28 June - 3 July 1942

28 June 192

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-332 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Raphael Semmes 1,000 miles east of Florida, United States at 1030 hours; 19 were killed, 18 survived. German submarine U-701 torpedoed and sank US tanker William Rockefeller 50 miles off the coast of North Carolina, United States at 1816 hours; all 50 aboard survived.

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-203 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Sam Houston 100 miles northeast of the Virgin Islands at 1538 hours; 8 were killed, 38 survived.

U-505 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Sea Thrush 300 miles northeast of the Virgin Islands at 1855 hours; all 66 aboard survived.

German submarine U-154 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Tillie Lykes 100 miles south of the Dominican Republic at 0350 hours; all 33 aboard were killed.

North Sea : German cargo ship Frielinghaus struck a mine and sank off Borkum , Germany

Scapa Flow , UK : Royal Navy Home Fleet (carrier HMS Victorious, battleship HMS Duke of York, with cruisers and destroyers), reinforced by US battleship USS Washington, departed from Scapa Flow, Scotland, United Kingdom to provide distant cover for Allied convoy PQ-17 sailing from Iceland to Arkhangelsk, Russia.

Egypt : Afrikakorps captured Fuka airfield and Mersa Matruh, Egypt.

On the morning of 28th June , German 90th Light Division finally reached the coast and severed the coastal road from Mersa Matruh to Alexandria. Meanwhile due to a communication error, General Auchinleck’s order to withdraw from Mersa Matruh did not reach General Holmes commander of 10th Corps until early in the morning of 28 June. Through the night, 10th Corps counter-attacked to the south to take the pressure off General Gott’s 13th Corps, not realising that 13th Corps had already gone because Gott’s order to withdraw to El Alamein line. A short discussion was held between Holmes and Auchinleck, in which Holmes considered three options: remain and hold on to Mersa Matruh fortress as long as possible, attack eastwards on the coast road and fight through the 90th Light Division or break out in the night to the south. Auchinleck made it clear that 10th Corps was not to attempt to hold out in its defensive positions and he thought there was no point to try to fight east along the coast road. He ordered Holmes to divide his force into columns and break out to the south. They were to continue on for a few miles before turning east to make their way to El Alamein.

That night 10th Corps assembled in small columns and broke out to the south. The Afrika Korps had moved on, leaving only the Italians and the 90th Light Division to invest Matruh. Fierce engagements primarily between Allied and Italian forces occurred as they drove through. One of the columns picked a path that approached the Afrika Korps command section. Rommel’s Kampfstaffel was engaged, and the staff officers themselves had to take up arms. After a time Rommel moved his headquarters south and away from the fighting.

The 29th Indian Infantry Brigade arrived at the regrouping point at Fuka late in the afternoon of 28 June. Arriving soon after was the 21st Panzer Division. The commander of the brigade had assembled transport in case a quick withdrawal was necessary but the assault of 21st Panzer came too rapidly and the brigade was overrun and destroyed around Fuka.

Both the 10th Indian and British 50th Divisions had to fight their way clear and the 10th suffered particularly heavy losses in men and vehicles. While the majority of their soldiers broke through from Axis siege in motorised columns and escaped capture during night, “both divisions had been shattered.” The remnants of both divisions passed through the Alamein position and on to Alexandria where they began the painful process of piecing together their formations again. Early on the morning of 29 June, the 90th Light Division and Italian “Littorio” Armoured Division encircled Mersah Matruh. The remants of 10th Indian Division tried to break out on the night of 28 June but was repulsed by “Littorio”. The Mersa Matruh positions had been bombarded by the artillery of the “Brescia” and “Trento” Divisions, which along with the 90th Light Division represented the main force invested in the stronghold and after some time of infantry fighting and failed break-out attempts, the stronghold sought to capitulate. On June 29, the Italian 7th Bersaglieri Regiment entered the stronghold and accepted the surrender of 6,000 Allied troops while capturing a great deal of supplies and equipment. Mersa Matruh fortress surrendered same day with 6.000 more Indian and British troops along with huge amounts supply stocks captured by Axis.

General Holmes comander of 10th Corps later estimated that he lost 60 per cent of his corps in this operation.It could be argued that if the 8th Army had mounted a properly coordinated counter-attack on 27 or 28 June, the campaign would have had a different shape and the later events around El Alamein would not have taken place. This is certainly the view of British military historian Michael Carver. He concluded: “Both Auchinleck and Gott must bear a heavy load of blame for the that precipitate and ill-organised withdrawal and Lumsden and Inglis who took command [of 2nd NZ Infantry Division] when Freyberg was wounded must share some of it for being so anxious to withdraw quickly though it is Inglis credit he saved bulk of 2nd New Zealand Division”

Not only were the British formations being defeated in detail, but their abandoned supplies were providing Rommel with the means to keep his advance continuing. As the British formations retreated, there was little time to carry or destroy their logistical support bases. In July 1942, the Axis forces were using as many as 6,000 captured British vehicles as well as numerous British field guns with ample ammunition stocks. It was somewhat ironic that the spearhead units of Panzer Army were enjoying British bully beef and Imperial Tinned Peaches while driving Canadian Ford trucks filled with Iraqi fuel. In comparison, Eighth Army on the Alamein position “had been bled almost dry of the supplies and ammunition it would need to fight a further battle.” The Mersa Matruh battle has been aptly described by Niall Barr as “another fiasco for the British.” It, together with Minqar Qaim, revealed much about the state of Eighth Army in June 1942. Its higher leadership was poor and defeatist, coordination between arms nonexistent.

For New Zealand Battalion commander Lt. Colonel Howard Kippenberger, it was a continuation of the Gazala horror story: “Can anything be more deplorable than the conduct of what is called the Battle of Matruh? As you yourself have said, General Gott [13 Corps] should have fought the New Zealand Division and one armoured division as Corps and if he had 90 Light and 21 Panzer must have been destroyed”

The New Zealanders and with dispersed columns of 10th Indian and 50th British Divisions rejoined Eighth Army, then forming defensive positions along a line from El Alamein to the Qattara Depression. The Eighth Army was greatly weakened by its headlong retreat in the face of Rommel’s advance. In early July, it was down to just one complete infantry division, a reduced division, a brigade group, and the remnants of other divisions now dispersed into ineffective battle groups. Eighth Army had lost more than 1,000 tanks in just seventeen days of fighting in June. It had now only 137 serviceable tanks but most of these were obsolete and unreliable. Only thirty-six were the latest Grant tank. Its morale was poor, too.

As Major General John Harding, at the time a senior staff officer in Cairo recalled, “the morale of the army as a whole was shattered because they were in a state of confusion and had been defeated.The day after the New Zealanders’ escape from Minqar Qaim, a (over) confident Rommel, whose progress had been slowed up by the round-the-clock bombing of the Desert Air Force ,wrote to his wife:

“We’re still on the move and hope to keep it up until the final goal. It takes a lot out of one, of course, but it’s the chance of a life-time. The enemy is fighting back desperately with his air force. P.S. Italy in July might still be possible. Get passports”

Senior staff officer Brigadier Freddie de Guingand (later became Montgomery’s Chief of Staff) recalled the time when Eighth Army’s fortunes were at their lowest. With Auchinleck, he watched the army in retreat from Tobruk:

“I had never seen such chaos; it looked like you’d never be able to save the situation. I’ve never seen the desert road crammed with every sort of vehicle, every unit muddled up higgledy-piggledy, no one knew what was going on. Luckily our Air Force was stronger than the enemy’s, otherwise I think we would have been routed. We got back to El Alamein hoping that they had taken precautions beforehand to prepare defensive positions, that there was somewhere for us to go to, but it was touch and go for several days. One wondered whether we’d ever be able to hold the front and prevent Rommel from getting into Egypt and Cairo itself.”

Auchinleck’s personal intervention may have been the only course he felt left open to him. But it marked a failure in his leadership skills and left him vulnerable. No one commander could cover both the operational and strategic command of the Middle East. In Cairo, government officials started burning official documents and an urgent call was sent to the 9th Australian Division and rest of 2nd Zealand Division, both on garrison duty in Syria, to immediately return to Egypt.

Mediterranean Sea : German submarine U-97 attacked a 3-ship Allied convoy 14 miles southwest of Haifa, Palestine, torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Zealand (14 were killed, 19 survived) and Greek cargo ship Memas (8 were killed, 17 survived)

German cargo ship Savona ran aground of Panteleleria islands and totally wrecked.

Bryansk - Kharkov Fronts : Operation Blue, the German summer offensive, began; three German armies aincluding 11 armored divisions began driving towards the Caucasus Mountains.

With Opetation Blue initial stage , Battle of Voronezh starts. German Army Group Von Weichs attacked on a 90-mile front in Russia with its left south of Orel and its right on Oboyan. Colonel-General Maximilian von Weichs sent in his own German 2nd Army, the 4th Panzer Army (Colonel-General Hermann Hoth), and the Hungarian 2nd Army (Colonel-General Gusztáv Jany), in all 23 divisions, including three Panzer and two motorised.

The initial German attack on Voronezh had two objectives. One was to seed confusion about the ultimate goals of the overall campaign. There was widespread feeling by almost all observers, especially Soviet high command, that the Germans would reopen their attack on Moscow that summer. By strongly attacking toward Voronezh, near the site of the German’s deepest penetration the year before, it would hide the nature of the real action taking place far to the south. Soviet forces sent to the area to shore up the defenses would not be able to move with the same speed as the Germans, who would then turn south and leave them behind. The other purpose was to provide an easily defended front line along the river, providing a strong left flank that could be protected with relatively light forces.

The plan involved forces of Army Group South, at this time far north of their ultimate area of responsibility. The attack would be spearheaded by the 4th Panzer Army under the command of General Hermann Hoth. Hoth’s highly mobile forces would move rapidly eastward to Voronezh and then turn southeast to follow the Don to Stalingrad. As the 4th Panzer Army moved out of the city, the slower infantry forces of German 2nd Army following behind them would take up defensive positions along the river. The plan called for the 2nd Army to arrive just as the 4th Panzer Army had cleared the city, and Hoth was under orders to avoid any street-to-street fighting that might bog down their progress.

The city of Voronezh (a vital communication link from north to south and had vital crossing on Don river) was defended by the troops of Soviet 40th Army as part of the Valuiki-Rossosh Defensive Operation (28 June-24 July 1942) of General of Army Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin’s Southwestern Front. In the first day 4th Panzer Army with help of heavy Luıftwaffe air support shattered weak and thinly laid out defences of 40th Army andf began to advance on Voronezh. A forward air controller from the Luftwaffe, usually a lieutenant aided by a couple of NCOs with one of the latest radio sets, was attached to the headquarters of the leading panzer divisions, ready to call in air strikes. Once the initial breakthrough was achieved, Hoth’s panzer divisions advanced rapidly, with Richthofen’s JU-87 Stuka dive bombers smashing strong-points or tank concentrations ahead.

By noon General Golikov commander of Soviet Bryansk Front was all too well aware that he was facing a major German offensive, but his operations were severely hampered since Soviet reconnaissance planes, hunted out of the battle zone by German fighters, could supply little or no information on actual German movement and concentration. As for German strength, that evening Golikov and Zakharov reckoned that not less than ten German divisions were already committed including at least two or three Panzer formations.General Hauenschild’s 24th Panzer Division crashed through two Soviet divisions and raced for the river Kshen, where Golikov on the evening of 28 June moved up his armour, 16th and 1st Tank Corps.

Black Sea : German bombers damaged Soviet destroyer leader Tashkent in the Black Sea; Tashkent was able to sail to Novorossisk, Russia to receive repairs.

Indian Ocean : Japanese submarine I-10 torpedoed and sank British merchant ship Queen Victoria in the Mozambique Channel.

Rabaul , New Britain , South West Pacific : B-17 bombers of US 5th Air Force, based in Australia, attacked Rabaul, New Britain and Lae, New Guinea.

Lae and Salamaua , Papua New Guinea : Australian 2/5 Independendent Companty staged a night commando raid on Japanese held Samaua harbour and airfield on northern shore of Papua New Guinea. using reconnaissance from the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles under the command of Sergeant Jim McAdam. Their targets were the airfield, wireless masts, a bridge and troop billets.

The troops left their base at 2 pm on 28 June. They were seven sections, one of which carried a 3-inch mortar. Their other weapons included Tommy guns, rifles, Bren guns, grenades and a sticky bomb.

It rained at heavily at night but stopped around midnight. The raid began at 3.14 am and went for around three quarters of an hour. Two red flares were sent up signalling a withdrawal. All the targets were achieved and over 120 Japanese troops had been killed; only 3 Australians were wounded. The Australians obtained a bag of documents from a Japanese pilot who was trying to fly out when he was killed. They contained the plans of the landings at Buna and Milne Bay. These were delivered on foot by Bill Harris to Kanga Force headquarters, enabling Australian divisions to be recalled from leave and rushed to reinforce Milne Bay. The Japanese reinforced the base at Salamaua, tying down troops that might otherwise have been used in the Kokoda Campaign

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Stingray attacked a Japanese convoy in the Philippine Sea torpedoed and sank gunboat Saikyo Maru.

