23 May - 29 May 1942

23 May 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-432 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Zurichmoor 150 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, United States just after 0000 hours, killing all 45 aboard. At 2200 hours, in the same general area, U-588 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Margot; 1 was killed, 44 survived.

German submarine U-103 torpedoed and sank US tanker Samuel Q. Brown 100 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico at 0926 hours; 2 were killed, 53 survived. U-155 torpedoed and sank Panamanian cargo ship Watsonville just off Saint Vincent island in the Lesser Antilles islands.

Arctic Ocean : The close escort force for Allied convoy PQ-16 was reinforced by four corvettes, two submarines, and one anti-aircraft vessel.
The heavy German air and naval attacks on convoys PQ-13 and PQ-15 left no doubt in the mind of Admiral Sir John Tovey commander-in-chief, Royal Navy Home Fleet, that the enemy was determined to do everything in his power to stop this traffic : “The U-boat and air forces in Northern Norway had been heavily reinforced, the three remaining destroyers were disposed offensively at Kirkenes and the heavy forces at Trondheim remained a constant, if reluctant, threat.” Luftwaffe squadrons in Norway had been reinforced with Heinkel He-Ills and Ju-88s modified to carry torpedoes slung under their wings. Two distinguished Luftwaffe officers were responsible for the structure and organization of air operations in North Norway: Major Blordon, operating the Junkers 88 Squadron KG30, and Colonel Ernst Roth, the flight commander at Bardufoss conducting operations of the air torpedo group, flying Heinkel He-Ills. The strength of the Luftwaffe in north Norway now totaled 103 Ju-88 long-range bombers, 42 He-Ill torpedo bombers, 15 He-115 torpedo bombers, 30 Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers, and 74 long-range reconnaissance BV-138 and FW-200 Condors. In Arctic Ocean and Barents Sea 19 U-Boats were either in patrol or coming in or out of their naval bases in Norway. On top of that heavy German surface battleship units , battleship Tirpitz (nightmare of Royal Navy convoy admirals) , heavy cruiser Hipper and pocket battleships Scheer asnd Lutzow were also based in Northern Norway , and awaiting to attack any Allied supply convoy inbund or outbound from Russian ports.

As a result of known threats, all Allied convoys were heavily escorted by Royal Navy to contend with the growing German forces of aircraft, U-boats, and surface ships. However, there was no protection against or escape from the Arctic Ocean for either side.

The 4,626-ton German steamship Asuncion struck a mine laid by the Soviet submarine K-1 and sank north of Tromsø, Norway.

North Sea : German minesweeper V-1808 Dortmund struck a mine and sank in Broad Fourteens

Izium , Ukraine : German 14th Division and 16th Panzer Division from 1st Panzer Army under command of General Ewald Voı Kleist, moving northward, and German 3rd Panzer Division and 23rd Panzer Divisions from 6th German Army under command of General Paulus , moving southward, linked up, thus completing the encirclement of the Soviet 6th Army and 57th Army at Izium, Ukraine. In the same area, German troops captured Chepel to prevent the Soviet 38th Army from attacking the eastern side of the newly formed encirclement.

Black Sea : Soviet submarine ShCh-205 torpedoed and sank Turkish merchant ship Safak off Burgas, Bulgaria; Safak was suspected of bringing arms for German troops fighting in Ukraine.

Moscow , Soviet Union : On May 23, British Intelligence, without revealing its source (decrypted Enigma coded German Army and Luftwaffe wireless communication) , sent the Soviet High Command the precise details, culled from the Germans’ own Enigma messages, of where, and in what strength, the principal German summer offensive would come.

Washington , USA : US State Department signed a mutual defence accord with Brazilian goverment aimed to bolster up naval and ground defences in Southern Atlantic and Brazilian coast.

Burma : Japanese and Chinese troops clashed along the Hsipaw-Mogok road in northern Burma.

Pearl Harbour , Hawaii : US Navy intelligence officers determined that the Japanese fleet targeting Midway Atoll would likely depart on 26 May 1942.


24 May 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-502 torpedoed and sank Brazilian cargo ship Gonçalves Dias 100 miles south of Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic; 6 were killed, 39 survived. U-103 torpedoed and sank Dutch cargo ship Hector 60 miles northwest of Grand Cayman island at 1640 hours; 2 were killed, 29 survived.

North Sea : Norwegian cargo ship Bor struck a mine and sank

Eastern Front : German forces launched Operation Hannover to clear the Bryanks-Vyazma rail line of partisans. As many as 45,000 German troops, including panzer and SS units, searched for an estimated 20,000 partisans, thousands of whom were caught and killed.

Izium , Ukraine : With Soviet South West Front Commander Marshal Timoshenko’s command , besieged Soviet forces (Bodkin Group under command of General Bodkin , mainly 6th and 57th Armies) turned east and south and began ferocious counter attacks to breakthrough German encirclement , only to be repulsed and crushed in the open by heavy Luftwaffe air attacks and artillery fire.

Meanwhile German 6th Army and 17th Army formations, which had been able to transfer several more divisions to the front, increasing the pressure on the flanks of Soviet pocket at Barvenkovo and finally forcing them to collapse. The fighting which resulted, a gradual compression of over a quarter of a million Soviet troops, led to unusual situations. According to a senior NCO in the 389th German Infantry Division, his grenadier regiment found itself in a merciless battle with what he described as a ‘bandit battalion’ of Russian women soldiers, commanded by a redhead. ’The fighting methods of these female beasts showed itself in treacherous and dangerous ways. They lie concealed in heaps of straw, and shoot us in the back when we pass by.‘

STAVKA and its representative ordered 40th Soviet Army from Byransk Front (in junction with Timoshenko’s Soviet South West Front in further south) to counter attack south towards Kharkov to divert German forces from Izium but it is too late since necessary preperations for counter attack would take at least a few days. No hope left in STAVKA to save besieged Soviet armies in “Baveronko mousetrap”

London , UK : Two gatherings in London adopted resolutions calling for a second front in Europe. One was organized by the Communist Party and another held in the London Hippodrome was sponsored by the Daily Express
Free French leader General Charles De Gaulle promises visiting Soviet Foreign Secretary Vyachaslav Molotov to put pressure on British goverment to open up a Second Front this year

Rabaul , New Britain : Three US B-26 Marauder bombers attacked Japanese airfields in Rabaul, New Britain, destroying the Genzan Air Group headquarters building and destroying four Japanese land-attack aircraft on the ground; 2 of the US bombers were damaged during this attack.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Pompano sank Japanese fishing vessel Kotoku Maru with the deck gun 20 miles northeast of Taiwan.

Pearl Harbour , Hawaii : All American warships in the Coral Sea area were recalled to Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii in anticipation of the Japanese attack on Midway Atoll.


25 May 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-558 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Beatrice 50 miles southwest of Kingston, Jamaica at 0134 hours; 1 was killed, 30 survived. Further north , German submarine U-593 torpedoed and fatally damaged Panaman tanker Persephone off New Jersey (nine killed , 28 survived) which sank next day.

At 1552 hours, German submarine U-156 torpedoed and damaged destroyer USS Blakeley off Martinique, blowing away 60 feet of bow with a torpedo (6 were killed, 116 survived); USS Blakeley would be able to make it to Port de France, Martinique for temporary repairs.

