions, with Italian Ariete and Littorio ARMORED divisions on the left flank and the combined German and Italian reconnaissance outfits on the right, will smash through the southern half of the British line, throw back 7th Armoured Division, and drive flat out for the area south of El Hamman, arriving there before dawn. North of that, German 90th Light Division will move forward through two depressions toward the gap at the rear of 2nd New Zealand Division. Italian troops backed by Ramcke Brigade will pin down the British in the north and on the coast.

By dawn the Afrika Korps must be in position facing north to breakthrough to the coast. Once that is reached, von Bismarck’s 21st Panzer Division will drive on Alexandria, while 15th Panzer, under Von Vaerst will drive southeast for Cairo. The Italians and German infantry will tie down the 8th Army. As the panzers advance, they will eliminate the Eighth Army’s supply depots and fuel, immobilizing Montgomery.

Key to the victory is Rommel’s expectation that the British will commit their forces piecemeal as before with unsupported armored charges to his anti tank gun screens, and the effectiveness with which his move to the assembly area can be concealed, the speed with which his troops can break through, and most of all, supplies. He needs a timely delivery of four days supply of fuel.

Note : This is the last thing General Montgomery , the new commander of Eighth Army intended to do. Montgomery was actually expecting enemy assault to begin any day. 7th Armored Division intelligence officer Captain Kane observed German 90th Light Division movement to south of Alamein line that confirmed Afrikakorps focus point of attack. Monty is planning to meet German attack on a planned killing ground with tanks on static hull down positions , heavy artillery , anti tank gun fire and Desert Air Force firepower concentration in deep minefields.

While Lt. Gen. Bernard Montgomery rebuilds the British Eighth Army at El Alamein, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel struggles with exhaustion. At age 50, he has had 19 straight months of active service without leave or break. He is suffering from circulation problems, blood pressure, and nasal diphtheria, the last amid a climate full of heat, dust, grime, and grit. He also suffers fainting fits.

Rommel’s condition mirrors that of Panzer Army Afrika, which is worn out from battle and heat. German troops have excellent hygiene standards but a boring and unbalanced diet of “Alte Kokke.” (Old Horse) They suffer jaundice, sores, trachoma, and dysentery.

The supply situation is also getting worse, as RAF bombers and submarines torpedo merchant ships. In August, Royal Navy and RAF sink seven ships in Mediterranean, sending 1,660 tons of ammo, 2,120 tons of general supplies, 43 guns, 367 vehicles, and 2,700 tons of petrol to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.

They are also at the end of a long land supply chain, 370 miles to Tobruk, 660 miles to Benghazi, more than 1,250 miles from Tripoli. They have been reinforced by the 164th Infantry Division, the Ramcke Parachute Brigade, and the Italian Folgore Parachute Division. But these formations have arrived in the desert by air, leaving all their trucks and heavy equipment back in Europe. Their rations, fuel, and ammunition must be brought in by the already overburdened Afrika Korps supply chain.

Worse, the haul of British guns and vehicles from Tobruk is now a burden. Rommel has run out of shells for his captured 25-lbr. guns, and replacement shells are not made in the Ruhr. 85 percent of his transport is captured enemy vehicles without spare parts, and they are breaking down. Again Rommel has no spares. He put his own Panzer Army into a conundrum of his own making due to arrogance , hubris and over optimism to capture Egypt in June

Rommel has 48,000 Germans and 66,000 Italians in the line in Panzer Army, but receives only 8,200 tons of supplies for the Germans, and 24,700 for the Italians.

Just to make matters worse, the newly-arrived Italian Pistoia Division, with 200 vehicles, has orders not to enter Egypt, while 164th German Infantry Division has only 80 motorised vehicles with which to move its entire outfit…and those trucks are falling apart on desert tracks.

Realizing that he’s nearly at the end of the line, Rommel decides to launch one last offensive.

That day, 5 New Zealand Brigade commander Brigadier Howard Kippenberger is asked to put on a raid. The 8th Army has taken no PoWs for a fortnight and needs fresh intelligence. Kippenberger gets the job, and 144 artillery pieces to support him.

Kippenberger assigns two companies of 28th Maori Battalion to do the job. He warns the hard-fighting Maoris that he wants PoWs and not scalps. The Maoris cheerfully prepare an extremely professional plan.

London , UK : The Prime Minister had returned to London on 24 August following his gruelling trip to the Middle East and Moscow in the confident belief that the planning for Operation Torch was well underway. Instead, he found himself on the receiving end of what he described as ‘a bombshell’ from Washington – a change of heart by the American Chiefs of Staff which promised to unravel the whole operation, and thereby torpedo Churchill’s entire war strategy, which he had developed with such energetic diligence over the last six months.

In Churchill’s absence, the initial character and scope of Torch had been scaled down by the Americans to such a degree as to convince the British that Washington had lost its stomach for a venture about which the American Chiefs had always been dubious. The competing demands from the commander-in-chief of the US Navy, Admiral King, for ships, men and weapons to sustain the American commitment in the Pacific had accelerated Washington’s drift away from Churchill’s ‘Europe First’ strategy, to which he had assumed the White House was now fully committed.