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29 June 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-67 torpedoed and sank British tanker Empire Mica southwest of Cape St. George, Florida, United States at 0750 hours; 33 were killed, 14 survived

At 0610 hours, German submarine U-754 torpedoed and sank British passenger ship Waiwera 400 miles northwest of the Azores islands; 8 were killed, 97 survived.

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-126 attacked Canadian sailing vessel Mona Marie 50 miles southwest of Barbados at 0125 hours, forcing the crew of 8 to abandon ship. German submarine U-153 sank American merchant vessel Ruth with a torpedo 320 miles northeast of Barbuda; 35 were killed, 4 survived.
At 1355 hours, German submarine U-505 sank American merchant ship Thomas McKean with two torpedoes, 350 miles northeast of Puerto Rico. At 1745 hours, U-158 torpedoed and sank Latvian merchant ship Everalda 360 miles southwest of Bermuda; all 36 aboard survived.

Arctic Ocean : Allied convoy QP-13 was spotted by a German Fw 200 aircraft.

Egypt : The vanguard of German 90th Light Division reached Sidi Abdel Rahman, Egypt.

Alexandria , Egypt : Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet , light cruiser HMS Dido, 7 destroyers, and submarine depot ship HMS Medway were evacuated out of Alexandria, Egypt as Axis troops advanced toward El Alamein, Egypt; the ships sailed for Haifa, Palestine.

Evacuation of fleet and order from British Middle East Command to arm rear base area troops for emergencies (later turned out to be mistake by Auchinleck since it spread the panic) causes a panic called “The Flap” among civilian and base troops , civilian and military administrative units in Alexandria and Cairo , British Embassy and British Middle East Command in Cairo began to burn its papers while an exodus of civilian began to escape from Egypt to Palestine or Sudan with sudden rush to trains. Alexandria itself was placed under military curfew and the streets were eerily deserted of soldiers and trucks. In his somewhat accidental role as a British press attaché, Lawrence Durrell wandered the streets of the city, noting down the names of those shops which had put up signs welcoming the Germans and – with somewhat limited effect as most military personnel had departed – used his authority to declare them out of bounds to British troops.

His Majesty’s Ambassador, Sir Miles Lampson, was one of the few to display the sangfroid on which the British liked to pride themselves. Although a special train had been laid on for him to leave, he remained at his post and ordered the white railings around the Embassy to be repainted.

Some British officers amused in gallows humor of the scenes in rear joked that “When Rommel arrives into Cairo , he plans to reserve a room at Shephards Hotel , that would slow him down !”

Even Rommel looking into the situation as good as the war won , jabs to his Chief of Staff. On the face of it Egypt was in danger of imminent collapse. Certainly, Rommel’s confidence was unbounded. On the 29th, as the Panzerarmee took up positions facing the British line, he had a jovial conversation with one of his commanders at the front. ‘Well, Briel,’ he said, ‘you will advance with your men to Alexandria and stop when you come to the suburbs. The Tommies have gone … When I arrive tomorrow we’ll drive into Cairo together for a coffee.’ On the next day, a German radio station broadcast a message to the women of Alexandria on 1 July: ‘Get out your frocks, we’re on our way!’

However , as consequently, the Panzer Army had been forced to advance without the protection of Luftwaffe air cover , it was being targeted , raided and bombed from air more and more frquently and heavily by Desert Air Force commanded by Vice Air Marshal Mary Conningham who is determined to slow Axis advance and make it as costly as it could. Panzer Army was suffering as a result : Rommel was paying for his desire for speed. Due to constant Desert Air Force raid and bombing one German artillery unit operating at full strength just before the fall of Tobruk could barely move six days later. Another anti-tank battery lost four out of seven guns during this same period as a direct result of air attacks. A captured Italian officer confessed that the attacks gave them ‘no peace. We found this most demoralizing, particularly after a day’s fighting when we badly needed a rest.’ In a diary, a German soldier described an air attack by the RAF. ‘It was then that I became really conscious of the horrors of war,’ he had written. ‘Tommy fired on us well into the night. We have had many attacks, but these bombs were the worst I have ever experienced.’ Accordingh to German military writer Paul Carell “The Desert Air Force attacks were becoming more and more effective , damaging and tiresomne for troops on the ground” And all the time, the Eighth Army was retreating ever closer to safety.

Meanwhile on the front , Eighth Army’s retreat behind Alamein Line is almost complate. The division commanders Pienaar (2nd South African) , Tuker (4th Indian Division), Freyberg (2nd New Zealand Division) and Ramsden (British 50th Division) are determined to make their last stand here on last defensive barrier ground , 120 km west of Alexandria , ordering their troops to work day and night to complate their defences.

General Auchinleck (who had taken over Alamein defensive plans of his predecessor General Wavell and General Wilson who both had picked Alamein position in 1939 in worst case scenerio best possible defensive position before Nile Delta from west) had also been readying his forces for the next Axis onslaught from his new HQ fifteen miles to the south-west of El Alamein railway station, and sent his assessment of the situation to General Alan Brooke Imperial Chief of Staff on 28 June. The RAF was the only offensive weapon he had left, he told the CIGS; as a result, defence was the only option for his ground forces until they had been sufficiently rebuilt. His intention was therefore to keep Eighth Army ‘as a mobile field force and resist by every possible means any further attempt by the enemy to advance eastwards’. However, he did concede that this might not be possible at the Alamein Line and that further retreat was a possibility. Plans for the withdrawal of his troops to Alexandria, Cairo, and the Canal Zone were prepared.

Most of his commanders thought this was a necessary precaution in the circumstances. In fact, 13th Corps commander General ‘Strafer’ Gott was quite openly defeatist, a view he revealed in a conversation with New Zealand Brigadier Kippenberger, who, on 29 June, was acting commander of the New Zealand Division. A general retirement and evacuation of Egypt was being planned, Gott told him. ‘I protested that we were perfectly fit to fight and that it was criminal to give up Egypt to 25,000 German troops and a hundred tanks (disregarding the Italians),’ Kippenberger later recalled. ‘Strafer replied sadly that NZ division was battle-worthy but very few other people were and he feared the worst.’ This kind of attitude was not what was needed from one of the Auk’s corps commanders. Pienaar also felt a further retreat was necessary and that Eighth Army should fight on the Suez Canal, although in the next breath he was urging his troops to stand and fight at Alamein to avenge the 2nd South African Division’s defeat at Tobruk.

Admittedly, the Alamein position was not a line of properly prepared defences as the Gazala Line had been; it was not really a line at all, with few minefields and only a handful of small defensive boxes. But if the British were exhausted, then so too were the Axis forces, especially thanks to the relentless round-the-clock efforts of Mary Coningham’s Desert Air Force. The Panzer Army was severely short of sleep and equipment and still had little air cover of its own. Kippenberger had been absolutely right. And despite plans for further withdrawal, the Auk was determined to fight Rommel at Alamein, and to defeat him. On 30 June, he issued a message to All Ranks’ of the Eighth Army: ‘The enemy is stretched to the limit and thinks we are a broken army. His tactics against the New Zealanders were poor in the extreme. He hopes to take Egypt by bluff. Show him where he gets off.’ Fortunately, General Norrie 30th Corps commander also believed Alamein was the place to make a stand – which was just as well, as it was on 30th Corps in the north of the position that Rommel decided to make his main attack.

El Alamein itself was a tiny railway station – a two-room, one-storey building along the coastal railway line, some two miles inland from the bright turquoise of the Mediterranean Sea. Half a mile north of the station ran a ridge parallel to the coast on which the main coast road was built. From this elevated position one could see for miles across the wide-open expanse of desert: soft sandy soil, speckled with mounds of brown desert vetch, a brittle sturdy shrub, giving the desert a dark, mottled colour. To an untrained eye the desert looked utterly flat; but this was to be deceived. You could travel south across it then realize the horizon was gradually shortening; behind you could see for perhaps five or even ten miles, but then ahead your view stretched no further than a few hundred yards. Suddenly, without really realizing it until on the summit, you might find yourself standing on a long shallow ridge. The first of these along the Alamein position was the Miteirya Ridge, just 350 metres wide along its summit and running roughly parallel to the coast, and some eight miles inland. Here the sand and vetch had gone: instead, underfoot there was nothing but stones, some tiny, others as much as a foot wide, the ground very hard to dig into. Although no more than thirty metres above sea level, such was the general flatness of the desert that a ridge like this became a significant landmark from which troop movements could be seen for miles.

Continuing south, the next significant feature was the Ruweisat Ridge, running east-west, and then, further south again, another ridge, Alam Nayil. Approaching both, distances were deceptive and the consistency of ground colour and texture made orientation difficult. Once again, horizons suddenly stretched away then dramatically shortened, as the desert gently undulated. Further east was the larger feature of Alam Halfa, another longer and more significant ridge. Along the summit it was pitted with small dips and rises: ideal places in which to site guns or tanks. Its southern face was more pronounced and from there one could see the southern part of the line, the edge of the gigantic Qattara Depression. The landscape of this southern half of the forty-mile stretch between the coast and the depression was very different from the northern half. Between Alam Halfa and Alam Nayil – some fifteen miles apart – the desert dropped into strange lunar valleys with sudden sharp escarpments ranging from just a few feet to as much as forty feet high. This was a difficult part of the line over which to attack, because the dips and ridges made it almost impossible for mechanized transport of any kind, even tanks. But further south, the land once again flattened into a broad gravelly plain, before rising gradually towards the enormous horned feature known as the Qaret el Himeimat, a huge rock formation more reminiscent of Arizona’s Monument Valley than the featureless Western Desert. West from this ran another high ridge, over 180 metres above sea level, across which no machinery could pass, which dropped down into the vast expanse of the Qattara Depression, where the land stepped down through huge escarpments that were more or less impassable to vehicles.

Eighth Army was dispersed along the line in mostly brigade-strength boxes, which, although now manned by fewer men, were better equipped with transport. In the north, around El Alamein and covering the railway and main coast road, was the principal defensive position, prepared earlier and now manned by the 3rd South African Briagde. In the rugged area twenty-five miles to the south, the New Zealanders were also dug into fairly well-prepared positions known as the Kaponga Box. Thwe final defensive and offensive battles would be waged on this line.

Derna , Libya : Mussolini was so confident that the Axis forces would very soon reach the Nile Delta and conquer Egypt that, on 29 June, he flew to North Africa in preparation for what he imagined would be his magnificent entry into Cairo astride a white charger, which had been flown into Libya for the purpose. The plane bearing his own personage and a large retinue of followers was reported also to be carrying drums of black polish for his soldiers to buff their boots in preparation for the victory parade. Inauspiciously, however, the aircraft crashed on landing. Although the dictator escaped without injury, his barber and his chef were killed. Undeterred, he established his headquarters in the relatively congenial Mediterranean port of Derna, some 460 miles from the Axis front line at El Alamein where he liked to parade in front of the ‘cages’ where British POWs were held in captivity. Letting it be known that he expected Rommel to dance attendance upon him, he waited there – in vain – for the Panzerarmee commander to obey the summons.

This displeased Il Duce, who was already irked by the fact that the triumphs of the Axis forces on the Gazala Line, at Tobruk and reaching so far into Egypt had been so widely attributed to the ‘genius’ of Rommel rather than to the valour of the Italian troops. According to Ciano’s diary for 26 June, Rommel’s promotion to field marshal had caused Il Duce, ‘much pain’ because it had been done ‘to accentuate the German character of the battle’. Nonetheless, borne aloft by the apparently irresistible momentum of Rommel’s advance, he had visions of establishing an Italian commissariat in Alexandria ‘before fifteen days are over’.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Thrasher torpedoed and sank Italian freighter Diana 100 miles north of Tobruk, Libya at 1445 hours , Diana was transporting Italian military engineers tasked with repairing and reopening Tobruk harbour ; most of the engineers perished in the sinking , delaying the repair and opening of Tobruk port for Axis use. Escorting Italian motor torpedo boats counterattacked with 17 depth charges, causing no damage to HMS Thrasher which slipped away.

Voronezh , Russia : German 4th Panzer Army threatened to surround the Soviet 40th Army as the Germans advanced toward Voronezh in southern Russia; faced with reality of German attack with a panicked order from Moscow 1,000 Soviet tanks were released from STAVKA reserves to reinforce the defense. However these Soviet tank concentratons present excellent Luftwaffe bombing targets themselves.

The frontlines of Soviet 40th Army were already thin and badly broken by Fourth Panzer Army. Two orther Soviet armies (13th , 28th Soviet Armies) retreat in disarray. “It’s quite different from last year. It’s more like Poland. The Russians aren’t nearly so thick on the ground. Russians fire their guns like madmen but they do not hurt us” writes a German infantryman.