Arctic Sea : Convoy PQ-16 en route to Murmansk , Russia was discovered by a Luftwaffe FW-200 Condor recon bomber. Towards evening six German He 111 torpedo bombers and seven Ju 88 bombers attacked Allied convoy PQ-16 475 miles northeast of Iceland; one He 111 was shot down by a Royal Navy Hurricane fighter. Two German Ju-88 bombers fell to the convoy’s anti aircraft gunners while intercepting seven German HE-111 torpedo bombers , Pilot Officer Hay in the CAM ship Empire Lawrence ’s Hurricane shot down one HE-111 in flames and sent another staggering away heavily damaged and unlikely to reach its base. Overeager gunners on American ships fired at Hay’s Hurricane as it flew low over the convoy after the dogfight. Although wounded, Hay successfully bailed out of his aircraft and was picked up by Volunteer. Not a bomb or torpedo found its mark, though a near miss had immobilized one cargo ship, the Carlton, which had to be sent back to Iceland in tow of the trawler Northern Spray. The day closed with an ineffectual attack by twelve Ju-88s between 2315 and 2330 hours.

To the east, German Fw 200, Bv 138, and two Ju 88 bombers successively shadowed convoy QP-12 en route back to Iceland , starting at 1400 hours; British catapult aircraft merchantman Empire Moon also launched her Hurricane fighter which also shot down a Ju 88 aircraft and again severely damaged another one but the pilot of Hurricane fighter Flying Officer John Kendal would die when his parachute failed to open in time after he bailed out.

At 1910 hours, six German Ju 88 and seven He 111 aircraft attacked convoy PQ-16, damaging US freighter City of Joliet with a near miss.

Izium , Ukraine : Soviet troops trapped at Izium, Ukraine made a major attempt to break the encirclement that ended in failure, and the continued German pressured reduced the Soviet pocket to an area roughly 10 miles wide and 2 miles deep. Red Army soldiers trapped in Barvenkovo pocket (Bodnin Group made of 6th and 57th Soviet Armies) fought back bitterly , starting their mass attacks to breakout Grman encirclement desperately that will go on more than a week during humid spring weather. They made desperate charges - sometimes with arms linked - sometimes fueled with vodka and fully drunk screaming “Urrah !” at the German lines at night, but the trap was firm and they were massacred in their thousands under the curiously dead light of magnesium flares. German Major General Hubert Lanz described the attacks as gruesome, made en masse . Driven by blind courage, the Soviet soldiers charged at German machine guns with their arms linked, shouting “Urray!”. The German machine gunners had no need for accuracy, killing hundreds in quick bursts of fire. In broad daylight, the Luftwaffe, now enjoying complete air supremacy and the absence of Soviet anti-aircraft guns, German JU-87 Stuka dive bombers and JU-88 bombers rained down SD2 “Butterfly” anti-personnel cluster bombs on the exposed Soviet infantry masses, killing them in droves.

The bodies piled in front of the German positions testified to their suicidal bravery. The survivors wondered if they would ever get out. One unknown Russian soldier trapped in the pocket wrote on a scrap of paper how, watching ‘the German searchlights playing on the clouds’, he wondered if he would ever see his sweetheart again.

Timoshenko had got the worst of all possible worlds, his offensive blunted and his defence broken; on 24 May, his intelligence staff got hold of a captured German document, giving an outline of German plans at Kharkov, but it took four days to get this information to Timoshenko, when the flood was actually upon him.

Norfolk , Virginia , USA : Andrew Higgins’ landing craft competed with US Navy’s standard landing craft in choppy waters at Norfolk, Virginia, United States; Higgins’ boat defeated the US Navy boat in all categories.

India : Chinese 38th Infantry Division reached the border from Burma into India.

Rabaul , New Britain : Engineers and staff officers of the Japanese 25th Air Flotilla and 8th Base Force departed Rabaul, New Britain by flying boat to inspect prospective airfield building sites on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

South China Sea : Japanese submarine tender Asahi was torpedoed and sunk in the South China Sea by American submarine USS Salmon.

Pacific Ocean : Japanese submarine I-9 launched her floatplane for a reconnaissance mission over Adak and Kanaga islands in the Aleutian Islands; on the same day, the Japanese Northern Area Fleet under Admiral Boshiro Hosogaya departed Japan for the conquest of nearby Attu and Kiska islands. On the US side, the Japanese radio message intercepted on 20 May 1942 was partially decrypted in Pearl Harbour , giving the Americans a good idea of the scale of the Midway attack; the Americans missed one critical component, however, as the part regarding the battleship fleet, with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s personal participation aboard battleship Yamato, was not decrypted.

American submarine USS Drum torpedoed and sank Japanese merchant ship Kitakata Maru 125 miles southwest of Tokyo, Japan.

American submarine USS Pompano torpedoed and sank Japanese tanker Tokyo Maru 50 miles west of Okinawa, Japan.

American submarine USS Tautog torpedoed and sank Japanese merchant ship Shoka Maru 440 miles southwest of Ulithi, Caroline Islands.


26 May 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-103 torpedoed and sank US tanker Alcoa Carrier between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands at 0416 hours; all 35 aboard survived.
At 1100 hours, German submarine U-106 torpedoed and sank US tanker Carrabulle 150 miles south of Louisiana, United States; 22 were killed, 18 survived. Beginning at 2000 hours, U-106 pursued US cargo ship Atenas on the surface in the Gulf of Mexico, exchanging gunfire; Atenas would ultimately be able to escape, though suffering some damage.

Arctic Ocean : German submarine U-703 intercepted and attacked Allied convoy PQ-16 780 miles northeast of Iceland at 0259 hours, torpedoed and sank US merchant ship Syros (two torpedo hits, detonating cargo of ammunition); 9 were killed, 30 survived (but 2 of the survivors would later die from exposure). Two more U-Boat tried to attack during the day but Royal Navy escorts drove them away though U-Boats relayed and tracked convoys position , location and route top Luftwaffe bases in Norway.

One of the escort destroyers in PQ-16 , HMS Onslow did have one highly secret advantage, a small party of Royal Air Force airmen under a sergeant who were conversant with German and who, armed with high-frequency receivers, were able to monitor the Luftwaffe’s air traffic, and thus give forewarning of attack. So acute was this espionage that it was possible to hear the pilots chatting to each other prior to take-off and to obtain some idea of their perception of success by listening to their claims when they returned to Banak and Bardufoss. Eight German He 111 torpedo bombers and three Ju 88 bombers also attacked PQ-16, but they failed to cause any damage.

Gazala Line , Libya : Operation Venezia , the Panzer Army Afrika offensive under command of General Erwin Rommel against Gazala Line held by Eighth Army , started. The suprise advantage effect achived by Axis is total. In an unexplanable reasoning RAF Desert Air Force grounded all recon flights for two days due to bad weather while Panzer Army regrouped and approached to final jump points in north and south unobserved. At 14:00 in the afternoon , a feint was launched by German General Ludwig Crüwell commading a makeshift temporary Axis corps at the center of the Gazala Line in Libya using two Italian infantry divisions and a German brigade for diverting enemy attention to northern side of Gazala Line , drawing Allied troops away from the main offensive which to be launched on the next day at the southern side of Gazala Line early in the morning by using entire Afrikakorps (two German panzer division and one German mechanised infantry division) and one Italian Armored Division to overflank from open sountern flank of Gazala Line , get rear of Eighth Army positions and severing coastal road between Gazala and Tobruk. All available Axis tanks were assigned to the main offensive and Panzer Army Afrika commander General Rommel is determined to capture Tobruk this time. Meanwhile General Crüwell’s men busy with light diversionary attack on nrth , mounted unused aircraft engines on trucks to create dust clouds similar to those caused by tank movements.

‘It will be hard, but I have full confidence my army will win it,’ Rommel had written to his wife the previous evening, ‘After all, they know what battle means. There is no need to tell you how I will go into it. I intend to demand of myself the same as I expect from each of my officers and men.’ Under cover of darkness he then took his place with the Afrikakorps, in a column, which along with the 90th Light Division and the XX Italian Corps, numbered 10,000 vehicles. ‘I was tense and keyed-up, impatiently waiting the coming day. What would the enemy do? What had he already done? These questions pounded my brain.’

