29 August - 4 September 1942

29 August 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-66 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Topa Topa 660 miles west of Trinidad at 0237 hours; 25 were killed, 35 survived.

North Sea : German minesweeper M-3306 Ocean , was hit and sunk by RAF Coastal Command Halifax bombers in Ostend harbour , Belgium.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy destroyers HMS Eridge and HMS Aldenham bombarded the Axis airfield at El Daba, Egypt. Italian torpedoboats counterattacked , torpedoed and severely damaged HMS Eridge which managed to turn back to Alexandria and put into dock but declared a total loss.

Stalingrad Front , Russia : German Fourth Panzer Army broke through Soviet lines 15 miles south of Stalingrad, Russia. General Hoth suddenly switched 48th Panzer Corps over to the left flank out in the Kalmyk steppe. The German Army’s chief advantage lay in the close cooperation of the panzer division and the Luftwaffe. In the constantly changing battle, German infantrymen used the red flag with swastika as identification panels on the ground to ensure they were not bombed by their own aircraft. But the real danger of JU-87 Stukas attacking their own ground forces by mistake came in fast-moving armoured operations.

Lieutenant Max Plakolb, the commander of a small Luftwaffe forward air control section, was attached to the headquarters of 24th Panzer Division. At this time, when 14th and 24th Panzer Divisions and 29th Motorized Infantry Division were starting to swing round the south-west of Stalingrad, Plakolb settled himself at the radio. The point units of 24th Panzer Division had advanced much faster than the neighbouring division, and Plakolb suddenly overheard on his radio a contact report: ‘Concentration of enemy vehicles . . .’ The pilot then proceeded to give 24th Panzer Division’s position. With ‘the greatest alarm’, since the Stukas were approaching, Plakolb called up the squadron himself, using the code word ‘Bonzo’, and persuaded them to abort their attack just in time.

So rapid was the advance of 48th Panzer Corps from the south that by the evening of 30/31 August , its point units had reached the Stalingrad-Morozovsk railway line. Suddenly, it looked as if an opportunity of cutting off the remnants of the Soviet 62nd and 64th Armies had appeared. Paulus’s infantry divisions, slowly advancing eastwards from the Don, could never have got round the Russian rear. The only chance was to send 24th Panzer Corps down from the Rynok corridor to seal the trap, as Army Group headquarters strongly urged. This represented a considerable gamble, and Paulus decided against the plan. Hube would have had to turn his ill-supplied panzers round, break off the running battles and ignore the enemy armies then massing just to the north. On 30th August Yeremenko, alerted to the danger, pulled his remaining forces back out of the trap.

In some cases the retreat was dictated by panic, rather than design. In Soviet 64th Army, the crews of Anti-Aircraft Battery 748 ran away, abandoning their guns. This incident rapidly became a case of conspiracy, in the ever-suspicious eyes of commissars, with the allegation that a member of the battery then ‘led a battalion of German sub-machine-gunners’ in an attack against the neighbouring Soviet 204th Rifle Division.

On Paulus’s northern flank, 24th Panzer Corps had hardly been idle. The Russians continually mounted diversionary attacks on both sides of the corridor. General Hube’s responses to these ill-coordinated lunges were sharp and successful. He moved his headquarters on 28 August into a tapering ravine which offered better protection against the nightly air attacks. He ensured himself an undisturbed night’s rest by sleeping in a straw-lined pit under his tank.

Russian bombers began to attack by day as well as night, flying in low over the Volga. Black puffs from the German flak guns marked their approach in the morning sky. On one occasion, a German fighter roared in at ground level above Hube’s ravine before climbing to attack the bombers in the clear sky. For those watching from the headquarters, this fighter seems to have offered the magical vision of an aerial Teutonic knight in shining armour. ‘This silver streak’, wrote one of those present in his diary with revealing emotion, ‘veered to the east over the river into enemy territory, a crystal, a harbinger of the dawn.’

On 28 August, Russian fighters also attempted to attack the new Luftwaffe base near Kalach, but a Messerschmitt 109 fighter group chased them off. Proud of their victory, the suntanned young fighter pilots assembled for debriefing, but their austere commander—who was known as ‘the Prince’ because of his resemblance to a medieval statue in a cathedral—did not congratulate them. Instead he passed on the order which had so irritated Richthofen : ’Gentlemen, flying for fun and seeing who can shoot down the most enemy machines must stop. Every machine, every drop of fuel, every hour’s flying is irreplaceable. The easy ground life we are leading is completely irresponsible: in the air it is even more so. Every shot must go to assist the infantry, if there is no target in the air.‘ Resentful murmurs greeted his words.

On 29 August Zhukov arrived by plane at Kamyshin, where Vasilevskii met him; together they went to Stalingrad Front HQ at Malaya Ivanovka, where Zhukov listened to the reports of Nikishev (chief of Staff) and Rukhle (chief of operations), Gordov being in the forward positions. Zhukov was far from impressed with the grasp these two officers showed of the situation and neither seemed much convinced of the possibility of holding off the Germans. The meeting with Gordov and Moskalenko, however, proved to be more encouraging; both of these commanders had an accurate picture of German strength and disposition and the capabilities of their own troops. But that estimate of Soviet strength proved to be depressingly correct: the troops moving in to the north, the three armies the Stavka had dispatched, were badly fitted out, manned by older reservists, short of fuel and ammunition. To attack with all three armies, 1st Guards, 24th and 66th, on 2 September was out of the question: Zhukov reported this to Stalin without delay and suggested 6 September for the attack from the north to relieve the battered South-Eastern Front which was being driven back into Stalingrad itself. Stalin raised no objection. There was a slim chance that Moskalenko’s 1st Guards might begin its operations on 2 September, but lack of fuel prevented a more rapid concentration. Moskalenko asked for a delay of twenty-four hours; to avoid ‘useless losses’ and a ‘haphazard commitment of troops’, as Zhukov phrased it in his report to the Stavka, Moskalenko’s attack was delayed until 05.00 hours on 3 September.

Caucausian Front : In the south, the German advance was stopped north of Grozny, after taking Mozdok on 25 August. German paratroopers assisted an insurgency in Chechnya, operating behind Soviet lines. German mountain troops failed to secure the Black Sea ports and the advance fell short of Grozny as supply difficulties arose once more.

The length of the German advance created chronic supply difficulties, particularly of petrol; the Black Sea was judged too dangerous and fuel was brought by rail through Rostov or delivered by air, but panzer divisions were sometimes at a standstill for weeks. Even petrol trucks ran out of fuel and oil had to be brought up on camels. With the Soviets often retreating instead of fighting, the number of prisoners fell short of expectations and only 83,000 were taken. As Hitler and OKH began to concentrate on Stalingrad, some of Kleist’s mobile forces were diverted. Kleist lost his flak corps and most of the Luftwaffe supporting the southern front, only reconnaissance aircraft being left behind. The Soviet Air Force Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS) brought in about 800 bombers to Caucaus, a third of which were operational. With the transfer of air cover and flak units, Soviet bombers were free to harass the German advance. The quality of the Soviet resistance increased, with many of the forces used coming from local levies, who Kleist thought were willing to fight harder for their homeland. German units were especially bogged down by fighting Georgian alpine and mountain troops, who greatly contributed to stalling their advance. The quantity of replacements and supplies the Soviets committed increased, and faced with these difficulties, the Axis advance slowed after 28 August.

The Soviets dug in the 9th and 44th armies of the North Transcaucasian Front along the rocky Terek River bank in front (north) of the city. The Luftwaffe was unable to support the German army that far forward and Soviet aviation attacked bridges and supply routes virtually unopposed.

Leningrad Front , Russia : Soviet 4th Guards Rifle Corps joined the Soviet 8th Army in the offensive near Leningrad, Russia.

Rabaul , New Britain , South West Pacific : Eight US B-17 Flying Fortress bombers attacked the Vunakanau airfield near Rabaul, New Britain. Later on the same day, troops of the Japanese 81st Naval Garrison executed six Australian POWs at Rabaul.

Isavura : Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : Dawn on the 28th brought a fire fight. The Japanese probed the lower flank of the forward arc, again seeking weaknesses in the Australian defences, then switched to the other side, where they could emerge from the bush screeching like the crows that are heard everywhere in Kochi. The Australians continued to be tested all day, but though the Japanese broke through briefly in mid-afternoon a counter-attack soon restored their position. They were being gradually outflanked but resisting fiercely: casualties among the Japanese were high.

The night of the 28th was clear for a change. At dawn a Japanese artillery barrage launched the struggle all over again, with ferocious attacks on the Australian forward arc. Once again, the Japanese breached the front line and poured through the gap, and once again they were stopped. But this time the pause was only temporary. They continued to press their advantage through the afternoon, especially on the right flank, where they attacked from cover on the higher ground. Yamasaki and his comrades had learnt to hit the ground when automatic gunfire started, but the Australian grenades lobbed on them caused many casualties.

In one sortie, Yamasaki saw an enemy soldier’s helmet between the trees and shot at it. Moving forward, he saw more helmets on a crest, so he and his fellows charged. A grenade exploded right in front of Yamasaki, throwing his rifle some ten metres. He ran back to retrieve it but couldn’t grab hold. Only then did he notice he couldn’t feel his hand. It wasn’t bleeding, just numb. He looked down and saw that half the hand had been blown off. Returning to base, Sergeant Yamasaki was ordered back to Kokoda. His war was over.

As the Australian vanguard was gradually enveloped by the succession of Japanese charges, its hold on Isurava grew tenuous. The only possible line of retreat was the main track, increasingly vulnerable—along with supply lines of food and ammunition—as the attack closed in. By dusk, under heavy fire, the Australian front-line troops began to withdraw the kilometre or so to the area around the rest house. There, they dug in.

Despite their own progress and the defenders’ slow loss of ground, the Japanese were suffering high casualties. After a few days of unrelenting attack and dogged resistance, doubt was creeping into the troops’ minds. Small things started to loom large. When the men weren’t trying to keep ants away from the food, they were on guard for leeches. They had to be obsessive about caring for their weapons. With the frustration starting to fray nerves, Horii deployed units from the 41st for the first time. He needed to keep his attack force refreshed.

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : Australian 25th Infantry Battalion, which had moved forward from Gili Gili to relieve the 61st Infantry, deployed around the airstrip and at Rabi, Duira Creek and Kilarbo, laying mines in key locations. The airstrip proved a perfect defensive location, offering a wide, clear field of fire, while at its end, thick mud served to prevent the movement of Japanese tanks. Around dawn the advancing Japanese troops reached the airstrip and, under the cover of field artillery and mortars, they launched an attack. Although the Australians did not know it, the tanks that were supporting the attack became stuck in the mud and were subsequently abandoned; they would later be discovered by an Australian patrol on 29 August. Meanwhile, troops from the 25th and 61st Infantry Battalions, along with Americans from the 709th Anti-Aircraft Battery turned back the attacking Japanese infantry. Further strafing by Kittyhawks followed, and the Japanese were forced to fall back two kilometres (1.2 mi) to the east of Rabi.

Elsewhere, the 2/12th Australian Infantry Battalion began moving forward from Waigani to enable it to join the fighting later as a counterattacking force. They, along with the 2/9th, were subsequently tasked to carry out an attack from No. 3 Airstrip to KB Mission. Meanwhile, the Japanese also sought to reconfigure their forces and Mikawa decided to reinforce the forces that were already ashore. These reinforcements, consisting of 567 men from the 3rd Kure SNLF and 200 from the 5th Yokosuka SNLF, left Rabaul on 28 August. At around 4:30 pm an RAAF patrol spotted the Japanese convoy – consisting of one cruiser and nine destroyers – and subsequently reported this to the Allied headquarters. Believing that further landings were about to occur, Brigadier Clowes commander of 7th Australian Brigade cancelled his plans to begin a counterattack with the troops from the 18th Brigade. Orders were also passed for the 30 Kittyhawks at Gili Gili to be flown off to Port Moresby in case the Japanese succeeded in breaking through to the airfield. The attack did not take place, though, and consequently early in the morning on 29 August they returned, albeit minus two aircraft which had crashed during the move

Following this, for the next two days there was a lull in the fighting. During this time, the Australians consolidated their defences. The 61st Infantry Battalion, despite being seriously depleted from the previous fighting, were ordered back to the perimeter around the airstrip, subsequently deploying around Stephen’s Ridge, tying in with the 25th Battalion’s positions between the coast and Wehria Creek. Fire support was provided by mortars from the 25th along with Vickers machine guns from the 61st and .30 and .50 calibre machine guns mounted on the American half-tracks. The American engineers and anti-aircraft gunners became the first American troops to engage in ground combat in New Guinea.

To the east, 769 Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops landed at Waga Waga on the coast of Milne Bay; the Japanese cruiser and nine destroyers that covered the landing bombarded the Australian airfield at Gili Gili before returning to Rabaul, New Britain, causing little damage.

South West Pacific : Japanese submarine RO-33 torpedoed and sank Australian troopship Marita in the Gulf of Papua south of Australian Papua at 1200 hours; Australian destroyer HMAS Arunta located the Japanese submarine then counterattacked with depth charges and sank RO-33, killing all 42 aboard.

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

American carrier USS Hornet arrived in the South Pacific, replacing damaged USS Enterprise.

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30th August 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-705 torpedoed and severely samaged US tanker Jack Calhıoun , she was intercepted and torpedoed and sunk again by U-516 off Azores next day , all crew abandoned the ship safely but only 28 of 66 crew and passangers were rescued.

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-564 torpedoed and sank Norwegian tanker Vardaas 10 miles north of Tobago island at 0612 hours; all 41 aboard survived. 50 miles to the northeast, German submarine U-162 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Star of Oregon at 0828 hours; 1 was killed, 52 survived

German submarine U-66 torpedoed and sank Panamanian cargo ship Sir Huon 375 miles east of Trinidad at 0926 hours; all 46 aboard survived. At 1930 hours, U-66 struck again, torpedoed and sinking US cargo ship West Lashaway; all 56 aboard survived but 38 of them would die before being rescued.

Stalingrad on Volga , Russia : A Soviet counter-attack by 1st Guards Army held up the advance of 48th Panzer Corps for three days and the Soviets 62nd and 64rg escaped from outer defences and retreated towards inward defences of Stalingrad. 16th Panzer Division could not halt Russian retreat all alone and its supporting forces 3rd German Motorised Division and 60th German Infantry Division were delayed by traffic jams across Volga.

In a miracle of overnight organization, Russian militia had dug thinly spread interlocking strongpoints on outskirts of town and assimilated the rudiments of modern warfare. Now, dressed in work clothes or Sunday finery, they crouched behind mortars and machine guns and challenged the finest tank army in the world. When Combat Group Krumpen from 16th Panzer Division staggered under their hail of shells, the Russians even opened a counterattack, sending unpainted T-34 tanks straight from the factory assembly lines at the Germans. The situation suddenly reversed, General Hube radioed Sixth Army Headquarters for information about his tardy supporting divisions. They, too, were under heavy pressure. The 3rd Motorized at the town of Kuzmichi, had just captured a Soviet freight train bulging with American Ford trucks and Willys jeeps, but it had to turn into its own hedgehog formation to face a reckless onslaught by the Russian 35th Guards Division, which was pouring down from the north to widen the gap between German 3rd and 60th Motorized Divisions to the west. Led by packs of tanks, Red Army soldiers spilled across the steppe and descended on the flanks of both divisions.

German Sixth Army commander, General Friedrich von Paulus, read the radio messages from his three divisions on the steppe and lost his initial exuberance over the “lightning” victory of the previous day. He now faced the chilling prospect of losing one or more of these units (all of them were isolated and became islands in steppe before Stalingrad) unless he could send enough reinforcements and supplies to help them forge that barrier of steel to the Volga. As a precautionary measure, Paulus alerted the Luftwaffe to begin dropping ammunition and food into the most distant of these" islands", General Hube’s 16th Panzer hedgehog at the outskirts of Stalingrad. Meanwhile, the general wondered how he was going to take that city in the next twenty-four hours, as Hitler expected him to do.

Still the rapid German advance caused a slump in morale among the Soviet troops, who retreated in chaos, abandoning the outer defences of the city. Most of the Soviet 62nd and 64th Armies broke out of their encirclement by the German 48.Panzer Corps and escaped across the Chervlennaya River in the Caucasus region of southern Soviet Union.

Black Sea : German fast torpedoboats S26 and s28 torpedoed and sank Soviet cargo ship Jan Tomp off Sochi

El Alamein , Egypt : Battle of Alam el Halfa , Rommel’s last major attempt to reach Nile Valley and Suez started. In the afternoon 21st Italian Corps (Trento and Bologna Infantry divisions) , 164th German Infantry Division and Ramcke Parachute Brigade started a diversionary frontal demonstration attack to divert and distract Eighth Army leadership. These diversionary attacks achieved nothing but extra Axis casaulties. 9th Australian Division defending Tel el Eisa easily held diversionary demostration advances of German 164th Infantry Division. 1st South African Division actually made a pre emptive raid on deploying Italian Trento Motorised Division positions in front of them and captured 56 Italians and drove rest away before returning their own defences. Further south 2nd New Zealand Division initially gave way to advancing Italian Brecia infantry division that reached Bare ridge on Ruweisat ridge but then using recently arrived 132nd British Infantry Brigade , 2nd New Zealand Division launched a counter offensive , captured 35 more Italians from Brescia Division on Ruweisat ridge in the counter attack and retook Bare ridge.

Then on night of 30/31 August 1942 , in full moon but orherwise under cover of darkness , Afrikakorps (15th and 21st Panzer Divisions , German 90th Light Division followed by Italian Arierte Armored Division ) complated their concentration and regrouping on southern flank of Alamein line and began to march east to the (according to falsely led German intelligence) “thin British minefields” towards defensive sector of 13th Corps between Munassib and Qaret El Himeimat just north of Quattara Depression.

However , Eighth Army was not only awaiting their attack , they were actually observing their movements and approach whole time even in darkness. General Montgomery , recently appointed commander of Eighth Army had the ULTRA intelligence and air recon to predict exact intentions of his opponent Rommel.

The battle began with everything that could go wrong possible , did go wrong for Afrikakorps. German engineers and vanguard armored vehicles blundered additional British minefield belts they were unaware of and amid explosions in dark began to suffer casaulties and whole German attack schedule began to delay. On top of that Desert Air Force began started massive strafing and bombing raids in the dark against German motorised columnns struck on open even in the night time by using magnesium flares for illumination. Fairey Albacore biplanes of the Royal Navy dropped flares to illuminate targets for RAF Vickers Wellington and Douglas Boston medium bombers , Hawker Hurricane and P-40 Kittyhawk fighter bombers attacking en masse , bombing and strafing the Axis vehicles and personnel below and for British and New Zealand artillery that zeroed and opened fire on targets below from Alam Nayil and Alam el Halfa ridges ; also, the minefields that were thought to be thin turned out to be quite deep and full of booby traps. ‘Wave after wave of heavy bomber formations dropped their high explosives,’ noted General Fritz Bayerlein , Rommel’s Chief of Staff , ‘while both sky and earth were intermittently made light as day by parachute flares and pyrotechnics.

He was witnessing this first hand and both he and Rommel were fortunate to survive the night. Numerous RAF night bomber sorties were made that night and 38 tons of high explosive and incendiaries dropped on the Panzer Army columns by Desert Air Force. Under normal circumstances, night bombing raids against dispersed formations in the desert often accomplished little more than disturbing the sleep of those on the ground. This time, the bomb-aimers found perfect targets beneath them: the bombs rained down on and Deserrt Air Force fighters strafed concentrated groups of tanks, half-tracks and trucks as they bunched together in the minefield gaps and clustered around the western edge of the British minefield.

British and New Zealand artillery fire from Alam Nayil ridge began to concentrate on Axis colums and posittions in and around minefields Then British 7th Motorised Brigade and 4th Armored Brigade light tanks , armored vehicles and six pounder anti tank guns masking and observing enemy movements behind minefields , added their concentrated fire upon German columns in the open. Soon several German motorised vehicles began to explose , hit by bombs and strafed with cannon and machine fire or by artillery shells and knocked out and burning and German infantrymen of Afrikakorps began to scatter on open desert under heavy fire.