Sevastapol , Crimea : Troops of German 16th Infantry Regiment and 65th Infantry Regiment crossed Severnaya Bay north of Sevastopol, Russia in 130 rubber boats, landing behind Soviet defenses at 0100 hours, catching Russians complately suprised and establishing a bridgehead.

Bremen , Germany : 253 British bombers (108 Wellington, 64 Lancaster, 47 Stirling, and 34 Halifax) from RAF Bomber Command attacked Bremen, Germany, damaging the Focke-Wulf aircraft factory and the A. G. Weser submarine shipyard; 11 bombers were lost on this mission.

Indian Ocean : Norwegian cargo ship Goviken was toredoed and sunk by Japanese submarine I-20

Truk , Caroline Islands , Central Pacific : Japanese destroyer Yuzuki departed Truk, Caroline Islands, escorting a convoy transporting airfield construction crews to Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

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30 June 1942

Atlantic Ocean : After sinking Latvian cargo ship Everalda the day before , German submarine U-158 sent a long wireless report to U-Boat Command in Kerneval , France , never realising by a long radio report British radio direction finding stations in Bermuda DF’d (found her location by triangulation) her position mere 130 miles off Bermuda. Royal Navy Bermuda Command informed US Navy Eastern Seaboard Command immediately aboıut presence of U-158.

US Navy’s Bermuda-based Patrol Squadron 74, equipped with Mariner flying boats. A Mariner pilot, Richard E. Schreder, turned immediately toward the estimated position of the U-boat. After a run of merely fifty miles, he found German submarine U-158 cruising on the surface. He could see “about fifteen men” lounging on deck, sunning themselves, an inexplicably careless lapse so close to Bermuda. Schreder attacked, dropping two demolition bombs that missed, and two Mark XVII depth charges with shallow settings. One of the latter hit the boat’s bridge and wedged in the superstructure, the aircrew aircrew reported. When German submarine dived to escape, it apparently detonated, fatally damaging U-158, which sank with no survivors.

550 miles west of Ireland, German submarine U-458 torpedoed and sank Norwegian merchant ship Morsfruit; all 36 aboard survived. 650 miles northeast of the island of Saint Martin, Italian submarine Morosini torpedoed and sank Dutch merchant ship Tysa; all aboard survived.

El Alamein , Egypt : Axis troops headed by German 90th Light Infantry Division vanguard reached El Alamein line, Egypt. The scout battalion after exposed enemy fire from Alamein box informs Rommel and Afrikakorps HQ that they reached main British defence line before Nile Valley then tuerned back to rejoin their parent unit.

The British 7th Motor Brigade ambushed the advancing Italian 20th Corps while latter laagered at Sidi el Rahman in the morning. That morning, the entire 7th Motor Brigade attacked the rear of the recently arrived Italian Littorio Division, knocking out two thirds of its tanks and a number of guns , slowing down the Axis. 1st Armoured Division clashed with the Littorio Armored Division, and then with 21st Panzer Division. The battle is called off due to sandstorm. Both 1st British Armored Division and 7th Motor Brigade retreated to El Alamein line by dusk. The 4th and 22nd Armoured Brigades clashed with Italian Littorio Armoured Division with such unpleasant results for the Italians that they reported ‘30 of our tanks hit and damaged. At present division has no tanks and only six guns left.’ These blows on the enemy had important results, as during the first days at Alamein the Italian armour was ineffective.

These initial engagements did not bode well for future Axis prospects at Alamein battles.

Alamein itself was an inconsequential railway station on the coast. Some 10 mi (16 km) to the south lay the Ruweisat Ridge, a low stony prominence that gave excellent observation for many miles over the surrounding desert; 20 mi (32 km) to the south was the Qattara Depression. The line the British chose to defend stretched between the sea and the Depression, which meant that Rommel could outflank it only by taking a significant detour to the south and crossing the Sahara Desert. (which he lacked resources to do so) The British Army in Egypt (mainly General Wavell and General Wilson) recognised this before the war , maintained Alamein position as final defensive line of Egypt and had British Desert Expeditionary Force begin construction of several “boxes” (localities with dug-outs and surrounded by minefields and barbed wire) the most developed being around the railway station at Alamein.

Most of the “line” was open, empty desert.[ Lieutenant-General William Norrie (General officer commanding British 30th Corps) organised the position and started to construct three defended “boxes”. The first and strongest, at El Alamein on the coast, had been partly wired and mined by 1st South African Division. The Bab el Qattara box—some 20 mi (32 km) from the coast and 8 mi (13 km) south-west of the Ruweisat Ridge—had been dug but had not been wired or mined, while at the Naq Abu Dweis box (on the edge of the Qattara Depression), 34 mi (55 km) from the coast, very little work had been done.

The British position in Egypt was desperate, the rout from Mersa Matruh had created a panic in the British headquarters at Cairo, something later called “the Flap”. On what came to be referred to as “Ash Wednesday”, at British headquarters, rear echelon units and the British Embassy, papers were hurriedly burned in anticipation of the fall of the city. Auchinleck—although believing he could stop Rommel at Alamein—felt he could not ignore the possibility that he might once more be outmanoeuvred or outfought. To maintain his army, plans must be made for the possibility of a further retreat whilst maintaining morale and retaining the support and co-operation of the Egyptians. Defensive positions were constructed west of Alexandria and on the approaches to Cairo while considerable areas in the Nile delta were flooded.

On 30 June the remnants of Auchinleck’s Army was distributed across the El Alamein front and outline plans were being drawn up for possible further withdrawals to Alexandria, Cairo and the Suez Canal… Still while several of Auchinleck’s subordinates (General Gott commanding 13th Corps was utterly defeatist according to New Zealand Commander Howard Kippenberger) lost will and intended to retreat from Egypt , to his credit neither Auchinleck nor 30th Corps commander General Norrie nor division commanders at the front (Freyberg , Pienaar , Tuker) intended to do so and the Eighth Army frontline troops had far more confidence to check Panzer Army Afrika this time and repulse enemy advance than people at their rear. The scattering of 10th Corps at Mersa Matruh disrupted Auchinleck’s plan for occupying the Alamein defences. On 29 June, he ordered 30th Corps—the 1st South African, 5th and 10th Indian divisions—to take the coastal sector on the right of the front and 13th Corps—the 2nd New Zealand Division and 4th Indian divisions—to be on the left. The remains of the 1st Armoured Division and the 7th Armoured Division were to be held as a mobile army reserve. His intention was for the fixed defensive positions to channel and disorganise the enemy’s advance while mobile units would attack their flanks and rear.

On 30 June, Rommel’s Panzer Army Afrika approached the Alamein position. The Axis forces were extremely exhausted and understrength. Rommel had driven them forward ruthlessly, being over confident that, provided he struck quickly before Eighth Army had time to settle, his momentum would take him through the Alamein position and he could then advance to the Nile with little further opposition. Supplies remained a serious problem since over extension of rear supply route from via Balbia coastal route all the way to Benghazi and Tripoli (extending the route three times to 2.800 km over a single coastal route under DAF air attack) and exhaustion of captured British supply stocks in Tobruk faster than anyone anticipated and because the Axis staff had originally expected a pause of six weeks after the capture of Tobruk before Rommel changed the plan and inside chose to drive into Egypt recklessly. Both German and Italian units are seriously understrength , Afrikakorps reduced to 55 working panzers and 6.000 men in total. The supporting 10th and 20th Italian Corps together reduced to 6.500 men and 37 tanks , rest were either knocked out by constant Desert Air Force raids , broken down and not repaired due to lack of spare parts or immobilised due to lack of fuel. Panzer Army Afrika had 300 guns mostly captured British 25 pounders whose ammunition was almost deplated , only 29 dreaded German 88 mm guns remained in action due to Desert Air Force raids that specifically targeted Axis supply colums and artillery batteries. German air units were also exhausted , their bases left in Libya out of range and providing little help against the RAF’s all-out attack on the Axis supply lines which, with the arrival of United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) heavy bombers, could reach as far as Benghazi. Although captured supplies proved useful for Axis , water and ammunition were constantly in short supply, while a shortage of transport impeded the distribution of the supplies that the Axis forces did have.

Rommel’s plan was for the 90th Light Division and the 15th and 21st Panzer divisions of the Afrika Korps to penetrate the Eighth Army lines between the Alamein box and Deir el Abyad (which he believed was defended). German 90th Light Division was then to veer north to cut the coastal road and trap the defenders of the Alamein box (which Rommel thought was occupied by the remains of the 50th Infantry Division , he had no idea 1st South African Division which had something to prove after fall of Tobruk under South African garrison defence) and the Afrika Korps would veer right to attack the rear of 13th Corps , routing it utterly (as Rommel anticipated based upon his previous encounters when British outflanked they retreated) then march on Alexandria and Nile Delta.

An Italian division was to attack the Alamein box from the west and another was to follow the 90th Light Division. The Italian 20th Corps was to follow the Afrika Korps and deal with the Qattara box while the Italian 133rd Armoured Division Littorio and German reconnaissance units would protect the right flank. Rommel had planned to attack on 30 June but supply and transport difficulties had resulted in a day’s delay, vital to the defending forces reorganising on the Alamein line. On 30 June, the 90th Light Division was still 15 miles (24 km) short of its start line, 21st Panzer Division was immobilised through lack of fuel and the promised air support had yet to move into its advanced airfields. Still Rommel hoped that a swift central attack on the new British positions might succeed in the same way as at Mersa Matruh but he was moving further away from his air support and supply bases. The Axis came correspondingly within the range of the Desert Air Force.

But even worse for Panzer Army Afrika , now they were advancing “blind” into Egypt. In previous battles like Capture of Benghazi in January 1942 , Battle of Gazala and Fall of Tobruk , Axis had perfect inteligence resource at British camp thanks to decryphering of reports of US Military Attache in Cairo , Col. Bonnar Fellers detailing British situation in Middle East and Eighth Army deployments No more though. Since US Diplomatic wireless codes were changed and penetrated Black Code was no longer in use , neither Rommel nor Axis intelligence had no insight or idea of El Alamein line , its strong and weak points and deployments of Eighth Army on this line. The reckless blind drive of Rommel with over extended over exhausted and severely under strength units of Panzer Army Afrika that was out of breath and supplies under constant Desert Air Force pressure was more like a gamble with human lives.

Mediterranean Sea : German submarine U-372 penetrated from an escort screen of seven Royal Navy destroyers , torpedoed and sank British submarine depot ship HMS Medway 62 miles northwest of Alexandria, Egypt at 0824 hours , dealing a huge blow to Royal Navy submarine operations in Mediterranean then escaped from pursuit of escorts; 30 were killed, 1,105 survived. Only by holding Alexandria naval base and holding and reopening Malta submarine pens , Royal Navy submarines can operate against Axis supply links across Mediterranean now.

Sevastapol , Crimea : Admiral Oktyabrsky Soviet Black Sea Fleet Commander and General Petrov , garrison commander and senior Communist Party members were flown out at the last moment. Major General Pyotr Georgyevich Novikov took command of the defense. Those who remained — soldiers, sailors and naval infantry (marines) and civilians, including many women — fought on from the labyrinth. Having suffered enormous casualties and expended inordinate amounts of ammunition, the Germans resorted to desperate measures to subjugate the Russians still fighting from caves and bunkers underground.

On 30 June, German 54th Corps launched a heavy assault, supported by heavy Luftwaffe bombardment and several dozen guns. Heavy fighting took place for the next three days, but it was becoming clear that the Red Army could not hold their increasingly untenable positions for more than a week, at most.

Sevastapol was declared Hero City of Soviet Union.

Voronezh , Russia : The Soviet 40th Army was trapped by German 4th Panzer Army and German 6th Army in southern Russia. The drive on the Caucasus roars on. German columns kick up dust clouds that can be seen 40 miles away, and leave behind burning villages and town. “It is the formation of the Roman Legions, now brought up to date in the 20th century to tame the Mongol-Slav horde,” exults German propaganda.

During the night of 30 June, Stalin spoke directly to Golikov:

“Two items are worrying us.First, the weak securing of your front on the river Kshen and north-east of Tim. We are concerned about this danger because the enemy can drive into the rear of 40th Army and surround our units. Secondly, we are uneasy about the weak securing of your Front near Livny. Here the enemy can drive into the rear of 13th Army. In this area Katukov (1st Tank Corps) will be operating, but Katukov has no second echelon worth talking about. Do you think both of these threats are real and how do you propose to deal with them?”

Golikov replied that he thought the blow in the south, against 40th Army, the worst : 13th Army was holding off the German infantry. Both 13th and 48th Army had reserves. But Front HQ still had no firm contact with 4th and 24th Tank Corps, and 17th Tank Corps was running out of fuel. Since he could not now count on these formations, Golikov signalled for permission to pull back the left wing of 40th Army. The telegraph clicked back Stalin’s refusal.