Izium , Ukraine : Soviet troops in the pocket at Izium, Ukraine captured Lozovenka to the east during their breakout attempt, but overall German pressure caused the pocket to shrink to the size of about 15 square kilometers.

It was nothing but another Kesselschlacht type catastrophic encirclement battle again implemented by German Army several times against before upon unfortunete Soviet Red Army in encircled side in 1941. Soviet attempts to break through the German encirclement in the east were continuously blocked by tenacious defensive manoeuvres and German air power. Groups of Soviet tanks and infantry that attempted to escape and succeeded in breaking through German lines were caught and destroyed by Ju 87s from Luftwaffe StG 77. The flat terrain secured easy observation for the Germans, whose forward observers directed long-range 10.5 cm and 15 cm artillery fire onto the Soviets from a safe distance to conserve the German infantrymen. More than 250,000 Soviet troops, hundreds of tanks and thousands of trucks and horse-drawn wagons filled the narrow dirt road between Krutoiarka and Fedorovka and were under constant German artillery fire and relentless air strikes from Ju 87s, Ju 88s and He 111s. SD-2 cluster munitions dropped by Luftwaffe bombers killed the unprotected infantry en masse and SC250 bombs smashed up the Soviet vehicles and T-34 tanks. Destroyed vehicles and thousands of dead and dying Red Army soldiers choked up the road and the nearby ravines. General Bobkin was killed by German machine gun fire and two more Soviet generals were killed in action on the 26th. General Kostenko now took command of the 6th and 57th Armies trapped in the Izyum pocket. Formations were running low on fuel and ammunition, trying desperately to blast a hole in the German ring; by the light of flares, massed Russian infantry attacks swayed against the German gun positions, but whichever way they swung, these columns met intense German fire from every calibre gun. With tanks in support, Russian infantry with arms linked charged savagely against the rim of the pocket seeking a way to the Izyum road.

London , UK : The Anglo-Soviet Treaty between British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyachaslav Molotov was signed in London, pledging twenty years of alliance and mutual assistance between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union with terms including the agreement that neither party would seek a separate peace with Germany , the refusal to join any treaty against one another, and the pledge not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs.

Pacific Ocean : Japanese troop transport ship Kagi Maru was torpedoed and sunk by American submarine USS Saury

Midway Atoll , Pacific Ocean : USS Kitty Hawk delivered to Midway Atoll the 3-inch anti-aircraft group of 3rd Defense Battalion, 5 light tanks of a light tank platoon for mobile reserve, 16 SBD-2 aircraft, and 7 F4F-3 aircraft, all of which were of the United States Marine Corps

Japan : The Japanese Navy Carrier Striking Force, composed of four carriers and an escort of battleships and lesser ships, sortied from the Inland Sea of Japan for Midway Atoll. In the Aleutian Islands in northern Pacific Ocean, Japanese submarine I-9 launched her floatplane for a reconnaissance mission over Kiska. In Japan, the naval leadership instructed the various fleets and bases to prepare for a new radio encryption scheme that would be deployed very soon.

Pearl Harbour , Hawaii : US Navy Task Force 16 ( aircraft carriers USS Hornet and USS Enterprise) returned arrived at Pearl Harbour , Hawaii.

Commander of US Navy Task Force 16 , vice Admiral William Halsey fell ill en route to Pearl Harbour from Coral Sea
At Pearl Harbour , US Navy Rear Admiral Spruance took over the responsibilities of Vice Admiral Halsey.

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27 May 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-578 torpedoed and sank Dutch cargo ship Polyphemus 340 miles north of Bermuda just after 0000 hours; 15 were killed (all of Chinese ethnicity), 60 survived. German submarine U-172 torpedoed and sank British tanker Athelknight 1,260 miles northwest of Saint Barthélemy island at 0319 hours; 9 were killed, 25 survived.
German submarine U-558 torpedoed and sank US Army trop transport ship Jack 100 miles southwest of Port Salut, Haiti at 1051 hours; 37 were killed, 23 survived. German submarine U-753 torpedoed and sank Norwegian tanker Hamlet in the Gulf of Mexico at 1103 hours; all 36 aboard survived.

Arctic Ocean : As planned before sailing , during midnight Royal Navy cruiser force departed from convoy escort and returned back to Iceland due to U-Boat threat. The departure of the four strongly armed cruisers ( HMS Nigeria, HMS Kent, HMS Norfolk, and HMS Liverpool ) meant a very serious reduction of firepower for the convoy. Anti aircraft cruiser HMS Alynbank was practically out of ammunition for her 5.25 pieces. Her decks were littered almost knee-high with empty shell cases. All the destroyers except the recently commissioned Martin were equipped with low-level guns. Their main batteries could not be elevated for high-angle anti-aircraft fire.

As if sensing weakness Luftwaffe air assaults on convoy PQ-16 en route to Russia restarts in earnest in the morning. Full daylight in Arctic circle even in early morning meant , the convoy was under daylight for 24 hours without protection of darkness. By morning 03:20 AM , He 111 bombers of German Luftwaffe unit I./KG 26 and Ju 88 dive bombers of KG 30 began attacking Allied convoy PQ-16 southeast of Bear Island (Bjørnøya), Norway in multiple waves. The first attack arrived over PQ-16 at 0320 hours, causing no damage. At 1100 hours, already damaged US freighter City of Joliet suffered a near miss. At 1310 hours, US freighter Alamar was hit by two bombs and was abandoned 20 minutes after with all aboard surviving. At 1315 hours, US ship Mormacsul was sunk by 1 bomb hit and 3 near misses; 3 were killed, 45 survived. At 1410 hours, British catapult aircraft merchantman Empire Lawrence was sunk after receiving 5 bomb hits; 25 were killed.
In the afternoon, Russian cargo ship Stari Bolshevik, British cargo ship Empire Baffin, and Polish destroyer Garland were damaged by German attacks, followed by US ship City of Joliet being damaged after being struck by a crashing German JU-88 bomber (she would be abandoned at the end of the day). At 1945 hours, British merchant ship Empire Purcell was hit by 2 bombs and was abandoned. Finally, at 1950 hours, British merchant ship Lowther Castle was hit by a torpedo from a I./KG26 He 111 bomber and sank. Luftwaffe air attacks ceased only on 21:30 hours

In exchange Luftwaffe I./KG 26 recorded the loss of three aircraft during these attacks on this day , all shot down anti aircraft gunners of the convoy.

North Sea : Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Fitzroy hit a British mine and sank in the North Sea 43 miles east of Great Yarmouth, England, United Kingdom; 12 were killed.
A German Ju 87 Stuka aircraft sank British anti-submarine trawler HMT Arctic Pioneer off Portsmouth Harbour, England, United Kingdom; 18 were killed, 16 survived.

Gazala , Libya : The main offensive of Panzer Army Afrika against the Gazala Line in Libya, which was a mobile tank assault around the southern end of the line, was launched by Axis armor divisions. After midnight under General Rommel’s command , Afrikakorps (15th and 21st Panzer Divisions , 90th German Light Infantry Division and Italian Armored Division) moved en masse with 10.000 vehicles including 560 tanks under full moon with full Luftwaffe air support dropping flares from air to navigate through defensive minefields in an excellently organised outflanking move towards the south of Gazala Line in desert and skirting from south , southeast from extreme open end of Gazala Line at Free French post in Bir Hackeim. In the morning the shock and suprise effect on Eighth Army was total when they found Afrikakorps is at the rear of their defensive lines and minefields. Early in the morning Third Indian Motorised Brigade placed just south end of Gazala line , was engaged and overwhelmed by entire Afrikakorps (330 panzers and supporting German and Italian infantry) Indian motorised brigade commander sent its last message to 30th Corps HQ before his brigade was literally destroyed by 15th Panzer and Arierte Armored divisions : “If you are interested to know , we are facing two full German panzer divisions !” Germans and Italians captured 860 Indian prisoners but released all of them because they lacked water and rations to feed them , all released Indian troops returned to Eighth Army lines minus their weapons , vehicles , supplies and equipment.