To complicate matters further, the British were fearful that, under pressure from Hitler, General Franco – who was ostensibly a non-belligerent bystander – might soon allow the Wehrmacht to cross Spain to seize Gibraltar, and thereby control the Western Mediterranean; even worse, were he to detect that the advantage in North Africa was slipping away from the Allies, the Spanish dictator might even decide to throw in his lot with Hitler and enter the war on the Axis side. The most effective way both to convince Franco otherwise and to persuade the Vichy French in North Africa to switch their allegiance from the Axis to the Allies was to deploy enough force to demonstrate that the most powerful nation in the world as well as the British really meant business. Unless Torch were to involve the use of overwhelming force it would swiftly become a damp squib – with incalculable consequences for both the Middle East and the Empire.

London’s deepening frustration was summed up by General Kennedy Churchill’s Chief Military consulrtant in a note for General Alan Brooke , British Imperial Chief of Staff which he wrote the day before the CIGS and Churchill arrived back in London on 25 August. ‘The whole operation is at best extremely hazardous,’ he wrote. ‘The only hope of success is if we and the Americans put our whole effort into it. It is almost incredible that their share of the operations should be so weak and half-hearted.’ Torch, he warned, was at risk of becoming ‘a tremendous disaster’.

The following day, Kennedy was summoned to Number 10 for an 11 a.m. meeting with Churchill, who was in bed, ‘wearing The Dressing Gown; a half-smoked cigar was in his mouth, and a glass of water and some papers on the table beside him’. When he asked for a progress report on Torch, Kennedy did not spare him: three times as many troops were required as had been allocated, the American contribution was quite inadequate, and their reluctance to do more was, he judged, ‘a sign that our strategic policies were diverging’.

Much disconcerted, Churchill immediately cabled Roosevelt, urging that the two of them should instruct Eisenhower (who sympathised with the British perspective) to launch Torch on 14 October. Only by forcing the issue in this way, he intimated, would it be possible to ensure that the first Allied operation of the war – which he cunningly and shamelessly described as ‘your great strategic conception’ – would be a ‘decisive success’. At the end of a long and detailed elaboration of the means to this end, he concluded, ‘I feel that a note must be struck now of irrevocable decision and superhuman energy to execute it.

No sooner had Churchill despatched this rallying cry than the ‘bombshell’ from Washington arrived on his desk. It took the form of a memorandum from the American Joint Chiefs, which – he was soon to inform Roosevelt – ‘profoundly disconcerted’ the British government. Their message – though implicit – was straightforward: they were unwilling to put their troops at great risk in the Mediterranean by launching a major assault on Algiers – which Churchill and his advisors regarded as an essential precondition for defeating the Germans in North Africa. By limiting the operation to a landing at the port of Oran in western Algeria and the city of Casablanca on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, as the Americans had proposed, would, Churchill informed the President, be ‘making the enemy a present not only of Tunis but of Algiers … We are all convinced that Algiers is the key to the whole operation.’

Roosevelt’s response, which arrived three days later, was far less emollient than the Prime Minister might have hoped. The President not only made it clear that he differed with the Prime Minister on matters of strategic substance but he also raised a new issue which was bound to aggravate Churchill’s distress. Though the Americans shared the British concern that Franco might soon allow the panzers to transit Spain en route to North Africa, Roosevelt was more worried about the impact of the landings upon the Vichy French in North Africa, who were firmly entrenched in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia with 125,000 troops that were still under the tutelage of Nazis.

Judging the British to be loathed by the Vichy French to such a degree that, in Andrew Roberts’s phrase,

‘the Stars and Stripes might be welcomed in North Africa whereas the Union Jack would be fired on’, the President was blunt:I feel very strongly that the initial attacks must be made by an exclusively American ground force. The operation should be undertaken on the assumption that the French will offer less resistance to us than they will to the British. I would even go so far as to say I am reasonably sure a simultaneous landing by British and Americans [who had maintained diplomatic relations with Vichy France] would result in full resistance by all French in Africa, whereas an initial American landing without British ground forces offers a real chance that there would be no French resistance, or only a token resistance.

The only crumb of comfort for Churchill in Roosevelt’s disagreeable message was that he similarly hoped that the target date for the landings could still be met, though, somewhat reprovingly, he commented that the precise timing was not for either of them to determine but for the commander-in-chief, General Eisenhower.

UK : The Duke of Kent, younger brother of King George VI of the United Kingdom, was killed when the flying boat in which he was travelling crashed near Wick

Guadalcanal , South West Pacific : The Japanese, incredibly, believe they have sunk two American carriers previous day due to exagerrated reports of their pilots. They send in three destroyers to sweep Ironbottom Sound for shipping after midnight (find none), and shell the American premises, killing two Marines. After that, floatplanes irritate the defenders.