Stalin next dictated possible movements for the tank corps to bring them into action not on the German flanks but against their spear-heads. Golikov refused to submit his own plans to the Stavka and now set about passing Stalin’s suggested dispositions to the corps which were controlled through a command centre at Kastornoye, a very weak link but the only radio channel he had available just then. Fedorenko, commander of the Red Army’s armoured troops, had himself arrived in Kastornoye on 30 June and had immediately dispatched orders to Golikov about the movement of the tank corps. Meanwhile the Stavka continued to send Golikov orders for the tank operations; he was reminded that he had ‘more than 1,000 tanks, the enemy less than 500’ and that now ‘everything depends on your skill in utilizing these forces and handling them reasonably (po-chelovecheski)’. With these armoured formations still milling about – Feklenko’s 17th was ‘manoeuvring’, 24th Corps was still at Novy Oskol, 4th Corps had only advanced detachments in action – Golikov could scarcely hope to concentrate his tanks, for all their formidable number.

Donets , Russia : On 30 June, Paulus’s Sixth Army crossed the start-line prepared on the eastern side of the river Donets. It had the Second Hungarian Army on its left and First Panzer Army on its right. The resistance encountered was stronger than expected, with T-34s and anti-tank guns both dug in and camouflaged from Ju-87 Stuka bombers as well as the panzers. This form of fighting, however, put the Russian tank troops at a disadvantage because the far more experienced German panzer troops outmanoeuvred them easily. Soviet crews either fought to the end without moving, or they made a run for it at the last moment. ‘The Russian tanks come out of their emplacements like tortoises’, wrote an observer, ‘and try to escape by zigzagging. Some of them still wear their camouflage netting like green wigs.’

The German divisions advanced across immense fields of sunflowers or corn. One of the main dangers they faced was from Red Army soldiers, cut off by the rapid advance, attacking from behind or from the flank. On many occasions, when German soldiers fired back, the Red Army soldiers fell, feigning death, and lay there without moving. When the Germans approached to investigate, the Soviet soldiers waited until almost the last moment, then ‘shot them at close range’.

Germany : All Jewish schools in Germany were forced to close.

Washington , USA : At a meeting headed by Ernest King and George Marshall, US military leadership finally settled their inter-service rivalry by moving the boundary of SOWESPAC (South West Pacific Command) and SOPAC (South Pacific Command) by 1 degree, or 60 miles, in order to facilitate the planned assault on Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. Inrtial stages of Solomons Campaign will be run by US Navy Pacific Fleet then the command would be shifted to US Army’s South West Pacific Command led by General MacArthur in Australia

Indian Ocean : Japanese submarine I-10 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Express in the Mozambique Channel, killing 13. In the same area, I-20 sank British tanker Steaua Romana.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Plunger torpedoed and sank Japanese cargo ship Unkai Maru No. 5 70 miles southeast of Shanghai, China

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1 July 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-202 torpedoed and sank US passenger-cargo ship City of Birmingham 250 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, United States at 0127 hours; 9 were killed, 374 survived.

German submarine U-129 torpedoed and sank Norwegian cargo ship Gundersen in Atlantic Ocean.

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : US merchant ship Edward Luckenbach mistakenly entered a US minefield and struck two mines; she sank 20 miles north of the Florida Keys, Florida, United States; lost with the ship was a very large supply of tungsten, prompting the Americans to later launch an operation to salvage it.

At 1831 hours, German submarine U-126 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Warrior 125 miles east of Trinidad; 7 were killed, 49 survived; the 10,080 tons of Lend-Lease supplies bound for the Soviet Union via Iran were lost.

The small 1,855-ton Norwegian merchant steamer Cadmus was en route from Honduras to Galveston, Texas, United States with a cargo of bananas when at 1744 hours she was hit by a single torpedo fired from German submarine U-129, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Hans-Ludwig Witt. The torpedo struck the Cadmus between the No. 4 hatch and the poop deck, killing two of the crew and immediately the vessel started to sink by the stern. The remaining crew abandoned ship and were questioned by the Germans who had surfaced and were taking bunches of bananas from the sea before moving off.

Arctic Ocean : German submarine U-456 and a German Bv 138 aircraft spotted Allied convoy PQ-17 in the Barents Sea and began shadowing it.

At Trondheim, Norway, German Navy Vice Adm. Otto Schniewind reacts by putting to sea with the battleship Tirpitz, the pocket battleships Scheer and Lutzow, and the heavy cruiser Hipper, joined by a pack of destroyers. Lutzow and three destroyers run one after another onto an uncharted rock in Vestfjord, and miss the sailing, called “Operation Rosselsprung.” to destroy Convoy PQ-17

Baltic Sea : German anti submarine vessel Sperrbrecher 191 Motor struck a mine and sank off Koningsberg.

El Alamein , Libya : First Battle of Alamein starts. German 90th Light Division began to advance for El Alamein, Egypt at 0300 hours; meanwhile, German and Italian tanks covered the southern flank. Allied troops in the area were a mix of British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, and South African nationalities. Axis forces suffered heavy casualties and thrown back by Eighth Army on this first day of assault.

At 03:00 on 1 July, German 90th Light Infantry Division advanced east according to Rommel’s plan to breach Alamein line but during the morning it was first delayed due to a severe dust storm then early in the morning it strayed too far north and ran into the 1st South African Division’s defences at Alamein box and became pinned down under heavy artillery and anti tank gun fire from 1st South African Division then forced to retreat. Both Rommel and his Chief of Staff Bayerlein observed under very heavy and accurate artillery fire which was unseen and unexperienced in North African Campaign so far (British Eighth Army was finally began to centralise , focus and concentrate artillery firepower on mass scale) German 90th Light Infantry trops began to panic and retreat disorganised manner. The combined artillery efforts of all three South African Brigades and the 1st Armoured Division were giving the 90th Light the shock of its life. For the first time since the beginning of the Gazala battles in May, British artillery was pouring concentrated fire onto the Germans, who had been caught out in the open as the dust storm cleared.

Later in the day, the 90th Light Division came under such heavy artillery bombardment that some German units even panicked. Later, Rommel described how, during this battle, he and his Chief of Staff came under ‘furious artillery fire … [as] … British shells came screaming in from three directions, north, east and south; anti-aircraft tracer streaked through our force … shell after shell crashed into the area we were holding … our attack came to a standstill … for two hours [General] Bayerlein and I had to lie out in the open.’

Soon, German 90th Light Division was being pounded by the concentrated fire of seven batteries of artillery. German division requested more artillery support in an attempt to suppress the hostile batteries, and Rommel drove up to the positions with his battle group. However, many vehicles of the Kampfstaffel were hit, and instead of being able to urge his men on to greater efforts, Rommel had to stem a rout of his own most trusted soldiers. Under the barrage of heavy fire, the German infantry did the unthinkable – they ran for safety.

Italian motorised infantry Trento Division and 7th Bersaglieri of the Italian 21st Corps were outside the western and south-western sectors of the Alamein Box, their attack at dawn having been easily repulsed by South African machine guns.

The 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions of the Afrika Korps were delayed by another sandstorm and then a heavy air attack by Desert Air Force. It was broad daylight by the time they circled round the back of Deir el Abyad where they found the feature to the east of it , Deir El Shein box , was occupied by 18th Indian Infantry Brigade which, after a hasty journey from Iraq, had occupied the exposed position just west of Ruweisat Ridge and east of Deir el Abyad at Deir el Shein late on 28 June to create one of Norrie’s additional defensive boxes.

At about 10:00 AM on 1 July, 21st Panzer Division attacked exposed Deir el Shein box (held by 18th Indian Brigade) on west of Ruweisat ridge. 18th Indian Infantry Brigade—supported by 23 25-pounder gun-howitzers, 16 of the new 6-pounder anti-tank guns and nine Matilda tanks—held out the whole day in desperate fighting but by evening the Germans (after considerable hesistacy that was not appearent in their ranks during Gazala-Tobruk battles) , breached the minefields and barbed wire defences then succeeded in over-running them. After fierce skirmishes in which 18th Indian Brigade was overrun , 2.000 British and Indian troops and 20 guns were captured by Axis (rest of the Indian brigade managed to retreat behind British lines) but in exchange eighteen of the Afrikakorps’ remaining fifty-five tanks were destroyed by Indian and British anti tank gunners , Rommel’s assault was stalled for whole day. The time they bought allowed Auchinleck to organise the defence of the western end of Ruweisat Ridge. The 1st Armoured Division had been sent to intervene at Deir el Shein. They ran into 15th Panzer Division just south of Deir el Shein in the afternoon and after a gunnery duel between tanks of both sides , with help of Desert Air Force attacks 1st Armored Division drove their German opponents to west of Ruweisat ridge though they were too late to save 18th Indian Brigade due to General Gott’s complemancy. By the end of the day’s fighting, the Afrika Korps had 37 tanks left out of its initial complement of 55.

During the early afternoon, 90th Light had extricated itself from the El Alamein box defences and resumed its move eastward. It came under artillery fire from the three South African brigade groups and was forced to dig in.

To blunt Rommel’s advance, Auchinleck focused on the two most obvious lines of advance: the coast road in the north and the “Barrel Track” in the south. The south was the least likely route to be used, so Auchinleck protected this with just two independent brigades and the few tanks of the 7th Armoured Division. In the north, the 1st South African Division garrisoned the El Alamein Box, a fifteen-mile crescent of platoon and company posts along the coast road and railway. Only one South Africa brigade was inside the perimeter, the other two occupied key locations nearby. One brigade was positioned on the northern slopes of Ruweisat Ridge; the other was sent some three miles southwest of the perimeter. To protect its flanks, 30th Corps commander Lieutenant General Norrie had sent 18 Indian Infantry Brigade to hold the Deir el Shein, some seven miles to the southwest of El Alamein. Two regiments of field artillery and an anti-tank platoon with the new six-pounder gun supported both positions. Auchinleck planned to hold Rommel’s advance with these defensive boxes while the 22nd Armoured Brigade and the infantry of 2nd New Zealand Division struck a crushing blow against the Panzer Army’s flanks and rear as it launched its assault.

This was the plan, in any case, but unfortunately for Auchinleck, Lieutenant General William H. E. “Strafer” Gott, the corps commander who would coordinate this strike, could not be located. Niall Barr wrote that on July 1, “Eighth Army had completely lost contact with ‘Strafer’ Gott. That this happened at the moment Eighth Army was fighting for its existence was extraordinary. Meanwhile 18th Indian Brigade after a heroic defence lost Deir El Shein box.

As Niall Barr has written, 18 Indian Brigade’s resistance was a considerable achievement and won a precious breathing space for the rest of the Army. The stubborn resistance of 18 Indian Brigade had gained one day for Eighth Army. It was a critical gain. Barr writes:

“The fight against the Afrika Korps had indeed been one-sided. An ill-equipped and poorly supported brigade filled with inexperienced soldiers had drawn the entire weight of Rommel’s two panzer divisions onto their position…. Not only had the offensive power of the Afrika Korps been blunted, but the main drive through the British positions which Rommel wanted complete by the end of the day had been halted.”

Despite stemming the initial advance, this could hardly be regarded as a great start for Eighth Army. An important position had been lost and the fighting should not have been so one-sided. Needless to say, Auchinleck’s strike against the advancing Panzer Army failed to materialize. While the Axis forces were steadily being eroded—at the end of July 1, 21st Panzer Division could muster just thirty-seven runners and 15th Panzer just seventeen—more British reinforcements arrived to strengthen their positions. By July 1, 1st British Armoured Division was firmly established on Ruweisat Ridge with more than 100 tanks, thirty-eight of them Grant tanks, and liberally protected by the new six-pounder anti-tank guns. Rommel now intended that the Afrika Korps was to finish mopping up the Deir el Shein then push onto Ruweisat Ridge some five miles away. At Ruweisat, the Korps was to advance east along the ridge then turn north to cut the coast road. Meanwhile, 90th Light Diision would also advance to the coast on an inner arch. With all his German formations committed, Rommel was dependent on the Italian 20th Corps to protect his left flank. But nothing went according to plan. The divisions of 10th and 20th Italian corps left way behind due to lack of fuel , lack of motorised vehicles and lack of drive from their officers and the shock of previous days fighting with 1st British rmored Division around Fuka. While the Afrika Korps’ armored divisions managed to advance for around four miles around Deir El Shein it was halted before Ruweisat Ridge by recently arrived British 1st Armored Division, under very heavy British and South African artillery fire German 90th Light Division was almost dissolved and made no headway at all. Its War Diary made for depressing reading:

“The enemy gave no sign of withdrawing. On the contrary, he gave the impression that he was trying with all his force to stop Panzer Army from storming the Alamein position. It seemed that the German forces, exhausted by the heavy fighting and the hardships of the past days and weeks, would not be able by their own strength, to force this last British fortification.”