Several Allied supply bases were overrun by Afrikakorps in its full aggressive mode, including those guarded by men of the Indian 3rd Motor Brigade, but the French-held fort at Bir Hakeim, Libya would prove to be troublesome for the Axis forces for many days. When Italian Arierte Armored Division tried to attack Bir-Hakeim with three tank batalions (60 tanks) and one infantry battalion in the morning , Free French defenders , prepared their defensive positions previously in detail , easily repulsed Italians who lost over 724 men ( Italian casaulties were mostly prisoners including two Italian colonels who were all captured by Free French in a limited counter attack) and 32 Italian tanks were knocked out by Free French anti tank guns and in defensive minefield belts. While the left side of Panzer Army offensive paused at Bir Hakeim, the right side led by 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions drove towards El Adem , advancing 40 km and by mid-morning destroying 8th Hussar Regiment in the process. Meanwhile 90th German Light Infantry pushing 7th British Motorised Brigade back from Retma box towards Bir el Gubi and lead battlegroups of German light division capturing the field headquarters of the British 7th Armored Division, including the commanding officer General Frank Messervy. (who will tear his general epulets , pose as a private and escape from Axis prisoner cage two days later to return back to Eighth Army lines.) The “inexcusable” lapse in security left the division without effective command for the next two days. A comical moment before his escape from Axis POW cage occured when a German medic asked General Messervy how an old man like Messervy was sent to Africa to fight under harsh climate (never recognising he was talking with a captured general) , Messervy replied “I am a professional soldier , that is what I know how to do”

However in the afternoon , overflanking attack of Afrikakorps got into trouble. General Rommel underestimated his enemy. Due to warnings and requests of help from Third Indian Motorised Brigade , 4th British Armored Brigade in close proximity and incoming 1st British Armored Division moved on early in the morning and engaged both German panzer divisions on south of coastal road and west of El Adem and checked them at 32 km south of coastal road which was the main objective of Afrikakorps to besiege Gazala Line. British armored brigades recently equipped with new US made M3 Grant medium tanks with heavier than usual armour and long range 75 mm guns (Germans were suprised by these new medium tanks and their long range guns) , inflicted heavy tank casaulties on 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions and threw them back to south. On top of that heavy British artillery fire from 1st Armored Division began to fall on Afrikakorps columns concentrated at south of Gazala Line and contact with 90th Light Infantry Division that over extended itself , was lost. By evening Rommel realised that a third of Axis armor in Afrikakorps was knocked out and out of action and ordered Afrikakorps to defensive deployment. Even worse for Germans and Italians , failure of Italian Arierte Division to capture Bir-Hakeim means that no new Axis supply route was carved on Gazala Line and now Afrikakorps have to fight at the rear of enemy lines , its back behind enemy minefields and “boxes” that are holding British Commonwealth infantry brigades without any supply columns and with Eighth Army reinforcements especially armored divisions of 30th Corps under command of General Strafer Gott closing in.

By the evening Eighth Army commander General Neil Rtchie (youngest and most inexperienced general in British Army) in misplaced optimism claimed “we got Rommel where we wished and now we will destoy him” According to General Auchinleck’s Director of Military Intelligence, Freddy de Guingand, ‘Eighth Army were feeling quite pleased with themselves and everyone was quietly confident. We knew that the enemy’s tank losses had been considerable, that his advance had been held up and that the coastal attack had been defeated. The enemy’s main column stretched for miles … Here the Desert Air Force found great opportunities and reports of hundreds of burning vehicles came pouring in. Our great belt of minefields had not been penetrated. So far so good.’

British Middle East High Command and press sucumbed into a feverish premature victory disease , newspapers in London declaring Rommel and Panzer Army Afrika was trapped and about to be destroyed. (that is why incoming switch in fortunes in next weeks would be so shocking and confusing for Allies with British generals commanding Eighth Army snatching defeat from jaws of victory and inflating Rommel and Afrikakorps wartime propaganda fame into war deity status)

Black Sea : Soviet light cruiser Voroshilov delivered troops of the Russian 9th Naval Infantry Brigade to Sevastopol, Russia, suffering damage by German air attack but also claiming two German He 111 bombers shot down.

Baltic Sea : Luftwaffe aircraft commenced Operation Froschlaich which mined waters in the vicinity of Kronstadt and Leningrad, Russia; the operation would last nearly three weeks

Izium , Ukranine : German troops from 1st Panzer Army captured Lozovenka near Kharkov, Ukraine. Feld Marshall Fedor Von Bock commanding German Army Group South personally viewed the carnage from a hill near Lozovenka while Red Army troops in Barvenkovo pockets are getting squezed more and more with German infantry and panzers closing in , severing roads , capturing hills and Red Army troops concentrations being pounded under severe German artillery fire in every caliber and heavy Luftwaffe bombing. Encircled Soviet units getting more and more demoralised and disorganised are in return desperately trying to bayonet and bludgeoning out of the pocket in desperation. Some Russian trops even tied explosives and contact mines on dogs that were set upon and hurried on German lines , these “explosive dogs” would detonate when contact fuses on mines touch to a German panzer.
Meanwhile at Soviet side , a number of generals were killed and General Gorodnyanskiy, commanding Soviet Sixth Army, committed suicide rather than be captured. On a number of the Soviet gun positions the Germans found all Russian artillery officers dead. Again, they had shot themselves rather than face capture. General Von Kleist, a highly experienced commander of 1st Panzer Army, wrote: the battlefield testifies to the fierceness of the fighting: at the focal points the ground, as far as the eye can see, is so thickly covered with the cadavers of men and horses that it is difficult to find a passage through for one’s command car.

Belgium : All Jews in Nazi-occupied Belgium were ordered to wear the yellow badge.

Prague , Czechslovakia : Nazi SS Obergruppenfuhrer , head of SD Reich Security Services , protector of Bohemia and Morovia and architect of Holacaust , Reinhard Heydrich departed his home in Panenské Brežany for his office at the Prague Castle in Prague, Czechoslovakia in the morning without his usual escort. British-trained Czech SOE agents Jozef Gabcík and Jan Kubis with their team tasked to assasinate Heydrich (they parachuted into Czechslovakia four days ago) , attacked his car at Liben, fatally wounding Heydrich with a grenade.

Auschwitz , Poland : 168 prisoners, all Polish artists and actors arrested in the previous month, were shot at the execution wall in the courtyard of Block 11 in Auschwitz I in occupied Poland.

Germany : The 152 members of a student group that openly displayed anti-Nazi posters in Berlin, Germany were executed by Gestapo.

South West Pacific : US Marine Corps Fighter Squadron 212 began operations from Efate, New Hebrides.

Guadalcanal , Solomon Islands : Engineers and staff officers of the Japanese 25th Air Flotilla and 8th Base Force arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands by flying boat to inspect prospective airfield building sites.

Pacific Ocean : From Saipan and Guam in the Mariana Islands, an invasion fleet carrying 5,000 Japanese troops departed for Midway Atoll under Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka.

In the northern Pacific Ocean, Japanese submarine I-25 launched her floatplane for a reconnaissance mission over Kodiak Island, US Territory of Alaska, which spotted a US cruiser and two destroyers. To the west, still in the Aleutian Islands, I-19 was preparing to launch her floatplane when lookouts spotted an American aircraft; the submarine dove for cover, destroying the floatplane in the process.

In Japan, the naval leadership affected a radio encryption coding change for all fleets and bases. At Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii, Joseph Finnegan and Wesley Wright, two intelligence officers working under Joseph Rochefort, broke the Japanese encryption used to secure operational dates after working on it for the entire previous night; with this new knowledge they determined that the Japanese were going to raid Dutch Harbor in Alaska on 3 Jun 1942 and to attack Midway Atoll on 4 Jun 1942. Finally, Rochefort visited Chester Nimitz’s office to help him convince other admirals and generals of their belief that Midway was soon to be a Japanese target.