Bad news began to reach Rommel and Afrikakorps HQ instantly. Afrikakorps commander General Walther Nehring leading the asasault from front , was heavily wounded with bomb fragment and had to be evacuated , and two of his staff officers were killed instantly with same bomb and General Von Bismarck commander of 21st Panzer Division was killed when his command car struck a mine and exploded.

At the other hand Eighth Army leadership was so confident of the enemy assault could be repulsed , when army chief of staff Brigadier Freddie de Guingand woke up army commander General Bernard Montgomery , he simply remarked “Excellent , could not be better” and went back to sleep , aware that he would need a clean mind incoming days.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Rorqual deployed 50 mines off Corfu, Greece; later in the day, she torpedoed and fatally damaged Italian cargo ship Monstella, forcing her to beach to prevent sinking.

With Enigma decrypted signals intelligence , RAF Coastal Command Beaufighters and Beaufort torpedo bombers from Malta located , intercepted , torpedoed and sank 5.000 ton Italian tanker San Andrea (which was bringing a sizable portion of Panzer Army fuel for their opening attack on Alam el Halfa) off Apulia , Italy , during attack , RAF Beaufighters shot down three Italian Machi 202 fighters trying to protect the tanker (they failed) and scattered the rest , one Beaufighter was lost.

Luxembourg : Luxembourg was formally annexed into German borders, leading to a general strike.

Singapore : Over 20,000 British and Australian prisoners of war at the Selarang prisoner of war camp in Singapore refused to sign a pledge promising they would not attempt to escape. The Japanese rounded up these uncooperative prisoners of war, placed them in the central plaza, and denied them food, water, and medical treatment. Four prisoners who had previously attempted to escape were executed in front of the group to set an example.

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : Throughout 30 August, the Australians carried out patrolling operations while the Japanese laid up in the jungle in preparation for an attack that night.

Later that night the Japanese began forming up along the track at the eastern end of No. 3 Airstrip by the sea, and at 3:00 am on 31 August they launched their attack. Advancing over open ground and illuminated by flares fired by the Australians, the first Japanese attack was repelled by heavy machine gun and mortar fire from 25th and 61st Infantry Battalions as well as the 46th Engineer General Service Regiment, and artillery fire from the Australian 2/5th Field Regiment. A further two banzai charges were attempted only to meet the same fate, with heavy Japanese casualties, including the Japanese commander, Hayashi.

At this point, Commander Minoru Yano, who had arrived with the Japanese reinforcements on 29 August, took over command, and after the survivors of the attack had reformed in the dead ground around Poin Creek, he led them about 200 yards (180 m) north of the airstrip in an attempt to outflank the 61st Infantry Battalion’s positions on Stephen’s Ridge. After running into a platoon of Australians who engaged them with Bren light machine guns, the Japanese withdrew just before dawn to the sounds of a bugle call.

When night fell on 30 August, the fresh troops moved west and joined the original landing party. Action man Yano was now calling the shots. The combined force advanced towards No. 3 Strip and charged what was thought to be a significantly depleted enemy. There was no chanting this time, but still a great deal of yelling. The firefight was fierce, but the balance had shifted since Japanese landed. The Australian defenders had brought up American half-track armoured vehicles; their tracer fire lit up the battlefield, followed by machine-gun fire. Mortar fire was called on and lobbed well into Japanese positions. The assault force made three charges at the enemy front line. All were heavy, highly concentrated attacks—and all were driven back by Australian machine gun and small arms fire after taking dispiriting numbers of casualties. A flanking movement was tried, with a similar outcome. It was slowly dawning on the Japanese that they were seriously outnumbered. Worse, the devastating Allied artillery was driving them backwards. Just before dawn, a bugle sounded and the ragged and much-reduced force withdrew into the jungle before the Kittyhawks arrived.

The Japanese troops who survived this attack were shocked by the heavy firepower the Allied forces had been able to deploy, and Japanese assault force was left in a state of disarray.

Isurava , Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : On 29th August , Japanese 144th Regiment attacked Australians at Isurava along the Kokoda Track in Australian Papua; after holding the position for the past few days and sustaining 99 killed and 111 wounded, the Australians finally gave up Isurava and fell back toward Eora; the Japanese suffered 140 killed and 231 wounded during the Isurava engagement.

On 29 August, the Japanese renewed their attack. In possession of the ridges that dominated the Australian position from both sides of the valley in which it sat, the Japanese were able to lay down considerable volumes of mortar and machine gun fire in support of their assaults. Unable to respond with similar firepower, the Australian perimeter began to shrink. It was during this stage of the fighting that Private Bruce Kingsbury of the 2/14th made a unique individual contribution to the campaign and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross as a result. Kingsbury’s was the first Victoria Cross awarded for actions on Australian soil.

Japanese situation was not any brighter. For much of that day the Japanese made repeated bayonet charges into enemy gunfire. In the mayhem, numbers prevailed. The best the Australians could do was to hold off the attackers while their own units withdrew. Afternoon saw the start of three days of pouring rain. Water streamed everywhere, filling every nook and hollow, cascading into abandoned weapons pits and soaking the clothes of all the troops on both sides as the sweltering humidity had done before the rain fell. In the deluge, Horii brought in Koiwai Unit of the 41st to make a wide detour through the jungle high on the enemy’s western flank and reinforce the attack on the Australian rear on that side. This advance brought them by evening onto the Kokoda Track, but no Australian soldiers could be seen. In the morning they moved 800 metres further down the track and found themselves in the village of Alola, now abandoned.

Japanese food stocks were starting to run low. It was ten days since the 41st had landed at Basabua with their issue of rations; thirteen days since the main force of the 144th had landed. Yokoyama Advance Party had now been in Papua for six weeks, and the feast from the mistaken Allied air-drop at Kokoda was already long forgotten. Supplies coming from Rabaul were suffering innumerable delays: some were rerouted to Guadalcanal, where the recovery effort was going badly, and Allied air attacks were also sharply reducing consignments to New Guinea. When the supplies were landed, the difficulties only continued. Provisions had to be transported over the swollen Kumusi River. Keeping up carrier numbers was a growing problem. There were difficulties with Korean labourers, and increasing desertion by indentured workers from Rabaul and Orokaivan tribesmen from the local villages—those who hadn’t headed for the hills when the invasion force arrived.

Although the Australian positions on the eastern track held, the position around Isurava grew untenable and the 2/14th’s commanding officer, Lt Colonel. Key, requested permission to withdraw to the Isurava rest house, about 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) back along the track on the night of 29th August. This request was granted and the withdrawal was completed by early morning of 30 August. The defenders then dug in around the new location. As the Japanese brought up more artillery and began a heavy bombardment of the Isurava rest house, the 1/144th established itself around Isurava and began firing on the new Australian position. Meanwhile, the 3/144th emerged from the thick scrub and stumbled upon the Australian flank and rear. Hand-to-hand and close quarters fighting ensued. As Australian casualties mounted and ammunition ran low, the Japanese also came close to making a breakthrough on the alternative track. Horii had now deployed several companies on the flanks and near the rear of the 2/14th and 39th Battalions, threatening the Australian positions with encirclement. Consequently, late on 30 August, Brigadier Potts decided that if he remained in location his command would be destroyed, and so he ordered a withdrawal south of Alola towards Eora village.

The 39th and 2/14th Infantry Battalions withdrew south along the track on the western side of Eora Creek, passing through the 53rd which was holding Alola. The 2/16th withdrew south from Abuari along the eastern side of Eora Creek. Withdrawing in contact, several groups of Australians – including the 2/14th’s headquarters company – found themselves isolated from the main body of Maroubra Force. In the confusion, an Australian counter-attack against the 3/144th caught a group of their own troops in a fierce crossfire. Although the counter-attack was ultimately successful in breaking through the Japanese blocking force although a number of Australian troops got lost in dark , captured and executed by Japanese including Lt. Colonel Key.

Japanese troops also occupied occupied Alola village east of Isurava. There they secured a large amount of small arms ammunition and grenades, as well as rations which were eagerly consumed by the troops who were now beginning to feel the effects of hunger as a result of an already strained supply line. On 28 August, Horii had received orders to secure an advanced position south of the Owen Stanleys, but to keep the majority of his force to the north while the situation around Guadalcanal was resolved. After the fighting around Isurava he pushed only part of his force – about 3,500 men – forward, and tasked the 41st Infantry Regiment with the pursuit of the Australians.

Guadalcanal , Southwest Pacific : On Guadalcanal, the Japanese try a fighter sweep, sending in 18 crack pilots from their carrier groups. The carriers are in the body and fender shop. 18 Zeros swoop in on Guadalcanal at 11:45 and meet three groups of fighters, 11 P-400s (the export model of the P-39) and eight F4Fs. The Japanese splash four P- 400s, but the Americans down eight Zeros, boosting morale. The Marines are delighted, but the P-400 pilots furious, calling their planes “klunkers,” lacking decent supercharging for high- altitude flights or recharging their oxygen system. P-400s cannot fly high enough to hit bombers and are to slow to mix with Zeros. After this day’s action, the P-400s go to work in ground support.

That afternoon, the Japanese send 18 Bettys and 13 Zeros, which catch the destroyer-transport USS Colhoun, which has only four 20mm guns for self-defense. Six bombs hit US destroyer, which rips guns from plates, engines from their bedplates, and ruptures oil lines and fire mains. Captain and crew take to the boats as USS Colhoun sinks with 50 aboard off Savo island.

The day wraps up with 19 more Marine F4Fs landing at Guadalcanal, from VMF-224 and 12 SBDs from VMSB-231. Good timing: “Cactus” has only five flyable Wildcats left.

Japanese submarine I-126 torpedoed and damaged American carrier USS Saratoga off Guadalcanal , The torpedo wounded a dozen of her sailors, including Admiral Fletcher, it flooded one fireroom, giving the ship a 4° list, and it caused multiple electrical short circuits. These damaged USS Saratoga’s turbo-electric propulsion system and left her dead in the water for a time. The heavy cruiser USS Minneapolis took USS Saratoga in tow while she launched her aircraft for Espiritu Santo, retaining 36 fighters aboard. By noon, the list had been corrected and she was able to steam under her own power later that afternoon , she had to retire back to Pearl Harbour for repairs.

The rear echelon of US Marine Aircraft Group 23 arrived at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

Aleutian islands : US Air Force Martin Baltimore light bombers hit and sank Japanese cargo ship Nichiryo Maru in Bering Strait

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31 August 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-516 torpedoed and sank US tanker Jack Carnes 200 miles north of the Azores islands at 0154 hours; all 56 aboard survived but 28 of them would become missing.

At 1004 hours, German submarine U-609 located and after giving a position report to U-Boat command in Kerneval , attacked Allied convoy Slow Convoy SC-97 300 miles southeast of Greenland , torpedoed and sank Panamanian cargo ship Capira (5 were killed, 33 survived) and Norwegian cargo ship Bronxville (all 39 aboard survived).

Caribbean Sea : At 1417 hours, German submarine U-66 torpedoed and sank British tanker Winamac 390 miles east of Trinidad; 30 were killed, 21 survived

El Alamein , Egypt : German and British tanks engaged in combat near Alam el Halfa, Egypt, reaching no conclusion by nightfall as the British refused to fight in open terrain as the Germans wanted. German tanks broke off the attack at sundown after losing 22 tanks; the British lost 21 tanks in the day’s battle.

Rommel’s forces were through the minefields by midday the next day and had wheeled left and were drawn up ready to make the main attack originally scheduled for 06:00. The late running of the planned schedule and the continued harassing flank attacks from the 7th British Armoured Division had forced them to turn north into Montgomery’s flank further west than originally planned and directly toward the prepared defences on Alam el Halfa. Rommel’s timetable had been seriously delayed. It was not until 05.00 hours that the German engineers were able to make a safe gap in the minefield and start pushing the lead elements of the Panzer regiments forward. By that time, as 21st Panzer Division ruefully recorded, enemy night bombers had attacked them 18 times. Even worse most of wheeled and tracked vehicles of Afrikakorps were struck and immobile due to soft sand terrain east of minefield belts and south of Alam el Halfa thanks to false intelligence British fed to Germans via false map (that showed inaccurately the terrain there was suitable , rocky ground for motorised vehicles) they planted to Germans the week before.

By 08.00 hours, both divisions of the Afrika Korps had pushed four kilometres east of the minefields and were preparing to begin their drive further east. Rommel arrived at Afrika Korps Headquarters to consider the options that remained open to him. At this point, given the delay imposed by air attack, minefields , soft sand terrain that immobilsed his motorised vehicles and the resistance of 7th Armoured Division, it was clear to Rommel that ‘All possibility of taking the enemy by surprise – an essential condition for the success of the operation – had now disappeared.’ The unexpected delay had increased fuel consumption and there was still no news of the tanker expected to reach Tobruk that morning. The dangerous fuel situation had become a crisis, but Rommel was now committed to the offensive. Breaking off the attack would mean halting, turning around and withdrawing through narrow minefield gaps in the face of active opposition. Perhaps not surprisingly, Rommel decided to continue the offensive but with a modified plan. There was insufficient fuel to make a wide sweep to the east, as he had originally intended, so he instructed the panzer divisions to turn north east immediately. Their objective was now Point 102 on the Alam el Halfa ridge.

Although this modified plan seemed to be a realistic option and far preferable to the abandonment of the Panzer Army’s last chance to destroy Eighth Army, it was, albeit unwittingly, the worst decision that Rommel could have made. Far from achieving surprise, he had chosen to attack in exactly the way Montgomery had envisaged he would. 22nd Armoured Brigade and 44th (Home Counties) Division were dug in on Alam el Halfa ridge just waiting to receive Rommel’s armour. There would be no repetition of Gazala. 13th Corps commander General Horrocks and 10th Armored Division commander General Gatehouse were watching the advance of the panzer divisions from the positions of the 44th (Home Counties) Division further east. Gatehouse contacted Brigadier Roberts commander of 22nd Armored Brigade : ‘I don’t want you to think that we are in a blue funk here or anything like that, but if these fellows continue on as they are doing you will have to come out and hit them in the flank.’ Roberts ordered both the 4th County of London Yeomanry and 5th Royal Tank Regiment to move out to engage the enemy in the flank but the order was quickly rescinded when it became clear that the panzers were turning north and advancing straight towards the brigade’s positions on the ridge.

This time, Eighth Army was ready.

Still in the early hours of 31 August the British units drawn up on Alam el Halfa were taut with anxiety. The very word ‘panzer’ still provoked a frisson of trepidation at every level in all ranks of the Eighth Army: on too many occasions Rommel’s armour had metaphorically run rings round them. Montgomery’s order that the tanks on Alam el Halfa had to resist the temptation to move but instead remain in their positions, dug-in and hull-down, was unequivocal, but their crews – officers and men – instinctively felt themselves to be sitting targets. It took great nerve to watch and wait without flinching while Rommel’s tanks advanced slowly towards them.

At 13:00, the 15th Panzer Division set off against Alam el Halfa ridge , followed an hour later by 21st Panzer. The Allied units holding the ridge were the British 22nd Armoured Brigade with 92 medium Grant tanks and 74 Stuart light tanks under command of Brigadier Pip Roberts, supported by anti-tank units with six-pounder guns and the artillery of the 44th (Home Counties) Division and the 2nd New Zealand Division. 21st Panzer Division, with its 5th Panzer Regiment in the van, wheeled and headed straight for Point 102 and soon more than 120 panzers were advancing in three waves towards the ridge. 5th Panzer Regiment was ordered to *‘Push on quickly, forward forward, do not send anything to the left, swing out to the right is the policy’. The main concentration of the 21st Panzer Division advanced towards the anti-tank guns of the 1st Rifle Brigade and the positions of the 4th County of London Yeomanry of 22nd British Armored Brigade. Brigadier Roberts had given his tank crews strict instructions to hold fire until the panzers were within 1,000 yards but soon the leading German tanks came within range.

The Axis forces had approximately 200 gun-armed tanks in the two Panzer divisions and 240 in the two Italian armoured divisions. The Italian tanks were mostly obsolete models, with the exception of the Semovente da 75/18, which could defeat Allied medium tanks using HEAT ammunition, which could penetrate 70 mm of armour at 50 meters. The Germans had 74 up-armoured Panzer IIIs with long-barrelled 50 mm (1.97 in) guns (Pz.Kpfw III Ausf.L) and 27 Panzer IVs with long 75 mm guns (Pz.Kpfw IV Ausf.F2).The British had 700 tanks at the front, of which 130 were Grants. Germans and Italians were lucky only on one regard that day , severe sand storm till next morning grounded most of Desert Air Force aircraft in their bases so their attack would be without interfarence from air. The German and Italian landing grounds further west at the other hand , were less affected by dust that day and both JU-87 dive bombers and German Messerschmitt fighters produced increased activity. Nonetheless, the 240 fighter and 70 dive-bomber sorties mounted by German and Italian aircrews had little impact on the ground battle since their potential targets , tanks and gun batteries and vehicles , entrechments etc of 22nd Armored Brigade and 44th British Infantry Division were extremely well camauflaged from air.

However on outcome of the battle , this brief respite did not make any benefit for Axis. Montgomery’s instructions were well judged and effective. As the Panzer divisions approached the ridge, the Panzer IV F2 tanks opened fire at long range with high velocity 75 mm guns and destroyed 12 British Grant tanks from vanguard squadron of Country of London Yeomany. The British Grants were handicapped by their hull-mounted guns that prevented them from firing from hull-down positions. When the Germans came into range however, they were exposed to the fire from Grant tanks from 5th Royal Tank Regiment in hull down positions and well camauflaged 6 pounder anti tank guns from 1st Rifle Brigade of 22nd British Armored Brigade and their panzers were hard hit. The British armour defended with such careful ferocity that by daylight the panzers had failed even to reach the front line, let alone breach it. Realising that his prospects of driving the defenders off the ridge were becoming ever more remote, Rommel almost abandoned the attack there and then. But, with reports that the Afrikakorps was belatedly closing in on the British positions, he saw a glimmer of hope. Despite the fact that the balance of forces was heavily weighted against him – Montgomery had almost twice as many tanks at his disposal (700 to 450, of which 240 on the Axis side were inferior Italian models) – there was still a chance, which was all that the Desert Rat had ever needed, that the panzers might break through.

21st Panzer Division reported to the Afrika Korps that:

“The enemy seemed to be firing heavy DF [Defensive Fire] forward of the whole Pz Regt from a strong system of field positions. Enemy tanks were firing from reverse slope positions in little hollows mainly on the left flank. The Pz Regt’s left-hand unit had faced left and was in action against an enemy force in well-built and camouflaged positions” The German panzer crews had not expected to meet this kind of resistance and halted in front of the Rifle Brigade and 4th County of London Yeomanry positions. Some panzers continued to follow orders and kept moving to the right, searching for a weaker point in the defence but they were picked up one by one with British 6 pounder anti tank gunfire.

The battle was won and lost in the fierce fighting at close quarters which now ensued. ‘I don’t want you to think we’re peeing in our bags here,’ General Gatehouse , the commander of the 10th British Armoured Division radioed to one of his junior commanders while observing the battle, as a squadron of panzers manoeuvred past a line of British tanks to threaten his headquarters, ‘but you may have to come out of your position and attack him from the rear.’ At this point, the panzers changed course and rumbled towards ground held by the 4th City of London Yeomanry Battalion of 22nd Armored Brigade to outflank brigade positions. This was their undoing. Under heavy British 6 pounder anti tank gun fire ‘I saw panzer after panzer going up in flames or being put out of action,… through the fog of battle it was difficult to know which of their tanks had been knocked out … [but] … the great thing was that they were not coming on in front,’ a Yeomanry commander, Major A. A. Cameron, recalled with satisfaction.

An attempt to outflank the British positions by Afrikakorps from west was also thwarted by 6 pounder anti-tank gun fire from British 44th Infantry Division and with night beginning to fall and fuel running short because of the delays and heavy consumption over the bad ‘going’, General Gustav von Vaerst, the Afrika Korps commander, ordered his panzers to pull back from Alam el Halfa. As darkness fell, 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions drew off towards the Ragil Depression to the south hoping to lure out British tanks to their 88 mm anti tank guın screens. During this engagement, the Germans lost 22 tanks and the British 21.