Adding to German 90th Light Division’s gloom was that Panzer Army had been under constant air attack during the day. During this July battle, the RAF, now named the Desert Air Force (DAF) from February 1942, had achieved parity with the Luftwaffe. It made a critical difference and “was one of Auchinleck’s best assets.” This was in spite of the DAF’s shortage of aircraft and equipment. During the Gazala battle, the DAF had lost 202 fighter aircraft and during July 1942, most of the fighter squadrons were operating at half-strength. On the two days of July 1–2, the Desert Air Force dropped 180 tons of bombs on the Axis forces. Casualties caused were small, but the disruption to Rommel’s timetable was significant. Rommel summarized the day’s activities in his diary: “Under this tremendous weight of fire, our attack came to a standstill.” His advance beyond the Alamein position had been thwarted for the second time.

It was late in the afternoon of 1 July when ‘Strafer’ Gott turned up at Eighth Army Headquarters. Out of radio contact for the entire day, Gott had decided to drive to see Auchinleck himself. Gott was quickly ‘put in the picture’ by Auchinleck. He was informed that he must not consider himself pinned by the defensive localities, but instead, should operate towards the north west and the Ruweisat ridge in closer contact with 30th Corps. After this briefing, Gott was simply too tired to drive in the darkness back to his own headquarters. He slept beside his car that night before motoring back to his headquarters the next morning. The immediate crisis was over.

The stand of the 18th Indian Brigade at Deir el Shein and 1st South African Division efforts at the Alamein box had halted Rommel’s men in their tracks and bought precious time for the rest of Eighth Army to gather itself. Yet these combats had simply been a reminder of much of what had gone wrong with the Eighth Army over the past year. Deir el Shein and the Alamein box represented exactly the kind of position which Auchinleck had been determined to do away with when he took over command of the Eighth Army on 25 June. The supreme irony of 1 July was that Auchinleck and the Eighth Army were saved by the dogged resistance of an isolated fresh brigade employing the bankrupt tactics of the brigade box. According to General Norrie , Auchinleck accepted thr loss of 18th Indian Brigade philosophically. In greater strategic picture , he had more accurate situation information. Auchinleck mentions its ‘stalwart resistance’ and that ‘the stand made by the brigade certainly gained valuable time for the organisation of the Alamein Line generally.’ Post-war revelations of all the facts show that the brigade did much more than this. Tactically and administratively insecure though it was, the brigade fought with a vigour that upset Rommel’s battle plan. Just as the fighting in July marked the turn of Allied fortunes in the Middle East, so the action of 18thnIndian Brigade on 1 July may be said to have marked the turn of the battle on the Alamein Line. Had Eighth Army been able to avail itself of the opportunity created by the brigade, a crushing defeat might have been imposed on Rommel.

The Afrika Korps, still grouped around Deir el Shein, did not have such a quiet night. Its formations were repeatedly illuminated by flares dropped by Fairey Albacores and bombed by RAF Wellington bombers which brought confusion to its supply columns. Rommel, in contrast to his usual ability in sizing up a battlefield, drew a false picture on which he made plans his forces could not carry out.

Afrika Korps was primarily responsible for Rommel’s first error on 1 July. General Nehring did not tell him the Korps had encountered a British strongpoint in Deir el Shein and that his two divisions were deploying for the attack. The first news Rommel received from the Korps after it had crossed the start line was a message at 12.55: ‘Advance of 21st Panzer is proceeding well.’ Doubtless Nehring meant no more than that 21 Panzer was bombarding Deir el Shein and that its infantry had reached the wire defences, which it was trying to breach with Bangalore torpedoes.

The message, however, seems to have given Rommel the impression that the battle was virtually over. He had seen 90 Light Division enter the Alamein gap on its appointed course, and during the morning he had ordered Littorio to come well forward and to be under his command. At one o’clock, after receiving Afrika Korps’ message, he signalled Littorio: ‘Advance goes well. 20 Corps and Littorio may expect to start pursuit towards 1400 hours. Direction of pursuit 290 left 5 [EI Hammam] 300 left 47 as far as road crossing 20 km south-west of Alexandria.’

So far from Panzer Army being ready for further pursuit, 90 Light Division was still regrouping in the gap, Afrika Korps was fully engaged at Deir el Shein, 20th Italian Corps was about 12 miles behind Afrika Korps, and Italian Littorio Armored Division was so badly supplied that a staff officer made a laconic note on Rommel’s signal: ‘Littorio has fuel for only 20 km, to Alexandria 150 km!’

Even by nightfall Rommel was unaware that his army had suffered a severe reverse. According to his daily report, he believed Panzer Army had broken into the British front and had ‘enlarged the breach in a north-easterly and south-easterly direction with the aim of rolling up the enemy positions to the north and south.’ He expected that next day he would complete his plan of thrusting deep into 13 Corps’ rear and of sending 90 Light Division round the Alamein Box to the coast. He ordered 90 Light to continue its attack by moonlight as far as the coast road, with the support of 3 Recce Detachment, his own Kampstaffel and 20th Italian Corps, which were to attack about 5.30 a.m. on 2 July. Afrika Korps was ordered to continue the attack to the south and south-east. Littorio was told to join 20th Italian Corps in Sanyet el Miteiriya and to be ready to move at 5.30 a.m. The 21st Italian Corps, facing the Alamein Box, was ordered to attack at 5.30, and 10th Corps was told to take over the front held by Afrika Korps.

Thus the day ended with Rommel optimistic but blind to the realities of the situation. His spearhead, 90 Light Division, had been blunted and was likely to break against firm opposition. Afrika Korps, which had started the day with 55 tanks, now had only 37. The Italians were slow in moving and in some cases frankly sceptical of the prospects. Supply shortages so menaced Panzerarmee that Afrika Korps noted in its diary: ‘The supply position regarding fuel and ammunition is precarious. Replenishment is urgently needed’. But replenishment was not made. During the night British bombing attacks scattered the German supply columns.

Rommel’s German forces suffered heavy material losses on 1 July and, in the case of 90 Light Division, their morale was affected. But the loss of time was more important. On 1 July 1 Armoured Division and 7 Motor Brigade were largely out of action. Next day both of these formations were ready for battle.

Rommel was determined to continue his attack the next day. He had not been able to break the defences of Eighth Army in the first rush, but he still believed that he would be able to reach Alexandria. Eighth Army, however, had not dissolved into flight and there had been no repeat of Mersa Matruh. Far from being over, as Rommel had hoped, the battle for Egypt had only just begun.

Mediterranean Sea : German submarine U-97 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Marilyse Moller 66 miles east of Port Said, Egypt at 1343 hours; 35 were killed, 4 survived; Royal Navy anti-submarine trawler HMS Burra counterattacked with three depth charges, causing no damage

Scotland , UK : B-17E Flying Fortress bomber “Jarring Jenny” landed at Prestwick, Scotland, United Kingdom having flown the 3,000 miles from Maine, United States via Greenland and Iceland. It was the first of hundreds of sister aircraft to be flown to Great Britain to form the US Eighth Air Force

Voronezh , Russia : German 4th Panzer Army advanced toward Voronezh, Russia.

At 02.00 hours, 1 July, Colonel-General Vasilevskii (after 26 June the new Chief of the General Staff of STAVKA (Soviet General Staff) now that Marshal Shaposhnikov was incapacitated by advancing illness) interrogated Golikov brutally by teleprinter about the fate of these tank corps:

“The Stavka is dissatisfied that on your Front several of the tank corps have ceased to be tank formations and operate with infantry methods – examples: Katukov (1st Tank) instead of destroying enemy infantry spends a day surrounding two regiments and you evidently go along with this . . . And where are these tanks? Do they have to operate like this? You are to get a tight grip on them at once, assign them specific tasks suited to tank corps and demand absolutely that these orders are carried out.”

In his reply Golikov pointed out that Fedorenko commander of Red Army armored troops in his sector had done no better, since he was handling the tank corps single-handed without a staff or signals centre and his orders, even his presence, complicated the work of his own HQ. Vasilevskii nevertheless told Golikov that Fedorenko was there to help and that Bryansk HQ should subordinate itself to Fedorenko with the tank operations. At 02.50 hours that same night, the Bryansk Front and the South-Western Front received permission to pull back their left and right wing formations respectively. On 30 June, German formations had smashed through 21st Army on Timoshenko’s right and were going for Novy Oskol. Staff officers from 40th Army took off in small biplanes to try to locate their formations; several orders did reach Zhmachenko, deputy commander of the 40th, but the short July night gave little cover for disengagement.

Sevastapol , Crimea : German 11th Army began to enter outskirts of Sevastapol amid heavy streetfighting and German artillery began bombarding inner city. Inside cliffside caves at Severnaya , where thousands of wounded Red Army troops , marines and civilians took shelter , German engineers detonate a massive charge , sealing the entrances of caves , burying all them inside alive.

Vichy France : Pierre Laval allowed German forces to enter Vichy France to hunt for clandestine radio transmitters

Knoxville , Tennessee , USA : Chief Engineer of the Manhattan District Colonel James C. Marshall and his deputy Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Nichols surveyed the Knoxville, Tennessee, United States region for suitable sites for Manhattan Project manufacturing, but they were not entirely satisfied by the sites presented to them by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

China : Chiang Kaishek formally submitted his “Three Demands” to Joseph Stilwell to forward on to Washington DC, United States. This request included 5,000 tons of supplies, 500 war planes, and 3 US divisions for the Chinese theater of war. US President Franklin Roosevelt would superficially agree to the demands, but would stall the delivery indefinitely

Indian Ocean : Japanese submarine I-16 torpedoed and sank Swedish cargo ship Eknaren in the Mozambique Channel. In the same area, Japanese submarine I-18 torpedoed and sank Dutch cargo ship De Weert

Papua New Guinea : An Australian commando raid killed 44 Japanese soldiers in Heath’s Farm , New Guinea.

Guadalcanal , South West Pacific : On Guadalcanal, Coastwatcher Martin Clemens and his colleagues debate by teleradio the Japanese intentions. The Japanese are burning grass and demolishing buildings on the Lunga plain. They are also building a wharf for loading meat. Perhaps it is to ship timber to Tulagi.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Sturgeon torpedoed and sank Japanese passenger ship Montevideo Maru off northern Philippine Islands before dawn; 1,124 were killed, 17 survived. The crew of Sturgeon did not realize that most of those aboard were Australian prisoners of war from Rabaul , which constituted 1,053 of the 1,124 killed.

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I wonder if the war happened today how the news would’ve handled it…

Tragic as hell. :cry:

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Yeah horrible :-(, it happened multiple times. I wonder if those 17 were saved by Sturgeon. In the end the grinding away at the Japanese shipping was one of the greatest victories but at a horrible price. With WW2 tech there wasn’t really another option as we all know.

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2 July 1942

Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-129 torpedoed and sank Norwegian cargo ship Gundersen in the Gulf of Mexico at 0617 hours; 1 was killed, 25 survived.

German submarine U-161 torpedoed and sank Panaman cargo ship San Pablo at Puarta Lemon harbour , Costa Rica

Arctic Ocean : A German BV 138 seaplane shadowed Allied convoy PQ-17 in the Barents Sea from a distance, reporting in the convoy’s position throughout the day. Seven He 115 seaplanes made a unsuccessful torpedo attack on the convoy, , two German aircrtaft shot down. Meanwhile German battleship Tirpitz, cruiser Admiral Hipper, four destroyers, and two torpedo boats departed Trondheim, Norway to intercept (Operation Rösselsprung). The German ships were spotted by Soviet submarine K21, which attacked and reported a hit, but in actuality the torpedo had missed.

El Alamein , Egypt : Erwin Rommel abandoned the southward tank sweep to have the tanks assist on the direct assault of El Alamein, Egypt, but not until the southern drive had already lost 2,000 men and 30 field guns. Meanwhile General Auchinleck established his battle headquarters on Ruweisat Ridge while the Eighth Army was deployed in and around a line of ‘boxes’ some – but not all – of which were protected by minefields and slit trenches.

On 2 July, Rommel ordered the resumption of the offensive. Once again, German 90th Light failed to make progress so Rommel called the Afrika Korps to abandon its planned sweep southward and instead join the effort to break through to the coast road by attacking east toward Ruweisat Ridge. As soon as the sun had come up, the air assault on the Panzer Army was continued by light and fighter bombers of the Desert Air Force. Coningham’s concept of ‘round-the-clock’ bombing was taking on its full meaning. Rising dust storms prevented flying for much of the afternoon of 2 July but the systematic bombing of the Panzer Army began to take its toll. German 90th Light Division had passed a relatively quiet night and resumed its drive for the coast at 04.00 hours that morning, with Group Menny in the vanguard. Driving along in the darkness the trucks of the division went nearly two kilometres further forward before they drew fire from the Alamein box held by General Pienaar’s South African Division in determination. Once again, German 90th Light Infantry Div. was caught in a crescent of fire from at least seven British and South African artillery batteries and the advance ground to a halt from ‘concentrated enemy fire from all arms’. Four batteries were brought up from Panzer Army Artillery reserve in an attempt to suppress this fire, but the South African defenders of the Alamein box did not even recognise this attack as the 90th Light Division in full cry. Instead the ‘attack’ was dismissed in its subsequent report as ‘Light shelling continued by both sides on the morning of 2 Jul 42.’

It is clear why the two sides had such a different perspective on the same event. While the Germans were pinned to the ground under concentrated artillery fire long before they had reached effective small-arms range, the South Africans, well protected by their series of bunkers, pillboxes and gun pits, were subjected to the scattered and badly directed fire of weak and composite German and Italian batteries. German 90th Light Division had lost the power to force a decision.

Rommel acknowledged this painful fact when he changed the role of the Afrika Korps for the day. At 09.00 hours, the two panzer divisions were given urgent orders to finish the mopping up of Deir el Shein and to advance seven kilometres directly east along the Ruweisat ridge and then turn north to the coast instead of south east. The Afrika Korps would sweep round to the coast in cooperation with the 90th Light Division which would now form the inner part of a much larger wheel. With all his German forces now committed in the drive to the coast, Rommel ordered the Italian 20th Corps, composed of the Ariete Armored, Trieste Motorised and Littorio Armored Divisions, to take up the former role of the Afrika Korps. These Italian armoured and motorised formations would watch the southern flank and, by turning south east once they reached a place on German maps which translates as ‘Deep Well’, would encircle the southern units of Eighth Army. Rommel hoped that this change of plan would be enough to complete the encirclement of the Alamein positions. Even in its depleted condition the Afrika Korps was still dangerous and its thrust along the Ruweisat ridge threatened the security of Eighth Army. The German advance got under way at 15.00 hours that afternoon but the delay had given the British armoured brigades precious time to refuel and reorganise. The 90th Light again made no headway in the storm of artillery fire that greeted it, with the Marcks group claiming that it had managed to advance only a further 500 metres eastwards then permenantly halted. Italian Trento infantry division and Besegliari Regiment of 21st Italian Corps also made no advance against Alamein box and retreated to east at dusk

The British defence of Ruweisat Ridge relied on an improvised formation called “Robcol”, comprising a regiment each of field artillery and light anti-aircraft artillery and a company of infantry. Robcol—in line with normal British Army practice for ad hoc formations—was named after its commander, Brigadier Robert Waller, the Commander Royal Artillery of the 10th Indian Infantry Division. With accurate and heavy artillery and anti, tank gunfire Robcol held the two panzer divisions of Afrikakorps and was able to buy time. By late afternoon the two British armoured brigades joined the battle with 4th Armoured Brigade engaging 15th Panzer Division and 22nd Armoured Brigade 21st Panzer Division respectively.

What happened next troubled Afrikakorps HQ a great deal. Instead of charging as normal, the British tanks, merely halted and exchanged fire at long range. The Sharpshooters had some mobile 6-pounders attached to them now, which meant they could shoot it out on something like even terms. Their war diary noted that ‘the 6-pounder guns appeared to have a very steadying effect on the enemy’. The Germans also noted with concern that batteries of field artillery stationed well behind were contributing coordinated supporting fire. They drove back repeated attacks by the Axis armour, who then withdrew before dusk. The British reinforced Ruweisat on the night of 2 July. The now enlarged Robcol became “Walgroup”.

Meanwhile, the Royal Air Force (RAF) made heavy air attacks on the Axis units. Eighth Army stood at bay on 2 July using unorthodox but sensible tactics and new weaponry to great effect. Most importantly of all, Rommel’s offensive had been stymied for another day. The truth was that Rommel’s attack at Alamein could only have succeeded against a comprehensively demoralised force. Robcol’s fight demonstrated that, while there was confusion and doubt amongst the higher echelons of the army because of the profusion of plans for retreat, the officers and men of Eighth Army had indeed fought to defend what they saw as ‘the last ditch’.

Meanwhile, the Desert Air Force was putting out a tremendous independent effort to stem the Axis tide. Communications between Auchinleck and Coningham remained sketchy and uncertain but although the land and air effort was uncoordinated, there was no doubt that the effect was complementary. The war diary of the 90th Light Division noted:

“The enemy was using all his available aircraft against the attacking Afrika Army. Every 20 or 30 minutes 15, 18 or even 21 Bombers, with fighter protection on the same scale would attack. Even though they were not noticeably successful because the fighting and supply formations were so widely dispersed these heavy and continuous bombing and low-level attacks affected the morale of the troops all the more. Everybody longed for the Luftwaffe, but realised that the German forces could not be brought forward so quickly. Single German fighters appeared, and were given an enthusiastic welcome, but these were naturally not in a position to attack such strong formations of bombers.”

The medium, light and fighter bombers of the Desert Air Force could not deliver the same tactical effect as the ‘flying artillery’ of the Luftwaffe in dive-bombing positions but their effect was still profound. From dusk on 1 July until last light on 2 July a total of 180 tons of bombs was dropped by medium, light and fighter bombers.21 The number of casualties and level of destruction inflicted by a bombing raid could be surprisingly small but the degree of disruption was important. Two British soldiers who had been taken prisoner witnessed a night bombing raid on Italian Trieste Motorised Infantry Division on the night of 1–2 July :

“The RAF attacked for five hours continuously causing great damage and indescribable confusion. Parachute flares showed up the target brightly and observer was much impressed by the methodical accuracy of the bombing, which was accompanied by ground strafing by fighters and the rear gunners of the bombers . . . Many lorries carrying ammunition were hit and almost as much damage was done by exploding ammunition as by the bombs.”

There is no doubt that this bombing raid disrupted the division and delayed its march to the front. Although Rommel made increasingly annoyed enquiries about its location and arrival throughout 2 July, neither Italian Trieste Infantry nor Italian Arierte Armored Divisiom made no appearance that day; its men were simply too tired and scattered. The Desert Air Force provided vital air support during the most dangerous period for the Eighth Army.

It should be noted though Auchinleck was still was not utilising RAF Desert Air Force arm fully and efficiently. Vice Air Marshal Mary Coningham was getting little help from Eighth Army Command, even though the DAF’s efforts were almost entirely in support of the ground forces. The lack of information passed on to Air HQ was understandable during the confusion of the retreat, but Mary’s heart sank when he realized the Auk had set up the combined army and air HQ half an hour’s drive from the nearest airfield. Despite the use of a captured German Fiesler Storch light aircraft, with which he was able to visit his wings and squadrons, it soon became clear that the situation was far from ideal. As Tommy Elmhirst recalled, ‘Mary decided that we were out on a limb: no close touch with the Army, no airstrip, poor communications with our wings and squadrons and with AHQ in Cairo and, almost worst of all, an unpleasant camp site in the open flat desert with millions of flies.’ So they moved: close to the sea at Burg el Arab and to the main road, with water and telephone links to Cairo, army HQ, and the wings and squadrons. But even now that the line had stabilized, there was little information about enemy dispositions being offered by the army. ‘We still lack Army co-operation to a quite deplorable extent,’ RAF Air Marahal Arthur Tedder wrote to Air Minister Charles Portal on 12 July. ‘Coningham has had to ram air support down their throats and in order to get the necessary information to give effective support has had to rely almost entirely on his own sources of information"

Despite lack of progress previous day , Rommel was still confident of success on 2nd July. He was particularly buoyed by news from the Luftwaffe that night that the British fleet had left Alexandria. He wrote on hearing this news:

“This determined me to go all out for a decision in the next few days. The British no longer seemed to trust their luck and were preparing for a retreat. I was convinced that a breakthrough over a wide front by my forces would result in complete panic.”

Far from showing “complete panic,” Auchinleck struck first on 2nd July. The 1st British Armoured Division, in conjunction with other units from 13 Corps, launched a counterattack from Ruweisat Ridge against the Axis’ southern flank in the early afternoon. There was also some sporadic fighting to the north but the Axis forces made little headway. This resistance surprised Rommel. He recorded in his diary:

“More and more British tanks and guns were arriving at the front. General Auchinleck, who had meanwhile taken over command himself at El Alamein, was handling his forces with very considerable skill and tactically better than Ritchie had done. He seemed to view the situation with decided coolness, for he was not allowing himself to be rushed into accepting a “second best” solution by any moves we made”

Among Italian units and divisions of Panzer Army Africa there was severe disillusion , disappointment and demoralisation due to severity of resistance they encountered and physical and morale exhaustion and lack of supplies. Among these men, optimism that the fall of Tobruk signalled the beginning of the end of the war in North Africa soon began to evaporate. The Trento Division was a case in point. On 2 July, Lt. Vittorio Vallicella, who two weeks earlier had looked forward excitedly to reaching palm trees and the women of the Nile Delta, noted miserably, ‘We are stuck in this desolate plain of El Alamein, tired, hungry, and with little water, filthy and full of lice. We know that our Great Leader is … miles from the front because we have not been able to open the gates of Alexandria for him.’

Rommel admitted later that he had made ‘extraordinary demands’ on his forces, that he had ‘spared neither the rank and file nor their leaders,’ and that in the advance into Egypt ‘the deeds performed by officers and men reached the limits of human efficiency.’ But until the evening of 2 July he ignored the exhaustion of his troops. His decisions at this period show signs of personal strain. He appears to have fortified himself with the doctrine that success attends the commander who imposes his will on the enemy, and he expected his own strong willpower to manifest itself in his German troops.

That night Rommel still thought the victory might be won. He ordered the attacks to be resumed on 3 July. But all his orders to the striking formations had a significant addition: ‘from daybreak until 0900 hours [10 a.m. British Army time] test out the enemy positions and find out the weak ones.’ In effect, the orders admitted that Eighth Army could not be pushed out of the Alamein Line but suggested there might be some weak joints from which it might be prised loose.

Derna , Libya : No idea (or interested) that Panzer Artmy’s reckless drive was stalled , Benito Mussolini cabled Adolf Hitler in regards to the future administration of Egypt, in which he recommended Erwin Rommel as the military governor and a yet-unnamed Italian as the civilian administrator.

Sevastapol , Crimea : The Sevastapol city and harbour officially fell , Soviet Coastal Army was destroyed and 91.000 Soviet troops became prisoners of war (though some shore fortresses would resist till 9th July) The Russian defenders carried on fighting in the vicinity of the Maksim Gor’kiy II fortifications, among the most formidable of all the defensive works, on the Khersones peninsula, until 5 July 1942. The last of them carried on their fatal struggle in the caves on the same outcrop, to the west of the city, until 9 July. They hoped to be evacuated, but mostly hoped in vain. Of Maksim Gor’kiy II’s garrison of 1,000, only 50 men were taken prisoner. All were wounded. According to a German Luftwaffe captain serving with a JU-87 Stuka dive bomber formation,

“They were bombed again and again; one explosion next to another, like poisonous mushrooms, shot up between the rocky hideouts. The whole [Khersones] peninsula was fire and smoke — yet in the end thousands of prisoners were taken, even there. One can only stand amazed at such resilience — it is unbelievable in the truest sense of the word. That is how they defended Sevastopol all along the line and the whole time, and that is why it was a very tough nut. The whole country had to be literally ploughed over by bombs before they yielded a short distance.”

The German Eleventh Army’s war diary for 4 July 1942 recorded that ‘The City of Sevastopol is a heap of rubble.’ In this heap of rubble one-sixth of the city’s pre-siege population of 200,000 survived. Hitler ordered that at the end of the war Sevastopol would become a completely German city and would be the main base for the German fleet in the Black Sea. Until then, any reconstruction was limited to what the German navy needed.

For this sucess , Hitler promoted Genetal Erich Manstein to Field Marshall rank though Manstein’s own losses were heavy also , 24.000 men of German 11th Army were killed and wounded to capture Sevastapol in four weeks of savage fighting.

For the Germans, however, there was another worrying development. German soldiers started talking about how much they respected the Russian defenders, which Dr Goebbels, the propaganda Minister, immediately moved to stop. The Russian defence was not superhumanly brave, he said, but ‘nothing other than the primitive animal instincts of Slavdom, organised into resistance by ferocious terror’.

That was not how the Russians saw it. ‘The Germans boasted: “we shall drink champagne on June 15 on the Grafskiy embankment”,’ wrote Soviet propagandist Il’ya Ehrenburg. “But they forgot one thing. Sevastopol is not merely a city. It is the glory of Russia, the pride of the Soviet Union. We have seen the capitulation of towns, of celebrated fortresses, of states. But Sevastopol is not surrendering. Our soldiers do not play at war. They fight a life-and-death struggle. They do not say ‘I surrender’ when they see two or three more enemy men on the chessboard”

Black Sea : German JU-88 bombers hit and sank Soviet destroyers Bditelny and Tashkent and Soviet passanger ship Ukrania and then severely damaged Soviet light cruiser Komintern and two other destroyers at Novorossiysk, Russia.

Soviet cargo ships Elbrous and Kuban trying to escape ferom Sea of Azov were bombed and sunk by Luftwaffew JU-87 dive bombers

Soviet minesweeper Tashkent was sunk by Luftwaffe JU-87 Stuka dive bombers off Sevastapol.

Bryansk Front , Russia : Large numbers of Soviet units were surrounded in the link-up of 4th Panzer Army and German 2nd Army near the city of Stary Oskol in Russia, but many of them manage to escape across the Don River.

STAVKA (Soviet General Staff), however, was agreed that Voronezh, a vital communications centre, should be defended to the last. They knew that if they did not hold on there, and prevent the Germans advancing across the upper Don, then the whole of Timoshenko’s South-Western Front would be outflanked.

On 2 July, Golikov was ordered to Voronezh, where two Stavka reserve armies, 6th and 60th, were put at his disposal: he deployed them north and south of the town, upon which 40th Army, 17th, 4th and 24th Tank Corps were falling back. By the evening of 3 July forward German elements were on the Don west of Voronezh into which Soviet troops and armour were being steadily packed. At this stage Stalin proceeded to pour in reinforcements to hold Voronezh and to seal up the forty-mile breach between the Bryansk and South-Western Fronts: Lizyukov’s 5th Tank Army, at that time concentrated south of Yelets, was ordered to attack Army Group Weichs in the flank, and there were two more armies, tank brigades, artillery regiments and fighter squadrons on their way. The high command also engaged itself directly in the battle for Voronezh; Colonel-General Vasilevskii was ordered to Bryansk HQ, Fedorenko of the Armoured Forces was on the spot and Stalin fought at close range with a telephone receiver in his hands.

Germany : 325 British bombers (175 Wellington, 53 Lancaster, 35 Halifax, 34 Stirling, and 28 Hampden) from RAF Bomber Command attacked Bremen, Germany, damaging 1,000 houses and 4 small industrial facilities, damaging 3 cranes in the port area, damaging 7 ships, and sinking German troop transport ship Marieborg. The Germans suffered 5 deaths and 4 wounded while the British lost 13 bombers to anti aircraft fire or German night fighters.

Czechoslovakia : A group of Jews from Berlin, Germany were sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia.

Washington , USA : US Joint Chiefs issued the Joint Directives for Offensive Operation in Southwest Pacific Area, calling for invasions of the general New Britain-New Ireland-New Guinea region; invasions for Santa Cruz and Tulagi were scheduled to be on 1 Aug 1942.

London , UK : Churchill easily passed a “No Confidence” vote in the House of Commons; there were 475 votes in his favor compared to 25 against.

Billed as a major challenge to the Prime Minister’s authority, the scattergun attack which ensued lacked the drama which would have attended any possible risk that the motion might be carried. Only Aneurin Bevan, a formidable parliamentary performer whom Churchill loathed, added bite to the proceedings by charging, ‘The Prime Minister wins Debate after Debate and loses battle after battle.’ His wit and asperity was markedly absent from the lesser fry who followed him, but the debate did at least provide a flavour of the frustration and animosity which lurked below the surface of the wartime coalition. The Father of the House, Earl Winterton, concentrated his fire on Churchill personally, claiming clumsily and crassly that ‘whenever we have disasters we get the same answer, that whatever happens you must not blame the Prime Minister; we are getting very close to the intellectual and moral position of the German people – “The Führer is always right.”’ The former Secretary of State for War, Leslie Hore-Belisha (who had been sacked by Chamberlain in 1940), reflected more precisely the pervasive anxiety in Parliament, Whitehall and the nation. ‘We may lose Egypt or we may not lose Egypt – I pray God we may not,’ he intoned, ‘but when the Prime Minister, who said we hold Singapore, that we would hold Crete, that we have smashed the German Army in Libya … when I read that he said we are going to hold Egypt, my anxieties became greater … How can one place reliance in judgements that have so repeatedly turned out to be misguided?’

After a few thrusts of this nature, Churchill’s critics lost their way. Early in the debate, they were made to look ridiculous as one of Churchill’s supporters, an Independent Labour MP, Campbell Stephen, found an opportunity to intervene. With stiletto precision he pointed out that whereas Sir John Wardlaw-Milne had moved the Censure Motion ‘on the ground that the Prime Minister had interfered unduly in the direction of the war’, one of his principal seconders, Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, appeared to believe that ‘the Prime Minister has not sufficiently interfered in the direction of the war’. This crushing intervention, as Churchill noted gleefully, meant that ‘the debate was ruptured from the start’.

Confident in the knowledge that he would survive by a comfortable margin, Churchill did not refrain from assailing his adversaries with all the authority and disdain at his command. Reminding the House of the ‘military misfortunes’ which had befallen the Eighth Army, he did not attempt to put a favourable gloss on the scale of the disaster. ‘We are at this moment in the presence of a recession of our hopes and prospects in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean unequalled since the fall of France,’ he rumbled; and then, as though daring his critics in the Chamber and beyond, he added sarcastically, ‘If there are any would-be profiteers of disaster who feel able to paint the picture in darker colours they are certainly at liberty to do so.’

In reflecting on the ‘bitter pang’ of Tobruk he pitched cleverly for the sympathy of the House in his own adversity: ‘Some people assume too readily that because a Government keeps cool and has steady nerves under reverses, its members do not feel the public misfortunes as keenly as do independent critics. On the contrary, I doubt whether anyone feels greater sorrow or pain than those who are responsible for the general conduct of our affairs.’ Only a consummate politician would have dared to essay such a two-edged confession of frailty; and only an unassailable leader could have gone on to dismiss ‘Lobby gossip, echoes from the smoking-room, and talk in Fleet Street (nickname of British press) are worked up into serious articles seeming to represent that the whole basis of British political life is shaken, or is tottering,’ before asserting that ‘only my unshakeable confidence in the ties which bind me to the mass of the British people upheld me through those days of trial’.

His coup de grâce was to make it plain that if, as the motion implied, he should be barred from combining his authority as both Minister of Defence and Prime Minister, he would resign both positions. This, as even his critics realised, would have left Britain rudderless in the storm. Demanding a massive vote of confidence, the Prime Minister’s peroration was defiant. ‘If those who have assailed us are reduced to contemptible proportions and their Vote of Censure on the National Government is converted to a vote of censure upon its authors, make no mistake, a cheer will go up from every friend of Britain and every faithful servant of our cause, and the knell of disappointment will ring in the ears of the tyrants we are striving to overthrow.’ He sat down to prolonged cheers and a white cloud of Order Papers. His performance prompted Time magazine to inform its American readers, ‘He had not yet lost the power to charm Parliament, which still loved him for his gallantry under political fire.’

Eventually with a confident majority of 475 vortes to 25 votes , Churchill somewhat easily threw Vote of Non Confidence threat aside.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Plunger torpedoed and sank Japanese troop transport ship Unyo Maru No. 3 80 miles east of Shanghai, China.

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03 July 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-215 intercepted and attacked US troop convoy AT-17 and torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Alexander Macomb 150 kilometers east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, United States at 1230 hours; 10 were killed, 57 survived; Alexander Macomb sunk with 9,000 tons of war goods for the Soviet Union. However one of the escorts , Royal Navy armed anti-submarine warfare trawler HMS Le Tiger counterattacked and sank U-215 with depth charges, killing all 48 aboard.

Caribbean Sea : 50 miles north of Trinidad, U-126 damaged US tanker Gulfbelle with a torpedo , killing 2

Arctic Ocean : German pocket battleship Lützow, pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, and six destroyers departed from Narvik, Norway to intercept Allied convoy PQ-17 in the Barents Sea; en route, Lützow and three destroyers ran aground. The group was detected by the British and the Soviets, leading to the dispatching of nine British and seven Soviet submarines to intercept the German fleet;

En route, Soviet submarines D-3 and M-176 hit German naval mines and sank off Varangerfjord , Norway.

El Alamein , Egypt : German 15th Panzer Division, German 21st Panzer Divisions, and Italian 20th Motorized Corps attacked Ruweisat Ridge near El Alamein, Egypt, making little progress. British aircraft flew 780 sorties on this day against the Axis offensive.

Rommel ordered the Afrika Korps to resume its attack on the Ruweisat ridge with the Italian 20th Motorised Corps on its southern flank. Italian 10th Corps, meanwhile were to hold El Mreir. By this stage the Afrika Korps had only 26 operational tanks. There was a sharp armoured exchange south of Ruweisat ridge during the morning between 4th and 22nd Britidh Armored Brigades 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions. The main Axis advance was held and repulsed before Ruweisat ridge. On 3 July, the RAF Desert Air Force flew 780 sorties to support Eighth Army.

To relieve the pressure on the right and centre of the Eighth Army line, 13th Corps on the left advanced from the Qattara box (known to the New Zealanders as the Kaponga box). The plan was that the New Zealand 2nd Division—with the remains of Indian 5th Division and 7th Motor Brigade under its command—would swing north to threaten the Axis flank and rear. This force encountered Italian Ariete Armoured Division’s artillery before Ruweisat ridge, which was driving on the southern flank of the division as it attacked Ruweisat. The New Zeraland Infantry brigades quickly routed and overwhelmed entire Italian Arierte Armored Division column with well executerd bayonet charge. The Italian commander ordered his battalions to fight their way out independently but the Ariete Armored Division lost 531 men (about 450 were prisoners), 44 pieces of artillery, eight tanks, and 55 trucks. By the end of the day, Italian Ariete Armored Division had only five tanks. The day ended once again with the Afrika Korps and Ariete coming off second best to the superior numbers of the British 22nd Armoured and 4th Armoured Brigades and 2nd New Zealand Division, frustrating Rommel’s attempts to resume his advance. The RAF once again played its part, flying 900 sorties during the day.

The day’s fighting on July 3 was a complete disaster for Rommel’s forces. An exhausted 90th Light was to remain at its current location while the armored formations tried to push further east before wheeling north to cut the coast road. Rommel’s advance made no ­progress at all, not least because the DAF flew 780 sorties against the Panzer Army that day. An officer on Rommel’s headquarters staff described the outcome of two very disappointing days of action:

"The breakthrough was timed for July 2. When we were near Sidi Barrani Rommel said, “Look at the map. There’s El Alamein, last fortified point before Cairo, there’s a fortified mountain position lower down. El Alamein below on the coast has been strongly fortified. The enemy wonders will Rommel go forward to the right or to the left. I’m doing it differently — I’m going through the middle.”

“It was well prepared but it failed because someone or some unit arrived half a day late, being held up by ground, mts [mountains] and sand dunes.The next day, to force the issue, he pushed the German 90th Light Division past El Alamein in S.E. direction towards Cairo. This made the force; Marcks, Menny and Menton. They made good progress in a sandstorm but this cleared and they were taken under heavy artillery fire from El Alamein box. They came back headlong. Then Rommel said, “That was unnecessary, I’ll show you myself.” We drove with his Kampfstaffel, his H.Q. and me, along the same stretch and came under heavy arty fire to right, ahead, left and to the rear. We had to disperse, hide and wait till nightfall. It was a final spurt.”

Not only did the Afrika Korps make little headway on July 3, but Rommel lost his most reliable Italian armored formation in the process. The Ariete Armoured Division, despite the shortcomings of Italian tanks, was regarded as the closest in effectiveness to the panzer divisions of Afrika Korps. That morning, the Ariete Armoured Division, advancing to the south of Ruweisat Ridge, initially made good progress. But during its advance, the Division’s guns and armored units became separated and its movement was “revealed by a chance air sighting.” As Ariete Armored Division motorised column travelled parallel to the ridge, it was harassed by British armor and its progress suddenly halted by the guns of the New Zealand Division firing at close range from the Alam Nayil ridge. Ariete Division vehicles milled about in some confusion and was then attacked by a column of 19th Battalion (commanded by Brigadier Grey) from 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade with a violent bayonet charge , which completed its rout. The New Zealanders captured 450 prisoners (Their captors described Italian prisoners as ‘a dirty, greasy unkempt mob, without fighting spirit.’) , forty-four guns, eight tanks, and 55 trucks and killed almost 100 more Italians. By noon of July 3, Italian Ariete “Armored”(?) Division was down to fewer than half a dozen tanks and almost no artillery. It was a serious blow to Rommel’s plans. A Liaison Officer from 15th Panzer Division sent to find Ariete reported some devastating news:

“Ariete has lost almost all of its artillery this morning, and now has 5 tanks and 2 guns available for the attack. The rest of Ariete is either weaponless or unfit for action.”

Rommel was shocked by the loss of the Ariete Division. “This reverse took us completely by surprise,” he admitted in his diary. He also recorded that: “The attack had come to a standstill.”
With the attack evidently stalled, Rommel signalled the Afrika Korps Headquarters that afternoon: ‘I demand energetic action by the whole of Afrikakorps !" This was a classic example of Rommel’s leadership and the German military belief that willpower could override all obstacles. But it was not to be this time. When the order reached the 21st Panzer Division, the staff gloomily recorded:

In spite of renewed directives and orders the attack gained no more ground. The forces of the division are exhausted. Lorried Infantry 104 had suffered severely and . . . Numerically the enemy tanks were far superior and did everything in their power to bring the attack to a halt.

Fighting flared up again in the mid-afternoon and the Afrika Korps did gain some ground. At 16.00 hours, after a heavy bombardment which forced Robcol to withdraw after suffering heavy casualties, the two divisions pushed forward only to be met by the British armoured brigades deployed on Ruweisat ridge. After a stiff fight, which 4th Armoured Brigade called ‘the hardest day’s fighting since the campaign began’, the German armour was held at the cost of 17 Grants, 19 Stuarts and three Valentines. These were heavy losses, but also represented a major achievement: By dusk , the remaining panzer withdrew west of Ruweisat ridge. Rommel’s last thrust had been held.

Late that evening, Panzer Army Afrika Headquarters finally admitted there would be no breakthrough:

“Enemy counter-attack must be expected tomorrow, mainly from the east and south-east, but also from the south-west. Corps and divisions will organise themselves for defensive action and will hold their positions . . . Regrouping during the 4th may be expected to take place”

The next day, Rommel wrote a letter to his wife that reflected the condition of his forces:

“The struggle for the last position is hard. Unfortunately, things are not going as I should like them. Resistance is too great and our strength exhausted. However, I still hope to find a way to achieve our goal. I’m rather tired and fagged out.”

He decided to temporarily halt the offensive on July 4 in order to bring up more fuel, ammunition, and reinforcements. Rommel was not the only Axis soldier feeling “fagged out.” An Afrika Korps Medical Report recorded:With the lull in the fighting the number of wounded has decreased, but the number of sick is increasing … most noticeable are [cases of] diarrhoea, skin diseases, influenza, angina and exhaustion. There was also collapsing morale among Panzer Army troops. It soon dawned on Rommel’s troops that the vision he had held out to them of smiling girls offering salaams and more at their journey’s end was slowly fading from their grasp, a mirage in the sand. One Italian soldier, drained of energy and hope, noted in his diary, ‘We come out of our holes at night to take the air, otherwise we are buried all day, and with a slit trench as deep and narrow as mine it’s no fun. There are two of us in mine and when we want to turn around it’s agony, as we are as tightly packed in as anchovies in a tin.’

Rommel, for all his inspirational and daring leadership, had failed to appreciate the importance of air support for his strike, nor had he realized how effectively the RAF was still operating. He had allowed his ground forces to outrun his air forces: the Eighth Army had been almost unscathed by either the Luftwaffe or Regia Aeronautica , whilst the RAF had not only covered their retreat but had continually pounded the advancing Panzer Army. ‘The enemy air force is bothering us a lot,’ a German soldier had noted in his diary on 4 July. ‘From five until eleven o’clock it was over us more than five or six times – the least of the bombings we had. Night and day it seems to go on without interruption, and there’s not a moment’s peace. We are becoming like potatoes – always underground.’

This crucial use of air support, as devised by Vice Air Marshal Mary Coningham and maintained by Tommy Elmhirst’s brilliant support system, was one of the very few areas where the British had tactical and strategic advantage over the Germans. Britain had much reason to thank Mary and the men of the Desert Air Force. Their achievements are all the more impressive considering their equipment and the conditions under which they were operating. By mid-July, most of the fighter squadrons were operating at half-strength

Outnumbered in men and tanks, critically low on fuel and ammunition, the Panzer Army Afrika had very little hope of regaining the initiative. Rommel railed against Comando Supremo, which, ‘with an almost unbelievable lack of appreciation of the situation’, had inexcusably failed to deliver the fuel and weapons needed to sustain the advance into Egypt. He was especially outraged by the refusal of the Italian supply vessels on ‘the Africa run’ to take the risks required to make victory possible. To avoid the risk of being sunk by the RAF or the Royal Navy, they headed for the relative safety of Benghazi and Tripoli rather than docking at Tobruk or Mersah Matruh. As a result all replacements, spare parts, fuel, food and medical supplies had to be trucked for between 750 and 1,400 miles to the El Alamein front, which meant that the Panzer Army was critically short of the means to prosecute the war. However, the blame properly rested as much with Rommel as with Comando Supremo or OKW. He had been told in no uncertain terms that to rush headlong into Egypt without ensuring that his army had the resources to sustain the advance was recklessly incautious but, in his arrogant certainty that the Nile Delta was ripe for the picking, he dismissed these warnings out of hand. It was Rommel’s overambition and arrogant overconfidence that put Panzer Army Afrika to this situation and neither he nor his acolytes accepted that during or after the war.

There were strong military arguments to suggest that Rommel’s best course of action was to mount a phased withdrawal back to the Libyan frontier. This would shorten his lines of supply and wrong-foot the already exhausted Eighth Army. However, Rommel’s men were equally exhausted, and while captured petrol and supplies had allowed the Panzer Army to reach El Alamein, there was now not enough petrol to make an orderly and There were strong military arguments to suggest that Rommel’s best course of action was to mount a phased withdrawal back to the Libyan frontier. This would shorten his lines of supply and wrong-foot the already exhausted Eighth Army. However, Rommel’s men were too exhausted due to his callous rush into Egypt, and while captured petrol and supplies had allowed the Panzer Army to reach El Alamein, there was now not enough petrol to make an orderly and phased retreat. Once his offensive had been held, Rommel found himself trapped at El Alamein; he could not go forward or back. Rommel had staked his personal reputation and standing with Hitler in making the advance into Egypt. His insistence that he should continue had derailed the existing Axis strategy and he could hardly admit failure now. Instead, he had little choice but to hang on grimly at El Alamein, in the hope that his logistic difficulties could be surmounted and that he could find another way out of the labyrinth of his own making.

That night Rommel literally in despair wrote his wife and then ordered remains of Panzer Army to halt before Alamein line and start preparing defensive positions till new supplies and reinforcements arrive to renew the attack in a few days.

General Claude Auchinleck soon recovered his nerve no doubt helped by the arrival of another battle-worthy formation—the 9th Australian Division. Its first brigade, the 24th Infantry Brigade, arrived at the Alamein position on July 3 after a memorable journey. The Division’s Operational Report recorded of it:

It was a journey that few will forget. The opposing traffic moved nose to tail in one continuous stream of tanks, guns, armoured cars and trucks all jammed, sometimes for hours, holding up the Divisional convoys at the same time.

Auchinleck was well satisfied with events on 3 July, although the counter-attack by 13 Corps against Panzer Army’s southern flank and rear had not developed as he had hoped. At 6.40 that evening he signalled in clear: ‘From C-in-C to all ranks 8 Army. Well done everybody. A very good day. Stick to it.’ The New Zealanders, knowing only what had happened on their own front, thought the message applied solely to their action against Ariete. The Division’s operations, however, had been more spectacular than arduous, successful though they were. The burden of the day’s fighting had fallen on 1st British Armoured Division, two small columns of 50th British Division on the northern slopes of Ruweisat and, to a lesser extent, on 2nd South Africa Brigade.

Eventually Auchinleck (although that was not his intention. He was more like preparing for a mobile warfare with armor which thankfullty for less than well trained and commanded British tankers did not happen ) actually forced Panzer Army to a static inflexiable attrition warfare in which British were masters with firepower and attritional operational methods. There is no way Afrikakorps which was literally reduced to 26 tanks amnd its rear supply logistics lines over a single coastal road extended three times from Tripoli to till El Alamein (appox 2.800 km same distance from Duseldorff to Moscow) , could renew offensive at least for a few days. Axis drive to Nile Valley and Egypt has been officially halted at least temporarily.

Voronezh , Russia : German 4th Panzer Army crossed the Don River near Voronezh, Russia.

Voronezh was to be the first major battle for the recently mechanized 24th Panzer Division, which until
the year before had been the Wehrmacht’s only cavalry division. Flanked by the Grossdeutschland and 16th Motorized Divisions, 24th Panzer Division charged headlong at Voronezh. Its panzer grenadiers reached the Don on 3 July, and secured a bridgehead on the far side. The following evening, panzer grenadiers from the Grossdeutschland captured the bridge on the main road to Voronezh in an audacious coup de main, before the Russians realized what had happened.

As the fate of Voronezh was being decided, when on 3–4 July 48th Panzer Corps forced the Don, Soviet Chief of Staff General Vasilevskii told the Bryansk command ‘in confidence’ that a new front, the Voronezh Front, would soon be set up and that Golikov would assume control of it: a new commander would come to the Bryansk Front. Stalin had meanwhile telephoned Vasilevskii and ordered him to report to the Stavka not later than the morning of 5 July, just as German troops were beginning to fight their way into the western suburbs of Voronezh. Vasilevskii hurriedly assigned Lizyukov his counter-attack orders and left the control of the actual operations to Bryansk HQ staff. For all his recent obsession with the centre, Stalin was facing a grave situation in the south, where on a front of some 150 miles and to a depth of almost 80 the Bryansk and South-Western Fronts’ defence lines had been pierced; with Paulus’s Sixth Army at Ostrogorzhsk and now turning south, Timoshenko could no longer protect himself from this northerly blow which would cut into the rear of his own two Fronts (South-Western and Southern). With the full reality of Operation ‘Blau’ staring at them, Stalin, Vasilevskii and the permanent members of the Stavka raced to set up the Voronezh Front, which Lieutenant-General Vatutin was to command, while Stalin proposed that Rokossovskii (earlier wounded by a shell-splinter in the spine and only just returned to 16th Army) should take over the Bryansk Front from Golikov, who held a temporary command at Voronezh while his deputy, Lieutenant-General Chibisov, held the Bryansk Front post.

STAVKA The General Staff took upon itself the handling of 5th Tank Army: on the morning of 4 July, Vasilevskii was at Lizyukov’s HQ, where a Stavka directive ordered preparations for an attack south-west of Voronezh. To the Bryansk command, it looked as if the High Command was going about 5th Tank’s attack a little too gingerly: Lizyukov had more than 600 modern tanks, and he proposed to commit them in columns, when using his six brigades en masse would have been more effective. Lizyukov’s lead units got into action, but the bulk of his tank army was slashed and pounded by the Luftwaffe: the attempt to blunt Hoth’s Fourth Panzer spear-heads failed in spite of an over-all Soviet superiority in tanks, among them some 800 KVS and T-34s, though these encounters lasted five days in the heat and dust near the Don. The separate tank corps fought like rifle formations and were unwilling to break away from the actual rifle formations on the defensive. Stalin personally removed Feklenko from command of 17th Corps and ordered Major-General I.P. Korchagin, once a subaltern in the Imperial Russian Army who had taken service with the Red Army, to take over at once. But on 4 July, when Stalin hurled down his thunderbolts from Moscow, 17th Corps was practically wrecked.

Poltava , Russia : Hitler flew once more to Poltava, on 3 July, with his retinue, to consult with Field Marshal von Bock. He was again in triumphant mood with the capture of Sevastopol, and had just made Manstein a field marshal. ‘During the conversation’, wrote Bock in his diary, ‘the Führer took great pleasure in the idea that the English get rid of any general when things go wrong, and thus were burying any initiative in their army!’ The German generals present were forced to join in the sycophantic laughter. Although the Führer was clearly in exuberant form, he was also anxious not to allow the Soviet armies to escape, especially those south-east of Voronezh within the Don bends. It looked as if the town would fall rapidly.

Hitler then made a disastrous compromise decision. He allowed Bock to continue the battle for Voronezh with the one panzer corps already engaged, while sending the rest of Hoth’s army southwards. But the German forces left behind lacked the strength to achieve a rapid result. The Soviet defenders held out in ferocious street-fighting on 3rd July, where the Germans lost their main advantages of mobility.

Cracow , Poland : SS executes 93 gypsies.

Kozara , Yugoslavia : German troops in Yugoslavia launch yet another final assault on partisans, this time in the Kozara region. This time the final assault is ‘final’ more than 2,000 partisans are killed for 150 German dead. The Nazis also round up tens of thousands of peasants, and either shoot them or deport them for slave labor.

South China Sea : American submarine USS Flying Fish damaged a Japanese destroyer off Taiwan, hitting her with 1 of 2 torpedoes fired.

Aleutian Islands , North Pacific : Japanese reinforced Kiska of the Aleutian Islands with 1,200 men, 24 aircraft, and 6 mini-submarines. Meanwhile, American B-24 aircraft bombed and damaged Japanese seaplane carrier Kamikawa Maru, seaplane carrier Kimikawa Maru, and oiler Fujisan off Agattu, and American submarines attacked four Japanese destroyers in the area, sinking three of them with torpedoes.

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Not sure if today’s tech would be any cleaner. If anything our sense of economic warfare has become much more refined. Sinking these kind of ships will still happen and people will still be dead.

News today would go crazy if they had pictures But in a major war, the press will get a rude awakening.

Still a great tragedy.

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