Japanese aircraft carriers Akagi as flagship of Vice Admiral Nagumo’s Carrier Striking Force (Carrier Divisions 1 and 2) and Kaga departed Hashirajima, Japan at 0600 hours for Battle of Midway

Pearl Harbour , Hawaii : USS Yorktown arrived at Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii at 1420 hours. 1,400 dock workers were assigned to attempt to repair her, damaged from Battle of the Coral Sea, in time for the impending Midway battle.


28 May 1942

Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-103 torpedoed and sank US tanker New Jersey 90 miles southwest of Grand Cayman island (41 survived) in the Caribbean Sea, German submarine U-502 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Alcoa Pilgrim (31 were killed, 9 survived) in the Caribbean Sea, and U-106 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Mentor (4 were killed, 82 survived) in the Gulf of Mexico.
German submarine U-155 torpedoed and sank Dutch cargo ship Poseidon 150 miles east of Martinique; all 32 aboard survived. Far to the northeast, German submarine U-506 sank British ship Yorkmoor with 55 round from her deck gun; all 45 aboard survived.

Arctic Ocean : Allied convoy PQ-16 encountered heavy fog but managed to remain with each other by keeping eyes on fog buoys towed by the ship immediately in front of each trailing ship. The fog and incoming snow kept all Luftwaffe aircraft grounded in their Norwegian bases and halting air attacks on the convoy for the most of the day. By the time German air attacks resumed at 21.30 that evening, the tired escorts of PQ-16 had been reinforced by the Soviet destroyers Grozni, Sokrushitelni and Kuibishev sortied out Murmansk to support and reinforce escorts of PQ-16. The antiaircraft fire-power of Soviet destroyers was impressive and timely, for many of the merchant ships were now completely out of ammunition. This, and another Luftwaffe air attack made in the early hours of Friday, 29 May, were ineffective despite heavy presence of Junkers Ju88s and Heinkel He-111s.

One of the Soviet destroyers found time to compose a wireless message to convoy escort destroyer HMS Onslow , HMS Oribi and HMS Marne. It was sent when the ships were off the coast and radio silence could be broken. It read: SOVIETS SEAMEN HAS WITNESS OF HEROIC BATTLE ENGLISH SEAMEN WITH PREDOMINANT POWERS OF ENEMY. ENGLISH SEAMEN DID OBSERVE THEIR SACRED DUTY BEFORE FATHERLAND. WE ARE PROUD OF STAUNCHNESS AND COURSE ENGLISH SEAMEN—OUR ALLIES.

North Sea : German anti submarine ship Sperrbrecher 174 Tindefjell struck a mine and sank off Dunkerque , France

Gazala , Libya : The Allies began counterattacks two days after the Axis offensive began in Libya, forming the “Cauldron” that attempted to envelope Axis forces on three sides. Eighth Army commander , General Neil Ritchie is still overoptimistic , believing that cornered Afrikakorps at Cauldron would be destroyed in a few days.

In the morning 4th British Armored Brigade repulsed 90th German Light Infantry Division at Retma “box” and drove it into the Cauldron with a counter attack , inflicting heavy casaulties on two leading battlegroups of German division in the process. 15th Panzer Division ran out of fuel temporarily and pulled from frontline to refuel in the rear. Italian Arierte Armored Division tried to advance towards Acroma and Bir el Gubi but it was also checked and repulsed by 2nd British Armored Brigade and 1st Royal Tank Regiment. Italian Arierte Armored Division losing many tanks that day was pulled south of Cauldron to replace its losses. By late afternoon RAF Desert Air Force began to bomb Axis positions , units and supply columns inside Cauldron heavily though Luftwaffe fighters gave as much as cover they could to Afrikakorps and tried to drive away RAF air raids which were furious and often but also inaccurate dye to bad weather , constant sand blowing from explosions and smoke and Luftwaffe air interdiction.

By afternoon tanks of 22nd British Armored Brigade came very close to field HQ of Afrikakorps , only to be repulsed forced to retreat by a battery of 88 mm anti tank Flak guns personally deployed by Rommel. 1st and 7th British Armored Divisions forming General Strafer Gott’s 30th Corps , lost several tanks , but after replenishing and resupplying at supply depot in El Adem , they will try to crush Cauldron again next day. General Walther Nehring , commander of Afrikakorps , realising dwindling supplies and no supply columns reaching to their semi besieged position implored Rommel to cease attack , retreat back and give up whole offensive operation. Rommel , out of options , rejected the proposal and decided to gamble by fortfying his position and re open supply lines through British minefields (which are mostly not covered by defensive fire from boxes , another severe tactical mistake from Ritchie/Auchinleck duo and their corps commanders Norrie and Gott)

Mediterranean Sea : In coordination of Panzer Army Afrika offensive , Mediterranean U-Boat command deployed eight German submarines in Central Mediterranean close to Libyan and Egyptian coast. These submarines patrolled close to the African coast from Gazala to Mersa Matruh to attack Allied vessels attempting to supply or evacuate the reeling British Eighth Army.

They were not very successful though. On the morning of May 27, a RAF Blenheim bomber spotted a U-boat sixty miles off the coast of Bardia, midway between Tobruk and Mersa Matruh. This was U-568, commanded by twenty-eight-year-old Joachim Preuss, who had hit and damaged the American destroyer USS Kearny the previous October , killing first 16 American military service members of the war. The Blenheim bomber dropped a number of close bombs, one of which ruptured a fuel tank of U-568 and caused a leak. In response to the plane’s signal, the commander of a nearby convoy escort detached two destroyers, HMS Hurworth and HMS Hero, to carry on the hunt. Both Royal Navy destroyers gained sonar contacts and in eight depth charge attacks over two hours HMS Hurworth fired fifty depth charges at U-568, and in three attacks HMS Hero fired twenty. Since HMS Hurworth was out of depth charges and Hero had only twenty left, the convoy-escort commander detached a third destroyer, HMS Eridge, which arrived at 6:00 P.M. with thirty-five depth charges and took over the hunt. HMS Hero carried out four more attacks, expending all of her depth charges. HMS Eridge carried out six attacks, expending all but five of her depth charges. While HMS Hero and HMS Eridge held sonar contact and stalked, HMS Hurworth broke off to run into Tobruk to get yet more depth charges.

After about twelve hours of brutal punishment of underwater attacks from enemy destroyers, Preuss had no choice but to surface U-568 which had drained its electric batteries and badly damaged and attempt to shake the destroyers in the darkness. At about midnight on May 27–28, he came up merely 1,250 yards ahead of destroyer HMS Eridge. Although HMS Eridge and HMS Hero had Type 286 radar, neither set picked up U-568, but the lookouts did, and both destroyers opened fire with main batteries, drawing HMS Hurworth back to the scene. Preuss dived and eluded immediate destruction but when he surfaced again at 4:00 A.M., close to the three destroyers, they saw him and again opened fire with their main batteries. Guns blazing, HMS Eridge ran in and dropped three of her five remaining depth charges, set for fifty feet , fatally damaging German submarine. By that time Preuss and his crew had scuttled ship and were jumping into the water, begging to be rescued. HMS Hurworth and HMS Eridge sent boarding parties to capture secret papers, but they arrived too late, and U-568 sank beneath their feet. The whaleboats picked up Preuss and forty-six other Germans, apparently the entire crew.

Izium , Barvenkovo , Ukranie : Marshal Semyon Timoshenko , realising that all counter attacks to break out encirclement around Barvenkovo pocket failed and he could not break “ring of iron” around it , ordered all offensives in the Kharkov, Ukraine region to cease, thus effectively conceding the Second Battle of Kharkov and granting victory to the Germans at the end of Operation Fridericus counter offensive.