Instead of charging after them however, obeying Montgomery’s instructions , British tanks keep their positions and feed the Germans’ location to their heavy 25 pounder artillery batteries en masse from 7th Armored Division , 2nd New Zealand Division and 44th British Infantry Division, which opens fire. The German trap has failed, and British artillery has located the German leaguer area and blasting their positions efficiently.

Montgomery soon became convinced from the reports reaching him at Burg el Arab that the ‘main enemy armoured movement was on Southern flank’. 23rd Armoured Brigade was given to 13 Corps and moved south to cover the gap between the New Zealand box and the positions of 22nd Armoured Brigade around Point 102, the high point on the Alam el Halfa ridge. 9th Australian, 2nd New Zealand and 5th Indian Divisions had to make do with one squadron each of 40th Royal Tank Regiment as their sole armoured support. In the early afternoon, Montgomery left Army Main Headquarters and went to visit his corps commanders. This was the first use in battle of Montgomery’s new innovation in command. While de Guingand presided over Eighth Army’s Main Headquarters at Burg el Arab, Montgomery came forward with his tactical headquarters. This squared the circle between the Army Commander’s need to gain an immediate impression of the fighting through regular discussions with his corps commanders and the desire to maintain close links with the Desert Air Force and General Headquarters Middle East in Cairo.

Meanwhile throughout the morning and early afternoon, the mass of advancing Axis tanks and vehicles was harassed by the tanks of 4th Light Armoured Brigade of 7th British Armored Division. Eventually, the advancing panzer divisions threatened to outflank 7th Motor Brigade’s positions, and Brigadier Bosvile asked for permission to move back to his reserve position just to the north of the Ragil Depression. This would place the brigade five miles south of 22nd Armoured Brigade and in touch with 4th Light Armoured Brigade further south at Samaket Gaballa. Although it took some convincing , 13th Corps commander General Horrocks agreed and 7th Motorised Brigade made a model retreat to eastern end of second British minefield , still harrasing Axis colums in the open with gunfire.

In the evening Colonel Lungerhausen, who had by now taken command of 21st Panzer Division, judged that any ‘frontal attack on the enemy positions forward of the division will be very costly’. But his chief staff officer also suggested, rather optimistically, that if the panzer divisions could take the Alam el Halfa ridge, ‘the enemy would be forced to abandon the whole Alamein line’. During the evening, Bayerlein, now commanding the Afrika Korps, suggested to Rommel that both panzer divisions should withdraw from contact, drive east and then swing round to take Point 102 from the flank. This is almost certainly what the Afrika Korps would have attempted the next day but the fuel tanks of the panzers were nearly empty.

The evening report from 21st Panzer Division to Afrika Korps was not encouraging. There were only 0.25 units of fuel for the panzers and 0.4 units for the wheeled elements. The unexpected delays in the British minefields, the action against 7th Armoured Division throughout the day and the soft sand encountered during the advance all meant that the panzer divisions had used far more fuel than expected. The shortage made any outflanking move impossible and, indeed, placed the whole of the Afrika Korps in a very precarious situation. As von Mellenthin commented: ‘an armoured division without gasoline is little better than a heap of scrap iron’. The panzer divisions could not manoeuvre without fuel and without manoeuvre they could not dislodge Eighth Army from the Alam el Halfa ridge.

As the panzer divisions took up all-round defensive positions in the Ragil Depression and sent out recovery parties to secure their knocked-out tanks, the first RAF night bombers could be heard overhead. With the weather clearing towards evening, the Wellingtons and Albacores were able to mount constant raids on into the night against both the Axis transport moving slowly through the minefield gaps and the panzer divisions grouped in the Ragil Depression. Wellington crews from No. 148 Squadron:resolved that "this . . . operation would be one Axis forces would never forget. When aircraft arrived over target fires were still burning from first sortie. Aircraft ‘K’ observed one big concentration of hundreds of vehicles. Four sticks scored direct hits and five well-laden trucks were seen blazing. A few black objects (presumably personnel) [were] seen running about among trucks and rear gunner took advantage of this excellent opportunity to fire 1,000 rounds. Fires and a black pall of smoke observed all over the target area when crews prepared to leave. Twenty six different fires started and explosions seen all over area. Flying debris filled the air and crews reported havoc caused". The constant attacks were already beginning to affect the morale of the German and Italian troops exposed to this battering. Most of all, the Axis soldiers were dismayed by the complete absence of friendly night-fighters and the protection they would have afforded.

Mediterranean Sea : With intelligence from Italian signals decryption , RAF Coastal Command Wellington torpedo bombers , located , attacked and severely damaged Italian tanker Ducca Degli Abruzzi (bringing vital fuel for Panzer Army Africa) with a torpedo hit off Cape Spada , Crete , the damage on Ducca Degli Abruzzi was so serious , Italian tanker had to beached west of Tobruk two days later.

Another Italian tanker Picci Fassio , bringing vital fuel to Panzer Army Afrika , was again located , torpedoed and sunk by same Egypt based RAF Coastal Command Wellington torpedo bombers off Crete a few hours later.

Rommel had to pray that they would all arrive safely, for, as Kesselring pointed out, ‘Petrol was already scarce, and the loss of a 4,000–6,000-ton tanker meant an almost irreparable gap.’

This supply headache did not affect Alexander and Montgomery to anything like the same degree. Just 60 miles from Alexandria and only 150 miles from the Suez Canal, Britain was unloading around 100,000 tonnes of fuel a month. Britain would not be defeated because of lack of supplies.

Rhodos , Dordenecasse Islands , Aegean Sea : Operation Anglo was launched. Eight British commandos from 1st Special Boat Service (SBS) and four Greek commandos , sailed away from Royal Navy submarine HMS landed on Rhodos island to raid Axis airfields in the island (which were packed with German and Italian aircraft)

One group, under command of Lieutenant Sutherland, headed for Kalathos airfield 8 miles (13 km) from the beach. The second group, under command of Captain Allott, made for Maritsa airfield (15 miles (24 km) from the beach). Having no radio to contact the Royal Navy or their headquarters, they agreed to return to the beach on the night of 17/18 September to be picked up.

Allott’s group penetrated their airfield in night, and planted their explosives on rows of airfract. The following day they estimated from the damage they could see on the airfield, that at least 24 German aircraft (mostly JU-87 Stukas and HE-111 medium bombers) had been destroyed. Sutherland’s group reached Kalathos over the night of 11/12 September. They established an overlooking position to observe the airfield, and settled in to identify targets and observe the airfield for the next day. The following day, they divided into two smaller groups and started their attack. Sutherland and John Duggan formed one group, with and Sub Lieutenant Calambokidis and two SBS soldiers comprising the second. In torrential rain, both groups infiltrated the airfield and placed their charges on Axis aircraft on runaways; Sutherland and Duggan placing charges on at least 13 German and Italian aircraft and around a fuel dump. However, the men were spotted and fled the airfield. Only Sutherland and Duggan reached the prearranged rendezvous point, and heard shooting coming from the direction they believed the other SBS was located.

The following day, Sutherland and Duggan began their return journey to a rendezvous point near the beach with the expectation that the entire raiding force would reassemble. No one else had arrived, and in the meantime an Italian patrol ship had disembarked soldiers on the beach who had found the hidden boats. The two left a message at the rendezvous for any stragglers, and returned to the beach. Using a torch, they signalled “swimming-come in” to HMS Traveller, which was waiting off shore. The captain of the submarine, Commander Michael St John, was surprised to see the recognition signal coming from the shore and replied by using his periscope to signal back. The boat then moved towards the remnants of the raiding force and expecting to pick them up from their boats. Upon hearing the men shouting in the darkness, the crew of the submarine retrieved the two swimmers. The submarine was spotted by a patrol boat; with the SBS members on board it crash-dived and survived a depth charge attack. The rest of SBS team and Greek commandos were captured.

Vinnitsa , Ukraine : Adolf Hitler ordered Feld Marshall Wilhelm List , commander of Army Group B , to launch a major offensive to gain the Caucasus region in southern Russia.

General Halder noted in his diary: ‘The Führer has ordered that, upon penetration into the city, the entire male population be eliminated, since Stalingrad with its one million uniformly Communist inhabitants is extremely dangerous.’ The female population, Halder noted, ‘must be shipped off’—he did not say to where.

Stalingrad , Russia : Army Group B orders General Paulus commander of Sixth German Army to head south and cut off the Russian defenders at Stalingrad.

Paulus doesn’t move. Soviet pressure on his north is too great. Soviet 172 mm heavy guns, across the Volga, hammer his men.

Yeremenko does move though, and pulls his 62nd Army out of the closing gap, while 64th pushes to a small bridgehead on the Volga. Ferryboats evacuate the civilian population to the east bank of the river, while carrying guns, ammunition and troops the other way. The Luftwaffe hammers the long Soviet trans-Volga tail, while Soviet AA gunners and fighters strike back.

Wilhelm Hoffmann, of the 267th Regiment of the German 94th Division, diaries: “Are the Russians really going to fight on the very bank of the Volga? It’s madness.”

Tanks of the German 4th Panzer Army reached the Stalingrad-Morozovsk railway on the outskirts of Stalingrad, Russia.

Berlin , Germany : Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen of the anti-Nazi resistance group known as the Red Orchestra were arrested by the Gestapo

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : During the day, Australian troops from 12th and 61st Battalions of 7th Brigade attacked from the unfinished Turnbull airstrip near the coast of Milne Bay, Australian Papua, pushing the Japanese back to the KB Mission; at dusk, the Australians captured KB Mission with a bayonet charge, killing 60 Japanese; overnight, a Japanese raid killed 90 Australians.

Early on 31 August, the 2/12th Australian Infantry Battalion began moving towards KB Mission, with ‘D’ Company leading the way and struggling through muddy conditions along the track, which had been turned into a quagmire due to the heavy rain and equally heavy traffic. After passing through the 61st Infantry Battalion’s position, at around 9:00 am they began their counterattack along the north coast of Milne Bay. As the Australians went they were harassed by snipers and ambush parties. They also encountered several Japanese soldiers who tried to lure the Australians in close for attack by pretending to be dead. In response, some Australians systematically bayoneted and shot the bodies of Japanese soldiers.

As the sun edged up on yet another dismal day, it cast its watery light over a macabre scene. The area east of No. 3 Strip had become a field of Japanese corpses, twisted, broken and mutilated by the impact of enemy artillery. Except for those unable to retreat, the Japanese were not in a position to see the extent of their losses. They’d been forced too far back. Australian and defenders moved forward through the appalling carnage. Bodies were strewn higgledy-piggledy, sometimes across other bodies, with legs, arms and weapons pointing in all directions to some destination only their owners knew about. It was as if the gods in their annoyance had flung handfuls of men onto the ground. Some of the soldiers coming through vomited and went back. No one made any effort to gather up the bodies. What was the point? Where would they take them?

At noon, the 9th Australian Infantry Battalion, a Militia unit from the 7th Infantry Brigade, dispatched two companies to occupy some of the ground that the 2/12th had regained around No. 3 Airstrip and the mission.

Making slow going amidst considerable resistance, the Australians nevertheless reached KB Mission late in the day. A force of Japanese remained there, and the Australians attacked with bayonets fixed.
The main Japanese assault force, or what was left of it, had either retreated to the jungle-clad slopes at the back of Rabi or fallen back towards KB Mission. They were in considerable disarray, shell-shocked by the unexpected fury and force of the ordnance storm they had been through. Had they had time to think about it they might have wondered what had become of the daily Kittyhawk patrol, but time was a luxury not available to them. Still, seven Zeros arrived in the morning and patrolled the skies over Rabi—and no Kittyhawks appeared. Then after a heavy gunfire and mortar barrage , the Australian attack against KB mission started.

In the fighting that followed 60 Japanese were killed or wounded and KB Mission was recaptured by Australians. The Australians were then able to firmly establish themselves at the mission. Meanwhile, the two companies from the 9th Australian Battalion took up positions at Kilarbo and between the Gama River and Homo Creek with orders to establish blocking positions to allow the 2/12th to continue its advance the following morning.

That night, a force of around 300 Japanese who had been falling back since they had run into the 61st Infantry Battalion on Stephen’s Ridge, encountered positions manned by the 2/12th and 9th Infantry Battalions around the Gama River. In a surprise attack, the Australians inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese. After the battle the Australians estimated that up to 90 had been killed. Following this the Japanese began to employ infiltration techniques in an attempt to pass through the numerous listening posts that had been set up along the side of the track which formed the front of one side of the 2/12th’s position. Elsewhere, at the mission, starting at around 8:00 pm, they carried out harassment operations in an effort to distract the Australians and assist their comrades to try to break through the Australian positions from the Gama River. This lasted throughout the night.

US Army Air Force A-20 Havoc bombers participated on their first offensive operation, attacking Japanese positions north of Port Moresby, Australian Papua.

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : The retreating Australian 39th , 12th and 14th Battalions under command of Brigadier Potts deployed south of Isuvara at Eora Creek and Templeton’sa Creek to stall Japanese South Seas Force advance towards south to Port Moresby

Guadalcanal , South West Pacific : Before dawn, the newly arrived 1,000 fresh troops (delivered by 8 destroyers before the previous midnight) began organizing an attack toward Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

Late that evening, Kawaguchi’s troops go ashore, launches, cutters, and rowboats moving the men onto Guadalcanal. The water is full of luminescent creatures which cling to the Japanese troops. Kawaguchi salutes the destroyers as he goes ashore.

As Gen Nishino staggers ashore, he runs into two survivors of Ichiki’s force. They say, “Glad to see you. Shake those damn worms off you. It’s suicide to leave footprints in the sand. We’re always being attacked by US planes.” The Ichiki men bow and vanish.

Nishino struggles through a river, and nearly loses his 70- lb. pack (in it is a movie camera, two still cameras, film equipment, clothing, food, and five books – a selection of Chinese poems, a geography of the Solomons, two volumes of French poetry, and an English copy of The Good Earth). He manages to keep his pack and struggles into a trail blocked with thick tangles of vines studded with long sharp thorns and huge trees with knobby roots. It starts to rain. Kawaguchi and his men curl up and try to sleep. Nishino starts to shiver, sits down, and becomes a target for mosquitoes.

During the day, the USMC 1st Raider Battalion and the USMC 1st Parachute Battalion arrived at Guadalcanal from Tulagi as reinforcements.

Guadalcanal is shielded that day from Japanese bombs by heavy weather. Some pilots fly to answer false alarms, and one, Lt. Richard Amerine, disappears. He returns seven days later, having crash-landed 30 miles behind enemy lines. Amerine journeys back over days, killing four enemy soldiers enroute. His college study of entomology enables him to survive the ordeal by munching on coconuts, red ants, and snails.

The Americans set up a radar set. The book says its range is 120 miles. It’s actually 80.

Aleutian Islands , North Pacific : Two US PBY Catalina floatplanes attacked and damaged Japanese submarine RO-61 with depth charges off Adak, Aleutian Islands, US Territory of Alaska. Destroyer USS Reid followed up and attacked with more depth charges, forced RO-61 to surface, and sank her with gunfire; 60 were killed, 5 survived.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Growler torpedoed and sank Japanese cargo ship Eifuku Maru 35 miles northeast of Taiwan.

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1 September 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-759 was spotted near Allied Slow Convoy SC-97 (spotted and attacked earlier by U-609) 500 miles east of the southern tip of Greeland in the North Atlantic and U-Boat command in Kerneval directed wolfpack Vorwärts, composed of more than a dozen submarines—all green—to attack.

British operations research scientists had concluded from mathematical models that if North Atlantic convoys were nearly doubled in size, from about thirty to sixty ships, it would about halve the number of convoys available for U-boats to attack and thereby lessen ship losses by about 56 percent. Authorities at Royal Navy Western Approaches greeted this recommendation with no little skepticism, but nonetheless agreed to try it out and sailed Slow Convoy 97 with fifty-eight ships. It was escorted by Canadian group C-2, composed of two Royal Navy four-stack destroyers, HMS Broadway and HMS Burnham, and four Canadian corvettes. The destroyers were fitted with Type 271 radar; a rescue ship carried Huff Duff.

Nine German submarines made contact with Slow Convoy 97. Four submarines attacked, U-609 twice. In the first, U-609 sank two freighters for 10,300 tons on 31st August. In the second, U-609 shot his last two torpedoes, singly, claiming one. “possible” hit, but it could not be confirmed. The new U-91 fired four torpedoes into the formation but all missed. Another new submarine new U-756, merely seventeen days out from Kiel, and the new U-604, shot but also missed.

Beginning September 1, long-range American and British aircraft (Catalinas and Sunderlands) gave Slow Convoy 97 close cover. U-91 reported that the aircraft forced him under “once or twice every hour.” Therefore it was impossible to haul around the convoy to get into a favorable shooting position ahead. The constant air attacks by US Navy Catalina flying boats damaged U-91 so heavily she hadto return back to France. The new U-409, fourteen days out from Kiel, reported that aircraft bombs had smashed both of his periscopes, also forcing him to abort. In these attacks RAF airmen claimed sinking at least submarine. Later, when it was learned that U-756 was lost at this time, September 3, with all hands, the Admiralty credited “British aircraft” with the kill. Upon further further study after the war, Admiralty historians withdrew the credit and gave it to the Canadian corvette HMCS Morden.

U-759 caught in surface avoided the ramming attempt by Canadian corvette HMCS Morden which was directed upon German submarine by radar but U-759 which crash dived then would succumb to depth charging by HMCS Morden ; all 43 aboard were killed in U-759’s sinking. The U-759 was the fifth German submarine to be sunk by Canadian air and surface forces within a period of six weeks, a notable achievement but one that was not realized at the time.

15 miles east of Cape Coast, Gold Coast, British West Africa, U-125 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Ilorin at 2206 hours; 33 were killed, 4 survived.

El Alamein , Egypt : The night of 31 August – 1 September brought no respite for Panzer Army , as Desert Air Force Albacore and Wellington bombers returned to the attack, concentrating on the Axis supply lines. This added to Rommel’s supply difficulties as Allied action had sunk over 50 percent of the 5,000 long tons (5,100 t) of petrol promised to him by Marshall Cavallero before the attack started. Before dawn , Desert Air Force Vickery Wellington bombers attacked German supply lines on Via Balbia coastal route between Benghazi and Tobruk, Libya. The negative impact of such attacks was felt during the day, as only some of the Axis tanks was able to attack Allied lines at Alam el Halfa, Egypt due to inadequate fuel.

Kesselring made good his promise to fly in emergency fuel via an airbridge from Crete to Fuka airfields with JU-52 transport planes. However, as Nehring recorded, Kesselring’s efforts produced a ‘grotesque result’. Of 400 cubic metres flown to Benghazi, Derna and Tobruk, more than 75 per cent was ‘swallowed up by the transport’ to the front. Probably no more than 25 per cent actually reached the front. The lack of petrol throughout the army meant that the lorries transporting the fuel had to fill their tanks first in order to transport it to the front. Nonetheless, the small quantities that reached the panzers were enough to prevent complete disaster.

At 05.00 hours on 1 September, Montgomery noted that the ‘enemy schwerpunkt’ was directed on the 44th Division and ‘thence Northwards on to RUWEISAT Ridge’. This information must have been gleaned from Ultra intelligence and was now, in fact, out of date. Rommel had been forced to alter his original plans. Yet it was only at noon that day that Montgomery decided to ‘regroup so as to form reserves and make troops available for closing the gap between New Zealand area and Himeimat, and seizing the initiative’. Montgomery ordered 151st Brigade of 50th Division to move into localities G and H, 2nd South African Brigade was to move to Locality D, while 5th Indian Brigade was to reinforce the New Zealand area. 7th Medium and 149th Anti-Tank Regiment were to be transferred to 13th Corps.

However, these moves were not to be complete until the evening of 2 September. At the same time, 13 Corps was ordered to begin to ‘re-establish minefield, working south from N.Z. area’ on the night of 2 September. Horrocks and Freyberg began planning this operation to gain observation over the Axis routes through the minefields. 30th Corps was to thin out and form reserves while 10th Corps was to ‘be prepared to take command of all reserves available and push through to DABA. 9 Aust Div possibly coming [under] 10th Corps.’ These orders were issued verbally to Ramsden and Horrocks on the afternoon of 1 September, but General Lumsden commanding 10th Corps did not receive them until 11.00 hours on 2 September ,showing that communication and slow chain of command reaction even disaobedience were still problematic aspects in British armored units.