Before dawn, Japanese destroyers Kagero, Isokaze, Kawakaze, Mutsuki, and Yayoi bombarded Henderson Field, Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, causing little damage. At 0600 hours, six SBD Dautless dive bombers from Henderson Field attacked Japanese reinforcement convoy en roure to Guadalcanal 64 miles northeast of Santa Isabel Island, sinking troop transport Kinryu Maru with two bomb hits and severely damaging Japanese light cruiser Jintsu (24 were killed) with a bomb hit that destroyed all radio equipment and started a severe fire. The Japanese did not open fire with AA guns as they think the Americans are friendly planes so their ships were caught off guard. Then four US Army B-17 bombers from Espiritu Santo arrived shortly after, sinking Japanese destroyer Mutsuki (41 were killed, 11 were injured) with a single bomb hit as Mutsuki rescued survivors from the Kinryu Maru sinking.

In the afternoon after US Navy SBD Dauntless dive bombers from Henderson airfield hit and damaged Japanese light cruiser Jintsu (Admiral Tanaka’s flagship) with a bomb and destroyer Uzuki with a near miss off Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands , Admiral Raizo Tanaka who was wounded during US air attack aboard light cruiser Jintsu , ordered magazines of Jintzu to be flooded to extiguish the fire on his flagship then turned back the convoy away from Guadalcanal back to Rabaul , New Guinea.

Later that day, the Japanese sent 21 bombers and 12 Zeros to Guadalcanal, and hammer the airfield, killing four men and wounding five.

The Battle of the Eastern Solomons is over, but it is a flawed US victory. Japan has lost a carrier, a destroyer, and a freighter, and suffer a damaged cruiser and damaged destroyer. They have lost 75 planes of various types, and an indeterminate but substantial number of men.

The Americans have suffered 75 dead on carrier USS Enterprise , which was now a dockyard case. Plane losses are 18.

Admiral Fletcher commanding US Task Force , drew criticism for the poor performance of his airgroups, which have not attacked in a coordinated manner, and on USS Enterprise’s ineffective fighter defense. However, the 20mm guns have done well.

The battle has decided little. Both sides’ fleets are pretty much intact, albeit bruised, but the convoy has not reached Guadalcanal, making it an American victory. The bloody Guadalcanal campaign will go on.

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : 809 Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops and 2 Type 95 Ha-Go tanks landed at Waga Waga, Australian Papua on Milne Bay at 2230 hours.

South China Sea : American submarine USS Seawolf torpedoed and sank Japanese transport Showa Maru 50 miles east of Borneo, Dutch East Indies.

Pacific Ocean : Japanese troops captured Ocean and Nauru Islands without meeting any resistance

Indian Ocean : Japanese submarine I-165 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Harmonides 250 miles south of Ceylon; 14 were killed.

3 Likes

Sorry for the delay. The work load in office is increasing day by day so I am getting very busy with other things at work and so the events and clashes in timeline of 1942 are getting more and more complicated also.

3 Likes

You are doing a great job.

3 Likes

26 August 1942

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-162 torpedoed sank Norwegian tanker Thelma 60 miles east of Barbados at 0423 hours; 2 were killed, 31 survived.

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-130 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Beechwood 160 miles south of Freetown, British West Africa at 1124 hours; 1 was killed, 43 survived (the captain was taken prisoner).

El Alamein , Egypt : 28th Maori Battalion launched its attack. The men are heavily loaded with automatic weapons (mostly captured) and grenades. Few carried rifles. The Maori padre read a prayer, and Kippenberger told the men, “The fame of your people and the honor of your battalion are in your hands tonight.”

The men disappeared into the gloom, and Kippenberger could only watch and listen to the opening barrage, “a series of rapid thuds, for the guns are varying distances away from the listener. Then there is a whirr and whine and scream of the shells passing overhead and a series of crunches as they burst. After a few moments it works up to an incessant hammering and drumming.”

At the expected time, the Maoris return with PoWs, who are brought to Kippenberger. The total is 41, from Italian Bologna Division. The Maoris report having annihilated two Italian companies and say they have left no one unhurt or a prisoner. Maori casualties are more than 30, some due to friendly fire.

The raid is the first offensive operation of Eighth Army under Montgomery, and both he and Brian Horrocks, 13th Corps commander, send congratulations.

Mediterranean Sea : German submarine U-375 torpedoed and damaged British cargo ship Empire Kumari with a torpedo 14 miles west of Gaza, Palestine at 1840 hours; 3 were killed, 89 survived; Empire Kumari was towed to Haifa, Palestine but declared a total loss

Black Sea : Soviet submarine Sch-208 struck a mine and sank off Odessa with all hands.

Baltic Sea : German anti submarine trawler UJ-1216 Star was torpedoed and sunk by Soviet submarine T-126 in Gulf of Finland

Norwegian Sea : Soviet submarine K-2 became missing in the Barents Sea, probably lost to a German naval mine near Tanafjord, Norway.

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops that had landed at Waga Waga, Australian Papua late on the previous day began making contact with positions held by troops of Australian 25th Infantry Militia Battalion and 61st Infantry Militia Battalion. Behind them, Allied aircraft discovered the Waga Waga landing site and destroyed eight landing barges and other equipment ansd killed Japanese military personnel abroad. Japanese warships entered Milne Bay for support.

Japanese troops at Milne Bay contact Australian defense around 1 a.m. amid pouring rain. The Japanese move up a jungle track through the downpour with a tank. When the tank stops to cross a log bridge, an Australian shoots the tank commander when he stands up in the turret. The advance is delayed. The Australians withdraw.

That day, the RAAF sends in the P-40s, which make successful strafing runs, but are less effective with bombs, due to a lack of training. American B-17s lend a hand, but their bombs (as usual at that time of the war) miss the target.

However, the RAAF hammering goes on all day, igniting fuel drums and ammunition trucks. The Japanese send in Zeros from Rabaul, and two are shot down.

Japanese cargo ship Nankau Maru carrying 600 Japanese troops were hit , bombed and strafed by Royal Australian Air Force P-39 and P-40 fighter bombers and sank off Milne Bay , more than 400 Japanese troops aboard were killed.

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : Inland, 2,500 Japanese troops marched onto the Kokoda Track from Buna, along with a mountain gun and several mortar and started their attack on Isavura village. During the day, Japanese 144th Regiment attacked Australian troops at Isurava along the Kokoda Track in Australian Papua. The defences of 39th Australian Militia Battalion held firm however and repulsed Japanese attack back , causing heavy casaulties among Japanese infantry.

Isurava village sat on a flat clearing between two creeks, way above Kokoda plateau. To its left, from the Japanese perspective, was a deep chasm in which Eora Creek tumbled far below; to the right, higher ground covered with dense mountain jungle. Six hundred metres behind the village, on the lip of the escarpment overlooking the Eora valley, was a government rest house. The Australian defenders were dug in around a clearing of long grass behind an overgrown garden, with a clear view of the track coming from Deniki and Kokoda. General Horii’s plan for the assault on Isurava was to make the predictable frontal charge up the track, but only as a feint for twin flanking movements that would enable attacks on the enemy sides and rear. They would be unanticipated with the seeming impenetrability of the jungle.

On the night of 25 August, South Seas Force began its advance on Isurava. It was raining, as usual, and the nights were getting chillier as they moved higher into the Owen Stanley Range. Vegetation was tied onto the soldiers’ clothing as camouflage and they crawled carefully and noiselessly forward, one group up the Naro Ridge above the village and Australian positions, another towards Abuari waterfall on the other side of Eora gorge, and a third up the track from Deniki. Tsukamoto (1st) Battalion and Horie (2nd) Battalion pushed through the rainforest in the slush of its muddy, moss-covered floor. Horii was holding Kuwada (3rd) Battalion and 41st Regiment in reserve.

At dawn, the village was bombarded with Japanese mortar and mountain-gun fire, immediately followed by the first wave of charging, shouting Japanese, striving for positions on higher ridgelines so as to thrust from above. The defenders targeted return fire on breaks in jungle cover on the slopes. Providing artillery cover for the attacking force was not easy from within the thick vegetation. Oppressive heat, caused by high humidity under low continuous cloud cover, was sapping their energy. Australians were often holding their fire until their assailants were at point-blank range, giving them little opportunity to locate defensive positions.

The Japanese movements were causing as much confusion within their own ranks as they were for the enemy. The troops found it difficult to stay on course and keep contact with each other in the jungle. Sergeant Imanishi’s platoon was in the frontal attack. It had crawled well forward down a slope and found itself under fire from behind. In the adrenaline charge of battle, no one could tell if this was enemy or friendly fire until someone blew a bugle. The firing ceased. Another attacking company had moved to the top of the hill and had unwittingly been firing on them. At the same time, Lieutenant Hirano’s platoon had forded the front village creek and encountered unexpected enemy fire. Another platoon detoured to a hilltop while Hirano’s men continued to snipe at the Australians. Was one of these groups firing on Imanishi’s men? No one knows. The soldiers had no time to exchange notes; they had to press on regardless.

While the hard grind of frontal assault was being carried on by some of Tsukamoto’s troops the rest of his battalion were making their way slowly, sweating from the heavy humidity, into the country above Isurava, so thickly forested they sometimes had to hack their way through entwined vegetation. On the other side of Eora Creek, Horie’s men had set out the previous night along the eastern track between Deniki and Alola, where it joined the Kokoda Track behind Isurava. Private Nishimura was among these troops. A unit of the battalion ambushed an Australian militia patrol near Kaile and drove it back towards its base at Alola. The withdrawing militia found to their dismay that the main force of Horie Unit had meanwhile captured Missima village, part-way back to Alola, killing or scattering the signalmen there and smashing their radio. The Australians had to divert and try to find their way back to friendly territory, a daunting task with their extremely limited jungle experience.

The next day, a second militia patrol went looking for the missing one, encountered the Japanese at Missima and was decimated. By afternoon, a third patrol was out searching for the first two. It too came in contact with the Japanese and was dispersed into the jungle. Horie’s men moved forward and dug in near the waterfall at Abuari, about a kilometre short of Alola—which, unknown to the Japanese, was by then sparsely defended. Had they proceeded to Alola Horie might possibly have mounted a decisive rear attack on the Australian positions, shortening the battle for Isurava by a couple of days. That might have had a substantial impact on the outcome of MO Operation, as it turned out, but it was not to be. Instead, the troops brought Juki heavy machine-guns up to Abuari and shelled the Australian brigade HQ across Eora Creek at Alola.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Haddock fired six torpedoes at Japanese freighter Teishun Maru, sinking her with one hit in the East China Sea 85 miles north of Taiwan at 0813 hours.

1 Like

27 August 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-156 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Clan MacWhirter from convoy Sierra Leone SL -119 ,190 miles north of Madeira island at 0100 hours; 12 were killed, 74 survived.

At 1348 hours, German submarine U-517 torpedoed and sank US passenger ship Chatham off Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Canada; 14 were killed, 548 survived.

North Sea : German minelayer Cobra was hit and sunk by RAF Coastal Command Beauforts off Holland

German manned Danish cargo ship Eilse struck a mine and sank off Kattegrat

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-511 attacked Allied convoy TAW-15 with four torpedoes 15 miles east of Haiti at 0629 hours, sinking British tanker San Fabian (26 were killed, 33 survived), sinking Dutch tanker Rotterdam (10 were killed, 37 survived), and damaging US tanker Esso Aruba; Esso Aruba was beached at Guantanamo Bay to prevent sinking but she would later be repaired.

Germany : 306 British bombers from RAF Bomber Command attacked Kassel, Germany, destroying 144 buildings, damaging 3 Henschel aircraft factories, killing 28 military personnel and 15 civilians, and wounding 64 military personnel and 187 civilians; 31 bombers were lost on this mission.

On the same day, Soviet bombers attacked Königsberg, East Prussia, Germany (now Kaliningrad, Russia) , causing minimum damage.

Leeds , UK : German bombers attacked Leeds, England, United Kingdom in the late hours of the day, lasting until the next day.

El Alamein , Egypt : Italian Field Marshal Ugo Cavallero flies to North Africa with Field Marshal Albert Kesselring to talk supplies with Rommel. Rommel insists that he must attack. “The battle depends on the prompt delivery of this petrol.” Kesselring promises to fly out a minimum of 500 tons of fuel a day by an airbridge from Crete by Luftwaffe transport planes while Cavallero promises 6,000 tons from Italy. Cavallero says, "You may begin the battle now, Herr Field Marshall. The petrol is already underway."

Rommel decides to attack on the evening of the 30th, as the moon, five days past full, will rise just before midnight, when his tanks are on their start lines.

The Germans’ big punch will be 220 tanks, including 46 of the new Mark IV Specials armed with the long 75 mm gun. Backing them up are 243 Italian medium tanks. If Rommel can fight his usual battle of mobility and combined arms, his armor should be able to break through the British minefields quickly, reach the coast, grab the British supply depots, crush the Eighth Army, drive on to Alexandria and Cairo, and win the war. This was no doubt connected with his physical state; he exhibited a catalogue of medical ailments, resulting from exhaustion. On 24 August he wrote home to his wife Lucie: “I was unable to write again yesterday. I’m now well enough to get up occasionally. But I’ll still have to go through with the six weeks treatment in Germany. My blood pressure must be got properly right again some time or other. One of the Führer’s doctors is supposed to be on his way. I’m certainly not going to leave my post here until I can hand over to my deputy without worrying. It’s not yet known who is coming [Guderian was asked but declined]. I’m having another examination today. It’s some comfort to know that the damage can probably all be cleared up. At the rate we’ve been using up generals in Africa – five per division in eighteen months – it’s no wonder that I need an overhaul some time or other.” (however one must remember that he had been similarly afflicted both before Gazala and when preparing for what he believed would be a decisive assault on Tobruk prior to CRUSADER. It may be that Nigel Hamilton is correct, in part at least, when he describes Rommel’s problems as ‘the nervous anxiety of the ambitious performer, mezmerized by the prize of Alexandria and Cairo’.)

That day, the Italians retaliate for the Maori Battalion’s raid on previous day by shelling a Maori company area for 20 minutes, expending about 2,000 shells. Only one man is killed. That evening, Horrocks arrives to inspect the Maori positions and he and Kippenberger go through the forward posts by moonlight.

Mediterranean Sea : As if trying to interdict Axis supply lines as much as possible at this moment , guided by decrypted signals intelligence , Royal Navy submarine HMS Umbra intercepted a westbound Axis convoy on Eastern Mediterraneean , torpedoed and sank Italian transport Manfredo Campiero 30 miles west of Crete, Greece.

Same Axis convoy later in afternoon was intercepted by Malta based RAF Coastal Command Beufort torpedo bombers that torpedoed and sank 4.000 ton Italian tanker Istria that was bringing vital fuel supplies for Panzer Army Afrika and its incoming attack on El Alamein.

Another Italian tanker , Deilpi (1.500 ton) was located , bombed and sunk by Malta based RAF Coastal Command Wellington torpedo bombers off Crete.

Italian cargo ship Paolina struck a mine layed by Royal Navy submarine HMS Porpoise and sank off Algeria

A German navy report of late August no longer trumpeted that the Mediterranean situation was favourable. It maintained its stance on capturing Malta: ‘The opinion of the Naval Staff regarding the importance of the capture of Malta remains unaltered. The capture of Gibraltar remains a most desirable object for the future. It is particularly important to seal off the Mediterranean completely in case of a long drawn-out war. We now have 15 submarines in the area. Heavy damage was again caused by enemy bombers.’ (Fuhrer Conference 26 August 1942). They have already missed that train long ago though.

Stalingrad , Russia : German 16th Panzer Division, out of fuel to move further, dug in north of Stalingrad, Russia to wait for the German Sixth Army to catch up to reinforce its position. 16 miles south of Stalingrad, German 4th Panzer Division made slow progress due to heavy resistance near Lake Sarpa.

On 27 August, the first rain for five weeks fell, but the real cause for German delay to Hoth’s right flank had come from the resistance put up by Soviet troops around lake Sarpa, and near Tundutovo in the hills south of the Volga bend below Stalingrad. That day, for example, the penal company attached to Soviet 91st Rifle Division repulsed numerous attacks by superior enemy forces. The political department of Stalingrad Front later reported to Shcherbakov: ‘Many men have compensated for their faults through bravery and should be rehabilitated and returned to their regiments.’ But once again, most of them died long before anything was done.

Leningrad Front , Russia : As Soviet Volkhov Front attacked toward Leningrad Russia, Soviet 8th Army attacked outwards from within the city, briefly opening a small corridor.

Vichy France : On August 27 the Germans made plans to round up Jews from the unoccupied zone of France. The Vichy authorities collaborated in the round-ups. But many Frenchmen, and many Catholic priests, sheltered Jews and urged their parishioners to do likewise. On August 28 the Germans ordered the arrest of all Catholic priests who sheltered Jews. With each round-up, the trains to Auschwitz gained new victims; on August 28 the thousand deportees from Paris included 150 children under the age of fifteen.

On the day that their train reached Auschwitz, a new German surgeon, Dr Johann Kremer, who had reached the camp on the previous evening, and was to live in the SS Officers’ Home near Auschwitz station, noted in his diary: ‘Tropical climate with 28 degrees centigrade in the shade, dust and innumerable flies! Excellent food in the Home. This evening, for instance, we had sour duck livers for 0.40 mark, with stuffed tomatoes, tomato salad etc.’. The water, Kremer added, was infected ‘so we drink seltzer water which is served free’.

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : Eight Japanese Val dive bombers escorted by 12 Zero fighters attacked the Gili Gili airfield at Milne Bay, escorted by 12 Zero fighters, causing minimal damage; one Japanese Val dive bomber was shot down by Australian P-40 Kittyhawk fighters. At 2000 hours, Japanese Navalk Special Landing Force attacked Australian troops at Gama River on the Milne Bay coast, killing 43 and driving the Australians back.

That evening, the Japanese try a night land attack with their tanks, moving through the jungles. They capture several natives, tie them up, and bayonet them. The Japanese use their tanks’ headlights to dazzle the Australians. They also use a flamethrower, but the Australians see the blinding light and eliminate the weapon with hand grenades.

That evening, two Japanese tanks charge the 10th Battalion. “The men were quiet,” records the official history, “the silence was broken by a strange sound coming from the east…when a light was seen through the jungle, an angry voice yelled ‘Put out that bloody light!’ It was thought to be one of the battalion’s Bren carriers.” Instead the Japanese open fire. The Australians have no anti-tank weapons, and take heavy casualties. The night battle is brilliantly lit by red, green, and blue tracers, as both sides open up with everything they have, amid pouring rain and stinking jungle.

Pvt. Jim Kotz takes charge of a Bren gun whose previous three gunners have been wounded. Singlehanded he advances under heavy fire and silences an enemy post. Then he dashes forward with a grenade, and kills three of the enemy who are threatening company HQ. Although suffering severely from a wound in his chest, he marches back with his company to his own lines, and later receives the Military Medal.

The Japanese attack with “battering ram tactics” for three hours with their tanks. The Australians try No. 74 grenades (better known as Sticky Bombs) but the grenades don’t stick to the tanks in the wet weather.

Isurava , Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : In land, along the Kokoda Track, Japanese troops made advances at Isurava and Australian 2/16th Battalion was dispatched from reserve to reinforce the defenses.

On the night of the 26th, in pitch darkness and soaking rain, the frontal attacking force skirted around two Australian platoons forward of the village and successfully stormed the native garden. It was a small gain for a day’s work, but the flanking troops were still advancing towards the rear of the Australian positions. The Australians, for their part, had recognised during the day that they couldn’t hold out much longer. One of them, Bert Fry, says their commander told them, ‘If the 2/14th don’t get here within hours, we’re gone.’

The 2/14th was one of the battalions of Australian Imperial Force (AIF) regulars brought back to Australia from the Middle East and sent to the front line of the Kokoda campaign. The only way for them to get to Kokoda now was by walking the track from Moresby. They started arriving during that day, tired from several days’ march on the precipitous path. They had been in battles before, but in nothing like these conditions. Troops continued to reach Isurava in small groups, adding to its defences and enabling the garrison to hold out a crucial few days longer.

Colonel Kusunose of the 144th brought his Kuwada Unit out of reserve and into the fray the next morning. They moved into attack positions, testing the defences and concluding that they’d been reinforced. It was relatively quiet until mid-afternoon, when mortar and machine-gun fire peppered the Australian positions, followed by a new frontal attack with the fresh troops. Sergeant Yamasaki was one of those fresh troops in this, his first taste of action in Papua. His platoon had gone down into a valley when they came under intense automatic-rifle fire. He’d never encountered automatic rifles before, but he soon learnt to hit the ground the instant shots rang out.

Sweeping fiercely across the front creek, the Japanese sliced through their opponents’ right flank and swarmed over their positions from behind. As the breach widened, more troops poured in—and were met with Bren gun and Tommy gun, bayonet and grenade. Fighting was vicious, hand-to-hand, both sides using boots, fists and rifle butts. Once, an Australian chaplain moved into bushland to retrieve a wounded sergeant. There was no Japanese fire while he did so, but as soon as he got to cover the firing started again. For Kuwada’s men the day appeared close to won, but two counter-attacks eventually forced them back and the Australian line held.

While the defenders were occupied with the frontal charge, part of Kuwada Battalion skirted down into the creek valley and around the eastern flank, targeting Isurava village and the rest house. Progress was extremely difficult as men picked their way through matted vegetation on the steep bank and across huge boulders piled high in the fast-running creek, all the while subjected to machine-gun fire from above. By afternoon, they had a foothold on the side of the river but were exposed and suffered continuing casualties. The thrust on the eastern flank was brought to a halt. On the opposite bank of Eora Creek one of Horie’s patrols had continued up the track to Abuari waterfall, to be stopped by a reinforced troop of Australians coming through in search of the missing patrols. Hand-to-hand fighting with grenade exchanges didn’t resolve the issue. Both sides backed off and held their positions. The rest of Kuwada’s men attacked from the higher ground on the other side of the Isurava defences. Though the fighting often involved one-on-one struggles, it did not seem personal. Charging, screaming, slashing and swinging, the men were on automatic pilot much of the time, with a dream-like sense of reality. ‘I saw some Australian dead bodies,’ Yamasaki recalls. ‘They were covered with grass. Accidentally, I sat on one of the bodies without recognising it.’

Heavy rain fell throughout the night, making sleep even more unlikely. The Japanese probed the defenders’ lines with bayonets rather than rifle fire, ensuring the Australians too remained hyper-alert. Yamasaki’s unit was about to launch a night attack when he realised the light-machine-gunner had disappeared. In military parlance, he had gone to the rear without permission. In ordinary terms, he had deserted out of fright. Yamasaki fought as a light-machine-gunner the next day, but his new role would be short-lived.

Guadalcanal , SW Pacific : Nine USAAF P-40 fighters arrived at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Snapper torpedoed and sank Japanese cargo liner Tokai Maru off Guam.

2 Likes

28 August 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarines U-165 and U-517 intercepted and attacked Allied convoy SG-6 in the Strait of Belle Isle just outside of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Canada at 1432 hours, with U-165 severely damaging US cargo ship Arlyn and sinking US fleet oiler Laramie (4 were killed, 103 survived) with a torpedo hit on each. In the evening U-517 sank damaged cargo ship Arlyn (12 were killed, 37 survived.) with another torpedo.

At 1908 hours, U-566 attacked Allied convoy Sierra Leone SL-119 with three torpedoes 390 miles west of Porto, Portugal, fatally damaging Dutch cargo ship Zuiderkerk (all 68 aboard survived; Dutch cargo ship later scuttled by Royal Navy sloop HMS Erne) with two torpedoes and severely damaging British cargo ship City of Cardiff (21 were killed, 63 survived) with a another torpedo hit , City of Cardiff sank next day.

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-94 attacked Allied convoy TAW-15 off Haiti but her torpedoes missed. An US Navy American PBY Catalina flying boat, Royal Canadian Navy corvettes HMCS Halifax, HMCS Snowberry, and HMCS Oakville counterattacked, damaging and forcing German submarine to the surface with a series of accurate depth charges. HMCS Oakville then rammed U-94 twice, fatally damaging German submarine , leaving it dead in the water. A Canadian boarding party captured the submarine, killing two of German crew in the process. It was soon realized that the Germans had already scuttled the ship, and the boarding party successful returned to HMCS Oakville. U-94 sank with 19 of her crew; 26 survived and captured by Canadians.

Leningrad Front , Russia : Soviet 8th Army pushed forward another mile against lines held by troops of German 223rd Infantry Division near Leningrad, Russia; behind the German lines, German 18th Army moved into position to launch a counterattack.

Germany : 159 British RAF bombers from Bomber Command attacked Nürnberg, Germany; another group of 113 bombers attacked Saarbrücken, Germany.

Bristol , UK : German bombers attacked Bristol, England, United Kingdom; 2 buses were hit by bombs in the center of the city, killing 44. Elsewhere, St Ives in England and Cardiff in Wales were also attacked.

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : At dawn, Japanese troops attacked across the unfinished Turnbull airstrip near the coast of Milne Bay, Australian Papua, exposed to strafing by Australian P-40 Kittyhawk fighters and small arms fire, suffering heavy casualties that led to the attack being called off.

At dawn in Milne Bay, 10th Battalion (from South Australia) has to withdraw, as they are being outflanked. Pvt. A.J. Abraham, though wounded, spends the night fighting off persistent Japanese attempts to get past him. Abraham has taken five bullet wounds, but clings to his Bren, killing six of 10 Japanese attacking him. He receives the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Though 10th Battalion has been defeated, the South Australian militia has shown they can fight like veterans. The 25th Battalion moves up with an anti-tank gun. However, its truck gets bogged down in the road, and the gun has to be disabled and abandoned as the Japanese close in.

During the day, the Japanese melt away for a rest, but don’t get any. RAAF P-40s work them over from dawn to dusk, wearing out their barrels.

The Japanese are slowed down, but continue to advance.

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : Deeper in land, Japanese 144th Regiment surprised Australian 39th Battalion at Isurava, forcing the Australian troops back one mile to regroup. To the north, 769 Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops departed Rabaul, New Britain via a convoy to reinforce the operations on Milne Bay.

Off Guadalcanal , South West Pacific : 17th Japanese Army commander General Harukichi Hyakutake in Rabaul attempted to reinforce Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands with 3,500 men, but the convoy was detected, attacked by Henderson Field-based US Navy and Marine Corps SBD dive bombers and Wildcat fighters at 1805 hours, and turned back. Japanese destroyer Asagiri was bombed and sunk (122 were killed, 270 survived) by US dive bombers, and destroyers Shirakumo (2 were wounded) and Yugiri (32 were killed) were damaged with bomb hits and near misses; US Marine Corps lost only one aircraft in the engagement.

As another Japanese convoy successfully landed troops at Taivu Point at night, it would appear the Japanese to shift strategy to reinforce only at night; these night time supply runs would later be nicknamed “Tokyo Express” by the Americans.

The Japanese destroyers were usually able to make round trips down “The Slot” (New Georgia Sound) to Guadalcanal and back in a single night throughout the campaign, minimizing their exposure to Allied air attack. The runs became known as the “Tokyo Express” to Allied forces and were labeled “rat transportation” by the Japanese. While troops could be transported in this manner, most of the heavy equipment and supplies, such as heavy artillery, vehicles, and much food and ammunition, could not. In addition, this activity tied up destroyers the IJN desperately needed to escort their convoys. Either inability or unwillingness prevented Allied naval commanders from frequently challenging Japanese naval forces at night, so the Japanese controlled the seas around the Solomon Islands during nighttime. However, any Japanese ship within range (200 miles or 320 kilometres) of the aircraft at Henderson Field in daylight was at great risk from air attack. This tactical situation existed for the next several months of the campaign.

Between 29 August and 4 September, Japanese light cruisers, destroyers, and patrol boats were able to land almost 5,000 troops at Taivu Point during night, including most of the 35th Japanese Infantry Brigade, much of the Aoba (4th) Regiment, and the rest of Ichiki’s regiment. General Kawaguchi, who landed at Taivu Point on 31 August Express run, was placed in command of all Japanese forces on Guadalcanal. A barge convoy took another 1,000 soldiers of Kawaguchi’s brigade, under the command of Colonel Akinosuke Oka, to Kamimbo, west of the Lunga perimeter. All of these units combined named “Kawaguchi Detachment”

Gudalcanal , SW Pacific : 1st Battalion, 5th US Marine Regiment (1/5), was landed by boat west of the Matanikau near Kokumbuna village on 27 August with the mission of attacking Japanese units in the area, much as in the first Matanikau action of 19 August. The Marines were impeded by difficult terrain, hot sun, and well-emplaced Japanese defenses. The next morning, the Marines found that the Japanese defenders had departed during the night, so the Marines returned to the Lunga perimeter by boat. These actions resulted in the loss of 20 Japanese and 3 Marines.

Small Allied naval convoys arrived at Guadalcanal on 23 and 29 August, and 1 and 8 September to provide the Marines at Lunga with more food, ammunition, aircraft fuel, aircraft technicians, and other supplies. The convoy on 1 September also brought 392 Seabees to maintain and improve Henderson Field. In addition, on 3 September, Marine Aircraft Group 25 began airlifting high-priority cargo, including personnel, aviation gasoline, munitions, and other supplies, to Henderson Field.

US destroyer USS Gamble located Japanese submarine I-123 , 60 miles east of Savo Island, Solomon Islands at 0800 and attacked with depth charges, sinking I-123 at 1147 hours; all aboard were killed.

South West Pacific : The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the US 7th Marine Regiment departed from Pago Pago, Tutuila, Samoa aboard transports President Adams and President Hayes.

3 Likes

Thanks for all your work. I look forward to these posts.

3 Likes

Welcome,e to the forum! You are right. These updates are awesome.

2 Likes