Meanwhile German 6th and 17th Armies and 1st Panzer Army begins final mopping up of besiged Red Army forces in the pocket. Isolated groups, like that led by General Batyunya from Moskalenko’s 38th Army filtered eastwards before German pocket was fully sealed by their infantry, but more than 200,000 Red Army men being marched west as prisoners of war by the end of week , while German troops picked over a massive pile of booty abandoned in the field by Red Army. It was too late to rectify the mistake which Timoshenko spelled out in his final report to the Stavka on the collapse of the Kharkov offensive:

“As subsequent events showed, it would have been more correct to have broken off further offensive operations by 6 Army, withdrawn 18th May from the offensive and turned eastwards not only one tank corps, but in fact the entire body of 6th and 57th Armies. Such a decision would have established more favourable conditions for warding off the blow by the Barvenkovo concentration of enemy forces.”

‘Subsequent events’ from 20–30 May were the appalling clusters of Russian dead at the edges of the German gun-pits sited on the ring within the punctured Izium bulge on the map.

Berlin , Germany : The assasination attempt that left SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhardt Heydrich badly injured and in critical condition caused quite a bit reaction around Nazi goverment personalities. ‘We shall have no problem’, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels noted in his diary on May 28, ‘crushing this attempt at creating chaos in the Protectorate and the occupied territories.’ Goebbels added: ‘My campaign against the Jews in Berlin will be waged along similar lines. I am currently having a Jewish hostage list put together. Sweeping arrests will follow.’ For Goebbels, the attack on Heydrich made no difference to the policy of extermination. ‘Ten Jews either in a concentration camp or six feet under’, he wrote, ‘are preferable to one roaming at large. There is no room for sentimentalism here.’ Nor was there any ‘sentimentalism’ for non-Jews in German-occupied Poland that day, when more than two hundred Poles were taken from Warsaw Ghetto to the village of Magdalenka by SS field police and shot, among them three women who had to be brought on stretchers from the Pawiak prison hospital, and fifteen women who had been sent back to Poland from Ravensbrück concentration camp.

London , UK : Winston Churchill despatched Lord Louis Mountbatten, the British Chief of Combined Operations, to Washington DC, United States to persuade the Americans that an invasion across the English Channel into occupied France would, at this time, only lead to disaster. As an alternative he proposed an Anglo-American landing in French North Africa later in the year. Mountbatten was authorised to tell the Americans that Great Britain would only agree to a 1942 attack across the Channel if the Soviets were to be in immediate danger of surrendering.

Tulagi , South West Pacific : American seaplane tender USS Tangier conducted a small raid on Tulagi in the Solomon Islands; during the attack, she transmitted radio messages that were purposefully composed as if she was a fleet carrier, thus giving the Japanese a false impression that the US was still operating fleet carriers in the South Pacific when in actuality all fleet carriers had been shifted back to the Hawaiian Islands.

Espiritu Santo , South West Pacific : A force of about 500 US Army troops moved from Efate to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides to build an airfield in support of the proposed Solomon Islands landings.

Pacific Ocean : Japanese Imperial Navy changed its codebooks.

American submarine USS Salmon torpedoed and sank Japanese passenger-cargo ship Ganges Maru in the South China Sea.

Pearl Harbour , Hawaii : Task Force 16 , aircraft carriers USS Enterprise and USS Hornet under command of Rear Admiral Raymund Spruance departed Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii for Midway Atoll.
Damaged American aircraft carrier USS Yorktown moved into Dry Dock No. 1 at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, US Territory of Hawaii at 0645 hours.

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29 May 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-156 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Norman Prince 60 miles west of Saint Lucia, Lesser Antilles islands at 0103 hours; 16 were killed, 32 survived. At 0217 hours, German submarine U-107 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Western Head 10 miles south of Rio Seco, Cuba; 24 were killed, 6 survived. Finally, U-50 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Allister 54 miles south of Grand Cayman island at 2337 hours; 15 were killed, 8 survived.

Italian submarine Barbarigo shelled and sank British cargo ship Charburry on surface in South Atlantic.

Panaman tanker Stanvec Calcutta was intercepted torpedoed , then shelled and sunk by German merchant raider cruiser Stier off Brazil in South Atlantic.

North Sea : German manned Danish cargo ship Niels Finsen struck a mine and sank off Netherlands

German anti submarine trawler Sperrbrecher 150 Virito struck a mine and sank off Dunkerque , France.

Arctic Ocean : Allied convoy QP-12 arrived at Reykjavík, Iceland. To the east, PQ-16 sailed in the opposite direction. As PQ-16 enterted White Sea and neared Murmansk, Russia, they were joined by Soviet destroyers Grozny, Sokrushitelny, and Kuibyshev at 1150 hours previous day and then joined by six Royal Navy minesweepers based in Murmansk several hours later. Today at 2200 hours, the convoy broke into two groups, one heading Kola Inlet sailing for Murmansk and another sailing for Arkhangelsk further east. At 2330 hours, the Murmansk group came under attack by 18 German aircraft and the Arkhangelsk group by 15 German aircraft; no ships were sunk, and three German JU-88 bombers and one HE-111 were shot down by anti aircraft gunners and Soviet Air Force fighters , at cost of one of Soviet Air Force aces , Double Hero of the Soviet Union Boris Safonov, killing him.

At 2330, while the two sections of the convoy were still in sight of each other, the Murmansk section was attacked by a combination of eighteen Ju-87 Stukas and Ju-88 bombers and the Arkhangelsk section by fifteen Ju-88s. According to the official report, no damage was suffered by the ships. But the men who weathered the attack tell of different results. Sixteen-year-old Newfoundlander George H. Evans, a stoker on the explosives-laden Dutch ship SS Pieter de Hoogh, witnessed the Soviet destroyers’ response to the attack:

“The Russian form of defence was direct counterattack. The destroyers sailed out onto the exact courses held by the dive bombers and then opened with every gun aboard, they followed the low-sweeping German Heinkels along the columns, and pursued them across open sea. Russian gunners were deft in their use of the 37-millimeter Bofors cannon. They skipped shells from the surface of the sea; that o/Kuibyshev struck the Heinkels in the belly, she went away damaged. Two more German planes were shot down; no more of the convoy ships were lost.”

From then onward, Soviet Hurricane fighters gave air cover to the convoy as the crews began seeing signs that they were at last approaching land: floating tree trunks and land birds. At 1100 hours, they sighted the coast with its dark, rocky, pine-covered hills , Kola Inlet. It was 1600 hours on May 30 when the Murmansk section formed single file to enter Kola Inlet. They steamed past Toros Island and through the minefield, took aboard their pilots. Commander Onslow , convoy commodore held destroyer HMS Ashanti on standby as they passed. He signaled them: “Reduced in numbers, battered and tired, but still keeping Perfect station.” Admiral Tovey the commander-in-chief, Royal Navy Home Fleet, was agreeably surprised that, in the face of such a scale of attack, four-fifths of the ships of this large convoy ultimately reached their destination. He wrote: “The success was beyond expectation. It was due to the gallantry, efficiency and tireless zeal of the officers and men of the escorts and to the remarkable courage and determination of those of the merchant ships. No praise can be too high for either.”

And from the Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia, Rear-Admiral Bevan, came the relayed congratulations of both the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr A.V. Alexander, and the First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound, to ‘the officers and men of all Allied Merchants and Allied Forces concerned on their magnificent exploit . . . fighting PQ16 through to North Russia’. When Convoy PQ 16 was assembled off Iceland Churchill declared it would be worthwhile if even 50 per cent got through; despite the losses the majority of the ships of Convoy PQ 16 did arrive, twenty ships to Murmansk (30 May 1942) and eight ships to Archangelsk (1 June 1942). Just convoy PQ-16 brought 93.000 tons of war supplies to Soviet Union including 325 tanks , 125 aircraft and 2.500 military motorised vehicles. The convoy was such a success in terms the delivery of war material that the Germans made greater efforts to disrupt the following convoys.