By the morning of 1 September, any lingering hope of victory that Rommel may have harboured had probably evaporated. With the Afrikakorps pinned down under an aerial bombardment which inflicted severe casualties on men and machines, Rommel himself was fortunate to escape unscathed. ‘On one occasion’ he wrote, ‘I only just had time to throw myself into a slit-trench before the bomb fell. A spade lying on the spoil beside the trench was pierced through by an 8-inch splinter and the red-hot metal fragment fell beside me in the trench. Swarms of low-flying fighter-bombers were coming back to the attack again and again and my troops suffered tremendous casualties. Vast numbers of vehicles stood burning in the desert.’ The onslaught continued long into the night. The Panzer Army had never before been subjected to such an onslaught; the RAF’s domination of the air combined with the resolution of the British armour on the ground was decisive.

On 1 September the 21st Panzer Division was inactive (probably because of a lack of fuel) and operations were limited to an attack by the 15th Panzer Division toward the eastern flank of the 22nd Armoured Brigade. The attack started at dawn but was quickly stopped by a flank attack from the 8th Armoured Brigade. The Germans suffered little, as Eighth Army were under orders to spare their tanks for the coming offensive but Afrikakorps still could make no headway either and were heavily shelled from Alam Nayil and Alam el Halfa ridges.

In the afternoon, 8th Armoured Brigade attempted a coordinated attack on the German anti tank gun screen under cover of smoke but was ‘not fully successful’. The brigade (its first engagement with many mistakes made) lost 13 Grant tanks to the well concealed German anti-tank guns and had to retreat back but claimed the destruction of eight German Mk III and one Mk IV. panzers. 15th Panzer Division could not pursue or outflank retreating British tanks due to lack of fuel and heavy Desert Air Force air raids. 44th (Home Counties) Division had not been heavily engaged at all the previous day but some of its anti-tank guns were in action on 1 September against the tanks of 15th Panzer Division. Nonetheless, the defences of the division were not seriously tested. For a second day, the Afrika Korps made no headway against Eighth Army’s defence.

Although the panzer divisions fired artillery concentrations against the targets on the ridge that they could see, these efforts were dwarfed by the volume of fire which Eighth Army directed against them. Brigadier ‘Steve’ Weir, commanding the New Zealand artillery, had gathered together an impressive array of field and medium regiments. After being briefed by Montgomery on the expected course of the Axis offensive, Weir realised that the positions of 2nd New Zealand Division would form the southern pivot of the Alamein line and that its artillery ‘would play a vital part in harassing the wheel of the Afrika Corps’. Weir conducted three rehearsals with his divisional artillery and quickly realised that there were insufficient guns for all the probable fire tasks. He appealed to Brigadier Stanford, who commanded the artillery of 13th Corps, for more and Standford managed to find him three extra field regiments which were transferred from 30th Corps. Then, on the first day of Rommel’s offensive, Weir asked for more artillery and got the 7th Medium Regiment and one more field regiment from 30th Corps. He now had seven field regiments and two medium regiments at his disposal which, in conjunction with the divisional artillery of 44th (Home Counties) Division, began to hammer the German and Italian troops to the south.

The 133rd Armoured Division Littorio and 132nd Armoured Division Ariete had moved up on the left of the Afrika Korps and German 90th Light Division and elements of Italian 10th Corps had drawn up to face the southern flank of the New Zealand box. However these were moves and deployments that were worthless for Axis. Montgomery , held the initiative and constantly pouring fire from every means at his disposal on Afrikakorps columns caught on open south of Alam el Halfa and ordering his RAF liason for Desert Air Force specifically target soft skinned Axis supply vehicles passing through minefields. On September 1st , Desert Air Force was able to mount 125 sorties against the ‘great pool of enemy vehicles and armour lying in the open desert’ between the Munassib and Ragil depressions. These raids were mounted in the face of dense and accurate anti-aircraft fire which brought down three aircraft. However, the streams of flak could not prevent 76 tons of bombs being dropped on the inviting targets. In this bare and featureless country, the bomb-bursts from the Allied bombers were made even more vicious by spraying out jagged shards of rock. Seven German officers were killed at Afrika Korps HQ that day and General Von Kleeman , commander of German 90th Light Division was badly wounded by an artillery shell. Just as worrying for the Panzer Army were the unmistakable signs of strain on the Stuka pilots which the Afrika Korps had come to rely upon for ‘flying artillery’ support. The constant bombing of their landing grounds had disrupted their operations while the Me109 fighter force rarely checked the constant threat from Desert Air Force fighters. Increasingly dense and effective anti-aircraft fire forced many Stuka pilots into bombing level or into jettisoning their bombs when RAF fighters approached. Deprived of their specialist role, the Stukas became slow lumbering bombers of little value , shot down rather easily by Hurricane , Spitfire and Kittyhawk fighters.

During the day, 21st Panzer Division had noted that ‘enemy movement was increasing’. This almost certainly referred to 8th Armoured Brigade as it moved up to gain touch with 22nd Armoured Brigade. By the evening of 1 September, the Afrika Korps was confronted by all the armour of Eighth Army in secure defensive positions. Yet the German tanks had fuel for a few kilometres only, which ruled out the possibility of manoeuvring around them. The RAF night bombers weighed into the fight again that evening and the Afrika Korps lamented that:the attacks, which increase in strength every night show a definite and effective tactical method. It is estimated that 200 aircraft took part in the attacks during the night 1/2 September and dropped about 1600 bombs. In fact, these were overestimates. Only 64 Wellingtons and 26 Albacores from No. 205 Group had attacked targets that night but once again they started many fires amongst the clumps of Axis motorised transport below.

On northern flank of Alamein line Before dawn on 1 September, the 2/15th Australian Infantry Battalion mounted a battalion raid codenamed Operation Bulimba. This had been designed as ‘an immediate counter-stroke to an enemy attack further south’. It is also possible that Bulimba was a hangover from Auchinleck’s appreciation of 1 August in which preparations were to be made in both 30th and 13th Corps for large-scale raids. Orders issued to the 2/15th Battalion on 24 August envisaged an attack by the battalion supported by one squadron of Valentine tanks from 40th Royal Tank Regiment. The objective was to seize Point 23, a small rise in the desert two and a half miles south west of Tel el Eisa. The battalion was to make a breach in the enemy line and then form a ‘bridgehead’.

The battalion had spent long hours each evening standing to in readiness only to have the raid postponed every night as Rommel struggled to launch his offensive. Morshead was worried about the raid from its inception. He considered that it was another case of ‘sending a boy on a man’s errand’.65 He was right. The ‘raid’ looked alarmingly similar to any one of the many piecemeal attacks which the 9th Australian Division had mounted in July. One battalion was too weak a force to hold a sizeable ‘bridgehead’ open in the face of an enemy counterattack and the ‘exploiting’ force was far too small to have any real effect.

Nevertheless, the attack began at 05.35 hours with the two leading companies closed up in night attack formation. Rehearsals carried out a few nights before meant that the soldiers knew their task intimately. The initial advance was silent; then, 15 minutes after it began, timed artillery concentrations fired by the divisional artillery crashed out in support. The leading infantry crossed the enemy minefield and found the German defenders ‘both dazed by our arty and surprised by the inf attack’. Most of the enemy posts surrendered easily but some put up a considerable fight. By 06.30 hours, the battalion had achieved considerable success and established the battalion headquarters beyond the enemy minefield. However, events soon took a turn for the worse. Lieutenant-Colonel R. W. G. Ogle was severely wounded when his carrier ran over a mine and command of the battalion had to be given to Major C. H. Grace. Communications between the battalion headquarters and the leading companies broke down. Meanwhile, though the engineers accompanying the leading troops had managed to clear gaps in the minefields under ‘constant enemy fire’, the passage of the supporting tanks through them went badly wrong. The squadron leader, Captain J. L. Lumby, was killed soon after his tank had driven through the minefield, and his second in command shared the same fate. The rest of the squadron were understandably reluctant to follow through a narrow gap under heavy anti-tank gun fire and two of the tanks hit mines when they turned abruptly attempting to avoid anti-tank gun fire while in the gap.

Reserves of the German 164th Light Division began to mass for a counterattack and the positions held by the Australian companies came under increasingly heavy fire. Supporting mortar carriers and reserve ammunition lorries attempted to pass through the gap but, in a depressingly familiar situation, came upon an unexpected minefield and had to return to their assembly point. By 08.35 hours, the forward elements of the leading companies were on their objectives on Point 23, but no more progress was possible. The attack had made a penetration but it ‘was not really deep enough to be regarded as a breach in his line. And it was not very securely held.’

Major Grace took the difficult decision to withdraw his battalion because he did not think the positions could be held against a determined counterattack. Nor did he think the breach could be held open to allow the exploiting force to pass through. The withdrawal took place smoothly although some wounded men had to be left behind. 2/15th Battalion had suffered 36 per cent casualties and Bulimba had failed. This operation represented the only effort of 9th Australian Division during Rommel’s offensive. If Bulimba had been planned as a counterstroke it was hopelessly inadequate. Montgomery’s ‘no withdrawal’ order had raised the morale of the Eighth Army but it had also forced one of the army’s best divisions into a passive role. Bulimba also demonstrated the contrast between Eighth Army’s offensive and defensive capabilities. The day before, the troops of 13 Corps had fought an expert defensive battle that proved the methods first tested in July had been finely honed. In contrast, clearly much needed to be done to achieve success in the attack.

Stalingrad , Russia : The German 4th Panzer Army began attacking the Soviet 64th Army in the southern suburbs of Stalingrad.

The 16th Panzer Division at Rynok on the bank of the Volga no longer enjoyed its earlier mood of heady optimism. The allotments and orchards in which they had concealed their vehicles had been smashed by Soviet artillery fire, leaving shell craters and trees shattered by shrapnel. They were all concerned by the growing concentrations to the north. General Hube commander of 16th Panzer Div. would have come under strong pressure earlier if the Russian railhead at Frolovo had been closer to the front, and the Soviet infantry could have deployed more quickly. Soviet 24th Army joined Soviet 66th Army and the 1st Guards Army preparing for a counter-attack. Once formations had detrained, they marched off in different directions, but in the chaos, nobody seemed to know where they were. The 221st Rifle Division did not even know for sure to which army it belonged and its commander had no information on the positions or strength of the enemy.

On 1 September, he ordered the reconnaissance company to go off in groups of ten to find out where the Germans were. With soldiers mounted on local horses, they moved southwards across the Stalingrad-Saratov railway line. The division followed in a mass. Suddenly, German aircraft returning from a raid on the city sighted the advancing force. Some twin-engined Messerschmitt 110s peeled off to strafe them while the other aircraft returned to base to bomb up again. They came back at around midday, but by then the division had deployed and the tempting target was dispersed.

The reconnaissance groups returned having sighted some German units, but they were unable to draw a front line for their commander. It simply did not exist in a recognizable form. The Russian commanders were ‘worried and angry’. Although their infantry greatly outnumbered the Germans facing them, none of their tanks, no artillery, and few of their anti-tank guns had arrived.

The situation proved even more disastrous for 64th Rifle Division, which was assembling to the rear. Morale collapsed under German air attacks, which also destroyed its field hospital killing many doctors and nurses. The wounded being taken to the rear recounted tales of horror which unnerved the inexperienced troops waiting in reserve to be marched forward. Individuals, then whole groups, began to desert. The divisional commander ordered the most fragile units to form up. He harangued and cursed them for such a cowardly failure to serve the Motherland. He then adopted the Roman punishment of decimation. With pistol drawn, he walked along the front rank counting in a loud voice. He shot every tenth man through the face at point-blank range until his magazine was empty.

Still The Germans also suffered one of their heaviest casualty rates that summer. No fewer than six battalion commanders were killed in a single day, and a number of companies were reduced to only forty or fifty men each. (Total casualties on the Ostfront had now just exceeded one and a half million.) The interrogation of Soviet prisoners indicated the determination which they faced. ‘Out of one company,’ ran a report, ‘only five men were left alive. They have received orders that Stalingrad will never be given up.’

Despite demoralisation Red Army soldiers felt that they had fought hard and well during the first ten days of the battle. ‘Hello my dear ones!’ wrote a soldier to his family. ‘Since the 23rd of August, we have been constantly involved in hard battles with a cruel cunning enemy. The platoon commander and commissar were badly wounded. I had to take over command. About seventy tanks came towards us. We discussed the situation between comrades and decided to fight to the last drop of blood. When the tanks rolled over the trenches, we threw grenades and bottles filled with petrol.’ In a very short space of time, most Russian soldiers became fiercely proud of fighting at Stalingrad. They knew that the thoughts of the whole country were with them. They had few illusions, however, about the desperate fighting which still lay ahead. Stalingrad at this moment had fewer than 40,000 defenders to hold off the Sixth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army. No commander forgot that ‘the Volga was the last line of defence before the Urals’.

Caucasian Front , Russia : German 1st Panzer Army established a bridgehead across the Terek River near Mozdok in southern Russia. Soviet troops launched the Mozdok-Malgobek Defensive Operation in response.

German 17th Army captured the Black Sea port of Anapa

Leningrad , Russia : German JU-88 aircraft bombed and sank Soviet torpedo boat Purga on Lake Ladoga near Leningrad, Russia.

Germany : 231 British bombers from RAF Bomber Command launched to attack Saarbrücken, Germany but instead hit Saarlouis 13 miles to the northwest by mistake, killing 52 civilians; 4 bombers were lost on this mission.

Malaya : Japanese troops attacked a top level Malayan communist meeting at the Batu Caves north of Kuala Lumpur, killing most of the 100 meeting attendees.

Guadalcanal , SW Pacific : Before dawn on Guadalcanal, Kawaguchi rouses his men, and they grope through the jungle to Tasimboko, three miles west of Taivu Point. The men eat breakfast, prepared by the Navy and packed in each man’s “hango,” a covered metal mess kit. Inside are white rice, dried fish, fish paste and cooked beef. In thanks each soldier raises his hango to his forehead and bows.

Breakfast is interrupted by Lt. Ueno’s faithful dog barking. Moments later, all hands hear US Army P-40s sweeping in. They fly by.

Ueno’s dog provides the Japanese with warning of a second American attack, whose bombs shake the earth and kill a dozen men.

Meanwhile, US Marine SBD Dauntless dive bombers damage Japanese destroyer Shikinami at 1:30 a.m., as it heads home.

At 11:35 a.m., 18 Bettys and 20 Zeroes bomb Henderson Field. The Americans damage three Bettys and splash two Zeros, to no loss.

That night, Nishino goes to sleep in an abandoned hut, but is awakened by shouting. Nishino and his fellow reporters are summoned to the beach where motors have been heard at sea. The Japanese open fire. They shoot their own men. The motors are barges bringing the second echelon of Ichiki Detachment, reinforcements for Kawaguchi. The Japanese come ashore, having lost two dead and eight wounded. The fusillade also awakes the Americans, who spend the night hurling flares, bombs, and shrapnel at the Japanese.

US 6th Naval Construction Battalion arrived at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands aboard USS Betelgeuse; the unit was tasked to improve and expand Henderson Field.

US B-17 bombers damaged Japanese flying boat support ship Akitsushima and destroyer Akikaze off Buka Island in the Solomon Islands.

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : Australian troops from 7th Australian Brigade attacked from the KB Mission on the coast of Milne Bay in Australian Papua, pushing Japanese troops back toward Waga Waga.

The following morning, 1 September, the 2/12th Infantry Battalion went on the offensive again, while a force of seven P-40 Kittyhawks from Royal Australian Air Force attacked the Japanese headquarters around Waga Waga. By this time, the Japanese had abandoned the objective of reaching the airfields and instead sought only to hold off the Australians long enough to be evacuated. This information was not known by the Allies, however, who were in fact expecting the Japanese to undertake further offensive action. In this regard, the 2/9th, initially with orders to join the 2/12th’s counterattack, was delayed an extra day after an erroneous intelligence report from MacArthur’s headquarters warning Brigadier Clowes of a renewed Japanese attack forced him to briefly adopt a more defensive posture.

Eora Creek , Kopkoda Track , Papua New Guinea : Further inland, Japanese 41st Regiment clashed with Australian 2/14th and 2/16th Battalions at Eora along the Kokoda Track, penetrating the Australian lines after sundown. The 2/16th Infantry Battalion covered the withdrawal of Maroubra Force from Isurava (and particularly, the wounded from the battle) toward Eora Village from a series of positions between Alola and Eora Village. The final of these, about halfway between the two localities, was quit at 2 am on 1 September. The rearguard from this position was closely pursued as it retired toward Eora Village. Arriving about midday 1 September, the 2/16th Infantry Battalion adopted a defensive position on a bald spur on the southern side of the creek that overlooked the crossing and village. The 2/14th Infantry Battalion was about 1 kilometre (1,100 yd) south along the track. The 39th Infantry Battalion had been holding the position at Eora Village. Once the 2/16th Infantry Battalion had withdrawn to the village, the 39th Battalion was ordered to proceed to Kagi and hold there.

The 2/16th Infantry Battalion’s position was ranged by Japanese artillery, while two Japanese companies attempted a flanking move from the east. These attackers, having not been previously engaged during the campaign, were somewhat cautious in approaching the Australian position. Nonetheless, the Australians were aggressively probed through the night. The battalion held until the designated time to disengage – 6:00 am on 2 September. The battalion withdrew through the reserve, to a position on a high point of the track about 0.62 miles (1 km) north of Templeton’s Crossing.

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2 September 1942

Scotland , UK : Arctic convoys to Russia resumed again. Allied convoy PQ-18 departed Loch Ewe, Scotland, United Kingdom; it was supported by two tankers and one rescue ship and was escorted by two anti-aircraft vessels, three destroyers, four corvettes, and four trawlers.

This change of departure port would, it was hoped, confuse the enemy, though Russian merchant ships were already at Hvalfiordur and would have to join on passage. This total of forty Allied merchantmen were to become the heart of a massive operation which, for the first time, would incorporate its own local air cover with the inclusion of an ‘escort-carrier’, HMS Avenger (Commander A.P. Colthurst). This was a light, unarmoured aircraft-carrier based on a merchant ship’s hull built 802 in the United States. She was armed with three Swordfish anti-submarine aircraft fitted with radar, and twelve operational Sea Hurricanes from 883 and 802 Squadrons Fleet Air Arm. HMS Avenger would have her own dedicated close escort of the Hunts Wheatland and Wilton. This trio of ships would need freedom of manoeuvre, since HMS Avenger would have to turn into the wind to enable her aircraft to fly off and land.

The fighting destroyer escort (FDE) was placed under the command of Rear-Admiral Robert Burnett who flew his flag in HMS Scylla, a light cruiser fitted with eight high-angle 4.5-inch open breeched guns – in short, a genuine anti-aircraft cruiser, though known in the Service as the ‘Toothless Terror’. It was her first commission.

The subordinate destroyers were divided into Force A, which comprised HMS Onslow (Captain(D) H.T. Armstrong, Senior Officer), HMS Onslaught, HMS Opportune, HMS Offa, HMS Ashanti, HMS Eskimo, HMS Somali and HMS Tartar; and Force B, Milne (Captain(D) I.M.R. Campbell, Senior Officer), HMS Marne, HMS Martin, HMS Meteor, HMS Faulknor, HMS Fury, HMS Impulsive and HMS Intrepid. Before sailing from Scapa Flow the participating destroyers of the FDE were visited by the Prime Minister in an effort to improve morale.

For his part, recalling the success of PQ16, Admiral Tovey was preparing a strong ‘fighting destroyer escort’, which would stick to convoy defence, but could be deployed independently of the close escort, if circumstances warranted. From this concept stemmed subsequent British successes in the Arctic, though its architect was to have been superseded before it bore fruit. After the unhappy experience of convoy PQ17 Tovey also decided to retain his flagship, the repaired battleship HMS King George V, at her buoy in Scapa Flow, in direct telephonic communication with London, and deploy the units of the Home Fleet under his Vice-Admiral, Fraser, in the battleship Anson. The fleet was without fleet carrier HMS Victorious, detained by a refit after resupplying Malta, and the American Task Force, which was required in the Pacific.

Because of the reliance of Burnett’s destroyers on frequent fueling, a third group, Force P, consisting of the fleet oilers Blue Ranger and Oligarch, together with the destroyers Cowdray, Oakley, Windsor and Worcester, was sent ahead to Lowe Sound, Spitzbergen, as an advanced fuelling facility, while the tankers Gray Ranger (repaired after her encounter with ice in July) and Black Ranger formed Force Q, part of PQ18. The movements of these were to be co-ordinated with a simultaneous operation then occurring concerned with the re-supply of the Norwegian garrison of Spitzbergen, and thus their tracking was somewhat complex.

The idea of the fighting destroyer escort was to cover both PQ and QP convoys through the most dangerous sector of the passage. The fuelling of these ships was therefore essential since they would be under way for a longer period than was customary and operating at high speed as circumstances demanded. Among the measures to conserve fuel, Burnett had given orders that no U-boat hunt was to exceed ninety minutes, an indication of the crucial nature of fuel rationing. Moreover, the seasonal retreat of the ice reached its most northerly limit during the early autumn and permitted the convoys to make considerable northing, a fact which would add to the length of the passage for Burnett’s ships. One advantage of the delay in the dispatch of PQ18 was that it afforded an opportunity for proper contingency planning to take place, though none of this was explained to the merchant ships, in particular the Americans, who found the waiting interminable.

So did the enemy. Sightings of Allied ship movements during August which were thought to be the next PQ convoy proved false, but the Germans took advantage of the delay and the ‘Luftwaffe made preparations in the mistaken belief that it was their attacks on PQ17 which had prompted the scattering of the merchant ships. Such was the over-confidence of the German pilots that they had strafed their own U-boats and had grossly exaggerated their ‘kills’. Indeed in his report, Generaloberst Stumpff, commander of the 5th Luftflotte, had claimed a British cruiser sunk.

Notwithstanding Stumpff’s claim, a formidable array of aircraft prepared to attack PQ18 from northern Norway. Forty-two Heinkel HelllH-6 torpedo-bombers of KG26 were joined by thirty-five Junkers Ju88A-17s of KG26, the faster Ju88 modification capable of carrying torpedoes, which had been flown up from France. These aircraft were, of course, supported by the long-range Condors and Blohm and Voss flying boats though not by fighters, which did not possess the range to cover the bombers. They were, however, bolstered by the Ju88 bombers of KG30 and this combination allowed the Luftwaffe to employ a tactic known as the Golden Zange, or Golden Comb, a conjoint low-level airborne torpedo attack which was supported by diversionary medium-level and dive-bombing. By this tactic it was hoped to fragment a convoy’s defences and enable the torpedo-bombers, who at low altitude would duck under the surveillance radar, to press home a devastating and overwhelming onslaught.

Intelligence had revealed that an aircraft-carrier would accompany the convoy and Goering insisted that ‘the attack against the aircraft-carrier must be so violent that this threat is removed’. Despite this, German aircraft tended always to seek out merchant ships, knowing that in doing so they were aiming for the most significant targets. A victory over PQ18, the young pilots were told, would help their comrades in the Wehrmacht, easing the conquest of the Caucasus and the capture of Stalingrad by depriving the Red Army of its sinews.

PQ l8’s close escort was under the command of Commander A.B. Russell aboard HM Destroyer Malcolm, supported by the elderly Achates, the anti-aircraft ships HMS Ulster Queen and HMS Alynbank, the corvettes HMS Bergamot, HMS Bluebell, HMS Bryony and HMS Camellia, the minesweepers HMS Gleaner, HMS Harrier and HMS Sharpshooter, and the submarines HMS P614 and HMS P615. Four anti-submarine trawlers were in attendance and within the convoy were the rescue ship Copeland, three motor minesweepers of American origin transferring to the Red Navy and under orders to operate as rescue ships, Force Q and the tanker Athel Templar, on her way to relieve the Hopemount.In addition to aerial reconnaissance the submarines HMS Tribune, HMS Tigris and HMS P34 patrolled off first Narvik and later North Cape, being reinforced by the HMS Unique, HMS Unreal, HMS P456, HMS P540, HMS P2210 and the Free French minelaying boat Rubis.

Convoy PQ18 left Loch Ewe on 2 September with a local escort and was in trouble almost at once. Bad weather broke up the formation and began what for Commodore Boddam-Whetham was to be a nightmare. ‘The Americans in particular’, he reported, ‘pay but scant attention to signals, know little of the importance of good station-keeping and do not as yet know anything about convoy work’. What they did know was based on the rumours following PQ17 which were unfavourable to the Royal Navy. The largely inexperienced American mercantile marine had yet to acquire the battle-hardiness that would come in the succeeding months; it was not their fault, but it was not helpful to the convoy Commodore and made the handling of such a large and mixed convoy a difficult matter.

However, there was considerable inexperience in the escort too, as it struggled north from Scapa Flow. HMS Scylla was new and unblooded; the escort carrier HMS Avenger was equally new and not only pioneering naval aviation from a small deck in high latitudes, but also coping with unfamiliar equipment – on passage to the rendezvous off Iceland her engines failed due to dirty fuel and she lost one Sea Hurricane overboard in heavy seas. The passage was ‘an absolute nightmare’, one of Avenger’s seamen remembered, ‘in the hangar the aircraft were secured at wing tips and tail with steel ropes which were completely useless, in a matter of minutes they all broke loose and were smashing into one another and the sides of the hangar’.

Bay of Biscay , France : A RAF Coastal Command Sunderland flying boat attacked Italian submarine Reginaldo Giuliani on the surface in the Bay of Biscay west of France at 1244 hours, damaging the submarine with bombs and forcing her to abort her patrol back to France ; 2 were killed.

Channel Islands , English Channel : Operation Dryad , a commando raid against Casquets lighthouse in Channel islands was launched. The Casquets Lighthouse was built in 1724, and is located 6 miles (9.7 km) west of the island of Alderney in the Channel islands. It is located amongst some of the fastest ocean currents in the English Channel. The Lighthouse consists of a 88 feet (27 m) tower and two shorter towers on a barren rock. After the German occupation of the Channel Islands in 1940, they decided to man the lighthouse and set up an observation post with a naval radio station so that anything seen could be reported and when it was necessary to turn the light on, for a passing German convoy. The crew being rotated every 3 months.

Its isolated location made it a perfect objective for a commando raid, in fact there had been seven previous attempts to undertake this raid, all of which were abandoned, due to weather conditions. The commandos selected to carry out the raid belonged to No. 62 Commando also known as the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF). The planned date would be the night of 2/3 September 1942 with the objective of capturing prisoners.

The raiding party consisted of 12 men from the SSRF, the commanding officer Major Gus March-Phillipps, his second in command Captain Geoffrey Appleyard,​ some of the others involved were Captain Graham Hayes, Sergeant Winter, Private Anders Lassen and Dutch Lieutenant Henk Brinkgreve, and Sergeant Geoffrey Spencer.

Sailing from Portland aboard HM MTB 344, a motor torpedo boat nicknamed The Little Pisser because of its outstanding turn of speed at 21.00 hrs arriving close to Les Casquets at 22.45 hrs. An Alderney man and Special Operations Executive operative, “Bonnie” Newton acted as pilot. After anchoring, the landing party rowed ashore, arriving just after midnight, Appleyard was the first to leap ashore and tied their boat forward and Hayes was in control of the stern-line, which had been attached to the kedge-anchor that had been dropped on approach to prevent the boat from being smashed against the rocks. All the landing party made it safely ashore without any damage to the boat. Appleyard handed the bowline to another and Hayes remained in control of the stern-line as the raiding party departed.

The Commandos made their way through barbed wire up the steep rocky surface to the lighthouse courtyard unchallenged. Once in the courtyard the group dispersed to their prearranged objectives. Appleyard and Sergeant Winter dashed up the spiral staircase to the tower light only to find it unoccupied. The garrison was totally surprised. Appleyard said, “I have never seen men so amazed and terrified at the same time.” Three were sleeping, two were just turning in and two others were on duty. the seven Germans were taken prisoner without a shot being fired. One German, who was in charge of the lighthouse operation, fainted at the sight of the commandos. Another was initially thought to be a woman because he was wearing a hairnet.

Weapons found included an Oerlikon 20 mm cannon, rifles and stick grenades, which were all dumped in the sea. The radio was smashed with an axe. The boat they had arrived in was designed to take a maximum of 10, now with 19, it was difficult, but they managed.​ Appleyard suffered an accident and fractured his tibia as he re-boarded their boat.

Setting sail at 01.35 hrs, the seven prisoners, some still in their pyjamas, were taken to England, arriving at Portland at 04.00 hrs.​ Several codebooks, logs, diaries and letters were found and taken back for analysis.

It was a few days before the Germans were aware of a problem. When a boat arrived, they found the lighthouse deserted. An order to remove all lighthouse crews did not last long when it was realised the benefits outweighed the risks. The Casquets lighthouse was re-armed with a 2.5cm Pak, five machine guns and had a larger crew of 24 installed.

Saint Nazaire , English Channel : German tanker Passat was hit and sunk by RAF Coastal Command Halifax and Beufort bombers in Saint Nazaire harbour

North Sea : German anti submarine anti aircraft minesweeper Sperrbrecher 164 Bitschstruvk a mine and sank off Holland.

Baltic Sea : German training submarine U-222 sank in Danzig Bay north of Danzig, Germany after colliding with another training submarine U-626; 42 were killed, 3 survived.

El Alamein , Egypt : In the morning , armored cars of 4/8th Hussars of British 4th Armoured Brigade penetrated Axis lines from south near Alam el Halfa, Egypt, attacked an Axis supply column of 300 trucks advancing in the corridors in minefields , destroying 57 German supply trucks with cannon and machine gunfire near Himeimat , then retreated south. Italian Littorio Armored division had to be diverted from frontline to secure Axis supply routes in minefields.

That night, 1/2 September, RAF Wellington and Boston bombers and Hurricane fighter bombers returned on battlefield once more, pasting the Panzer Army until dawn. Fires from these raids were still burning when, shortly after first light, the day-bombers took over. By this time, Rommel had already had enough and gave the order to go onto the defensive, his dream of taking Egypt smashed for good. That morning, the Axis commander drove through the area still occupied by the Afrika Korps. Between ten and twelve o’clock, they came under attack six times. At one point he had a very narrow escape himself – he only just had time to fling himself into a slit-trench before the bombs began falling around him. A spade lying next to the trench was pierced by a red-hot shard of shrapnel that then landed beside him. ‘Swarms of low-flying fighter-bombers were coming back to the attack again and again,’ he wrote, ‘and my troops suffered tremendous casualties. Vast numbers of vehicles stood burning in the desert.’ Pilot officer from Desert Air Force Cobber Weinronk flew four separate raids that day: at 7 a.m., then again at ten. The third was at one o’clock and the last at four in the afternoon. ‘The target was armoured vehicles,’ he noted, ‘and there was so much of it that one could not miss. These attacks continued all day and on into the night. A steady succession of parachute flares swamped the desert with light. Magnesium incendiaries, impossible to extinguish, crackled on the ground, flooding the vicinity in a bright glow. With their targets lit up like a floodlit sports ground, the bombers droned over, pouring fragmentation and high-explosive bombs onto the men and vehicles below.

In fuel supply situation , Rommel got very bad news in the morning. The expected fuel to resume Panzer Army offensive was expected on Italian tanker San Andreas but this tanker was already sunk by Malta based RAF Coastal Command Beaufort torpedo bombers off Tobruk on 30th August (no one also told this to Rommel or Panzer Army HQ so they started the attack on 30th August not knowing the fuel required to resume it more than seven days was already at the bottom of Mediterranean , that also shows lack of staff work and dissconect in Axis forces at Africa) and another Italian tanker Ducca Degli Abruzzi again bringing fuel to Panzer Army was also hit by RAF Coastal Command Beaufort torpedo bombers and so badly damaged with a torpedo hit , she had to be beached 100 miles west of Tobruk two days later. Worse, word came that another Italian tanker Picco Fascio, with 1,100 tons of fuel on board, had been sunk early that morning by RAF Vickers Wellington bombers. None of the fuel on these vessels desperately needed would reach Panzer Army.

On the morning of September 2, the tanks of Afrika Korps this time supported by infantry of 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions attempted another frontal attack on the Alam el Halfa Ridge, and then tried to work around the flanks of the defenders there. After two hours of offensive attempt and making no progress, German panzers withdrew south to refuel and under heavy British and New Zealand artillery and machine gun and small arms fire , German infantry attacked in vain against Alam el Halfa , suffered heavy casaulties , repulsed and retreated back. One more probe that afternoon met with no success and German panzers pulled away without staging an attack under heavy artillery and tank fire from Alam el Halfa.

Desert Air Force raids against Axis positions and columns continued throughout the day and night. Finally on the morning of 2 September, realising his offensive had failed and that staying in the salient would only add to his losses, Rommel decided to end the offensive. Towards noon Erwin Rommel decided that he would withdraw back to his own original start lines offensive since he could not gain initiative in battle. In a message to Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), Rommel justified his decision to abandon the offensive by the lack of fuel and Allied air superiorty though it was his inability to capture any of his objectives , couldn’t maintain suprise and speed advantages (Monty held these advantages instead) and duped into attacking into a well defended position , that caused this defeat of Panzer Army.

At 10.00 hours that morning, the Afrika Korps received new orders:

  1. The superiority of the enemy air force and the lack of supplies – especially fuel – compels us to break off the offensive.2. The Panzerarmee will withdraw westwards in stages. It is intended to organise defence on a level with the minefields north of Qaret el Himeimat.3. Each division will form a battle group of one battalion, one panzer company, two light batteries and one Panzerjager company.

These orders came as a shock for most of the officers and men of Panzer Army. They had expected to go back onto the attack after a temporary pause and did not understand the wider reasons which forced the withdrawal. Rommel decided to make the best of the painful retreat by incorporating the British minefields which had caused so much delay into his own defensive system. Mount Himeimat, which offered superb observation over a wide area, would also be retained. The battlegroups were to act as an operational reserve and help to cover the retreat of the main elements. All these preparations proceeded unhindered by Eighth Army with the exception of continuing air raids and artillery fire on 2nd September. Next day would be different though.

In the air the Desert Air Force (DAF) flew 167 bomber and 501 fighter sorties , bombing and strafing Afrikakorps columns at will through out the day. Montgomery realised the Afrika Korps was about to withdraw and planned attacks by the 7th Armoured Division and the 2nd New Zealand Division (Lieutenant-General Bernard Freyberg) under the proviso that they were to avoid excessive losses. By this stage in the battle, there was clearly a great opportunity to take the attack to the Panzer Army, the bulk of which now lay shell-shocked and crippled by lack of fuel in the desert south of Alam Halfa. But Monty refused to be drawn. He had only been in the desert a fortnight, and was conscious that many in the front line were still green, with little experience of the desert. His aim had been to stop Rommel’s offensive; this had been achieved, and however tempting the situation appeared, the risk of suffering at the hands of a German counter-attack did not strike him as one worth taking. Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks, 30th Corps commander, was under strict instructions from Montgomery. According to Horrocks, Montgomery “ordered me to defeat the Germans but not under any condition to become mauled in the process."

Nonetheless, Monty did allow one staged offensive operation, the aim being to close the minefield gaps through which the Panzer Army had crossed on the opening night of the battle. This was planned for the night of 3 September and involved both New Zealand brigades and the 132nd Infantry Brigade, plus two squadrons of ‘I’ tanks. 2nd New Zealand Division decided to stage this limited attack with the experienced 5th New Zealand Brigade, the new 132nd Infantry Brigade (Brigadier C. B. Robertson) of the 44th (Home Counties) Division under command and tank support from the 46th Royal Tank regiment (46th RTR, 23rd Army Tank Brigade) next day. Meanwhile 7th Armoured Division managed harassment raids

Libya : G1 and T1 Patrols of the British Long Range Desert Group departed from Faiyum, Egypt for a raiding mission against the Italian base at Barce, Libya.

Caucasian Front , Russia : German 46th Infantry Division crossed Strait of Kerch and landed on the Taman Peninsula in southern Russia via 24 landing barges and other small boats. Soviet 47th Army began nightly evacuation by sea from the Taman Peninsula. Meanwhile, German 17th Army moved toward Novorossiysk. As the Soviets evacuated from nearby ports, Italian and German surface vessels intercepted some of the convoys, sinking Soviet gunboats Oktybar and Rostov-Don.

Stalingrad , Russia : By the end of August, Army Group South B had finally reached the Volga, north of Stalingrad. Another advance to the river south of the city followed, while the Soviets abandoned their Rossoshka position for the inner defensive ring west of Stalingrad. The wings of the Sixth German Army and the Fourth Panzer Army met near Jablotchni along the Zaritza on 2 Sept. By 1 September, the Soviets could only reinforce and supply their forces in Stalingrad by perilous crossings of the Volga under constant bombardment by artillery and aircraft.

The advance into Stalingrad against the 62nd Army was carried out by Sixth Army, while Fourth Panzer Army secured the southern flank. The city was a 24 km (15 mi) ribbon along the west bank of the Volga, which forced the Germans to conduct a frontal assault, and the ruins of the city gave the defenders an advantage. To counter Luftwaffe air superiority, the commander of the 62nd Army, General Vasily Chuikov, ordered his troops to “hug” the Germans, negating German tactical mobility. The Luftwaffe suppressed Soviet artillery on the east bank of the Volga and caused many casualties during Soviet attempts to reinforce the defenders on the west bank.

(Chuikov had joined the Red Army in 1918 aged eighteen. He fought in the Civil War and the Russo-Polish War and attended the elite Frunze Military Academy, before becoming Soviet military attaché to China for eleven years after 1926, thereby escaping some of the worst years of the purges. A protégé of Zhukov, he had fought in the Polish and Finnish campaigns of 1939–40 before being given command of the Soviet Sixty-second Army in Stalingrad. ‘He was a tough street-fighter, described by one of his staff officers as a “coarse” man – gruby – who had been known to hit officers whose performance displeased him with a big stick he carried.’ For all that, he was a leader, who staked everything on the Red Army remaining on the right bank of the Volga.)

Meanwhile, General Franz Halder’s diary entry for 30 August illustrates Hitler’s highly strung nature as he committed the cardinal error of fighting according to the enemy’s strengths rather than his own: ‘Today’s conferences with [the] Führer were again the occasion of abusive reproaches against the military leadership of the highest commands. He charges them with intellectual conceit, mental non-adaptability, and utter failure to grasp essentials.’ The next day Hitler declared that it was all a ‘Problem of toughness! The enemy will need his strength sooner than we do … So long as the enemy suffers losses in his approach, let him run; someone will collapse; not us. By [the time of the fall of St] Petersburg [that is, Leningrad] six to eight divisions are free.’ He later spoke of ‘World War I circumstances. Heavy barrages’ – that is, precisely the war of attrition he most needed to avoid, and probably the only type of warfare which the Soviets could win against the Wehrmacht. Hitler’s error in not fighting a war of manoeuvre in Russia, but instead contesting with maximum mutual attrition cities such as Stalingrad, is all the more reprehensible from one who had himself fought in the trenches of the Great War.

Though over-optimistic, the desire to take the important industrial city of Stalingrad was perfectly understandable. With its capture, the oil terminal of Astrakhan would be within reach, and the Russians would be denied the use of the Volga for transportation. Furthermore, Army Group A in the Caucasus would be safe from another Soviet winter offensive, attacks northwards could be launched again, and the fall of Stalin’s own name-city would be as good for German morale as it would be bad for Russian. Its capture therefore seemed to make sense at the time.

The battle of Stalingrad is deservedly considered to be the most desperate in human history. The German Sixth Army was sucked into a house-by-house, street-by-street, factory-by-factory struggle often even more attritional than the trench warfare of the Great War. The city is 25 miles long and hugs the western bank of the River Volga, confusingly called the right bank because the river flows southwards towards the Caspian. Visiting Volgograd today, and viewing the city-length battlefield, one is immediately struck by the problems faced by the Germans in their assault. To the north lie three huge factories – from north to south, the Dzerzhinsky Tractor Factory, the Barrikady (Barricades) Arms Factory and the Krasny Oktyabr (Red October) Factory. In the centre is the 300-foot-high Mamayev Kurgan, the highest hill in the city (originally the burial mound of the Tatar Duke Mamayev) and all the southern approaches to the city are dominated by an enormous reinforced-concrete Grain Elevator, which stayed in Russian hands for much of the siege, supplied by trenches and gullies connecting it to the Volga. The Wehrmacht had to capture these formidable obstacles in order to take the city.

The Red October Factory specialized in recycling metal, the Barrikady Factory in military hardware, and the Tractor Factory, named after the monstrously cruel ‘Iron’ Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Bolshevik secret police, makes tractors to this day, which roll past his larger-than-life-sized statue there. In 1942 it had been turned over to making tank chassis. These three brick and concrete buildings – each half a mile long and between 500 and 1,000 yards wide – were originally erected for industrial production rather than defence, of course, but their sturdy structures might just as easily have been designed specifically for keeping out enemy armies. Although the three great factories and their adjacent Settlements (that is, workers’ tenement blocks) were well spaced, they were connected by roads that were not metalled in 1942. ‘In Russia,’ the old saying goes, ‘we have no roads, only directions.’

A quarter mile west of the central landing on the Volga, Andrei Yeremenko juggled his reserves to contain Gen. Hans Hube’s 16th Panzers in the northern suburbs. When Col. Semyon Gorokhov stepped ashore with his six thousand-man Soviet Marine Brigade, he thought he was supposed to take
them to fight on the southern fringes of the city. Instead, Yeremenko sent him north to the tractor factory to build a line girdling that plant. Another group, marines from the Soviet Far East Fleet, piled into a convoy of automobiles for a breakneck trip past Mamaev Hill to the trenches along the Mokraya Mechetka River, a mile above the tractor works. The marines rode to battle with their rifles sticking out the car windows.

At Stalingrad, Sixth German Army still can’t break out. Soviet 62nd Army evades the closing trap. The Germans send in self-propelled guns, which add more firepower to the assault. Yeremenko says the German guns don’t work well, but asks Stalin to send him some anyway. The Germans push on, a building at a time.

Josef Stalin fires a message at Zhukov at Ivanovka, planning the counteroffensive. "The situation at Stalingrad is getting worse. The enemy is two miles from Stalingrad. Stalingrad may be taken today or tomorrow if the northern group of forces does not give immediate help. Require the commanders of the forces deployed north and northwest of Stalingrad to strike at the enemy at once, and go to help the Stalingraders. No procrastination is permitted. Procrastination now equals crime. Throw all aviation in to help Stalingrad. In Stalingrad there are very few aircraft left. Report receipt and measures taken without delay."

Zhukov hurls Soviet 24th and 66th Armies, neither fully- trained, all older reservists into action three days later.

Smolensk , Russia : German Army and SS Security units started a massive anti partisan sweep in Mogilev , Russia.

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2nd September 1942

Germany : 200 British bombers from RAF Bomber Command attacked Karlsruhe, Germany, destroying many buildings and killing 73 civilians; 8 bombers were lost on this mission.

UK : German bombers attacked Teignmouth, England, United Kingdom.

In London, England, the British War Cabinet received the Home Security Situation Report for the week, which noted that in the week ending at 0600 hours on 2 Sep 1942, 92 British civilians were killed by German bombing while a further 91 were seriously wounded

Dzialoyache , Poland : SS Ukranian militia and German Gestapo slaughtered 2.000 Jews in the forests near Dzialoysche and deported remaining 8.000 to Belzec Extermination Camp

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : On the coast of Milne Bay in Australian Papua, Australian troops of 7th and 18th Brigades halted their attack on the Japanese beachhead near Waga Waga to regroup , with the Japanese position at Milne Bay close to collapse, on 2 September , Commander Yano sent a radio message to the headquarters of the 8th Fleet which stated: “[w]e have reached the worst possible situation. We will together calmly defend our position to the death. We pray for absolute victory for the empire and for long-lasting fortune in battle for you all” Next day with orders from Japanese 17th Army from Rabaul , Japanese South Seas Force began evacuation of Milne Bay bridgehead via barges and destroyers , having reognised clearly that their mission failed. This is the first retreat of Japanese Imperial Army since they started offensive operations against US and British Empire possesions almost nine months ago.

Eora Creek , Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : Further inland, after a temporary defensive engagenent with Japanese vanguard units from 41st Regiment which were repulsed , Australians 2/14th and 2/16th Battalions fell back from Eora along the Kokoda Track to avoid being outflanked.

Casualties during the engagements amounted to 43 killed and 58 wounded for the Japanese out of a force of around 1,300, and 21 killed and 54 wounded for the Australians from around 710 personnel. Author, Peter Williams, later described the battle as “the least-examined engagement of the campaign”; occurring so soon after the fighting around Isurava. Williams argues that the battle has been “obscured by it”, highlighting that Japanese accounts in fact refer to it as the “Second Battle of Isurava”, while contemporary Australian press reports were largely silent in their coverage of it. Nevertheless, it was arguably one of the main clashes during the Australian withdrawal and it was the last time during the campaign that the Japanese outnumbered the Australians. The Japanese force was supported by four artillery pieces and an engineer platoon, while Australians had only a single 3-inch mortar for indirect fire support.

Although the withdrawal resulted in the loss of their supply dump around the dry lake at Myola, the action was a successful rearguard action for the Australians, with the slowness of the Japanese pursuit contributing to this. The foodstuffs captured at Myola by the Japanese were later found to have been contaminated by the withdrawing Australians, rendering them useless. Following the fighting around Eora Creek, the Japanese 41st Regiment was criticised, particularly by members of its sister regiment, the 144th, and by Horii, for its slow rate of advance towards Efogi and its inability to destroy the Australian force, thus allowing it to regroup.

South West Pacific : US B-17 bombers hit and sank Momi class Japanese destroyer PB-35 (92 killed) and damaged Japanese minelayer Tsugaru in the northern Solomon Islands; (14 were killed.)

Indian Ocean : Japanese submarine I-29 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Gazcon in the mouth of the Gulf of Aden; killing 12.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Guardfish torpedoed and sank Japanese freighter Teikyu Maru 13 miles off of Hokkaido, Japan at 0844 hours.

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3 September 1942

Atlantic Ocean : After a 30-hour pursuit, German submarine U-109 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Ocean Might 200 miles south of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, French West Africa at 0050 hours; 4 were killed, 50 survived.

At 0557 hours, German submarine U-107 attacked a group of British ships 5 miles off the coast of Portugal, torpedoed and sinking cargo ships Penrose (2 were killed, 42 survived) and Hollinside (3 were killed, 48 survived).

German submarine U-517 torpedoed and sank Canadian cargo ship Donald Stewart in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Canada at 0756 hours; 3 were killed, 17 survived.

Caribbean Sea : Royal Navy destroyers HMS Vimy, HMS Pathfinder, and HMS Quentin sank German submarine U-162 northeast of Trinidad with depth charges, killing 2 in the process. 49 survivors were captured and sent to the United States as prisoners of war.

Late in the afternoon of September 3, when U-162 was about forty miles south of Barbados, her lookout spotted what he believed to be a single destroyer. The captain of U-162 Korevette kapitan Wattenberg gave the order to attack submerged, but when he closed to shooting range, he saw there were not one but three destroyers! These were Royal Navy warships en route to Trinidad to escort a convoy northward. Bravely or foolishly, Wattenberg continued the attack, firing a bow torpedo at the center ship, HMS Pathfinder. However, the torpedo malfunctioned, broached, and headed directly for the left ship, HMS Quentin, which maneuvered wildly to evade and did so, but just barely.

The three Royal Navy destroyers ran in and pounded U-162 with depth charges. HMS Pathfinder dropped ten, HMS Quentin six, and the other ship, HMS Vimy, fourteen. The charges damaged U-162 severely but Wattenberg held her in control and lay doggo. Believing that the U-boat would eventually surface and try to escape to the east, the senior British commander told HMS Vimy, which had Type 271 centimetric radar, to stay put, while HMS Quentin and HMS Pathfinder, which had meter-wavelength Type 286 radar, searched easterly. Not long after Quentin and Pathfinder departed, U-162 surfaced. HMS Vimy immediately got her on radar at 2,800 yards.

HMS Vimy recalled HMS Quentin and HMS Pathfinder and ran in at full speed to ram, firing her main battery. The second round hit U-162 and burst inside the pressure hull. Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, Wattenberg ordered his men to scuttle and abandon ship. As his men jumped overboard, he fired two red flares to mark the spot. Blinded by the flares and suspecting a ruse, HMS Vimy attempted to abort the ramming, but her left screw crunched into U-162’s aft section, temporarily disabling the destroyer. As the ships entangled, HMS Vimy threw over another shallow-set depth charge, which hastened U-162’s demise and injured many Germans in the water. The three destroyers rescued Wattenberg and forty-eight of his men and took them to Trinidad. Two Germans died in the sinking. The British turned over Wattenberg and his men to American intelligence officers in Trinidad.

Bay of Biscay : Also on this day, A Whitley light bomber aircraft from RAF Coastal Command located and attacked German submarines U-660 and U-705 cruising on surface in the Bay of Biscay 400 west of Saint-Nazaire, France; The depth charges dropped by RAF Whitley bomber caused heavy damage on both German submarines and U-705 was sunk with all 45 aboard killed.

El Alamein , Egypt : Allied forces counterattacked in Egypt partially successfully, suffering heavy casualties in the process. Bernard Montgomery , commander of Eighth Army decided to call off the counterattack at 2230 hours, thus allowing Axis forces to withdraw. During the night, a group of British Valentine tanks became lost in a minefield; 12 of them were destroyed by mines while trying to get out.

On the evening of 3rd September , with General Montgomery’s consent , 13th Corps of Eighth Army launched its next minor offensive aimed at disrupting the Axis forces as they withdrew to their start lines. This was codenamed Operation Beresford.

It had been relatively quiet in the New Zealand Box since the start of Rommel’s attack, but this was about to change. Rommel’s withdrawal so early into the offensive had taken Eighth Army by surprise, so it was not until September 3 that Montgomery ordered an infantry counterattack: Operation Beresford. The Afrika Korps found the lack of vigorous pursuit strange and recorded in its War Diary that “The enemy pursued Afrika Korps half-heartedly during the day.” Despite his objections, Freyberg was ordered by 13th Corps commander , General Horrocks to undertake the counterattack with only two brigades. Two infantry brigades could do very little but probe the enemy’s defenses when a hammer blow by at least two divisions seemed warranted. Once again, and for the last time, the infantry brigade advance was to be a silent, night attack, although each infantry brigade would be supported by a squadron of tanks—the only assistance received from the armored corps. And yet again there was no effective liaison with other formations of Eighth Army.

The 2nd New Zealand Division had learned much since Ruweisat, however, and Freyberg, still recovering from his wound at Minqar Qaim, was back in charge. This was very evident in the progress made by the two infantry brigades used in the counterattack—Kippenberger’s 5 New Zealand Brigade and 132 Brigade of the inexperienced British 44 ­Division.

Kippenberger’s 5th Brigade was to attack down a narrow corridor between two minefields and secure the northern ridge of the Munassib depression. The attack was timed for 2230 hours on the night of September 3. This final objective was to be taken by 28th (Maori) Battalion with 21st Battalion holding the northern and western edge of a smaller rim of a smaller depression immediately behind 28th Battalion. One battalion, the 22nd, was held in reserve. Kippenberger later commented:

“We were learning by experience and there were several differences between our plans for Ruweisat and for this battle. All the preparations were made without hitch or misunderstanding, with very minor exceptions.”

Even so, things still went seriously wrong during the attack. Signals broke down, companies got lost and were late moving off, the gap between the minefields was shelled heavily, and, most seriously of all, the lead battalion did not follow orders and effective control was lost. As Kippenberger learnt from the 28 (Maori) Battalion CO:

“It appeared that the objective had been reached after violent and most bloody fighting. Most of the two companies had then carried on into the Munassib depression directly contrary to their orders and were slaughtering Axis transport drivers and burning the trucks there.”

Corporal Maiki Parkinson, in ‘C’ Company , 28th Maori Battalion, was among the leading troops along the battalion’s front. Setting off at 10.30 p.m. as planned, they walked a couple of miles before the darkness was suddenly ripped apart by machine-gun tracer. Shortly after, the RAF, which had once again arrived to bomb enemy positions, started dropping flares, bathing the battlefield in bright light. Although this caught the Maori in the open, it also showed them where the enemy positions were. With bayonets fixed and yelling their war cries, they charged down upon the Germans. ‘Kamerad!’ one terrified German cried. ‘Kamerad be buggered,’ yelled a Maori in return and killed him. As a platoon from ‘D’ Company charged a machine-gun nest, one man had his arm blown off by a burst of fire. As he hit the ground, he was so worked up that he picked up his arm and in his fury threw it at the machine-gun post. Another Maori from ‘A’ Company single-handedly charged an 88-mm gun, killing all German gun crew. 28th Maori Battalion captured 55 prisoners from Italian Folgore Division and with other battalions from 5th New Zealand Brigade , it captured its objectives.

After Mutasib Deppression was captured by 5th New Zealand Brigade , confusion reigned. Maiki watched his section leader, Lance-Corporal ‘Nugget’ Tukaki, shoot one of their own men. ‘The joker somehow got in front of us,’ says Maiki, ‘then the dunes were lit up and there was this figure and Nugget went bang with the Bren. When we got to him … well, Christ, we saw it was one of our blokes. That was the first of our blokes I saw killed in action.’ It would not be the last. As they surged forward, Maiki and a party of ‘C’ Company found themselves fighting alongside some men from ‘A’ Company. They had reached a depression where there were a large number of parked vehicles, and so immediately opened fire, killing the drivers and shooting up every truck and wagon they could. ‘It broke your heart,’ says Maiki, ‘because they were mostly our trucks , captured by enemy in Tobruk.’

The experience of the New Zealand brigade was especially evident when its achievements were compared with the disastrous advance of 132nd British Brigade on 5th NZ Brigade’s right flank. The commander of 132nd Brigade, ­Brigadier Robertson (fresh from UK), rejected Kippenberger’s sound advice to establish a Tactical Headquarters well forward with good communications and reserves and support weapons close at hand. Instead, Robertson moved his HQ up too close behind his lead infantry battalions and he was one of the first people wounded by enemy shell fire. The New Zealand writer John Mulgan, back then an officer in 132nd British Brigade, recalled prior to Operation Beresford:

“Nobody in the battalion felt very comfortable about this attack. We were all of us too new to desert fighting to have any confidence or exact knowledge as to what we should do, and everything was very hurried. There was very little time for preparation and our commander had always believed that fighting spirit can redeem any lack of minute planning.”

The 132nd Brigade suffered that night from a rare Luftwaffe air attack and then stumbled onto one of Eighth Army’s minefields. They set off an hour late, out of contact with their armored support squadron and completely bunched up to make the night traveling easier. A half-hour after midnight, heavy enemy artillery fire rained down on the compact units of the brigade, wounding the Brigadier and stopping the advance of the brigade in its tracks. The brigade did not penetrate beyond the line on which it came under fire. Rather, it halted on a forward slope of a ridge totally exposed to the enemy fire from three sides: “long enough to collect a bitter quota of casualties.” The next morning, only one battalion of 132 nd Brigade was intact and near its final objective. The other two battalions were thoroughly disorganized and completely disoriented. Mulgan wrote of moving forward at dawn on September 4 to locate the brigade and observed the Brigade Major trying to reorganize the shambles—“the only coherent man we met all that day."

However under heavy machine gun and small arms fire from Italian Folgore Parachute division and German 90th Light Infantry Division , the attackers suffered heavy casaulties and could advance no more beyond Munasib ridge and 132nd Brtitish Brigade was caught on open while trying to advance along with 5th NZ Brigade on its first line of objectives east of Mutasib deppression which it fell short by 4th September. Throughout 3-4 September , 90th German Light Division and Italian Folgore Parachue Division inflicted 697 casualties on the 132nd Infantry Brigade and 275 casualties on the New Zealanders. Brigadier Robertson was wounded and 6th New Zealand Brigade commander Brigadier Clifton was captured by a patrol of the 10th Battalion of the Italian “Folgore” Parachute Division.

Still , Eighth Army victory was all but certain. At 7th British Armoured Division headquarters , intelligence officer Captain Peter Vaux learned, to his delight, that some German lorries were completely bogged down in the soft sand that had been marked red for firm going on the fake map in the area below Alam Halfa. Excitedly, he and the RAF liaison officer checked the grid references and called up the bombers. There had been little personal liaison with the RAF until this battle. Now a man with his own vehicle and radio was standing next to him. They had long conversations about what you could do from the air to discomfit the enemy and what you could do from the ground. As they surveyed the battlefield it was clear that in this battle a great deal was being done from the air. Now that visibility was better, a shuttle service of Bostons and Baltimores was flying up every hour from Alexandria, escorted by Kittyhawks. There was even a squadron of American Mitchells with white stars on their wings. Again and again the German motorised columns and panzers were pounded. From the front line around Alam Halfa the news was that only one panzer division was active. The other was unable to move for lack of petrol, its supply lorries scattered over the desert by air attack and artillery.

On 3 September RAF flight officer Lionel Sheppard and 260 Squadron of Desert Air Force used their new Rolls-Royce engined P-40 Warhawks to the full for the first time, flying top cover high above a bomber squadron. The German and Italian fighters came looking for them at their normal 10,000 feet, but the British pilots were 10,000 feet higher this time. The heavy Warhawk built up an impressive speed in the dive and the Messerschmitts were taken by surprise. Sergeant Meredith shot one down and claimed another as probable, and Sheppard shot up an Italian Macchi 202 and was pretty certain he had destroyed it. Somewhat mysteriously, a few days later Sheppard’s claimed kill was ‘unofficially confirmed’, most probably by an intercepted Italian damage report.

Although Kesselring planned an ambitious series of air strikes on the Desert Air Force landing grounds and the formations of the Eighth Army in an attempt to redress the balance, the Desert Air Force was able to report that day that the ‘enemy air effort was reduced’. Instead, the light bombers of the Desert Air Force were able to break all records by flying 200 sorties against the withdrawing columns of the Panzer Army.

This was the first time the British army had been able to plan a battle with the benefit of really first-class intelligence: decrypts from Bletchley Park, Eighth Army’s own ‘Y’ radio intercept service and the reports of intelligence officers like Peter Vaux. All combined to give clear and reliable advance warning of the enemy’s strength and intentions. Unlike Ritchie in May, Montgomery believed what the intelligence staff told him and acted upon it. Better coordination had also helped. Air strikes had been called in successfully, and 22nd Armoured Brigade had combined tanks, field artillery and anti-tank batteries to great effect. Indeed, the 6-pounder anti-tank gun had emerged as a real battle-winner, accurate, powerful and, most of all, reliable even in desert conditions. Until now much of the equipment being produced in Britain was known to have faults in design and performance. The government insisted on the highest possible pace of output, so factories sent machines to the Middle East that they knew to be poorly designed and faulty. But this was changing, and the public was assured that ‘In the factories, the new 6-pounder is now being produced in great numbers and in a steady stream, and women workers are playing a large part in its production.’

Mediterranean Sea : German submarine U-375 torpedoed and sank British coaster Arnon off Syria

Stalingrad Front , Russia : German Sixth Army captured Pitomnik Airfield at Stalingrad. Same day , German troops penetrate northern and western suburbs of the city and Stalin ordered Marshal Zhukov an immediate counter attack from north to throw them out. His orders are final : “Stalingrad can be seized today or tomorrow if northern group of forces do not render immediate assistance. Troop commandersnorth and northwest of Stalingrad to strike enemy quickly. No procrastination will tolarated. Delay is now regarded criminal.”

General Vasily Chuikov , 62nd Army commander ordered his men to hug the ground and get as close as possible to enemy positions so German armor , air power and firepower advantage would be useless in close combat in street fighting at residential areas blocked by wreckage.