On the German side, Admiral Donitz, commander-in-chief, U-boats, wrote in his War Diary about the operation: “My opinion as to the small chances of success for U-boats against convoys during the northern summer … has been confirmed by experience with PQ 16. Owing to the difficult conditions for attack (constant light, very variable weather and visibility, abnormally strong convoy escort, clever handling of the convoy, appearance of Russian aircraft forcing the U-boats to dive on sighting our own aircraft as well) the result, in spite of shadowing and a determined set-to by the boats, has been one steamer sunk and four probable hits. This must be accounted a failure when compared with the results of the anti-submarine activity for the boats operating … U-436 , U-703 have depth charge damage, unfit to dive to greater depths. Three more boats have slight depth charge damage, the effects of which … will probably mean some considerable time in the dockyard.”

The Luftwaffe greatly overestimated the effects of their attacks on PQ-16 and claimed to have destroyed the whole convoy. From the results of their reconnaissance flights, Luftwaffe officers were convinced that the convoy had dispersed as the result of the first attack in the evening of May 25. This was not the case. Actually they made 207 sorties with 260 planes over the convoy but only sank six ships. The lesson the Germans drew from this attack was that the anti-aircraft defense could be dissipated and confused by high-level dive bombing closely integrated with the launching of torpedoes from a height of about three hundred feet. The method adopted for the torpedo attack, which was known as the “Golden Comb,” was for the aircraft to approach in a wide line abreast and to drop their torpedoes simultaneously. It also was decided to attack at twilight with the ships silhouetted against the lighter sky. By June, forty-two HE-111 torpedo aircraft had arrived in Northern Norway and these tactics were assiduously practiced.

Convoy PQ-16 lost seven merchant ships: six to air attack and one to a U-boat. Seventy-four officers and 397 men were rescued from the seven ships.
Even as both sides studied what happened to PQ-16 and QP-12, the next convoys, PQ-17 and QP-13, were being assembled.

Gazala , Libya : An Italian supply convoy led personally by Rommel got through by outflanking south of Gazala Line and reached the Axis forces in the “Cauldron” south of Tobruk, Libya , while two corridors recently being carved up by German and Italian engineers over the British minefields Meanwhile General Neil Ritchie commanding Eighth Army still undecided , vaccilating and still could not concentrate his armored brigades for a organised and concentrated countrer attack. British armor still dispersed and uncoordinated and uncooperated with other arms like artillery and infantry , making wild charges unsupported by other arms due to their inexperience or cavalry ragiment traditions unheeding army command authority or smaller probing attacks only being repulsed and decimated by effective Axis anti tank gun fire and at the same time leaving British and Commonwealth infantry and artillery uncovered and defenceless. Meanwhile the oppurtunity to strike and destroy cornered Afrikakorps with one blow is slipping away and Rommel’s forces trying to breach minefields in their rear getting stronger. From the British point of view the day’s fighting had been inconclusive, the 4th Armoured Brigade being prevented from joining in the tank battle by a sandstorm.

The British counter to Rommel’s initiatives was to hold conferences and General Ritchie, charming man though he was, exuded completely unrealistic optimism. General Messervy commented to that effect, adding that he was always saying, ‘Ah, now we’ve got him,’ when it was quite clear we hadn’t. During these days, Rommel seemed to be everywhere at once, urging his men on, devising new tactics, and all the time on the move. There could not have been a greater contrast between his leadership and that of the Eighth Army’s commander-in-chief Neil Ritchie , who preferred to oversee the battle from well behind the lines. This was not for want of courage on Ritchie’s behalf but because he adhered to a stolid military convention which – like his immediate predecessor – he did not question. Cautious and plodding, he was psychologically and intellectually unable to react with the incisiveness required on a battlefield, the character of which altered as rapidly and dramatically as a constantly shaken kaleidoscope. Thus, rather than seizing the initiative at a point when his adversaries feared he would achieve ‘a crushing victory’, Ritchie dithered. In this vacuum, Rommel’s commanders were able to regroup, repair armour and artillery, and take up defensive positions from which they were able to ward off the uncoordinated and sporadic attacks launched against them. Ritchie’s armour had been committed piecemeal, had suffered periods of complete disruption, and even with the Grants had been unable to smash the Germans in the tank battles of the 28th and 29th May. As usual his information had been bad (he was often 24 hours late with news of the battle) and with the Desert Air Force unable to help, their lack of success was again beginning to take its toll of his men’s confidence. Even so, on the 29th Ritchie had the best grounds yet for optimism. With Rommel’s tanks pinned against the minefields west of Sidi Muftah they could perhaps be shelled to bits while his own armour sought out and destroyed the enemy supply columns, and cleared the way for a major counter-offensive.

On Axis side , things are not brighter though. Rommel despite everything could not breach British minefields yet though his German sappers and Italian engineers from other side working constantly to remove mines and open up corridors for supply columns desperately needed for cornered Afrikakorps and Arierte Armored Division in Cauldron. The ammunition and supplies are getting scarce. Rommel’s Chief of Staff General Bayerlein remarked later “If British made a proper all out concentrated offensive on 29th or 30th May , we would surrender after a few hours of tough fight due to lack of ammunition and supplies.” Both corridors carved up by German engineers would be ready only 30th May. If Afrikakorps can hold up till then , afterwards Rommel decided to punch through Gazala Line and British minefields complately and re establish communications and supply link with rest of Panzer Army Afrika by attacking and capturing Got El Ulrieb (Sidi Muftah ) box on Gazala Line held by 150th Brigade of 50th British Infantry Division.

The news for Axis got even worse that day. To the north near the coast, a German Fieseler Storch observation aircraft which General Ludwig Crüwell , German general commanding Italian 20th Corps and German Hecker battlegroup making diversion attacks from west on Gazala Line , was aboard , shot down and forced to land inside British infantry box on the frontline at Got ul Ualeb (Sidi Mufti) box held by 150th Brigade of 50th British Infantry Division (same box Rommel would attack with everything he had in two days). The British infantrymen quickly captured German general Cruwell and his pilot then sent him to rear to Eighth Army HQ. Rommel lost one of his best subordinates. Feld Marshal Albert Kesselring visiting the front temporarily took command of 20th Italian Corps and Hecker battle group.

Bir Hackeim , Gazala , Libya : A Free French Bren Carrier patrol led by Captain Lamaze and accompanied, in person, by Colonel Mitakvari of the Foreign Legion, was surprised while patrolling in the open desert by a section of Italian M13 tanks which managed to get between the patrol and its perimeter defences. They were only rescued by the timely intervention of Captain Messmer (9th company 3/13th battalion) who would later become the Minister of Defence in the Charles de Gaulle regime in the 1960s.
On 29 May, the detachment of Capitaine Gabriel de Sairigné defending the eastern perimeter of Bir Hackeim box , destroyed three German tanks, RAF Desert Air Force fighters intercepted two raids by Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers and fighter-bombers and attacked Axis supply lines south and east of Bir Hakeim.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Turbulent intercepted an Italian convoy made up two cargo ships and an escorting destroyer 135 miles northwest of Benghazi, Libya at 0700 hours and fired four torpedoes at it ; one torpedo struck and sank Italian cargo ship Capo Arma, while another circled back over the submarine and then turned again proceeding to strike and sink Italian destroyer Emmanuele Pessagno.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Trasher torpedoed and sank German cargo ship Penelope off Benghazi , Libya.