Chuikov heads into Stalingrad to find the Germans two miles from the river, and the city unrecognizable. To get to 62nd Army’s command post, he has to cross the Volga by boat, take a nightmare jeep journey to the left bank to report to Khrushchev an Yeremenko at front HQ, then back on the ferry, and into the burning city.

He writes, “The streets of the city are dead. There is not a single green twig left on the streets; everything has perished in the flames. All that is left of the wooden houses is a pile of ashes and a stove chimney sticking up out of them…” Only the concrete and iron structures of factories, and stone buildings in the city’s center, remain standing above ground, roofless, interior walls crushed away.

Chuikov admires how the Germans use combined arms in battle, but considers them sluggish and irresolute. Their combined forces are powerful, he says, but the elements themselves are not of outstanding quality. He notes that the panzers do not attack until the Luftwaffe is over Soviet positions, and until the tanks reach their objectives, infantry will not go in. Therefore, the key is to break the German chain, by whatever means. Chuikov also notes that the German infantry has no love of close combat, preferring to use firepower at range.

Chuikov’s solution is to fight battles as close as possible, so that the Luftwaffe cannot attack without putting its own forces in danger. The chain will be broken at its first link, and German infantry will fight in their least favorite tactical environment. Chuikov explains it to his troops later, “Every German soldier must be made to feel he lives under the muzzle of a Russian gun.”

13th Soviet Marine Brigade entrenched in Mamayev Kugan hill at grain silo of Stalingrad , threw back first atacks of Sixth German Army.

Meanwhile Marshall Zhukov , prepares a new offensive from northern flank of Stalingrad Front to be launched within two days with 1st Soviet Guards Army , 24th and 66th Soviet Armies.

At the other side of hill , The Germans were full of confidence during that first week of September. "The fighting had been hard, a soldier wrote home, ‘but Stalingrad will fall in the next few days’. ‘According to what our officers tell us’, wrote a gunner in the 305th German Infantry Division, ‘Stalingrad will certainly fall’. And the sense of triumph at German Sixth Army headquarters was undisguised when, on 3 September, a staff officer recorded the link-up between the southern flank of L51st German Corps and the left flank of Fourth Panzer Army: ‘The ring round Stalingrad on the west bank of the Volga is closed!’ From the crossing of the Don on 23 August up to 8 September German Sixth Army claimed to have taken ‘26,500 prisoners, and destroyed 350 guns and 830 tanks’.

General Paulus , commander of German Sixth Army received a letter from Colonel Wilhelm Adam, one of his staff officers, who was on sick leave in Germany and bitterly regretted his absence at such a historic moment. ‘Here, everyone is awaiting the fall of Stalingrad,’ he wrote to his commander-in-chief. ‘One hopes it will be a turning point in the war.’ Yet on the edge of Stalingrad, the nights suddenly became colder, to the point of finding frost on the ground in the morning and a skim of ice in the canvas buckets for the horses. The Russian winter would soon be upon them again.

Only a very few, however, foresaw the worst obstacle facing the Sixth Army. Richthofen’s massive bombing raids had not only failed to destroy the enemy’s will, their very force of destruction had turned the city into a perfect killing ground for the Russians to use against them.

Leningrad Front : An attempt by Soviet forces in Leningrad, Russia to break out of the encirclement to meet relief forces failed.

Belarussia : Armed resistance was met during the German liquidation of Lahava ghetto, western Byelorussia

Brisbane , Australia : The US 5th Air Force was activated at Brisbane, Australia.

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : Australian 2/9th Battalion attacked Japanese positions on the Milne Bay coast in Australian Papua while Australian 2/14th and 2/16th Battalions fell back to Myola Ridge on the Kokoda Trail.

The terrain in this part of the bay offered significant advantage to defending forces, lined as it was with numerous creeks which slowed movement and obscured firing lanes. Throughout 3 September, the 2/9th Infantry Battalion came up against significant resistance; in one engagement that took place around mid-morning along a stream to the west of Elevada Creek they lost 34 men killed or wounded as they attempted to force their way across a creek. Engaged with sustained machine gun fire, the two assault platoons withdrew back across the creek while elements of another company that was in support moved to the northern flank. Launching their assault, they found that the Japanese had withdrawn, leaving about 20 of their dead.

Following this, the 2/9th Australisan Battalion advanced a further 500 yards (460 m), reaching Sanderson’s Bay, before deciding to set up their night location. That night Japanese ships again shelled Australian positions on the north shore of the bay, but without causing any casualties among the defenders. The one charge attempted by the Japanese was as unsuccessful and for the most part they were satisfied just to hold their ground. The only result either side could measure was its heavy toll of casualties. At nightfall the Japanese and Australians both withdrew to secure their positions, each side unaware that the other was doing the same.

Guadalcanal , South West Pacific : A Navy R4D (C-47) unloads Brig. Gen. Roy Geiger at Henderson Field. He takes over the Marine airbase on Guadalcanal in a one-story building called the Pagoda. He assesses the situation. Japanese tactics are predictable, their planes are picked off early by Paul Read and Jack Mason on Guadalcanal, and the Americans have sufficient time to vector out fighters. More importantly, Japanese bombs bury themselves so deeply, the only damage done is from clods of earth. Despite Henderson Field being mostly glue and goo during frequent rain, Marine aviators are doing the job of standing off the Japanese. New tactics of “vertical interception” also help.

But the Marine aviators are exhausted from combat flying and living on matting on dirt floors of tents. They have no changes of clothes, and are drained from their menu of rice, potatoes, Spam, hash, and sausage. This combination causes abdominal pains at high altitudes. Nerves are frayed from “Washing Machine Charlie”'s nightly runs. Geiger orders more offensive operations to try and shut down “Charlie” and personally flies an SBD on a raid to set an example – and shame the younger men.

Guadalcanal is now in a state of mutual siege. The Americans own the area by day with their airpower. At dusk, US ships flee Ironbottom Sound “like frightened children running from a graveyard,” as Samuel Eliot Morison observes.

By night, the Japanese Navy takes over, supplying their forces with food and bullets, and the Americans with a bombardment. The Japanese Navy missions achieve the regularity of a railroad run, and the Americans call it the “Rat Express” or the “Cactus Express.” American newsmen, forbidden to use the “Cactus” codename for Guadalcanal, call it the “Tokyo Express,” which is how it is remembered.

Col. Oka’s force heads south to Guadalcanal, too, getting strafed and bombed by SBDs enroute.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Guardfish torpedoed and sank Japanese cargo ships Chita Maru and Tenyu Maru off Kinkasan harbour , Japan.

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4th September 1942

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico: German submarine U-171 torpedoed and sank empty Mexican tanker Amatlan 15 miles off of the coast of Northern Mexico in the Gulf of Mexico at 0430 hours; 10 were killed, 24 survived; 10 torpedoes were expended on this attack. The decreasing quality of German submarine crews is now appearent.

Arctic Ocean : 32 RAF Hampten bombers flew from Britain to Northern Russia, to take part, from Soviet airbases, in the protection of the Arctic convoys. Nine of the aircraft never arrived, either running out of fuel and being forced to crash land in Sweden, or, in one case, being accidentally shot down by Russian fighters as they approached the Russian coast. Even in the water, the crew continued to be fired upon, until their shouts of ‘Angliski!’ were recognized.

Unfortunetely one of the bombers on this flight to Russia was damaged by anti-aircraft fire from a German patrol ship. Forced to land on the Norwegian coast, its crew did not have time before they were captured to destroy secret documents about the imminent convoy to Russia , PQ 18.

El Alamein , Egypt : New Zealand 5th Brigade and British 132nd Brigade harrassed retreating German troops in Egypt. However their attacks beyond Mutasib deppression failed due to effective defence of Folgore Parachute Division and German 90th Light Division. In the afternoon 15th Panzer Division staged a counter offensive on Mutasib ridge but under heavy artillery fire and Desert Air Force bombing and strafing anf successful defense of 5th New Zealand Brigade repulsed Axis counter attack on its positions at Mutasib. As soon as the enemy counter attack started , 5th New Zealand Brigade called in defensive fire from the divisional artillery: it responded in just 11 minutes. Brigadier Kippenberger recalled that the concentration came down ‘like the hammer of Thor’ and broke up the supporting waves of the Italian counterattack. The leading elements were halted by the infantry and anti-tank guns of the well-positioned battalions. Brigade commander Howard Kippenberger was delighted: ‘For the first time in our experience, the immediate counter-attack had been crushingly defeated.’

Kippenberger noted that this artillery support was: ‘before the practice had developed of having defensive fire prepared, codenamed and issued to gunners, infantry and armour, before any operations’. This much was true but in fact the artillery support received by his brigade that day represented a real advance in technique. The artillery commander of New Zealand Division Brigadier Weir was instrumental in reintroducing concentrated artillery fire to Eighth Army. He had disagreed with Auchinleck’s previous stupid policy of brigade groups and had insisted on maintaining the right of his divisional artillery headquarters to fight the guns of the division. In line with this principle, he had carried out a series of exercises, practising regimental and divisional artillery coordination, while the division was in Syria in the early months of 1942.

However 132nd British Brigade further east was not so lucky and its vanguard battalion 2nd West Kent (Buffs) , the only battalion of brigade that reached its objective and 5th West Kent , were ovverrun and driven back to its original start lines in a disorganised manner by 15th Panzer Division and German Ramcke Parachute Brigade. Most of its senior officers were killed or wounded and two of its battalions were routed, the survivors fleeing to the relative security of the positions held by the New Zealanders. As the stragglers made it back to safety, New Zealand Major T. H. Bevan, noted bleakly that the exhausted arrivals ‘all had the same story – that it was bloody murder out there’.

Operation Beresford ended on the morning of September 5, when the New Zealand Battalions were withdrawn back into the New Zealand Box and the gaps in the minefields closed. The 132nd British Brigade had suffered more than 700 casualties during its brief advance and 2nd New Zealand Division commander General Freyberg felt himself to be very much responsible for the disaster because he had used such an inexperienced brigade for this type of operation. 13th Corps commander, General Horrocks, experiencing “the most difficult period I had in the whole war” because of Freyberg’s ungenerous behavior toward him, was “pierced with remorse” after the war over the use of 132nd Brigade. The fault really rested, though, with 132nd Brigade and more particularly with its commanders (Brig. Robertson who himself and his brigade recently arrived to Egypt and did not receive proper training or desert orientation yet). The commanders of the brigade rejected all of the sound advice offered by the New Zealanders as, “there was a resistance to suggestions that the brigade was inexperienced in anything except the terrain.” The tactics used by 132nd Brigade were totally inadequate for desert fighting and the brigade seemed determined to learn by its mistakes rather than from the experience of other formations.

5th NZ Brigade commander Brigadier Howard Kippenberger, however, was pleased that a larger counterattack against retreating Panzer Army had not been attempted. As Operation Beresford showed , Eighth Army was not ready for larger scale or even small scale offensive maneuvers. He wrote in 1955:

“My own feeling is that battle was never really joined. Montgomery was rightly determined not to be defeated and Rommel’s plan had become impracticable and he only half-heartedly attempted a modification of it within a few hours. I remember quite clearly that Horrocks told us that the main object was not to be beaten, and that I was delighted that the Army commander had not been tempted into launching a general counter-attack.”

With Eighth Army recovering from a state of despair in August 1942, and still poorly trained and lacking adequate doctrine, Montgomery’s decision not to launch a massive counterattack was probably the correct one. As mentioned above, on September 4, the Panzer Army attacked the new lodgments of 2nd New Zealand Division established during Operation Beresford. These were easily beaten off, but during the night the New Zealand infantry and 132nd British Brigade which was badly mauled during the day , withdrew from their exposed positions back into their original perimeter. On September 4 and 5, Rommel’s “slow and stubborn withdrawal” continued all the time while being harassed by heavy Desert Air Force bombing and strafing , British artillery fire and mobile units of 7th British Armoured Division in close pursuit beyond anti tank gun range.

Instead there was despair was gripping in Axis camp at Alamein. On September 4, Rommel could not conceal his bitterness in a letter to his wife. Rommel wrote:

"Dearest Lu,

Some very hard days lie behind me. We had to break off the offensive for supply reasons and because of the superiority of the enemy air force—although victory was otherwise ours. Well, it can’t be helped. Made a quick call at H.Q. for the first time to-day, even had both my boots off and washed my feet. I’m still hoping that the situation can be straightened out. All my wishes to you and Manfred.

P.S.—Bismarck killed. Nehring wounded."

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Trasher received reports of an Axis supply convoy approaching Tobruk. Axis convoy consisted of the merchant vessels Sportivo of 1,597 tons, Padenna of 1,589 tons, and Davide Bianchi of 1,477 tons. These were carrying a cargo which consisted mainly of diesel oil and petrol, in containers. They were escorted by the torpedo boats Lupo, Castore, Calliope and Polluce. Such torpedo boats, the size of small destroyers and heavily armed with antiaircraft guns, were the escorts most commonly employed by the Italians in the Mediterranean.

With the aid of aircraft flares dropped by RAF Beaufighters , Royal Navy submarine HMS Trasher made an interception early in the morning of 4th, and fired three torpedoes at a range of 2000 yards, two of which hit and sank Italian tanker Padenna of 1590 tons off Tobruk carrying cased petrol for Panzer Army.

After the attack of HMS Trasher which evaded convoy escorts and escaped , RAF anti-shipping attacks on Axis convoy started. A few hours later RAF Coastal Command Beaufort torpedo bombers from Alexandria , Egypt located , attacked , torpedoed and sank 2.000 ton Italian tanker Davide Bianchi from the convoy. Meanwhile RAF Beaufighters escorting this strike force shot down two German HE-111 bombers and two Fieseler Storch recon aircraft covering the convoy.

However this convoy’s agony not yet finished. Towards the evening ,Italian torpedo boat Polluce had almost caught up with her section of the convoy, consisting of the one remaining Italian merchant vessel, Sportivo, and her escort Italian torpedoboat Calliope. Flares were falling some distance astern and the look-outs were watching these. Then an aircraft approached up-moon, at low level and unseen, and dropped three bombs across the stern of the torpedo boat, firing machine guns at the same time. One of these bombs hit Italian torpedoboat Polluce between holds two and three, exploding the reserve of ammunition and starting a fire. They were dropped by a RAF B-24 Liberator medium bomber of 221st Squadron flown by Lieutenant Soukup, one of three US airmen in the ten-man crew. They dropped three 500 lb general purpose bombs and reported, quite accurately, a direct hit amidships followed by a large explosion, although they thought that their victim was a merchant vessel.The Italian sailors did their utmost to save the warship, while Calliope remained nearby and the hospital ship Virgilio came up, but the fire proved uncontrollable and the crew were forced to abandon her. She sank about two hours after being hit. A torpedo boat of 679 tons, Polluce was a veteran of many convoy escorts and the Italians regarded her loss as serious. Once again, they complained that there were insufficient escorts to meet the tasks demanded of them. The only merchant ship in the convoy to reach Tobruk was Sportivo, which off-loaded her cargo of 1,237 tons of diesel oil.

With a joint force of RAF Wellingtons, Albacores and Swordfish torpedo bombers from Malta also located severely damaging lone sailing 4,300-ton Italian cargo ship Monti on the 3rd September, with the ship finally having to be beached off Derna declared a total loss.

BY EARLY SEPTEMBER, the Axis authorities were seriously worried about the supply situation across the Mediterranean. Vice Admiral Weichold, the German Navy’s representative in Rome, said that in August, of 114,000 tons gross that put to sea, 38,000 tons had been sunk which was 34%. Four thousand tons of fuel had been lost on passage with 420 motor vehicles. He declared that if such losses continued, the Axis forces in Africa would face a serious crisis. Field Marshal Rommel claimed that the main reason for the failure of his offensive at Alam el Haifa was the shortage of supplies, and that great efforts would have to be made to improve the situation at sea or he would be unable to hold on in Africa.

Rommel of course overrated and over dramatised because he himself caused supply crisis in first place by over extending his army beyond supply capacity across Mediterranean and oacross Libya and Egypt and launching an all out offensive with fuel reserves sufficient only for seven days and on promise of incoming additional fuel en route. (NOTE : Rommel ceased his offensive at Alam el Halfa and decided to retreat on third day of attack not because lack of fuel despite his claims on contrary but because he encountered heavy resistance from Eighth Army and defeated)

The Italian Official Naval Historian says that at this time the Italian Navy continued ‘to bleed away its strength in a bitter struggle to supply Libya’ and still bringing more than half of the cargoes destined from Italy to Libya but due to vast distance from Italian held secure ports in Benghazi and Tobruk , the fuel brought in was consumed en route during transport to Alamein 1.800 miles away from Tripoli and soon serious decrease expected in Axis ammunition and ration cargoes shipped in so Rommel began make stock depots at Mersa Matruh and Fuka closer to the Alamein front.

Rommel never seems to have fully understood the true importance of the ‘technical reasons’ why his offensive failed. He certainly recognised the significance of the power of the Desert Air Force but to the end he always maintained that the supply problems were ultimately and primarily due to Italian failures of organisation and inefficiency. He seems never to have understood the full complexity of the interdependencies that ensnared the Panzerarmee’s logistics.The Italian Navy and merchant marine made a supreme effort to get supplies across the Mediterranean during August 1942 and suffered heavy losses doing so.147 The restricted capacity of the North African ports available for use only made matters worse but the main problem remained the same: Rommel had outrun his lines of supply. The advance to El Alamein placed excessive strain upon the Axis lines of communication. At the same time as Rommel was demanding increased supplies for the battlefront, the Axis had to transport large amounts of materiel to improve the inadequate facilities of the ports while also consuming vast quantities of fuel simply transporting supplies to the now far distant front.148 This became a desperate situation thanks to a revitalised Malta and the growing power of the RAF to hit convoys at sea, bomb the ports where Axis ships docked, strafe the coastal shipping used to bring supplies forward and interdict the long land lines of communication. Rommel never understood that when supplies failed to reach Africa because the vessel carrying them was sunk more was lost than the cargo. It meant the loss of a valuable ship, and possibly its crew, out of a limited and finite number of Italian and German merchant vessels which then had serious knock-on effects throughout the complex logistics chain. Given this appalling logistics situation, Rommel revealed the final bankruptcy of his method of war. Rather than assess the situation as a whole, he still gambled on success in the midst of logistics breakdown and began his attack without the fuel to finish it. Rommel’s offensive failed for more than mere ‘technical reasons’.

At this time the main Axis shipping traffic route was still down the west coast of Greece or from the Aegean direct to Cyrenaica to try to avoid air attack from Malta. Tripoli and the Tunisian route were little used and even Benghazi was too far from the front. Coastal convoys along the Cyrenaican coast to Tobruk and even beyond to Bardia and Mersa Matruh were important. Royal Navy Commander in Chief Mediterranean , Admiral Henry Harwood was concerned at the difficulty of attacking this route and he asked for more submarines for the First Flotilla and that the S-class now being sent to Gibraltar should be transferred to Malta.

Stalingrad , Russia : Marshall Zhukov regrouped his forces for a counter-attack, a thousand German bombers flew repeated sorties over the city.

According to Zhukov’s atack plan First Guards Army under General Moskolenko was directed to attack south, to link up with 62nd Army and cut off the German penetration to the Volga. Delayed by fuel shortages, Moskalenko attacked on 4 September, but his troops advanced only a few kilometres towards Stalingrad. Stalin was very worried

‘The enemy is three vèrsts from Stalingrad [a vèrst is an old Russian measure, effectively a kilometre]’, he said. That was right: they were 3 kilometres north of Rynok, the most northerly suburb . ‘They can take Stalingrad today or tomorrow, unless the northern group gives help urgently.’ Angered by Moskorenko’s delay Stalin rounded on Zhukov over the telephone: ‘Do you think that the enemy is going to wait until you bestir yourselves? Yeremenko has confirmed that the enemy can take Stalingrad with his first push unless you strike quickly from the north.’

Zhukov replied that he did not wholly share this view; as for air attacks, he had given orders to launch all available aircraft against the Germans, but he still wanted permission to wait until 5 September to attack.Zhukov ordered an attack as soon as possible, on 5 September. Reluctantly Stalin agreed, but added: “If the enemy begins a general offensive against the city, you are to attack him at once and not to wait until all your troops are ready. This is your main task: to draw the Germans away from Stalingrad, and, if you succeed, to eliminate the German corridor splitting the Stalingrad and South-Eastern Fronts.”

Sixth Grman Army and Fourth Panzer Army attacked again at Stalingrad, splitting 64th Army and driving to the Volga at Krasnoarmeisk. The city has been under continuous German air bombardment for 24 hours. However main line of defences of 62nd Army , helped by rubble , despite being dented in several sections , held firm on suburbs of city and repulsed German attacks.

Germany : 251 British bombers (98 Wellington, 76 Lancaster, 41 Halifax, and 36 Stirling) attacked Bremen, Germany, damaging or destroying 71 industrial buildings and 1,821 houses; 12 bombers were lost on this mission.

Milne Bay , Papua New Guinea : Japanese defenses halted Australian 2/9th Battalion’s attack at Goroni on the coast of Milne Bay, Australian Papua.

Japanese destroyer Yayoi came into Milne Bay during afternoon of the 4th September to evacuate more casualties. While the ship was there, it gathered more details of the condition of the landing force. All Japanese company commanders had been killed, and only three or four platoon leaders were left. Fifty fully fit men remained in the force. The rest were incapacitated or could offer only token support. Many soldiers had foot sores so severe they couldn’t walk and were fighting sitting down. The encircling enemy threatened annihilation, the ship’s report concluded grimly. The following day Rear-Admiral Mitsuharu Matsuyama, commander of 18th Squadron coordinating RE Operation, conceded that the situation had become untenable even as a holding operation. He ordered the withdrawal of the Milne Bay landing force that night.

By the morning of 5th September , the Japanese had withdrawn behind their supply base at Waga Waga. In the skirmishes that occurred from time to time as the Allies edged forward they were able to place a high cost on that advance, but they were suffering equal losses themselves. They no longer had even the minimum strength needed to sustain their position. They would fight off the Allied advance led by 18th Australian Brigade then pull back slightly, leaving behind their dead and near-dead. One Australian’s description of Japanese bodies in an abandoned machine-gun nest captures the horror and the hopelessness: ‘Their eyes shone in the jungle gloom with the glassy stare of death, but they were not all dead for I recall that one lifted his head at the sound of our approach.’ He doesn’t say what was done with that soldier, but prisoners weren’t taken.

After dark, Japanese ships began evacuation the remnants of surviving men of the failed Aug 1942 amphibious attack at Milne Bay. This had been the first big Japanese land defeat , over 1.000 killed , remaining Japanese forces of 5th Sasabeo South Sea Naval Detachment (930 troops including 300 wounded) had to be evacuated from Milne Bay. The next day 2/9 Australian Battalion captured empty landing points evacuated by Japanese the day before.

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : Further inland, Japanese troops of South Seas Dwetachment penetrated the lines set up by Australian 2/16th and 2/14th Battalions at Myola Ridge on the Kokoda Track.

Guadalcanal , South West Pacific : US Marine Corps 1st Raider Battalion conducted a reconnaissance mission on Savo Island, Solomon Islands, reporting it to be free of Japanese troops.

Six Japanese barges attempting to bring artillery and heavy equipment to Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands were strafed , bombed and sunk off Santa Isabel Island by US Army Airforce P-40 fighters based in Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.

After dark, Japanese destroyers Yudachi, Hatsuyuki, and Murakumo delivered 1,000 Japanese troops (2nd battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment and Ichiki’s Second Echelon) at Taivu, Guadalcanal.

Japanese light cruiser Sendai leads 11 destroyers. After unloading Col. Oka’s forces to the west of Henderson Field and Ichiki to the east, three destroyers steam up to bombard Henderson Field.

There they meet US Navy destroyer transports USS Little and USS Gregory, which have dropped off parts of the 1st Raider Battalion to Savo Island to check on false reports of Japanese presence. The two ships see gun flashes, and think it’s an enemy submarine. They go to GQ at 1 a.m., and their radar picks up the Japanese at 1:02. Armed with 4-inchers, the two four-piper destroyer-transports are no match for the sleek Japanese tincans. The gunfire Japanese destroyers shred the American vessels , hurling 500 shells at both ships. Both US destroyer transports are turned to blazing hulks and sank, and both skippers killed. 12 officers and 226 men are saved. USS Little loses 22 dead and 44 wounded, while uss Gregory loses 11 dead and 26 wounded.

“The officers and men serving in these ships have shown great courage and have performed outstanding service. They entered this dangerous area time after time, knowing that their ships stood little or no chance if they should be opposed by any surface or air force the enemy would send into those waters. On the occasion of their last trip in they remained for six days, subjected to daily air attack and anticipating nightly surface attack,” writes Rear Adm. Richmond Kelly Turner.

Col Oka’s force continues to head south, still being strafed and bombarded from air by US Marine and Army Force aircraft.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Guardfish attacked a Japanese convoy off Kuji, Japan, torpedoed and sinking freighter Kaimei Maru

South China Sea : American submarine USS Growler torpedoed and sank 10.000 ton Japanese ammunition ship Kashino off Formoza (Taiwan)

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Sorry for the delay. Very busy weeks and extended work at office with extra shift and I also got busy in recently purchased Mass Effect Legendary Edition PC game lately. I will try to make up as much as possible by focusing more on Mediterranean Theater of War. :slight_smile:

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Many thanks again for your gargantuan efforts on this forum. Actually concentrating on an area probably really would help. The war is getting more and more complex so we understand that you cannot do everything.

Oh and I LOOOOOOOVE Mass Effect Legends, Finally I can play ME 1 without getting frustrated. I was one of those eternal ME 2 players with the “illusive man” as my favourite character (there are more shades than just good and evil in Mass Effect).

I find it really call that decisions made in ME 1 can bite you in @#@!! in ME 3 and the conversations really differ based on earlier choices or the party you chose.

Apologies, I should have stayed in history and not wars in 2186 or something :-). However the pilot “Joker” in the series complains that he can only get crappy radiomusic from 200 years ago in deep space :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:.

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5 September 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-506 torpedoed and sank British merchant ship Myrmidon 200 miles south of Cape Palmas, Liberia at 0233 hours; all 245 aboard survived.

German submarine U-513 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Saganaga (30 were killed, 14 survived) and Canadian cargo ship Lord Strathcona (all 44 aboard survived) at Wabana, Bell Island, Newfoundland at 1615 hours.

El Alamein , Egypt : Battle of Alam El Halfa is over. Axis troops returned to the positions west of El Alamein, Egypt from which they began the failed offensive on 30 Aug. Their only small consolation for them is they halted their retreat and held on western portion of old British minefields at southern flank of Alamein line and capture of Himmemiyat peak which they held a valuable observation point on 13th Corps positions at southern flank of Alamein. When 13th Corps commander General Horrocks relayed his wish to recapture Himmemiyat peak , Montgomery refused and halted ant offensive and pursuit operations , recognising Eighth Army was not ready yet and even more importantly , he wanted Panzer Army to hold Himmemiyat peak to have good observation point to look down on 13th Corps position at south because he was already planning his all out offensive operation battle on northern flank of Alamein line at 30th Corps front. Meanwhile he wished to divert the attention of enemy to southern flank to decieve him. Montgomery was already thinking and planning two battles ahead.

At the end of Battle of Alam el Halfa , Panzer Army Afrika lost 3.050 killed , wounded , captured (almost 2.000 German , 1.050 Italian) , 49 tanks (39 German panzers , 10 Italian tanks destroyed and left in battlefield) , 55 guns destroyed beyond recovery and 455 motorised vehicles , the last one was a heavy blow Rommel could not replace easily. Eighth Army suffered 1.640 casaulties , killed , wounded and captured , 64 tanks knocked out though most of them recovered and repaired back to service , ten anti tank guns destroyed and 67 aircraft shot down from Desert Air Force.

Montgomery spent that day conducting Wendell Wilkie, the American politician and one-time contender for the Presidency, around the front, proudly taking him to the positions of 22nd Armoured Brigade. The fact that the Army Commander had time to engage in a public relations exercise was a clear sign that the fighting was at an end. Warned by President Roosevelt that by the time he reached the Middle East, Cairo might have fallen into German hands, Willkie arrived in the Egyptian capital on 4 September. He was soon subjected to all manner of rumour and counter-rumour about the British predicament in the region. He was thus mesmerised by the ‘wiry, scholarly, intense, almost fanatical personality of General Montgomery’ who kept insisting in a quiet voice that, so far from facing any kind of crisis, ‘Egypt has been saved’. On a tour of the front, interrupted only by a lunch of ‘sandwiches – and flies’, he was dazzled by the Eighth Army commander’s ‘amazing’ mastery of military detail as again and again he demonstrated more knowledge of the deployment of troops and tanks than the relevant unit commanders he met. When Montgomery assured him that the Eighth Army’s superiority in tanks and planes meant that ‘it is now mathematically certain that I will eventually destroy Rommel’, Willkie did not doubt this for a moment; and he was right. For the first time in the Desert War, the Eighth Army had the preponderance of firepower required for victory.

He relayed this glowing assessment to a White House which still harboured grave doubts about the Eighth Army’s prowess and remained anxious lest a Nazi pincer movement from the Caucasus and the desert might yet strangle the Middle East. This did much to reassure the President that his decision to press ahead with Torch – which he cabled to Churchill on the same day as Willkie’s awestruck meeting with Montgomery – had not been so ill judged as his principal advisors had feared. But the key word in Montgomery’s secret briefing was ‘eventually’. Like Wavell and Auchinleck before him, he had no intention of being rushed into a premature offensive until his men were so well trained, armed and supplied as to ensure victory. But, unlike his predecessors, who eventually succumbed to Churchill’s sustained war of attrition against them, he had time on his side.

The accumulated effect of Rommel’s sickness, the shortage of fuel, RAF command of the air and well‐prepared British defences have led some historians to conclude that Alam al‐Halfa was for Monty a battle easily won and for which he can claim no great credit. But it was also a battle easily lost. Previous British commanders with the factors similarly weighted in their favour had been drawn into fighting Rommel’s way and beaten. The German knew his strength and intended to outwit this new commander in the same way. Monty appreciated that his weakness was precisely that kind of quickly changing battle and that the terms of engagement had to be his own. There would be no tank‐on‐tank battle and no armoured cavalry charge as proposed to him by General Renton, commanding 7th Armoured Brigade, who asked when the tanks would be ‘let loose’. While artillery shells and RAF bombs reduced the enemy, Eighth Army would remain still and allow Rommel to ‘beat up against 400 tanks in position, dug in, and deployed behind a screen of 6‐pounder anti‐tank guns… and to suffer heavy casualties’. That Montgomery’s tactics were correct was confirmed by Rommel himself:

“British ground forces hardly put in an appearance. Montgomery attempted no large‐scale attack to retake the southern part of his line, and would probably have failed if he had. He relied instead on the effectiveness of his enormously powerful artillery and air force, and harassing attacks by the 7th Armoured Brigade. There is no doubt that the British commander’s handling of this action was absolutely right and suited to the situation, because it enabled him to inflict heavy damage on us in relation to his own losses, and preserve the striking power of his own force.”

Now very fatalistic (in contrast with his earlier arrogance in summer when he considered that Egypt was his for taking after Battle of Gazala victory and Fall of Tobruk), Rommel recognized that the fortunes of war had turned against him and Germany. He wrote shortly after the battle:

"With the failure of this offensive our last chance of gaining the Suez Canal had gone. We could now expect that the full production of British industry and, more important, the enormous industrial potential of America, which, consequent on our declaration of war, was now fully harnessed to the enemy cause, would finally turn the tide against us.

Rommel’s gamble, unlike his earlier risk taking, had failed. The price would be much higher than he perhaps realized. General Alexander, in his post-war Despatch of the North African campaign, wrote that Alam Halfa “was far more important than would appear.” It was the last chance for a German victory there and the beginning of the turn of the tide against the Axis.

Monty was cock‐a‐hoop and wrote to his son David on 8 September to tell him that ‘The battle I have been fighting with Rommel is over. I have defeated him and I expect you will see a good deal about it in the papers. I have enjoyed it all enormously.’ Montgomery issues an Order of the Day, congratulating Eighth Army on its “devotion to duty and good fighting qualities which have resulted in such a heavy defeat of the enemy and which will have far-reaching results.”

His success was, as he had imagined, splashed across the British papers, but for the Prime Minister Churchill it was hardly enough. Monty had beaten Rommel in a defensive battle. Churchill needed him to destroy Rommel in an offensive battle and he pressed for an attempt to be made soon. Monty replied that the additional equipment he needed would not be in place and most importantly training of his forces for offensive would not be sufficient until October and later wrote: ‘The Prime Minister signalled that the attack must be in September… I refused to attack until October; if a September attack was ordered, they would have to get someone else to do it. My stock was rather high after Alam‐el‐Halfa ! We heard no more about a September attack.’

Indeed it was. After the reply of Montgomery about his insistence to attack on October , no more heard from Churchill and Whitehall for a September offensive. But not only that , it also restored a lost faith in British leadership and a confidence in their own fighting abilities. One veteran from 7th British Armored Division wrote that the importance of this victory was “in the proof it gave that British tanks and infantry could stand up to the Germans and inflict a crushing defeat.” As a result, “morale rose to great heights and confidence was re-established.” (well not quite as we shall see in future but still , huge steps on this regard was taken.) As Alexander wrote, reflecting the views of many fighting in Eighth Army: “I now felt sure that we should be able to defeat the enemy when we were ready to take the offensive." As another veteran of the battle stated, “it was our first obvious victory and a tremendous morale booster. At last a plan that actually worked! For Montgomery’s chief of staff, Freddie de Guingand, Alam Halfa was “a heaven sent event.” It provided “the whole Army, its commander, staff and the fighting troops a great opportunity of running themselves in.”

The architects of the British victory, however, had been artillery and anti tank gunners, and even more so the RAF, who had been almost entirely responsible for the British offensive operations in the battle. The Desert Air Force had begun the battle with slightly fewer aircraft than the Axis but with much more fuel and so had been able to maintain almost total air superiority. As Rommel himself admitted, ‘non-stop and very heavy air attacks by the RAF, whose command of the air had been virtually complete, had pinned my army to the ground and rendered any smooth deployment or any advance by time-schedule completely impossible’. At RAF HQ, Desert Air Force Air Marshall Mary Coningham had reason to be pleased. Sixty-eight aircraft had been lost, but it had been a great victory. Once again, their efforts had helped the army to an incalculable degree. Mary and the other senior air staff had taken to dining with the army commander every night, but on 4 September, before wandering over for supper, Mary brought out a bottle of champagne, which he had been keeping for a special occasion. Raising his glass, Mary gave a toast: ‘To the further confusion of the Hun!’

Montgomery’s first success in North Africa was critical. It set Eighth Army on the road to recovery from its bewilderment and from the many disasters of May through July 1942. It was “the beginning of something new” as air-ground cooperation “now went up a gear” and “paid extra dividends.” It left Montgomery free now to plan and prepare his own battle of El Alamein, where these dividends could be fully exploited. As the British official history noted, with their forces growing stronger every day, “the initiative was theirs for the taking.” Montgomery was determined to seize it. When he felt his army was ready, Montgomery would strike against Rommel’s Panzer Army with all the considerable force at his disposal.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Traveller intercepted another Axis convoy in Central Mediterranean , torpedoed and sank Italian freighter Albachiara 25 miles off Derna, Libya.

Stalingrad , Russia : Soviet 24th Army and 66th Army organized a counter attack against German 14th Panzer Corps at Stalingrad, Russia. Launched in the morning, it was called off around noon time; 30 of the 120 tanks committed to this attack were destroyed, nearly all of which to German Luftwaffe Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber and JU-88 medium bomber attacks. But they take pressure off 62nd and 64th Armies, giving them time to lay barbed wire, dig trenches, plant mines, and infuse manpower. 87th Division is down to 180 men, 112th has 150, and 99th Tank Brigade has 120 men and now tanks.

1st Guards Army also attacked again, only to be beaten back: worse still, air reconnaissance reported strong concentrations of German tanks, artillery and motorized infantry on the move from Gumrak, Orlovka and Bolshaya Rossoshka. At the end of the day Soviet troops had made up 4,000 yards at the most, while 24th Army had been pushed back to its start-line.When Zhukov reported on the day’s fighting, Stalin expressed his satisfaction, particularly about German movement from Gumrak: ‘That’s good. That is a great help to Stalingrad.’ The attacks were to continue, in order to draw off as many German troops as possible from Stalingrad itself. Zhukov accordingly ordered 1st Guards Army commander General Moskalenko to continue his attacks by day with 1st Guards: at night Golovanov’s bombers from the Long-Range Bomber Force went after targets in the German rear. Golovanov himself worked with Zhukov at 1st Guards HQ. Rudenko’s 16th Air Army, recently re-formed, was assigned to operate with the Stalingrad Front and on 6 September Zhukov received a STAVKA signal that two more fighter regiments were moving up to Stalingrad, with two more fighter groups arriving within the next forty-eight hours. Lieutenant-General Novikov, commander of the Soviet Air Force and Stavka ‘representative’, now enjoyed special authority to concentrate all fighter aircraft of the Stalingrad and South-Eastern Fronts on any sector where they were needed, while Khryukin’s and Stepanov’s fighter regiments were in part subordinated to Novikov. The Stavka threw in all available aircraft: Zhukov authorized ‘unlimited right to manoeuvre’ for air units to concentrate on threatened sectors.

To capture Stalingrad Sixth German Army commander General Paulus, plans his next move too, yet another assault on the blasted city. Paulus, suffering dysentery, is tired and listless, but he starts each morning with bright white collar and highly polished boots. As the battle goes on, he becomes increasingly depressed about his casualty bill.

Paulus plans to concentrate two shock forces against the southern half of the town, to grab the “Central landing stage” opposite Krasnaya Sloboda. Three German divisions will charge from Gumrak railway station. Another force, including the 29th German Motorized Division, will attack from the northeast.

Caucausian Front : Despite heavy resistance of Soviet Marines rearguard action in outskirts of town , 17th German Army besieged Soviet port city Novorosissk.

Volkhov , Leningrad Front , Russia : The front lines of the Soviet Volkhov Front offensive reached within 3.5 miles from the Leningrad Front on the other side, nearly breaking the German siege on Leningrad, Russia, but the offensive would soon peter out.

Rouen , France : US 8th Air Force bombers attacked the Rouen marshalling yards in France, but bombs dropped wide by the inexperienced American crews caused the deaths of 140 French civilians.

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : With their flanks threatened by Japanese 41st Regiment advance , Australian 2/16th and 2/14th Battalions abandoned Templetons Crossing , fell back to Efogi along the Kokoda Track in Australian Papua on the southern side of the Owen Stanley Gap.

Casualties during the engagements amounted to 43 killed and 58 wounded for the Japanese out of a force of around 1,300, and 21 killed and 54 wounded for the Australians from around 710 personnel. Author, Peter Williams, later described the battle as “the least-examined engagement of the campaign”; occurring so soon after the fighting around Isurava. Williams argues that the battle has been “obscured by it”, highlighting that Japanese accounts in fact refer to it as the “Second Battle of Isurava”, while contemporary Australian press reports were largely silent in their coverage of it. Nevertheless, it was arguably one of the main clashes during the Australian withdrawal and it was the last time during the campaign that the Japanese outnumbered the Australians. The Japanese force was supported by four artillery pieces and an engineer platoon, while Australians had only a single 3-inch mortar for indirect fire support.

Although the withdrawal resulted in the loss of their supply dump around the dry lake at Myola, the action was a successful rearguard action for the Australians, with the slowness of the Japanese pursuit contributing to this. The foodstuffs captured at Myola by the Japanese were later found to have been contaminated by the withdrawing Australians, rendering them useless. Following the fighting around Eora Creek, the Japanese 41st Regiment was criticised, particularly by members of its sister regiment, the 144th, and by Horii, for its slow rate of advance towards Efogi and its inability to destroy the Australian force, thus allowing it to regroup. The 144th subsequently took over the pursuit, catching up with them around Efogi.

South China Sea : American submarine USS Seal torpedoed and damaged Japanese passenger-cargo ship Kanju Maru 20 miles off the coast of French Indochina in the South China Sea.

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