France : 77 British bombers (31 Wellington, 20 Halifax, 14 Lancaster, 9 Stirling, 3 Hampden) from RAF Bomber Command attacked the Gnome et Rhône aircraft engine factory at Gennevilliers northwest of Paris, France, causing little damage; 34 French civilians were killed, 167 were injured; 5 bombers were lost in this mission.

Izium , Ukraine : Soviet resistance in the Izium, Ukraine ceased. Less than one man in ten among encircled Soviet forces at Barvenkovo managed to escape. The Red Army had lost parts of four armies: 22 rifle divisions, 7 cavalry divisions and 15 tank brigades. Soviet 6th and 57th Armies , 21st Soviet Tank Corps, caught in the ‘Barvenkovo mousetrap’, were virtually annihilated. Soviet 9th and 38th Armies were also partially or halfway crushed and destroyed while trying to hold or trying to break out Izium bulge. More than 70.000 Red Army troops were killed. Only 23.000 Red Army soldiers managed to break out German encirclement. and retreated northern bank of Donetz river. Paulus 6th Army and Kleist’s 1st Panzer Army and 17th Army had secured nearly 241,000 Soviet prisoners, destroyed or captured 2,000 Soviet guns and 1.200 tanks , the bulk of Timoshenko’s tank force. Their own losses were not much more than 20,000 men killed and wounded. Soviet Air Force also lost 540 aircraft over Izium in two weeks.

On German side congratulations arrived from all quarters. Paulus found himself fêted in the Nazi press which, reluctant to praise reactionary aristocrats, made much of his modest family origins. The Führer awarded him the Knight’s Cross and sent a message to say that he fully appreciated ‘the success of the Sixth Army against an enemy overwhelmingly superior in numbers’. Schmidt, Paulus’s chief of staff, argued in later years that the most influential effect of this battle was on Paulus’s attitude towards Hitler. The Führer’s decision to back the ambitious counter-attack convinced Paulus of his brilliance and of the superior ability of OKW to judge the strategic situation.

At the other side of the hill Stalin , angered by this military disaster , called Ukranian and South West Front political comissar Nikita Khruschev to Moscow to explain his forces defeat. When Khruschev ended his report in Kremlin , Stalin got up , took a full ashtray from table , approached Khruschev and emptied contents of ashtray over unfortunate political commissars head , remarking “In Roman Empire , any general suffered a failure like that would fall on his sword” Humiliated Khruschev left the room without saying anything till 1956 Party Congress , three years after Stalin’s death when he became General Secretary of Soviet Union Communist Party and shifted the blame of all failure and disasterous defeat during Second Battle of Kharkov on Stalin. Marshal Georgy Zhukov claimed neither Timoshenko nor Khruschev warned Stalin in time nor they did insisted to retreat more forcefully but there is no doubt main culprit was Stalin. On the subject, Zhukov sums up in his memoirs that the failure of this operation was quite predictable, since the offensive was organized very ineptly, the risk of exposing the left flank of the Izium salient to German counterattacks being obvious on a map. Still according to Zhukov, the main reason for the stinging Soviet defeat lay in the mistakes made by Stalin, who underestimated the danger coming from German armies in the southwestern sector (as opposed to the Moscow sector) and failed to take steps to concentrate any substantial strategic reserves there to meet any potential German threat. Furthermore, Stalin ignored sensible advice provided by his own General Chief of Staff, who recommended organising a strong defence in the southwestern sector in order to be able to repulse any Wehrmacht attack.

In his famous address to the Twentieth Party Congress about the crimes of Stalin in 1956, Khrushchev used the Soviet leader’s errors in this campaign as an example, saying: “Contrary to common sense, Stalin rejected our suggestion. He issued the order to continue the encirclement of Kharkov, despite the fact that at this time many [of our own] Army concentrations actually were threatened with encirclement and liquidation… And what was the result of this? The worst we had expected. The Germans surrounded our Army concentrations and as a result [the Kharkov counterattack] lost hundreds of thousands of our soldiers. This is Stalin’s military ‘genius’. This is what it cost us.”

Additionally, the subordinate Soviet generals (especially South-Western Front generals) were just as willing to continue their own winter successes, and much like the German generals, underestimated the strength of their enemies, as pointed out by the commander of the 38th Army, General Kirill Moskalenko. The Soviet winter counteroffensive weakened the Wehrmacht, but did not destroy it. As Moskalenko recalls, quoting an anonymous soldier, “these fascists woke up after they hibernated”. Red Army did not deploy its main armored reserves to exploit the initial breakthrough and did not widen the shoulders of breakthough area and Soviet Air Force left all air superiorty to Luftwaffe over battlefield.

For the Russians, Second Battle of Kharkov combined with defeat at Kerch , Crimea was another disaster on a stupendous scale. Now Soviet South West and Southern Fronts were complately weakened and ripe for a new German offensive towards Caucaus. After the resilience they had shown in recovering from the German invasion in the winter of 1941–2, the catastrophe which met by far the most ambitious of German counter-attacks of early to mid 1942, at Khar’kov, was a huge political blow to the Soviet Union. Zhukov noted the January 1942 declaration by twenty-six countries that they would conclude no separate peace with the Axis powers and would combine all their strength against them. Although the Soviet Union would subsequently be severely disappointed, as we saw in the last chapter, in early 1942 the prospect of a second front in Europe that year appeared quite real. 18 Coming after a tide of Soviet optimism, Khar’kov was a huge blow, and like many ‘dislocations of expectation’, perhaps appeared worse than it really was. Compared with 1941, the loss of a quarter of a million soldiers might not seem so bad. But it came at a time of optimism, renewed confidence and hope, so the Kharkov offensive and the formidably professional German response struck home to the Soviet leadership. Stalin, Stavka and the senior military command became much more realistic and cautious as a result.

Black Sea : Soviet submarine A-3 torpedoed and sank Romanian cargo vessel Sulina off Odessa in the Black Sea.

Soviet submarine ShCh-214 torpedoed and sank Turkish cargo vessel Hudarvendigar in the Black Sea.

Berlin , Germany : On May 29, Hitler, having returned briefly to Berlin from Rastenburg, agreed with Goebbels that all Jews should be removed at once from Berlin in retaliation for assasination attempt on Heydrich whose condition became critical due to infection of his wounds.
Hitler began to reconsider invasion of Vichy France , Operation Anton and invasionb of Spain Operation Isabella but shelved them temporarily.

Paris , France : Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris were ordered to wear the yellow badge starting June 7.

UK : German bombers attacked Grimsby, England, United Kingdom in night

Java Sea : American submarine USS Swordfish torpedoed and sank Japanese transport ship Tatsufuku Maru, already damaged by USS Seal on the previous day, between Dutch Borneo and the Philippine Islands.

Tulagi , Solomon islands , South West Pacific : Long range Catalina flying boats of No. 11 and No. 20 squadrons RAAF made their first raid against the Solomon Islands base at Tulagi, which had already been attacked by US carrier aircraft earlier in the month.

South West Pacific : Japanese submarine I-21 launched her floatplane for a reconnaissance mission over Sydney, Australia.

Kure , Japan - Marinna islands , Pacific Ocean : The Main Body of the Japanese Midway invasion fleet set sail; it was consisted of Battleship Division 1 (Yamato, Nagato, Mutsu), light carrier Hosho, seaplane/submarine tenders Chiyoda and Nisshin, light cruiser Sendai of Destroyer Squadron 3, nine destroyers, and Supply Group No. 1; the Main Body remained 600 miles behind the Carrier Striking Force. Meanwhile, the transport fleet set sail from Saipan in the Mariana Islands; it was consisted of 15 transports.

Pearl Harbour , Hawaii : American aircraft carrier USS Yorktown was refloated and moved out of Dry Dock No. 1 at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, US Territory of Hawaii. She received fuel and a new air complement from nearby Naval Air Station Kaneohe.


I think you missed one small but interesting event around this time – a deranged killer was caught and he’s in our Army: