30 May - 5 June 1942

30 May 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-155 torpedoed and sank Norwegian cargo ship Baghdad in the center of the Atlantic Ocean at 0651 hours; 9 were killed, 21 survived. At 1024 hours, U-404 torpedoed and sank US freighter Alcoa Shipper further north, killing 7 of 32 aboard.

German submarine U-106 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Mentor in Gulf of Mexico

US cargo ship George Clayton was torpedoed and sunk by a motor torpedoboat launched from German commerce raider cruiser Michel off Ascension island.

Murmansk , Kola Fjord , Russia : 28 merchant ships out of 36 , from convoy PQ-16 arrived Murmansk

Baltic Sea : German cargo ship Orkan struc a mine and sank off Griefswald

Gazala , Libya : On 30 May, Rommel pulled the Afrikakorps back westward against the edge of the minefields, creating a defensive position in the Cauldron and puts up a defensive screen of anti tank guns (including dreaded 88 mm Flak guns) to protect his rear facing east , while he gathered and regrouped most of the striking power of Afrikakorps to the west to punch through enemy minefields and defensive boxes. A link was formed with elements of the Italian 20th Corps, which were clearing two routes through the minefields from the west. On the morning , German and Italian enginers reported that two lanes were cleared from British minefields between cornered Afrikakorps along Arierte Armored division trapped in Cauldron east of Gazala Laine in British rear and 21st Italian Corps west of Gazala line. However these lanes are still under British artillery fire. To get rid of that interferance Afrikakorps , 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions started a full scale attack on British 150th Infantry Brigade (from 50th British Infantry Division) defending Got Ul Utrieb box , to capture the box and re establish link with Panzer Army Afrika. Initial attacks of Afrikakorps to Got Ul Utrieb (Sidi Muftah box) were repulsed though by British infantry and anti tank guns. Rommel requests Luftwaffe to bomb Got Ul Utrieb box constantly.

Robert Lee, a member of the Royal Artillery, described his experience of a box on the Gazala line at the end of May 1942: “Boxes were originally to protect the Infantry. … When you’re in an established position, they’re like a camp. A huge area. Barbed wire all the way round the outside, then minefields with a gap, similar to a drawbridge. The tracks that go out from the box and then through the minefield are planted with mines each night. At dawn stand-to it’s the infantry’s job to go out and take up those mines and bring them back inside, all carefully accounted for. Then the OP Officer can ride out to his position. One morning they did a miscount. Left one on the track. Killed a troop commander. He drove into it. The men are arranged inside. The most vulnerable units are in the middle. … Our system of boxes was essentially a defensive thing. It was too rigid. The boxes couldn’t help one another. The Afrika Korps methods were more flexible. They could take each of our boxes in turn and have a battle with it. … [As the situation deteriorated.] We held them off a long time. Getting on for four days and nights. Our guns were in action on 28th and 29th, plus the infantry – machine guns and mortar fire. Coming at us we had artillery shells, airburst rapid fire, machine-gun fire.”

The balance and disposition of the two armies meant that Rommel should have been on his knees before the superior might ranged against him; instead the flexibility, ferocity and discipline of his troops served yet again as a reminder of how he had earned his nickname: he was quicker, more imaginative, and more skilled in the deployment of his armour. Even in retreat, the Axis troops – Italian as well as German – displayed a sangfroid and expertise that forced Auchinleck to concede, ‘Although his lightning attack had failed, the enemy nevertheless gained a solid advantage.’

Describing one of the many confusing battles along the front, Auchinleck wrote with barely suppressed frustration of the way in which an entire Italian division (the Trieste) managed to escape through a British minefield (at Trigh Capuzzo) despite coming under heavy fire from Ritchie’s tanks. ‘Our armour strove to interpose itself between the enemy and the paths through the minefield,’ he wrote, ‘but he covered his retirement in characteristic fashion with a powerful anti-tank screen which our armour could neither penetrate nor outflank … The whole of our armour was thus powerless to close on the gaps.’ It was even worse than that. In the many weeks during which they constructed the chain of boxes along the Gazala front, the Eighth Army commanders had failed to ensure that the minefields strung between them were adequately covered from each box by artillery fire to pick off any enemy tank seeking to navigate the maze of buried explosives. The result of Ritchie’s oversight, as Auchinleck later confessed, was that after four days of sustained fighting, the panzers ‘had succeeded in breaching our front and creating a dangerous salient in our main position’.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Proteus intercepted an Axis convoy made of three cargo ships , torpedoed and sank one of the Italian cargo ships , Bravo 70 miles west of Benghazi, Libya.

Cologne , Germany : By adding 367 training aircraft, British Air Marshal Harris managed to mount the first thousand-plane raid against Germany (the actual count was 1,046), Operation Millennium. Originally targeted for Hamburg, it was switched to Cologne due to weather. Over 1,400 tons of explosives were dropped on that city during the night of 30-31 May 1942, killing 500, injuring 5,000, and making nearly 60,000 homeless. 40 British bombers failed to return. The German government estimated that Cologne received 900 tons of high explosive and 110,000 incendiary bombs, and about 400 were killed.

This was the first time that the “bomber stream” tactic was used and most of the tactics used in this raid remained the basis for standard Bomber Command operations for the next two years and some elements remained in use until the end of the war. It was expected that such a large number of bombers flying in a bomber stream through the Kammhuber line would overwhelm the German night fighters’ control system, keeping the number of bombers shot down to an acceptable proportion. The recent introduction of GEE allowed the bombers to fly a given route at a given time and height. The British night bombing campaign had been in operation for some months, and a statistical estimate could be made of the number of bombers likely to be lost to enemy night fighters and flak, and how many would be lost through collisions. Minimising the former demanded a densely packed stream, as the controllers of a night fighter flying a defensive ‘box’ could only direct a maximum of six potential interceptions per hour, and the flak gunners could not concentrate on all the available targets at once. Earlier in the war four hours had been considered acceptable for a mission; for this raid all the bombers passed over Cologne and bombed in a window of 90 minutes, with the first having arrived at 00:47 of 31 May. It was anticipated that the concentration of bombing over such a short period would overwhelm the Cologne fire brigades and cause conflagrations similar to those inflicted on London by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz.

In the raid, 868 aircraft bombed the main target with 15 aircraft bombing other targets. The total tonnage of bombs dropped was 1,455 tons with two-thirds of that being incendiaries. Two and a half thousand separate fires were started with 1,700 classed by the German fire brigades as “large”. The action of fire fighters and the width of the streets stopped the fires combining into a firestorm, but nonetheless most of the damage was done by fire and not directly by the explosive blasts. 3,330 non-residential buildings were destroyed, 2,090 seriously damaged and 7,420 lightly damaged, making a total of 12,840 buildings of which 2,560 were industrial or commercial buildings. Among the buildings classed as totally destroyed were: 7 official administration buildings, 14 public buildings, 7 banks, 9 hospitals, 17 churches, 16 schools, 4 university buildings, 10 postal and railway buildings, 10 buildings of historic interest, 2 newspaper offices, 4 hotels, 2 cinemas and 6 department stores. The only military installation damaged was the flak barracks. The damage to civilian homes, most of them apartments in larger buildings, was considerable: 13,010 destroyed, 6,360 seriously damaged, 22,270 lightly damaged.

‘Of course’, Hermann Goering wrote in his diary, ‘the effects of aerial warfare are terrible if one looks at individual cases, but one has to accept them.’ ‘I hope you were pleased with our mass air attack on Cologne,’ Churchill telegraphed to Roosevelt on the following day, and he added: ‘There is plenty more to come….’

The repercussions of the Cologne raid were considerable. In the Warsaw ghetto, the captive Jews rejoiced. ‘Cologne was an advance payment’, Rabbi Emanuel Ringelblum noted in his diary a few months later, ‘on the vengeance that must and shall be taken on Hitler’s Germany for the millions of Jews they have killed. So the Jewish population of tortured Europe considered Cologne its personal act of vengeance.’ As for himself: ‘After the Cologne affair, I walked around in a good mood, feeling that, even if I should perish at their hands, my death is prepaid!’

The RAF lost 43 aircraft (German sources claimed 44), 3.9% of the 1,103 bombers sent on the raid. 22 aircraft were lost over or near Cologne, 16 shot down by flak, 4 by night fighters, 2 in a collision, and 2 Bristol Blenheim light bombers lost in attacks on night fighter airfields.

Berlin , Germany : Hitler spoke that day in Berlin to a group of recently commissioned German officers. ‘I do not doubt for a single second’, he told them, ‘that we shall win in the end. Fate has not led me this far for nothing, from an unknown soldier to the Führer of the German nation, and the Führer of the German Army. She has not done this simply to mock at me and to snatch away at the last moment what had to be gained after so bitter a struggle’. A thousand years earlier, Charlemagne had used harsh measures to create a German Empire; the German Army, Hitler warned, must now use harsh measures in the East if it were to win the space needed for the new German Empire to survive and flourish.

Hitler told Goebbels, as Goebbels noted in his diary next day on 31st May, ‘that all restraint be dispensed with, and that the interests of the security of the Reich be placed above the interests of single individuals from whom we can expect little good’.

Inside Germany, and German-occupied Europe, it was the aftermath of Heydrich’s wounding during assasination attempt in Prague two days ago that was leading to ‘hell with interest’. ‘Heydrich is in critical condition’, Goebbels noted in his diary on May 31. A ‘whole crowd of Jews’, he wrote, had already been shot in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and he added: ‘The more of this filthy race we eliminate, the better things will be for the security of the Reich.’ Two days later, a thousand Jews were deported from Vienna by train to Minsk; they were most probably taken on at once to Maly Trostenets extermination camp set up in German occupied Belarussia and their death.

Moscow , USSR : Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin finally approved the establishment of a Central Staff for Partisan Warfare under the direction of Byelorussian Communist Party Secretary Panteleimon Ponomarenko. The irregulars would now be organized along military lines with Red Army Commanders and NKVD officials to run them.

Madacascar , Indian Ocean : Before dawn, the floatplane of Japanese submarine I-10 conducted a reconnaissance mission over Diego-Suárez harbor, Madagascar, spotting British battleship HMS Ramillies, a tanker, a freighter, and an ammunition ship. At 1740 hours, I-16 and I-20 launched midget submarines M-16b and M-20b 10 miles from Diego-Suárez. M-20b fired her torpedo at 2025 hours, damaging HMS Ramillies and putting her out of action for a year. At 2120 hours, corvettes HMS Genista and HMS Thyme counterattacked with depth charges but failed to hit the Japanese midget submarines. Shortly after, M-20b fired her second torpedo, sinking British tanker British Loyalty.

Pacific Ocean : The Japanese intercepted, but could not decode, a report by USS Cuttlefish returning from patrol near Saipan, Mariana Islands. Around midnight, the Japanese Navy 6th (Submarine) Fleet at Kwajalein, Marshall Islands also reported monitoring messages exchanged by two American task groups located 170 miles north-northeast of Midway Atoll, moving westwards.

Aboard battleship Yamato, Admiral Yamamoto suggested that the information be relayed to the First Air Fleet flagship carrier Akagi, but senior staff officer Captain Kuroshima cautioned not to break radio silence. In any case due to radio malfunction of wireless sets in Akagi , First Carrier Division heads towards Midway under total communication blackout.

Elsewhere, the transport fleet of the Japanese Aleutian invasion fleet set sail from the main island of Honshu of the Japanese home islands; it was consisted of 8 transports. In the northern Pacific Ocean, Japanese submarine I-25 surfaced for the launching of her floatplane for a reconnaissance missiong over Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands; an American cruiser sailed near by luck but failed to spot the submarine; I-25 would continue with the reconnaissance mission after a short while.

American submarine USS Pompano torpedoed and sank Japanese troop transport Atsuta Maru 80 miles east of Okinawa, Japan.

Pearl Harbour , Hawaii : USS Yorktown, having received rushed repairs from 1,400 dock workers within 45 hours after her arrival and still two boilers damaged and non operational (thus reduced speed) , departed Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii alng with her escorts , heading for Midway Atoll.


31 May 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-432 torpedoed and sank Canadian cargo ship Liverpool Packet off Nova Scotia, Canada at 0140 hours; 2 were killed, 19 survived.
At 0252 hours, German submarine U-506 sank British cargo ship Fred W. Green with gunfire 200 miles southeast of Bermuda; 5 were killed, 36 survived.
German submarine U-558 torpedoed and sank US Navy troop transport ship USS Jack off Haiti , Caribbean Sea , with the loss of 37 of the 60 people on board. 14 of the survivors were rescued by American destroyer USS Grunion.
In the South Atlantic, Italian submarine Comandante Cappellini torpedoed and sank British Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Dinsdale, hitting her with 4 of 6 torpedoes fired; 5 were killed.

Gazala , Libya : A convoy of 50 British trucks reached Bir Hakeim in Libya, bringing badly-needed fresh water and ammunition and evacuating French wounded , Indian troops and Italian prisoners of war. A raid by Free French Foreign Legion detachments in the afternoon , destroyed five Italian tanks and an armoured vehicle repair workshop on the outer perimer of Bir-Hakeim box. It appears that 3.600 men strong 1st Free French Brigade under command of Brigadier Pierre Koenig defending Bir-Hakeim do not intend to leave their positions and sell their lives dearly

During the day, the RAF Desert Air Force lost sixteen aircraft (fifteen fighters and a bomber), fifteen in combat with Axis fighters and one to flak, the worst daily loss of the battle; the Luftwaffe lost nine aircraft.

After sundown, Axis tanks and infantry from Afrikakorps resumed attacks westward from within the Cauldron on the southern end of the Gazala Line, assaulting Got ul Ulried (Sidi Muftah box) positions held by British 150th Brigade to link up with rest of Panzer Army west of minefields. By afternoon 150th Brigade suffered heavy casaulties so far under constant Luftwaffe air raids and approaching Axis forces in minefields getting closer , requested help from rest of Eighth Army but due to bad staffwork and communications of Eighth Army HQ and indecisive attititude combined with slow and cumbersome reaction of Eighth Army commander General Neil Ritchie and his corps commanders Norrie and Gott , no aid nor any relief force was sent to Sidi Muftah box. Ritchie , wrong footed again by ruthless daring of Rommel , instead of rushing troops and tanks in a co-ordinated move against the exhausted Germans and to support 150th Brigade, he failed to take any action at all. Any smaller scale uncoordinated attack attempt by British armored brigades to divert Rommel’s attention from Sidi Muftah box failed and repulsed under a screen of German 88 mm anti tank guns defending the Cauldron position of Afrikakorps rear. Thus one full British infantry brigade, which was at the point of exhaustion, was left to its own increasingly desperate devices.

Robert Lee from Royal artillery in Sidi Muftah box records : “On 30th and 31st, German armour and German vehicles got right up on us. They were in full view – to our south, mind. One vast football field. Vehicles and Valentines burning all around us, palls of that acrid smoke, the smell of human flesh roasting, burning. The first taste of hell. But not the last. … I remember listening in to a bombardier specialist, and he was talking to a sergeant out at the OP. This sergeant was one of my old B Troop blokes. I knew the voice. He was obviously getting disturbed. The Germans were right there in front of him. He could see them clearly. Out at the OP they were just in a dug trench. Just telephones with them, wires running back. Nothing else at all. There’s this sergeant saying, ‘I’m afraid it’s getting impossible now. There’s nothing much we can do. They’re getting so close.’ he says, ‘I hope you’ll explain to my wife what happened.’ he was talking to someone who knew him well. He was in a state.”

Meanwhile RAF Desert Air Force constanly attacks Axis forces in Cauldron with bombing and strafing runs and raiding Axis supply columns third day in a row

Mediterranean Sea : In Gulf of Sirte , Royal Navy submarine HMS Proteus , in a good hunting streak , intercepted , torpedoed and sank lone sailing Italian cargo ship Gino Allegro , carrying ammunition to Axis forces in North Africa , Gino Allegro after hit by torpedoes blew up in a spectacular explosion.

Black Sea : Soviet submarine ShCh-214 torpedoed and sank Turkish cargo ship Mahbubdihan in the Black Sea; Mahbubdihan was suspected of carrying supplies for German troops.

UK : Luftwaffe bombers attacked Canterbury, England, United Kingdom

Over Europe : RAF De Havilland Mosquito fighter bomber recon aircraft (made of plywood mostly and known as “wooden wonder”) makes its first operational flight over Germany.

Poland : Monowitz labor camp, later to become Auschwitz III, opened on this date, housing forced laborers charged with building the Buna-Works for the German chemical firm I. G. Farben.

Madacascar , Indian Ocean : Japanese submarine I-10 launched her floatplane for a reconnaissance mission over Diego-Suárez harbor, Madagascar to evaluate damage caused by the midget submarine attack that had taken place during the previous night.

Australia : Japanese submarines I-22, I-24, and I-27 launched three midget submarines 7 miles off of Sydney, Australia. At 2235 hours, one Japanese midget submarine M-27b was caught in torpedo nets and was scuttled by her own crew of two (both were killed in the process). The two others continued into Sydney Harbor.

Pacific Ocean : Japanese submarine I-168 arrived in the Midway Atoll vicinity.

Pearl Harbour : Hawaii : Joseph Rochefort’s cryptanalytic team in Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii intercepted a radio message noting that carrier Zuikaku’s air group was being transferred out of the carrier, which provided a strong hint that Zuikaku was not going to participate in the upcoming offensive. Later on the same day, Chester Nimitz informed his carrier task forces commanders that the Japanese attack would likely take place on 3 Jun 1942, and the Japanese would be operating four fleet carriers.


1 June 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-404 sank US freighter West Notus with gunfire 400 kilometers east of North Carolina, United States, killing 4 of 40 aboard. Further east in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, U-566 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Westmoreland; 3 were killed, 65 survived.

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-107 torpedoed and sank Panamanian cargo ship Bushranger west of Cuba at 0354 hours; 17 were killed, 26 survived. At 1140 hours, German submarine U-106 torpedoed and sank US freighter Hampton Roads 150 kilometers west of Havana, Cuba; 7 were killed, 23 survived.
At the end of the day at 2351 hours, German submarine U-156 torpedoed and sank Brazilian cargo ship Alegrete between Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent in the Antilles islands; all 64 aboard survived.

Gazala Line , Libya : The next phase of the Battle of Gazala is known now as The Cauldron . Early in this phase, at 0830 hrs on 1 June, General Neil Ritchie commander of Eighth Army went to see Genberal Strafer Gott , commander of 30th Corps (which had main reserves of British armor in Eighth Army with 1st and 7th Armored Divisions) to discuss their options. They were armed with the Ultra intelligence, which revealed that Rommel was short of petrol, water and ammunition and he intended to hold off the British with an anti-tank screen before he was re-supplied and able to renew his armoured thrust north and east. The German offensive had stalled and it was pinned against the minefields on its now left flank (west). The Ultra information should have triggered a major attack on the stationary Axis force. Had it done so the campaign could have been won there and then.

The Axis force was left undisturbed and the chance was lost.

Ritchie had always leaned heavily upon Gott for advice since he took up his role as the Army Commander and they agreed that they should relieve the pressure currently being shouldered by 150th Infantry Brigade. Rommel sought to eliminate this brigade in Sidi Muftah box in order to open up a wider passage to the west but 150th Brigade was a serious obstacle and its artillery had effectively closed Rommel’s route through the minefields. The brigade was composed of Territorial battalions from Yorkshire (two battalions of Green Howards and one of East Yorks) and they all fought tenaciously and bravely defending a 5-mile front while surrounded and outnumbered. Unfortunetely , nothing ,no coordinated attack , no relief effort for resupplying or reinforcing this brigade was done. Any attempt of British armor to attack the Cauldron uncoordinated and uncoopeted was repulsed by Axis anti tank gun screen. The British counter to Rommel’s initiatives was to hold conferences and Ritchie, charming man though he was, exuded completely unrealistic optimism. Messervy commented to that effect, adding that he was always saying, ‘Ah, now we’ve got him,’ when it was quite clear we hadn’t.

Meanwhile , energetic Rommel complately reversed tables. In a morning attack Afrikakorps tanks from 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions broke through positions held by British 150th Brigade at Sidi Muftah, killing Brigadier Clive Haydon. After cleaning of minefields east of Sidi Muftah box by German engineers and a very tough fight with British infantry and anti tank gun batteries , Afrikakorps tanks supported by infantry and Luftwaffe Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers overrun the brigade defensive positions in late afternoon when ammunition stocks of British defenders run out , which caused capture of Sidi Muftah box and the destruction of entire 150th Brigade from British 50th Infantry Division , 3,000 British troops surrendered and Afrikakorps re established link with rest of Panzer Army Afrika at the west of Gazala Line (which was broken into two).

Rommel wrote about battle of Sidi Muftah afterwards : “In the afternoon [30th May] I personally reconnoitred the possibilities for an attack on Got el Ualeb [the Sidi Muftah box] and detailed units of the Afrika Korps, 90th Light Division and the Italian Trieste Division for an assault on the British positions next morning. The attack was launched on the morning of the 31st May. German-Italian units fought their way forward yard by yard against the toughest British resistance imaginable.[…] Nevertheless, by the time evening came we had penetrated a substantial distance into the British positions. On the following day the defenders were to receive their quietus. After heavy Stuka attacks, the infantry again surged forward against the British field positions.[…] Piece by piece the elaborate British defences were won until by early afternoon the whole position was ours. The last British resistance was quenched. We took in all 3,000 prisoners and destroyed or captured 101 trucks and armoured cars, as well as 124 guns of all kinds.”

By late afternoon, 150th Brigade had run out of ammunition after repulsing six big German attacks for last two days and the panzers were about to overrun their positions. With Ritchie in remote control away from the front, not only out of touch but ill informed by his own subordinate commanders, Rommel himself led the panzer infantry platoon which made the final break through the perimeter to seize the Got el Ualeb (Sidi Muftah) Box.

The gallant remnants of 150th Brigade did their best to escape. According to Major Dobson :

“It really became sauve qui peut . I went off with four or five others in a scout car. We hoped we might manage to drive through the minefield. We got a long way before there was the usual explosion and the wheel was blown off. We just sat there hoping we hadn’t been seen, but we had and we were shelled – it was very unpleasant. That night we set off to walk back towards (we hoped) our lines, but after a long night’s walking we ran into a German LOC unit who, praise them, were very good to us.”

The capture of Got el Ualeb/Sidi Muıftah not only marked a critical moment but came as a huge relief to the Axis forces. ‘If we had not taken it on 1 June,’ General Bayerlein , Rommel’s Chief of Staff later recalled, ‘you [the British] would have captured the whole of the Afrikakorps … we were surrounded and almost out of petrol. As it was, it was a miracle that we managed to get our supplies through the minefield in time.’ But once they had found a route, they opened a relatively safe corridor through which the Axis commanders were able to resupply their front line. ‘Our mines’, Fredide Guingand , Chief of Staff of General Auchinleck in Cairo observed bleakly, ‘were thus turned to the enemy’s advantage, for they gave him much-needed protection.’

At Eighth Army headquarters, General Ritchie and his senior commanders discussed how best to counter Rommel’s latest moves. In a note to Auchinleck, he wrote, ‘I am distressed over the loss of 150th Brigade after so gallant a fight but still consider the situation favourable to us and getting better daily.’ (!) Ritchie had no evidence to support this extravagant assessment and – given the dull-witted irresolution he now displayed – provided no grounds for supposing that he had any idea of how to seize back the initiative. One of his senior commanders, General William Ramsden commanding British 50th Infantry Division , remembered hearing one of his colleagues General Strafer Gott , 30th Corps commander , emerging from one of many interminable staff conferences, to say ‘I think Ritchie is going to do this or that.’

General Claude Auchinleck Brirtish Middle East Commander in Cairo , was filled with misgivings. ‘It seemed to me’, he wrote later, ‘that, if the enemy were to continue to occupy a deep wedge in the centre of our minefield, the whole Gazala Line and Bir Hacheim in particular would become untenable.’ With unconfirmed reports that large numbers of panzer tanks were advancing into the Cauldron, he concluded lugubriously – and in sharp contrast to Ritchie – ‘We appeared to be rapidly losing the initiative we had gained by bringing his first attack to a standstill.’ Unless Ritchie could regain the initiative, Tobruk would soon be in grave danger while the Eighth Army would have to contemplate a further retreat to the Egyptian border and beyond.

Undeterred Ritchie sat down to prepare for another attack two or three days later and apparently disregarded two warnings by Auchinleck that Rommel might renew the offensive before the 8th Army was ready to move against him.

Australian journalist Alan Moorehead came up to the front on 1 June and on his way he was passed by eastbound convoys carrying Axis prisoners and equipment. Among the prisoners was General Crüwell, Rommel’s erstwhile deputy. Moorehead found General Strafer Gott commanding British 30th Corps , who seemed to be in confident mood. ‘There are only two places where I want to fight the Nazis,’ he said, ‘either on our minefields or here.’ Moorehead expanded by recording that ‘here’ was an undulating patch of desert sown thickly with the saltbush that sweeps up from the sea not far from the old Italian fort at Acroma. 15 It was arid, flat, inhospitable, featureless country and well populated by flies. ‘Here’ was ‘Knightsbridge’. It was nothing more than a point on the map – Gott would soon get his wish because it was to be the scene of a major engagement.

This cut off the last remaining supply line into Bir Hakeim.

Bir-Hakeim , Gazala Line , Libya : Next morning the encirclement of the Bir Hakeim fort was resumed by the German 90th Light Division, Italian Trieste Division and three armoured reconnaissance regiments from the Italian 17th Infantry Division “Pavia”. At 8:00 a.m. German troops approached from the south and Italian forces advanced from the north. Two Italian officers presented themselves at 10:30 a.m. to the 2nd Foreign Legion Battalion lines, asking for the capitulation of the fort, which General Koenig commander of 1st Free French Brigade defending the Bir Hakeim , refused.

Sevastapol , Crimea : On OKW’s orders , German 11th Army under command of General Erich Manstein began deployment on and around siege lines around Soviet port city and naval base , Sevastapol on the southern tip of Crimean , Peninsula , Black Sea , around the 35-kilometre land perimeter running from 10 kilometres north of the city centre, round to Balaklava for final assaault to capture it. The port was a valuable target. Its importance as a potential naval and air base would enable the Axis to conduct far-ranging sea and air operations against Soviet targets into and over the Caucasus ports and mountains. The Red Air Force had been using the Crimea as a base to attack targets in Romania since the Axis invasion in June 1941, proving its usefulness as an air base which Hitler called “an unsinkable aircraft carrier”

Sevastapol is a tough nut to crack , a natural fortress-a mass of steep cliffs surrounded by mountainous peaks. The Soviet Navy had built upon these natural defenses by modernizing the port and installing heavy coastal batteries consisting of 180mm and 305mm re-purposed battleship guns which were capable of firing inland as well as out to sea. The artillery emplacements were protected by reinforced concrete fortifications and 9.8-inch thick armored turrets. In 1941 , it has been defended by three heavily fortified defense lines. First was , starting five miles way from city center , two mile deep zigzag trenches , anti tank obstacles and minefields. Second is a line of heavy fortifications , strengthened byu third section , Zapun Line : a maze of mortar pits , machine gun posts and artillery emplacements. And behind these defences , a dozen massive concentrate bunkers guarded the city’s northern approaches. Entire Fortified Sevastapol Defensive Zone was commanded by Vice Admiral Filip Oktyabrskii (commander of Black Sea Fleet who also used lull in the fighting at Crimea to bring reinforcements to Sevastapol from sea and further fortfy it ) and General Ivan Petrov commander of Soviet Coastal Seperate Army , combined together leading 117.000 Red Army troops and 24.000 Soviet naval marines , 600 guns and howitzers and 38 tanks. Petrov had on strength some 455 artillery pieces and howitzers. Among those were 34 152 mm and 40 122 mm howitzers and 918 mortars. Ammunition was adequate for a battle of two weeks for these calibers, but 82 mm mortar ammunition was in short supply. The battles of the Crimean campaign had taken their toll, and scarcely any tank and anti-aircraft artillery support were available. A further force, under Major-General Petr Morgunov, was added. The Coastal Artillery Force was semi-independent for much of the siege, and had an initial strength of 12 batteries and 45 guns, although more were added during 1942. By the time of the German June offensive, the Soviet forces had available eight 305 mm, one 188 mm, 10 152 mm and 17 130 mm, three 120 mm, eight 100 mm, and four 45 mm guns. Soviet Black Sea Fleet was alsdo aiding the defenders with one battleship , two heavy cruisrs , one light cruiser , six destroyers. At the other hand the defenders lacked tanks and anti-aircraft guns. The garrison also lacked food supplies and mortar ammunition, which would severely sap Soviet strength. Poor communications between headquarters and the front lines were also an issue. General Petrov found it difficult to respond to Axis attacks quickly.

At the other hand General Manstein’s German 11th Army tasked to capture Sevastapol had 280.000 troops (nine German divisions and three Romanian divisioıns ) and 1.300 guns and 600 aircraft in support from Luftflotte IV under command of General Von Richtofen.

German assault was based around battalion-strength infantry assault groups supported by a platoon of engineers and a few assault guns. Two pioneer battalions were attached to each division to spearhead the attack and break through fixed and fortified defences. The eight battalions of LIV Corps each contained around 386 men on average, and were equipped with 10–12 flame throwers, 28–30 mine detectors, 3,000 kg of high explosives, 2,200 hand grenades, and 500 smoke grenades. The 300th Panzer Battalion, a remote-controlled tank unit using the Goliath tracked mine, was made available for destroying fortifications. The total number of artillery pieces came to 785 German and 112 Romanian medium and heavy guns. Most of these were under the command of LIV Corps, the main assault force. To increase this arsenal, a number of super-heavy artillery pieces were made available. Three 600 mm Karl-Gerät self-propelled mortars (Thor, Odin, and one other) and one 800 mm gun (Schwerer Gustav), delivering 1.4 and 7 ton shells, respectively, and capable of destroying any fortification. However, the Karl-Gerät guns only had a range of between 4–6,000 meters, which made them vulnerable to counter-battery fire. Moreover, only 201 rounds of 600 mm and 48 round of 800 mm ammunition were available. Most of it was used up before the infantry assault.

More useful to the German infantry were the two 280 mm railway guns. Two 420 mm, two 355 mm howitzers were also available, along with four 305 mm mortars. Both of the 420 mm guns were of First World War vintage, short in range and with limited ammunition. Some nine 283 mm mortars were also available, but they were pre-1914 weapons and six had burst during firing. Artillery acquired from Czechoslovakia after the Munich Agreement, the Skoda 305 mm Model 1911 howitzer was also available. At the divisional level, 268 105 mm and 80 150 mm weapons were in service, including 126 Nebelwerfer infantry barrage rocket launchers. Overall, the German 11th Army’s artillery was a collection of modern, obsolete, and foreign-built weapons.[35] For the offensive, 183,750 rounds of 105 mm and 47,300 rounds of 150 mm ammunition were stockpiled, enough for 12 days of firing.

To reinforce the 11th Army, the Romanians were committed to the assault. The Romanian 18th Infantry Division was at full strength, and plenty of Romanian infantry were available. However, the 18th Division was inexperienced and made up of reservists. The Romanian 1st Mountain Division was considered an elite force, and its addition was to prove useful. They had 112 guns available, but virtually no engineers. The weakness of their artillery and supporting arms made the Romanian X Corps reliant on the German forces for anything other than set-piece infantry attacks.

German and Italian navies also deployed nine coastal submarines , nine large destroyer sized torpedoboats and and six fast motor torpedoboats based in Yalta to blockade the port from sea.

It would be gunners from both sides fight each other rather than infantry or armor.

Essen , Germany : 956 British bombers (545 Wellington, 127 Halifax, 77 Stirling, 74 Lancaster, 71 Hampden, 33 Manchester, 29 Whitley) from RAF Bomber Command attacked Essen, Germany during night , causing little damage; 31 bombers were lost on this attack , shot down by Luftwaffe ME-110 nightfighters or anti aircraft guns. This attack was billed as a 1,000-bomber raid thıough due to navigation errors , bad weather , and German jamming of Gee navigation guidence system , only 300+ bombers was able to find and hit the target city so damage was not as extensive as Cologne.

Canterbury , UK : In Canterbury, England, United Kingdom, the full extent of the damage caused by the German air raid was revealed. A total of forty-three people had been killed with forty-eight seriously injured and fifty more slightly hurt. The German bombs destroyed 400 buildings, seriously damaged a further 1,500 and slightly damaged 2,000 others. St. George’s Place and church were in ruins with further destruction around St. Dunstan’s. The Warriors Chapel Entrance was demolished as was the Victorian Cathedral Library, but fortunately the historic Canterbury Cathedral had miraculously survived undamaged. Further bombings in the following few days would cause further damage to buildings and lives (5 killed).

Ukraine : Hitler traveled to Poltava , Ukraine to confer with German Army Group South commander Field Marshall Fedor von Bock on the next summer offensive on Caucaus. All senior army commanders like General Paulus commanding German 6th Army , Gebneral Von Kleist commanding 1st Panzer Army are present. General Manstein whose 11th Army was busy reducing Sevastapol fortress to complate conquest of Crimea also joined to the conferance.

During the conference, Hitler hardly mentioned Stalingrad. As far as his generals were concerned it was little more than a name on the map. His obsession was with the oilfields of the Caucasus. ‘If we don’t take Maikop and Grozny,’ he told his generals, ‘then I must put an end to the war.’ At that stage, the only interest in Stalingrad was to eliminate the armaments factories there and secure a position on the Volga. The capture of the city itself was not considered necessary. The first phase of Operation Blue was to capture Voronezh. The second was to trap the bulk of the Soviet forces in a great pincer movement west of the Don. The Sixth Army would then move towards Stalingrad to secure the north-east flank, while Kleist’s First Panzer Army and the Seventeenth Army would occupy the Caucasus. After Bock had finished his presentation, Hitler spoke. He made it all sound so simple. The Red Army was finished after the winter fighting, and the victory at Kharkov had again confirmed German supremacy. So certain was Hitler of success in the south, that as soon as Sevastopol fell, he planned to send Manstein’s Eleventh Army northwards. He even told Manstein about his dream of sending armoured columns through the Caucasus into the Middle East and India.

General Hermann Hoth assumed command of the German 4th Panzer Army while General Richard Ruoff took command of the German 17th Army after this conferance.

Occupied Europe : French, Dutch, Belgian, Croatian, Slovakian, and Romanian Jews were ordered to wear yellow stars.

Poland : The Treblinka Concentration Camp in Poland began operation.

Warshaw , Poland : News of the death camp killings inside German-occupied Poland became public knowledge on 1 June 1942, when a Warsaw underground newspaper, Liberty Barricade , the clandestine publication of the Polish Socialist Party, published an extensive account of the gassings at Chelmno. This information had come from Emanuel Ringelblum, who had himself received it from the young Jew, Jakub Grojanowski, who had escaped from Chelmno in January, after having been forced to participate in the burying of the corpses of those killed in the gas vans. ‘Bloodcurdling news’, the report began, ‘has reached us about the slaughter of Jews.’ Six months and three weeks after it had become a site of mass murder, Chelmno was identified by name in the West. The gassings being carried out elsewhere, at Belzec and Sobibor, as well as in gas vans at Belgrade and Riga, and at Maly Trostenets near Minsk, were as yet totally unknown to the Allies.

Germany : SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler was placed in charge of Luftschutz, or Air Raid Protection, in Germany.

Mexico City , Mexico : Mexico declared war on Germany.

Rabaul , New Britain , South West Pacific : Rear Admiral Sadayoshi Yamada asked Vice Admiral Nishizo Tsukahara for the authorization to build an airfield on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

Sydney , Australia : Two Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbor in Australia in the final hours of the previous day. One of them, M-24, was able to fired two torpedoes at cruiser USS Chicago just after 0000 hours; missing the American cruiser, one of the torpedoes hit the breakwater, sinking nearby Australian barracks ship HMAS Kuttabul (21 were killed, 10 were wounded). M-24 would be able to escape the harbor; her crew abandoned the midget submarine 13 miles north of Sydney but was never seen again. The other Japanese midget submarine M-22b was located via sonar depth charged and destroyed by Australian auxiliary patrol boats HMAS Steady Hour, HMAS Sea Mist, and HMAS Yarroma at 0500 hours, killing both men aboard.

This raid causes quite a bit panic among Australian population and society that a Japanese invasion is near. Both London and Washington is aware that though invasion of Australia is not a Japanese military priorty in lose future

Japan : The Japanese Imperial Navy changed its operational code.

Pearl Harbour , Hawaii : Joseph Rochefort’s cryptanalytic team in Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii reported signs that their counterparts in Japan were monitoring carrier radio traffic in the Hawaiian Islands; Rochefort warned Nimitz of this fact, but the US carrier groups would not change their behavior.


2 June 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-159 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Illinois 450 miles southeast of Bermuda at 0253 hours; 32 were killed, 6 survived. In the same general area at 0255 hours, German submarine U-558 sank Dutch cargo ship Triton with the deck gun; 6 were killed, 30 survived.
German submarine U-158 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Knoxville west of Cuba at 0257 hours; 2 were killed, 55 survived.

Several hours later, German submarine U-553 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Mattawin off northeastern seaboard of US United States at 0718 hours; all aboard survived. Between 0332 and 0705 hours, German submarine U-213 gave chase to Norwegian cargo ship Berganger, which evaded all 5 torpedo attacks, but at 2027 hours she would fall prey to torpedoes launched by U-578 southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, United States; 4 were killed, 43 survived.

Finally, 85 miles south of Freetown, British West Africa, Italian submarine Leonardo da Vinci sank Panamanian schooner Reine Marie Stewart with her deck gun.

Mediterranean Sea : On the morning of June 2, a Fairey Swordfish aircraft from Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Squadron 815, piloted by G. H. Bates, located and a German submarine on surface off Bardia , Libya, but much closer to the shore and attacked her with depth charges. This was German submarine U-652 , commanded by Georg-Werner Fraatz, who had engaged the American destroyer USS Greer the previous September 1941. The depth charges dropped by Swordfish aircraft utterly disabled and fatally damaged—but did not sink—U-652. When Fraatz radioed his situation and asked for help, Capt. Guggenberger in close by another German submarine U-81, who was nearby searching for some German airmen who had ditched, responded within two hours. Fraatz and Guggenberger attempted to tow U-652 to Salamis but failed. After the crewmen of U-652 transferred to U-81, Fraatz sank his wrecked and abandoned U-boat with one of Guggenberger’s stern torpedoes. Fraatz and his crew debarked at Salamis Greece and later returned to Germany to commission one of the big U-boats.

Gazala Line , Libya : Since reunited with rest of Panzer Army Afrika and split Gazala Line into two , Rommel decides to focus on eliminating Bir Hakeim box in southern end of Gazala Line before resuming his offensive towards Tobruk. Troops of German 90th Light Division and Italian Trieste Division mounted a new attack on the French-held fort of Bir Hakeim, Libya; but they were repulsed by intense and accurate Free French field artillery ,light infantry and anti tank gun fire in south of minefields.

General Neil Ritchie commander of Eighth Army, on the other hand, found himself unable to take advantage of Rommel’s predicament. His armour had been committed piecemeal, had suffered periods of complete disruption.

Meanwhile the DAF (RAF Desert Air Force) was passing through an uncomfortable period. It had maintained its attacks on enemy supply routes and troop concentrations but in the face of strong resistance had suffered heavily, and by 1st June, having lost 50 fighters, Coningham found it necessary to reduce the scale of his close support operations in order to conserve his remaining Kittyhawks.

About the same time Auchinleck was toying with the idea of a drive by XIII Corps towards Bir el Temrad but he failed to convince Ritchie and the Corps Commanders who thought that such a thrust would be vulnerable to attack by Afrikakorps and planning went ahead for another attempt to crush Rommel in the Cauldron. On this occasion 30th Corps was to drive in behind the enemy south of Knightsbridge while XIII Corps seized the Sidra Ridge and closed the northern rim of the basin. This done, 1st Armoured Division would guard the northern and eastern exits from the Cauldron while the 10th Indian Brigade opened a path through the enemy anti-tank screen along which the 7th Armoured Division would drive to destroy the enemy armour. Command of this Operation “Aberdeen” was to lie with Briggs (5th Indian Division) and Messervy in turn, as the battle developed, and though it was intended that infantry and armour should fight together it should also be noted that their functions remained separate. Operation Aberdeen was also a very slow and cumbersome manuever and required good coordination between various arms (armor , infantry , artillery) that was beyond Eighth Army operational and organisational abilities since many of its units still dribbed into frontline in small detachment and disorganised battlegroups by their commanders who were trying to imitate German organisational battlegroup and operational methods and failing and creating a greatr confusion and conflicting orders. Even worse , due to reoeganisation of attacking forces in Operation Abardeen , the offensive can start only three days later earlierst , giving Rommel 72 more hours to resupply , reinforce , fortfy his position while Afrikakorps marching on Bir-Hackeim. Altogether it was a complicated plan and fraught with danger, but General Ritchie and his colleagues (Gott , Norrie and armored division commanders Messervy , Lumdsen and Briggs) were confident and looked forward to a resounding victory.

Bir-Hakeim , Gazala , Libya : From 10:00 a.m. on 2 June, both Axis and Free French sides exchanged artillery-fire but the French field guns were out-ranged by German medium artillery and the fort was bombed by German and Italian aircraft. Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers raided Bir Hakeim more than twenty times but the French positions were so well built as to be almost invulnerable. The British were unable to reinforce the French, who repulsed the “Ariete” Division attack but on 2 June, RAF Desert Air Force had an easily observed bomb line around the fort and concentrated on the area with fighter patrols and fighter-bomber attacks. The sight of scores of burning German and Italian armored and motorised vehicles helped to maintain the morale of French defenders, who harassed Axis communications around the fort, as did the 7th Motor Brigade and the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade which were in the vicinity.

Sevastapol , Crimea , Russia : German forces began a five-day bombardment of Sevastopol, Russia. One the ground, large weapons such as the 600mm Mörser Karl mortars and the 800mm “Gustav” railway gun were used. From the air, Luftflotte IV bombers made hundreds of sorties delivered 500 tons of high explosives, damaging port facilities, fuel tanks, and water pumps at the cost of only one Ju 87 dive bomber.

The Germans codenamed their operation Störfang — ‘Sturgeon Catch’, a reference to the capture of the fish which provides caviare. Once again, the eastern front produced its world-record-breaking superlatives. While VIII Air Corps supplied extra planes, 600 artillery pieces with six times the normal ammunition supply were sent to Sevastopol, including two huge guns: the 600mm ‘Thor’ and the 800mm ‘Dora’. The latter was the biggest mobile gun ever built. It had been tested at the Rugenwalde range in Hitler’s presence.

‘Big Dora’ was officially known as ‘Gustav-ordnance’ (Gustav-Gerät), but the German soldiers irreverently renamed it, as soldiers do. It was mounted on a railway carriage with eighty wheels which straddled two parallel railway lines to carry its 1,350-ton overall weight. To move it, sixty locomotives were needed. It could fire a 7-ton armour- or concrete-piercing shell 38 kilometres or a 5-ton high explosive shell to a maximum range of 54 kilometres. The only record of its being used in anger was at the siege of Sevastopol, although there would not have been much time to do so before Sevastopol fell in June 1942. To emplace, man, maintain and provide local security for this monster — which would have been a wonderful target for air attack — some 4,120 men were required, who worked for five weeks, as new rail track had to be laid. They were commanded by a major-general. This added up to half a division. A mere 250 to 500 men, commanded by a colonel, were needed actually to fire it. The massive gun on double railway tracks was reportedly sited at Bakhchisaray in central Crimea, and fired 30 to 40 rounds at Sevastopol. One of these rounds reportedly penetrated 30 metres of earth to destroy an underground Soviet ammunition bunker at Severnaya Bay. Its eventual fate is unknown but it was presumably captured by the Red Army 34 Although intriguing for the record books, superguns like this were an evolutionary dead end. It was already perfectly possible to put a 5-ton bomb in a plane and to fly it a lot further than the comparatively limited range of the world’s biggest gun, although improved ammunition designs could, theoretically, have enabled it to fire up to perhaps 160 kilometres. Furthermore, had the Russians enjoyed air supremacy at this stage, the 1,350-ton leviathan would have become an equivalent volume of scrap metal even sooner than it did. On the other hand, once the gun’s projectile was airborne nothing could stop it, and its 5- or 7-ton shells may have enjoyed greater penetrating power against underground targets than an air bomb. Hitler, whose passion for the grandiose is well known, was enthusiastic about the monster. Halder, on the other hand, was sceptical. An extraordinary piece of engineering’, he wrote in his diary on 7 December 1941, ‘but useless.’

Faced with this immobile but armoured monster, General Manstein knew that mere conventional pre-attack bombardment would scarcely blow a whole in the defences. Manstein demanded an all-out assault by the Luftwaffe before the main ground action began. He proposed therefore to lay down not less than five days of ‘annihilation fire’ and to pour in a stream of aerial bombardment. Situated only 70 km from Sevastopol, Luftwaffe bomber formations had barely enough time to reach altitude before reaching their targets. The 8th Air Corps began its bombing campaign along the north and southeast of the city. At the same time, German medium bombers conducted rolling attacks on the city, which included all units. Oil, electricity, water pumps, harbor facilities, and submarine bases were attacked by StG 77 Ju 87s. General Von Richthofen commander of Luftflotte IV watched the bombing from an observation post close to the front. The targets were badly damaged, and fires broke out all over the port city. The Luftwaffe flew 723 missions and dropped 525 tons of high explosive on the first day. Despite heavy anti-aircraft fire, just one Ju 87 was lost.

At the same time the German 11th Army began a massive five-day artillery barrage on the fortress city using 620 guns including the enormous 800mm Schwerer Gustav “Dora” gun

Black Sea : Soviet tanker Mikhail Gromov was hit and sunk by German Ju-87 dive bombers off Sevastapol. But two Soviet destroyers evaded air attacks and brought 2.400 reinforcements and supplies to the Sevastapol harbour.

Essen , Germany : 195 British bombers (97 Wellington, 38 Halifax, 27 Lancaster, 21 Stirling, 12 Hampden) from RAF Bomber Command attacked Essen, Germany, during the night causig little damage; 14 bombers were lost on this attack shot down by anti aircraft guns or Luftwaffe night fighters

Cologne , Germany : With directives of Berlin , German civil defense and police and Luftwaffe authorities initiate a massive evacuation of Cologne after 1.000 bomber raid except indusdtrial workers in armaments factories. German troops called into Cologne to prevent widespread looting. Court martial verdicts aroundf entire Germany show that people spreading rumors that turn out to be true , are sentenced to death. Joseph Goebbels and Nazi Propaganda Ministry are desperately trying to minimise the damage in German press

Tunisia , North Africa : Vichy French government granted Germany the use of the port of Bizerta, Tunisia to bring in food, clothing, and other supplies not directly related to the military. Troops, military equipment, and ammunition were explicitly forbidden.

Theresienstadt , Czechoslovakia : About 50 German Jews from Berlin arrived at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in occupied Czechoslovakia. They were the first German Jews to arrive at this camp.

Washington , US : US and Nationalist China made Lend Lease Agreement for Chinese armies to get Lend Lease Aid.

Portuguese Timor , Dutch East Indies : Australian auxiliary patrol boat HMAS Kuru arrived at Portuguese East Timor from Australia, delivering supplies to the Sparrow Force.

Pacific Ocean : Task Force 16 under command of Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance (aircraft carriers USS Enterprise and USS Hornet escorted by six cruisers and nine destroyers and four oilers) met up with Task Force 17 under command of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher (aircraft carrier USS Yorktown escorted by two cruisers and six destroyers) broke through Japanese submarine patrol line east of Midway undetected (due to late arrival of several Japanese submarines to theire patrol zones) and met at randezvous location , Point Luck , 350 miles northeast of Midway. The ambush is set.

Admiral Fletcher takes overall command of both carrier groups

Aside from US Navy carrier groups , US Pacific Fleet also deployed 19 submarines of its own to patrol west of Midway. And on Midway island , all US Marine defences and US Army , Marine , Navy aircraft (123 of them) were fully alerted.

Meanwhile Midway-based US Army B-17 bombers located and attacked Japanese transports in Midway invasion convoy (under command of Vice Admiral Nabutake Kondo : two Japanese attleships , eight heavy cruisers , one light aircraft carrier , two light cruisers , two seaplane tenders , twenty one destroyers , five oilers , four minesweepers , three suply and cargo ships and 12 troop transports carrying 5.000 Japanese naval troops to invade Midway) 600 miles west of the atoll, inflicting no damage


3 June 1942

Atlantic Ocean : At 1000 hours, German submarine U-404 torpedoed and sank Swedish cargo ship Anna 245 miles northwest of Bermuda after 5 hours of pursuit; all 17 aboard survived. 40 miles west of Nova Scotia, Canada, German submarine U-432 forced the occupants of two small US fishing boats to abandon the vessels before sinking them with her deck gun at 2100 hours.

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-172 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship City of Alma 400 miles northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico at 0410 hours; 29 were killed, 10 survived. German submarine U-502 torpedoed and sank US tanker M.F. Elliott at northwest of Trinidad , Caribbean Sea , 13 from her 45 crew members lost.

To the south, German submarine U-126 torpedoed and sank Norwegian tanker Høegh Giant east of Guyana.

German submarine U-156 sank British schooner Lillian with her deck gun in Caribbean Sea ; 3 were killed, 22 survived.

Rear Admiral James L. Kauffman USN , was named the commanding officer of the US Navy Gulf Sea Frontier.

Arkhangelsk , Kola Peninsula : Luftwaffe HE-111 bombers hit and sank British cargo ship Steel Worker whih arrived at Arkhangelsk harbour three days ago with Convoy PQ-16 though all of her cargo was already unloaded.

Bay of Biscay , Atlantic Ocean : After thirteen months of Research and Development , and bureaucratic delays, RAF Coastal Command had finally (on June 1) put in service the aircraft-mounted Leigh Light, designed to illuminate U-boats during the last mile of the approach, when ASV meter-wavelength radar was blind. As part of intensified ASW air patrols in the Bay of Biscay, five twin-engine Wellingtons of Coastal Command Squadron 172 had been fitted with these lights.

On the night of June 4, over Bay of Biscay cose to French coast , Squadron Leader Jeaff H. Greswell picked up an ASV contact and commenced the first combat approach with a Leigh Light. His target was the Italian submarine Luigi Torelli, commanded by Augusto Migliorini, outbound from Bordeaux to the West Indies. Greswell homed on Torelli by radar, then switched on the Leigh Light, but owing to a faulty setting in his altimeter, his approach was too high and he saw no sign of a submarine. However, Migliorini, mistaking the Wellington for a German aircraft, fired recognition flares, precisely pinpointing his boat. On a second approach with the Leigh Light, Greswell got Torelli squarely in the brilliant beam and straddled her with four shallow-set 300-pound Torpex depth charges from an altitude of fifty feet. The blasts savaged the boat, forcing Migliorini to abort and badly damaged Italian submarine run aground and beached on Aviles , Spain next day. After a series of RAF Coastal Command rair raids which damaged her further , Torelli seeked refugee in Santander port , Spain where she was intered for one month before repaired and returned back to her base in France.

First RAF Coastal Command night time anti submarine air patrols over Bay of Biscay with radar and Leigh Light equipped aircraft , started. For now on any Axis submarine leaving from or returning to their base in France over route of Bay of Biscay , will be in peril.

Notwithstanding repeated assurances to the contrary by technical authorities in Berlin and elsewhere, it seemed obvious that the British had managed to miniaturize radar to fit in aircraft. Dönitz demanded that the technical services immediately produce a “radar detector” or FuMB (an abbreviation of the German phrase for “Radar Observation Equipment”). Thanks to prewar Research and Development , by the French firm Metox-Grandin, to which they had earlier gained access, the Germans were able to quickly produce a prototype receiver and a small, crude, diamond-shaped, dismountable aerial made of wire and wood that could be set up on the bridge of a U-boat while it was on the surface. Astonishingly, this primitive FuMB (known as the “Biscay Cross”) was capable of detecting meter-wavelength radar emissions at up to 18.6 miles and to warn of them by emitting a “whistling” or “humming” noise. Dönitz issued orders to equip all U-boats in the Atlantic force with a FuMB, but the order could not be carried out fully until early September.

Bir-Hakeim , Gazala Line , Libya : General Rommel sent French General Kœnig holding Bir-Hakeim box a hand-written note, urging the surrender of Bir Hakeim in Libya to avoid needless bloodshed: “To the troops of Bir Hakeim. Further resistance will only lead to pointless loss of life. You will suffer the same fate as the two Brigades which were at Got el Ualeg and which were exterminated the day before yesterday - we will cease fighting as soon as you show the white flag and come towards us unarmed”. Kœnig ignored the request.

On 4 June, Desert Air Force fighters and fighter-bombers disrupted Stuka dive bomber attacks and bombed and strafed Axis vehicles , entrenchments and gun positions around Bie-Hakeim instead , setting off a German ammunition wagon in view of the French but losing seven aircraft over Bir Hackeim , mostly to Luftwaffe fighters. General Kœnig , grateful for air support , signalled Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Coningham. "Bravo! Merci pour la R.A.F" which brought the reply “Merci pour le sport”

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Eagle launched 31 Spitfire fighters for Malta , 27 of them landed safely to Malta two hours later.

Sevastapol , Crimea : Heavy German air and artillery bombing continued on Sevastapol. Today To reduce the great Soviet forts around Sevastapol , General Manstein began to range the mighty German mortars, king of which was Karl hurling a two-ton projectile.

Black Sea : German minesweeper F 145 struck a Soviet mine off Sevastapol and sank with loss of nine crewmembers

Belarussia : In German-occupied Russia, the German Army now launched two major offensives against the Soviet partisans. In the first, Operation Kottbus, begun on June 3, more than sixteen thousand German troops attacked the partisan ‘Republic of Palik’ which had been set up late in 1942 in the Polotsk—Borisov—Lepel region.

Bremen , Germany : 170 British bombers from RAF Bomber Command attacked Bremen, Germany during night and despite heavy cloud cover , they managed to inflict quitedamage on residental areas , killing 83 at the cost of 11 bombers shot down by anti aircraft guns and Luftwaffe nightfighters

UK : Luftwaffe bombers raided Poole, England, United Kingdom during night.

Warshaw , Poland : On 3 June, 110 Jews were rounded up by SS Ordnung Police in Warsaw, taken to a prison on the edge of the ghetto, and shot. Those killed included several women, two of whom were pregnant. Three days later, Adolf Eichmann ordered the deportation of 450 Jews from the Koblenz region; the inmates of a mental home in a nearby village were, he said, to be included. To maintain secrecy, and deception, Eichmann’s office insisted that the words ‘deportation to the East’ should not be used in describing these moves, but instead ‘people who emigrated elsewhere’.

Chunking , China : General Joseph Stilwell arrived in Chongqing, China. Later on the same day, Stilwell met with Chiang Kaishek who urged for more Lend-Lease supplies; in the same meeting, Stilwell asked Chiang to purge the Chinese officer corps of those responsible for the recent poor performance in Burma.

Tasman Sea , Australia : Japanese submarine I-24 attacked Australian coastal freighter Age with her deck gun and a torpedo 35 miles east of Sydney, Australia at dusk; Age was able to escape. 90 minutes later, I-24 came across Australian cargo ship Iron Chiefton and sank her with a torpedo; 12 were killed.

Pacific Ocean : Battle of Midway officially starts. In the morning, A US Navy PBY Catalina aircraft launched from Midway Atoll discovered the location of the Japanese transports west of Midway Atoll. At 1230 hours, nine Midway-based B-17 bombers launched from Midway, reaching and attacking Japanese transports 660 miles to west at 1830 hours, inflicting no damage; meanwhile, US Navy Task Forces 16 and 17 changed course in an attempt to gain a more favorable battle for the upcoming battle.

On the Japanese side, submarines arrived to form a cordon to detect American warship movements from the Hawaii Islands toward Midway Atoll; they did not realize that the American carriers had already passed.

Aleut Islands , Northern Pacific : Far to the north, aircraft from Japanese Northern Area Force (carriers Ryujo and Junyo escorted by four battleships , three heavy cruisers , five light cruisers , twenty four destroyers , one seaplane tender ship , four oilers , four auxilary supply ships and three troops transports carrying 2.500 Japanese naval troops tasked to invade Attu and Kiska in Aleutian islands) under command of Vice Admiral Boshiro Hosagoya bombed Dutch Harbor, US Territory of Alaska to divert US Navy attention away from Midway. The raid caused some damage on Dutch Harbor harbour and shore facilities. The highest casualties on the first day occurred when bombs struck barracks 864 and 866 in Fort Mears, killing 17 men of the 37th Infantry and eight from the 151st Engineers. In exchange one Japanese Kate dive bomber crashed during take off from aircraft carrier Ryujo and one of the Zero fighters sustained damage and unsuccessfully crash-landed on Akutan Island. In response, US Navy dispatched a task force of five cruisers and four destroyers to counter the Japanese attacks in the Aleutian Islands.


4 June 1942

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-159 torpedoed and sank Norwegian cargo ship Nidarnes 20 miles west of Cuba at 0400 hours; 13 were killed, 11 survived.

Just after dawn, German armed merchant cruiser Stier stopped British cargo ship Gemstone, took off the crew, and sank her with a torpedo 750 miles northeast of Natal, Brazil.

Bir Hakeim , Gazala , Libya : Free French troops at Bir Hakeim, Libya repulsed another Axis attack made by German 90th Light Infantry Division and Italian Arierte Armored Division in minefields despite heavy Luftwaffe air raids over their positions. Luftwaffe air attacks are not too effective so far despite their ferocity due to French dug in their entrenchmernts and gun posirtions extremely well in soft sand that mostly absorb explosions. However German engineers meanwhile despite under heavy defensive fire started opening up corridors on French minefields.

Mediterranean Sea : Italian cargo ship Reginaldo Giuliani was hit and fatally damaged by RAF Bristol Beaufort bombers from Malta and sank next day in Gulf of Sirte

Baltic Sea : German cargo ship Katharina Fritzen struck a mine and sank off Borkum , Germany

Sevastapol , Crimea Russia : Heavy German air and artillery bombartment over Sevastapol continues.

Prague , Czechoslovakia : SS Obergruppenfuhrer and Protector of Bohemia and Morovia Reinhardt Heydrich also known as “Butcher of Prague” , only lived eight more days after assasination attempt on his life. Germans took over entire second storey of Prague hospital and set up security checkpoints and machine gun posts everywhere while SS and Gestapo started a frenzied manhunt to find the assasins and a wave of arrests and executions was initiated by Nazi authorities. However the assasination team was well hidden by Resistance. Today despite all toils of doctors , Heydrich died due to blood poisoning

Helsinki , Finland : Hitler traveled to Finland to meet with Marshal Mannerheim

South China Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Trusty torpedoed and sank Japanese cargo ship Toyohashi Maru 20 miles south of Phuket, Thailand.

Tasman Sea , Australia : Japanese submarine I-27 attacked Australian coastal freighter Barwon off Gabo Island 260 miles south of Sydney, Australia at 0535 hours, failing to sink her. At 1645 hours, I-27 struck again, torpedoed and sank Australian cargo ship Iron Crown; 37 were killed, 5 survived. An Australian Hudson bomber dropped two 250-pound bombs on I-27 but failed to do any damage.

Dutch Harbour , Aleut Islands : US trop transport ship Northwestern was hit and sunk by Japanese carrier borne aircraft launched from Ryujo and Junyo

Off Midway , Pacific Ocean : Early the following morning, the Japanese oil tanker Akebono Maru in Japane invasion convoy sustained the first hit when a torpedo launched from an attacking US Navy PBY Catalina flying boat struck and badly damaged her around 01:00. This was the only successful air-launched torpedo attack by the U.S. during the entire battle of Midway.

At 04:30 on 4 June, Admiral Nagumo commander of Japanese First Carrier Strike Force launched his initial attack on Midway itself after entering air range , consisting of 36 Aichi D3A dive bombers and 36 Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers, escorted by 36 Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters launched from all four of his carriers Akagi , Kaga , Hiryu and Soryu (escorted by two battleships , two heavy cruisers , one light cruiser , twelve destroyers and five fleet oilers ) At the same time, he launched his seven search aircraft (2 “Kates” from Akagi and Kaga, 4 "Jakes"from heavy cruisers Tone and Chikuma, and 1 short range “Dave” from battleship Haruna; an eighth aircraft from the heavy cruiser Tone launched 30 minutes late) just to be sure about absence of any threat in close vicinity. Japanese reconnaissance arrangements were flimsy, with too few aircraft to adequately cover the assigned search areas, laboring under poor weather conditions to the northeast and east of the task force. As Nagumo’s bombers and fighters were taking off, 11 US Navy PB Catalina flying boats were leaving Midway to run their search patterns. At 05:34, a PBY reported sighting two Japanese carriers and another spotted the inbound airstrike 10 minutes later.

Midway’s radar picked up the enemy at a distance of several miles, and interceptors were scrambled. Unescorted bombers headed off to attack the Japanese carriers, their fighter escorts remaining behind to defend Midway. At 06:20, Japanese carrier aircraft bombed and heavily damaged the U.S. base. Midway-based Marine fighters led by Major Floyd B. Parks, which included six F4Fs Wilcat fighters and 20 F2A Buffolo fighters, intercepted the Japanese and suffered heavy losses, though they managed to destroy four Japanese B5N Kate dive bombers, as well as a single Zero fighter. Within the first few minutes, two F4F Wildcats and 13 F2 Buffolos were destroyed, while most of the surviving U.S. planes were damaged, with only two remaining airworthy. American anti-aircraft fire was intense and accurate, destroying three additional Japanese aircraft and damaging many more.

Of the 108 Japanese aircraft involved in this attack, 11 were destroyed (including three that ditched whilre retuning to carriers), 14 were heavily damaged, and 29 were damaged to some degree. The initial Japanese attack did not succeed in neutralizing Midway: American bombers could still use the airbase to refuel and attack the Japanese invasion force, and most of Midway’s land-based defenses similarly remained intact. Japanese pilots reported to Nagumo that a second aerial attack on Midway’s defenses would be necessary if troops were to go ashore by 7 June.

Having taken off prior to the Japanese attack, American bombers based on Midway made several attacks on the Japanese carrier force. These included six Grumman Avengers, detached to Midway from USS Hornet’s VT-8 (Midway was the combat debut of both VT-8 and the TBF); Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron 241 (VMSB-241), consisting of 11 SB2U-3 Vindicator dive bombers and 16 SBD Dauntless dive bombers, plus four USAAF B-26 light bombers of the 18th Reconnaissance and 69th Bomb Squadrons armed with torpedoes, and 15 B-17 Flying Fortress high attitude heavy bombers of the 31st, 72nd, and 431st Bomb Squadrons. The Japanese repelled these attacks, losing three fighters while destroying five TBF Avenger torpedo bombers, two SB2U Vindicator dive bombers, eight SBD auntless dive bombers, and two B-26s light bombers Among the dead was Major Lofton R. Henderson of VMSB-241, killed while leading his inexperienced Dauntless squadron into action. The main airfield at Guadalcanal was named after him in August 1942.

One B-26, piloted by Lieutenant James Muri, after dropping his torpedo and searching for a safer escape route, flew directly down the length of Akagi while being chased by interceptors and anti-aircraft fire, which had to hold their fire to avoid hitting their own flagship. During the fly down the length, the B-26 strafed Akagi, killing two men. A B-26 that had been seriously damaged by anti-aircraft fire didn’t pull out of its run, and instead headed directly for Akagi’s bridge. The aircraft, either attempting a suicide ramming, or out of control due to battle damage or a wounded or killed pilot, narrowly missed crashing into the carrier’s bridge, which could have killed Nagumo and his command staff, before it cartwheeled into the sea. This experience may well have contributed to Nagumo’s determination to launch another attack on Midway, in direct violation of Yamamoto’s order to keep the reserve strike force armed for anti-ship operations.

While the air strikes from Midway were going on, the American submarine USS Nautilus (Lt. Commander William Brockman) found herself near the Japanese carrier fleet, attracting attention from the escorts. Around 08:20, she made an unsuccessful torpedo attack on a battleship and then had to dive to evade the escorts. At 09:10, she launched a torpedo at a cruiser and again had to dive to evade the escorts, with destroyer Arashi spending considerable time chasing USS Nautilus.

In accordance with Yamamoto’s orders for Operation MI, Admiral Nagumo had kept half of his aircraft in reserve. These comprised two squadrons each of dive bombers and torpedo bombers. The dive bombers were as yet unarmed (although this was doctrinal: dive bombers were to be armed on the flight deck). The torpedo bombers were armed with torpedoes should any American warships be located.

At 07:15, Nagumo ordered his reserve planes to be re-armed with contact-fused general-purpose bombs for use against land targets. This was a result of the attacks from Midway, as well as of the morning flight leader’s recommendation of a second strike. Re-arming had been underway for about 30 minutes when, at 07:40, the delayed scout plane from Tone signaled that it had sighted a sizable American naval force to the east, but neglected to specify its composition. Later evidence suggests Nagumo did not receive the sighting report until 08:00.

Nagumo quickly reversed his order to re-arm the bombers with general-purpose bombs and demanded that the scout plane ascertain the composition of the American force. Another 20–40 minutes elapsed before Tone’s scout finally radioed the presence of a single carrier in the American force. This was one of the carriers from Task Force 16 , American aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and her escorts under command of Admiral Fletcher. The other US Navy carriers was not sighted.

Nagumo was now in a quandary. Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, leading Carrier Division 2 (Hiryū and Sōryū), recommended that Nagumo strike immediately with the forces at hand: 16 Aichi D3A1 Val dive bombers on Sōryū and 18 on Hiryū, and half the ready cover patrol aircraft. Nagumo’s opportunity to hit the American ships was now limited by the imminent return of his Midway strike force. The returning strike force needed to land promptly or it would have to ditch into the sea. Because of the constant flight deck activity associated with combat air patrol operations during the preceding hour, the Japanese never had an opportunity to position (“spot”) their reserve planes on the flight deck for launch.

The few aircraft on the Japanese flight decks at the time of the attack were either defensive fighters or, in the case of Sōryū, fighters being spotted to augment the combat air patrol. Spotting his flight decks and launching aircraft would have required at least 30 minutes. Furthermore, by spotting and launching immediately, Nagumo would be committing some of his reserves to battle without proper anti-ship armament, and likely without fighter escort; indeed, he had just witnessed how easily the unescorted American bombers had been shot down.

Japanese carrier doctrine preferred the launching of fully constituted strikes rather than piecemeal attacks. Without confirmation of whether the American force included carriers (not received until 08:20), Nagumo’s reaction was doctrinaire. In addition, the arrival of another land-based American air strike at 07:53 gave weight to the need to attack the island again. In the end, Nagumo decided to wait for his first strike force to land, and then launch the reserve, which would by then be properly armed with torpedoes.

Had Nagumo elected to launch the available aircraft around 07:45 and risked the ditching of Tomonaga’s strike force, they would have formed a powerful and well-balanced strike package that had the potential to sink two American carriers. Furthermore, fueled and armed aircraft inside the ships presented a significant additional hazard in terms of damage to the carriers in an event of attack, and keeping them on the decks was much more dangerous than getting them airborne. Whatever the case, at that point there was no way to stop the American strike against him, since Fletcher’s carriers had launched their planes beginning at 07:00 (with USS Enterprise and USS Hornet having completed launching by 07:55 due to Admiral Spruance’s insistence to launch the attackj as soon as enemy was located , but USS Yorktown not until 09:08), so the aircraft that would deliver the crushing blow were already on their way. Even if Nagumo had not strictly followed carrier doctrine, he could not have prevented the launch of the American attack.

The Americans had already launched their carrier aircraft against the Japanese. Admiral Fletcher, in overall command aboard USS Yorktown, and benefiting from PBY Catalina sighting reports from the early morning, ordered Admiral Spruance commanding USS Enterprise and USS Hornet to launch against the Japanese as soon as was practical, while initially holding USS Yorktown in reserve in case any other Japanese carriers were found.

Spruance judged that, though the range was extreme, a strike could succeed and gave the order to launch the attack. He then left Halsey’s Chief of Staff, Captain Miles Browning, to work out the details and oversee the launch. The carriers had to launch into the wind, so the light southeasterly breeze would require them to steam away from the Japanese at high speed. Browning, therefore, suggested a launch time of 07:00, giving the carriers an hour to close on the Japanese at 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph). This would place them at about 155 nautical miles (287 km; 178 mi) from the Japanese fleet, assuming it did not change course. The first plane took off from Spruance’s carriers USS Enterprise and USS Hornet a few minutes after 07:00. Fletcher, upon completing his own scouting flights, followed suit at 08:00 from USS Yorktown.

Fletcher, along with Yorktown’s commanding officer, Captain Elliott Buckmaster, and their staffs, had acquired the first-hand experience needed in organizing and launching a full strike against an enemy force in the Coral Sea, but there was no time to pass these lessons on to USS Enterprise and USS Hornet which were tasked with launching the first strike. Spruance ordered the striking aircraft to proceed to target immediately, rather than waste time waiting for the strike force to assemble, since neutralizing enemy carriers was the key to the survival of his own task force.

While the Japanese were able to launch 108 aircraft in just seven minutes, it took Enterprise and Hornet over an hour to launch 117. Spruance judged that the need to throw something at the enemy as soon as possible was greater than the need to coordinate the attack by aircraft of different types and speeds (fighters, bombers, and torpedo bombers). Accordingly, American squadrons were launched piecemeal and proceeded to the target in several different groups. It was accepted that the lack of coordination would diminish the impact of the American attacks and increase their casualties, but Spruance calculated that this was worthwhile, since keeping the Japanese under aerial attack impaired their ability to launch a counterstrike (Japanese tactics preferred fully constituted attacks), and he gambled that he would find Nagumo with his flight decks at their most vulnerable.

American carrier aircraft had difficulty locating the target, despite the positions they had been given. The strike from Hornet, led by Commander Stanhope C. Ring, followed an incorrect heading of 265 degrees rather than the 240 degrees indicated by the contact report. As a result, Air Group Eight’s dive bombers missed the Japanese carriers. Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8, from Hornet), led by Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron, broke formation from Ring and followed the correct heading. The 10 F4Fs Wildcat escort fighters from USS Hornet ran out of fuel and had to ditch.

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4 June 1942

Off Midway , Pacific Ocean : Waldron’s squadron sighted the enemy carriers and began attacking at 09:20, followed at 09:40 by VF-6 from USS Enterprise, whose Wildcat fighter escorts lost contact, ran low on fuel, and had to turn back Without fighter escort, all 15 TBD Devastator torpedo bombers of VT-8 were shot down without being able to inflict any damage. Ensign George H. Gay, Jr. was the only survivor of the 30 aircrew of VT-8. He completed his torpedo attack on Japanese aircraft carrier Sōryū before he was shot down by Japanese anti aircraft guns on ships, but Sōryū evaded his torpedo. Meanwhile, VT-6, led by LCDR Eugene E. Lindsey lost nine of its 14 Devastator torpedo bombers (one ditched later), and 10 of 12 Devastators from Yorktown’s VT-3 (who attacked at 10:10) were shot down by Japanese anti aircraft guns and Zero fighters on Combat Air Patrol above Japanese ships with no hits to show for their effort, thanks in part to the abysmal performance of their unimproved Mark 13 torpedoes. Midway was the last time the TBD Devastator was used in combat.

The Japanese combat air patrol, flying Mitsubishi A6M2 Zeros, made short work of the unescorted, slow, under-armed TBD Devestator torpedo bombers. A few TBD Devesators managed to get within a few ship-lengths range of their targets before dropping their torpedoes—close enough to be able to strafe the enemy ships and force the Japanese carriers to make sharp evasive maneuvers—but all of their torpedoes either missed or failed to explode. Remarkably, senior US Navy and Bureau of Ordnance officers never questioned why half a dozen torpedoes, released so close to the Japanese carriers, produced no results. The performance of American torpedoes in the early months of the war was scandalous, as shot after shot missed by running directly under the target (deeper than intended), prematurely exploded, or hit targets (sometimes with an audible clang) and failed to explode at all.

Despite their failure to score any hits, the American torpedo attacks achieved three important results. First, they kept the Japanese carriers off balance and unable to prepare and launch their own counterstrike. Second, the poor control of the Japanese combat air patrol (CAP) meant they were out of position for subsequent attacks. Third, many of the Zero escort fighters protecting Japanese carriers and anti aircraft batteries aboard Japanese ships were ran low on ammunition and fuel. The appearance of a third torpedo plane attack from the southeast by VT-3 from Yorktown, led by LCDR Lance Edward Massey at 10:00 very quickly drew the majority of the Japanese CAP to the southeast quadrant of the fleet. Better discipline and the employment of a greater number of Zeroes for the CAP might have enabled Nagumo to prevent (or at least mitigate) the damage caused by the coming American attacks.

By chance, at the same time VT-3 was sighted by the Japanese, three squadrons of SBD Dauntless dive bombers from USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown were approaching from the southwest and northeast. The Yorktown squadron (VB-3) had flown just behind VT-3, but elected to attack from a different course. The two squadrons from USS Enterprise (VB-6 and VS-6) were running low on fuel because of the time spent looking for the enemy. Air Group Commander C. Wade McClusky, Jr. decided to continue the search, and by good fortune spotted the wake of the Japanese destroyer Arashi, steaming at full speed to rejoin Nagumo’s carriers after having unsuccessfully depth-charged American submarine USS Nautilus, which had unsuccessfully attacked the battleship Kirishima.

McClusky’s decision to continue the search and his judgment, in the opinion of Admiral Chester Nimitz, “decided the fate of our carrier task force and our forces at Midway …” All three American dive-bomber squadrons (VB-6, VS-6, and VB-3) arrived almost simultaneously at the perfect time, locations and altitudes to attack. Most of the Japanese Combat Air Patrol was directing its attention to the torpedo planes of VT-3 and was out of position; meanwhile, armed Japanese strike aircraft filled the hangar decks, fuel hoses snaked across the decks as refueling operations were hastily being completed, and the repeated change of ordnance meant that bombs and torpedoes were stacked around the hangars, rather than stowed safely in the magazines, making the Japanese carriers extraordinarily vulnerable.

Beginning at 10:22, the two squadrons of USS Enterprise’s air group split up with the intention of sending one squadron each to attack Kaga and Akagi. A miscommunication caused both of the squadrons to dive at Kaga. Recognizing the error, Lieutenant Richard Halsey Best and his two wingmen were able to pull out of their dives and, after judging that Kaga was doomed, headed north to attack Akagi. Coming under an onslaught of bombs from almost two full squadrons, Kaga sustained three to five direct 500 kg bomb hits, which caused heavy damage and started multiple fires. One of the bombs landed on or right in front of the bridge, killing Captain Jisaku Okada and most of the ship’s senior officers. Lieutenant Clarence E. Dickinson, part of McClusky’s group, recalled:

We were coming down in all directions on the port side of the carrier … I recognized her as the Kaga; and she was enormous … The target was utterly satisfying … I saw a bomb hit just behind where I was aiming … I saw the deck rippling and curling back in all directions exposing a great section of the hangar below … I saw [my] 500-pound [230 kg] bomb hit right abreast of the [carrier’s] island. The two 100-pound [45 kg] bombs struck in the forward area of the parked planes …

Several minutes later, Best and his two wingmen dove on Akagi. Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese aviator who had led the attack on Pearl Harbor, was on Akagi when it was hit, and described the attack:

A look-out screamed: “Hell-Divers!” I looked up to see three black enemy planes plummeting towards our ship. Some of our machineguns managed to fire a few frantic bursts at them, but it was too late. The plump silhouettes of the American Dauntless dive-bombers quickly grew larger, and then a number of black objects suddenly floated eerily from their wings.

Although Akagi sustained only two direct bomb hits (one was almost certainly dropped by Lieutenant Best), it proved to be a fatal blow: one bomb struck the edge of the mid-ship deck elevator and penetrated to the upper hangar deck, where it exploded among the armed and fueled aircraft in the vicinity. Nagumo’s chief of staff, Ryūnosuke Kusaka, recorded “a terrific fire … bodies all over the place … Planes stood tail up, belching livid flames and jet-black smoke, making it impossible to bring the fires under control.” Second bomb demolished the flight deck of Akagi and all recently armed Japanese aircraft on the deck , explosions began detonating all bombs and torpedoes stored and stacked on the deck or aboard aircraft. Another bomb exploded underwater very close astern; the resulting geyser bent the flight deck upward “in grotesque configurations” and caused crucial rudder damage.

Simultaneously, Yorktown’s VB-3 with 17 Dauntless dive bombers, commanded by Max Leslie, went for Sōryū, scoring at least three (probably four) bomb hits and causing extensive damage. Gasoline ignited, creating an “inferno”, while stacked bombs and ammunition detonated. VT-3 targeted Hiryū, which was hemmed in by Sōryū, Kaga, and Akagi, but achieved no hits.

Within six minutes, Japanese aircraft carriers of Kido Butai , Sōryū and Kaga were ablaze from stem to stern, as fires spread through the ships. Akagi, having been struck by only two bombs, took longer to burn, but the resulting fires quickly expanded and soon proved impossible to extinguish; she too was eventually consumed by flames and had to be abandoned. As Admiral Nagumo began to grasp the enormity of what had happened, he appears to have gone into a state of shock. Witnesses saw Nagumo standing near the ship’s compass looking out at the flames on his flagship and two other carriers in a trance-like daze. Despite being asked to abandon the ship, Nagumo did not move and was reluctant to leave the Akagi, just muttering, “It’s not time yet.” Nagumo’s chief of staff, Rear Admiral Ryūnosuke Kusaka, was able to persuade him to leave the critically damaged Akagi. Nagumo, with a barely perceptible nod, with tears in his eyes, agreed to go. At 10:46, Admiral Nagumo transferred his flag to the light cruiser Nagara by lowered down a boat over burning Akagi. All three Japanese carriers remained temporarily afloat, as none had suffered damage below the waterline, other than the rudder damage to Akagi caused by the near miss close astern. Despite initial hopes that Akagi could be saved or at least towed back to Japan, all three carriers were eventually abandoned and scuttled at the end of the day. While Kaga was burning, American submarine USS Nautilus showed up again and launched three torpedoes at her, scoring one dud hit.

Hiryū, the sole surviving Japanese aircraft carrier under command of Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi , wasted little time in counterattacking. Hiryū’s first attack wave, consisting of 18 D3A Val dive bombers and eight Zero fighter escorts, followed the retreating American aircraft and attacked the first carrier they encountered, USS Yorktown, hitting her with three 250 kg bombs, which blew a hole in the deck, snuffed out all but one of her boilers, and destroyed one anti-aircraft mount. The damage also forced Admiral Fletcher to move his command staff to the heavy cruiser USS Astoria. Damage control parties were able to temporarily patch the flight deck and restore power to several boilers within an hour, giving her a speed of 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph) and enabling her to resume air operations. USS Yorktown yanked down her yellow breakdown flag and up went a new hoist—“My speed 5.” Captain Buckmaster had his signalmen hoist a huge new (10 feet wide and 15 feet long) American flag from the foremast. Sailors, including Ensign John d’Arc Lorenz called it an incalculable inspiration: “For the first time I realized what the flag meant: all of us—a million faces—all our effort—a whisper of encouragement.” Thirteen Japanese dive bombers and three escorting fighters were lost in this attack shot down by Combat Air Patrol of F4F Wildcat fighters or anti aircraft guns from ships (two other escorting Japanese Zero fighters turned back early after they were damaged attacking some of Enterprise’s SBDs returning from their attack on the Japanese carriers).

Approximately one hour later, Hiryū’s second attack wave, consisting of ten B5Ns Kate torpedo bombers and six escorting Zero fighters, arrived over USS Yorktown; the repair efforts had been so effective that the Japanese pilots assumed that USS Yorktown must be a different, undamaged carrier. They attacked, crippling USS Yorktown with two torpedoe hits; she lost all power and developed a 23-degree list to port. Five Japanese torpedo bombers and two Zero fighters were shot down by Wildcat fighters on Combat Air Patrol and anti aircraft guns aboard US ships in this attack.

News of the two strikes, with the mistaken reports that each had sunk an American carrier, greatly improved Japanese morale. The few surviving aircraft were all recovered aboard Hiryū. Despite the heavy losses, the Japanese believed that they could scrape together enough aircraft for one more strike against what they believed to be the only remaining American carrier.

Late in the afternoon, a Yorktown scout aircraft located Hiryū, prompting USS Enterprise to launch a final strike of 24 dive bombers (including six SBD Dauntless from VS-6, four SBD Dauntless from VB-6, and 14 SBDs from USS Yorktown’s VB-3). Despite Hiryū being defended by a strong cover of more than a dozen Zero fighters, the attack by USS Enterprise and orphaned USS Yorktown aircraft launched from USS Enterprise was successful: four 500 kg bombs (possibly five) hit Hiryū, leaving her ablaze and unable to operate aircraft. USS Hornet’s strike, launched late because of a communications error, concentrated on the remaining escort ships, but failed to score any hits.

After futile attempts at controlling the blaze, most of the crew remaining on Hiryū were evacuated and the remainder of the fleet continued sailing northeast in an attempt to intercept the American carriers. Despite a scuttling attempt by a Japanese destroyer that hit her with a torpedo and then departed quickly, Hiryū stayed afloat for several more hours. She was discovered early the next morning by an aircraft from the escort carrier Hōshō, prompting hopes she could be saved, or at least towed back to Japan. Soon after being spotted, Hiryū sank. Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, together with the ship’s captain, Tomeo Kaku, chose to go down with the ship, costing Japan perhaps its best carrier officer. One young sailor reportedly tried to go down with the ship with the officers, but was denied.

As first reports of engagements arrived on Admiral Yamamato aboard battleship Yamato he kept his calm , even after disasterous hits on First Japanese Carrier Strike Force and burning of his three carriers he just remarked “Ah…so” But he recovered and made a quick evaluation of hişs staff most of them could not believe of accept such a disaster overwhelming Kido Butai so quickly. Some from Yamamato’s staff proposed to bait US Navy Task Force west of Midway by going all the way to atoll to demolish the island with naval gunfire and then feinting further west , bringing US aircraft carriers to gunfire range of Japanese battleships and cruisers. Although Yamamato and his Chief of Staff rejected bombarding Midway with naval gunfire , considering it too risky and exposing Japanese surface battleships and other vessels to American air and submarine attacks especially since main Japanese aircraft carrier fleets was ablaze and going down therefore rest of Japanese strike forces were defenceless from air , he accepted feinting to west with rest of his fleet and baiting US aircraft carriers to gunfire range of Japanese battleships.

As darkness fell, both sides took stock and made tentative plans for continuing the action. Before midnight Japanese aircraft carriers Kaga and Soryu ablaze and abandoned by their surviving crews , exploded and sank before midnight. Other Japanese carrier Akagi was still ablaze from bow to stern but hit only by two bombs took longer to go down and scuttled by Japanese destroyer torpedoes next day. At the other side of hill , Admiral Jack Fletcher, obliged to abandon the derelict USS Yorktown and feeling he could not adequately command from a cruiser, ceded operational command to Admiral Spruance in USS Enterprise. Spruance knew the United States had won a great naval victory, but he was still unsure of what Japanese forces remained and was determined to safeguard both Midway and his carriers. To aid his aviators, who had launched at extreme range, he had continued to close with Nagumo during the day and persisted as night fell.

Finally, fearing a possible night encounter with Japanese surface forces, and believing Yamamoto still intended to invade, based in part on a misleading contact report from the submarine USS Tambor, Spruance changed course and withdrew to the east, turning back west towards the enemy at midnight. For his part, Yamamoto initially decided to continue the engagement and sent his remaining surface forces searching eastward for the American carriers. Simultaneously, he detached a cruiser raiding force to bombard the island. The Japanese surface forces failed to make contact with the Americans because Spruance had decided to briefly withdraw eastward, and Yamamoto ordered a general withdrawal to the west to bait US carriers to gunfire and torpedo range of Japanese surface ships. It was fortunate for the U.S. that Admiral Spruance did not pursue, for had he come in contact with Yamamoto’s heavy battleships and cruisers, including Yamato, in the dark, considering the Japanese Imperial Navy’s superiority in night-attack tactics at the time, there is a very high probability his own escort cruisers would have been overwhelmed and his carriers would be sunk in a night surface action just like Yamamato intended.

Spruance failed to regain contact with Yamamoto’s forces on 5 June, despite extensive searches. Towards the end of the day, he launched a search-and-destroy mission to seek out any remnants of Nagumo’s carrier force. This late afternoon strike narrowly missed detecting Yamamoto’s main body and failed to score hits on a straggling Japanese destroyer. The strike planes returned to the carriers after nightfall, prompting Spruance to order USS Enterprise and USS Hornet to turn on their lights to aid the landings.

At 02:15 on the night of 5/6 June, Commander John Murphy’s submarine USS Tambor, lying 90 nautical miles (170 km; 100 mi) west of Midway, made the second of the submarine force’s two major contributions to the battle’s outcome, although its impact was heavily blunted by Murphy himself. Sighting several ships, neither Murphy nor his executive officer, Edward Spruance (son of Admiral Spruance), could identify them. Uncertain of whether they were friendly or not and unwilling to approach any closer to verify their heading or type, Murphy decided to send a vague report of “four large ships” to Admiral Robert English, Commander, Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC). This report was passed on by English to Nimitz, who then sent it to Spruance. Spruance, a former submarine commander, was “understandably furious” at the vagueness of Murphy’s report, as it provided him with little more than suspicion and no concrete information on which to make his preparations. Unaware of the exact location of Yamamoto’s “Main Body” (a persistent problem since the time PBY Catalina flying boats had first sighted the Japanese), Spruance was forced to assume the “four large ships” reported by Tambor represented the main invasion force and so he moved to block it, while staying 100 nautical miles (190 km; 120 mi) northeast of Midway.

In reality, the ships sighted by USS Tambor were the detachment of four Japanese heavy cruisers and two destroyers Yamamoto had sent to bombard Midway. At 02:55, these ships received Yamamoto’s order to retire and changed course to comply. At about the same time as this change of course, USS Tambor was sighted by Japanese lookouts on the ships and during maneuvers designed to avoid a submarine attack, the heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma collided, inflicting serious damage on Mogami’s bow. The less severely damaged Mikuma slowed to 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) to keep pace. Only at 04:12 did the sky brighten enough for Murphy to be certain the ships were Japanese, by which time staying surfaced was hazardous and he dived to approach for an attack. The attack was unsuccessful and around 06:00 he finally reported two westbound Mogami-class cruisers, before diving again and playing no further role in the battle. Limping along on a straight course at 12 knots—roughly one-third their top speed—Mogami and Mikuma had been almost perfect targets for a submarine attack. As soon as USS Tambor returned to port, Spruance had Murphy relieved of duty and reassigned to a shore station, citing his confusing contact report, poor torpedo shooting during his attack run, and general lack of aggression, especially as compared to USS Nautilus, the oldest of the 12 boats at Midway and the only one which had successfully placed a torpedo on target (albeit a dud).

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5 June 1942

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-172 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Delfina 120 miles north of Puerto Rico at 0608 hours; 4 were killed, 27 survived. At 2210 hours, German submarine U-94 sank Portuguese sailing ship Maria da Glória with her deck gun 650 miles east of St. John’s Newfoundland; 2 were killed, 42 survived, but only 8 of the survivors would be rescued.

German submarine U-158 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Velma Lykes 15 miles off Cancún, Mexico at 0332 hours; 15 were killed, 17 survived. 85 miles south of the Dominican Republic, German submarine U-159 sank Brazilian sailing ship Paracury with her deck gun at 0527 hours. At 2010 hours, U-159 attacked again in the same area, sinking Honduran sailing vessel Sally with her deck gun.

At 2049 hours, U-68 sank two US tankers LJ Drake and C.O Stillman with three torpedoes off the Dominican Republic; all 40 aboard were killed

Bay of Biscay : Free French submarine Rubis laid mines in the Bay of Biscay; they would later sink Vichy French ship Quand Meme, German minesweeper M-4212, and German minesweeper M-4448 in the weeks to come.

Gazala , Libya : Operation Abardeen , counter attack by seperate armored brigades of 1st and 7th Armored Divisions and infantry brigades of Eighth Army started on Cauldron very slowly and three days late. Rommel now had a firm base that had been left unmolested for four days, during which time Panzer Army Afrika had consolidated resupplied and rested. Major General Briggs (5th Indian Division) and General Messervy (7th British Armoured Division) were to be in joint command of Operation Aberdeen. In reality, this was a task for a corps commander because command by consensus or by committee just does not work. Soldiers understand and accept willingly and gratefully the autocratic nature of military command. In this case that autocracy was missing and the command arrangement was the height of absurdity.

As the battle developed, and though it was intended that infantry and armour should fight together it should also be noted that their functions remained separate. Altogether it was a complicated plan and fraught with danger, but Ritchie and his colleagues were confident and looked forward to a resounding victory.

It was not until 5 June that Ritchie belatedly made his next move. In the early hours of the morning, units of the Eighth Army, under cover of an intensive artillery bombardment, launched a direct attack on Rommel’s forces in the heart of the Cauldron. Had this counter-offensive been launched two days earlier, it might well have prospered, but Ritchie’s days of indecision had given Rommel vital time to reinforce his key positions on a salient where the Axis was dug in on the high ground.

At first the British seemed poised to make a breakthrough as two Indian brigades supported by the 22nd Armoured Brigade drove the Italian Ariete Division off its stronghold on Aslagh Ridge. But when the British tanks advanced deeper into the Cauldron to take Sidi Muftah Ridge, they came under devastating tank and artillery fire from German 88 mm anti tank gun battery screens and were forced to wheel off to the north, leaving the 9th and 10th Indian Divisions trapped and exposed in the middle of the minefield. An important element of Abardeen plan was the destruction of the Axis anti-tank screen with an artillery bombardment but because of an error in plotting its position, the bombardment fell too far to the east.

Everything now went wrong. With tight-lipped precision, Auchinleck described the dismal failure of another attempt to enter the Cauldron via an assault on Sidra Ridge, where 21st Panzer was dug in. ‘The 32nd Army Tank Brigade’, he wrote, ‘was attacked on its right flank by enemy tanks, and having run onto an uncharted enemy minefield and so lost fifty tanks out of its original seventy due to anti tank gun fire and mines, retreated east thus it could give the infantry no support when they in their turn were attacked by tanks of 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions.’

Such a situation was hand-made for Rommel and he now counterattacked with great ferocity. With his northern flank safe after the repulse of XIII Corps he struck east towards Knightsbridge and sowed death and destruction in XXX Corps and the 5th Indian Division.

German panzers from both panzer divisions of Afrikakorps and Italian tanks in three battlegroups supported by infantry then turned on and routed exposed 9th and 10th Indian Brigades rthat were left unprotected in the open on minefields , inflicting heavy casaulties on them and capturing their field headquaerters. The 22nd Armoured Brigade, having lost 60 of its 156 tanks, was forced from the battlefield back beyond the Trigh Bir Hacheim by more attacks from the 15th Panzer Division. Three Indian infantry battalions, a reconnaissance regiment and four artillery regiments of the attacking force were left behind, unsupported by armour and overrun. General Messervy being unable to bring either the 4th or 2nd Armoured Brigade to their rescue. Rommel retained the initiative, maintaining his strength in the cauldron while the number of operational British tanks diminished. By days end , British generals (Messervy , Briggs and Ritchie) had lost all control of the battle and were unable to reorganize until their scattered forces had reached the security of the Knightsbridge and El Adem boxes.

German general Von Mellenthin described the same attack from the German standpoint. Noting that it might have been ‘gravely embarrassing’ had it been made under cover of darkness, he wrote incredulously, ‘the heavy British tanks lumbered forward in daylight, providing perfect targets for our anti-tank guns and ending up on a minefield where they were simply shot to pieces. From the tactical point of view this was one of the most ridiculous attacks of the campaign.’

Captain Rea Leakey was on one of the tanks spearheading this ‘ridiculous’ attack: “In the first second we must have received at least four direct hits from armour-piercing shells. The engine was knocked out, a track was broken and one shell hit the barrel of the 75-mm gun and broke it. Then quite a heavy high-explosive shell dropped on the mantlet of my 37-mm gun and pushed it back against the recoil springs … I suffered nothing more than a ‘singing in the ears’. But a splinter hit the subaltern in the head and he fell to the floor of the turret dead …”

Almost every tank in the battle met with the same treatment. It had taken 8th Army four days to think up Aberdeen; it took Rommel half a day to plan and launch a counterstroke against Aberdeen’s left flank, which rested on an uncovered minefield. The German counter-attack by 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions had won the day and, along the way, captured Messervy and HQ 7th Armoured Division for the second time. The 8th Army had lost 110 tanks. Nevertheless, and with heroic understatement, it signalled to Auchinleck at GHQ that, ‘while the operation had not been entirely successful there were signs that the enemy was not entirely happy.’ Messervy escaped, yet again from German captivity next day, and did what he could to restore stability and rescue British assets stranded in The Cauldron. These rescue efforts were marked by indecision, order and counter-order due to bad and disorganised chain of command , lack of authority clarity and bad staff work of Eighth Army headquarters and its commander Neil Ritchie and his immediate superior Claude Auchinleck who trying to hold Ritchie’s Hand all the way from Cairo. The final bill that had to be paid was 168 Crusaders, fifty ‘I’ tanks, four regiments of artillery, an Indian brigade, and 7th Armoured Division Support Group.

With the Eighth Army reeling, Rommel stepped up the pace and variety of his assault and the panzers were soon running amok through the British positions. With tactical headquarters overrun, wireless sets destroyed, communications severed, tents and trucks set on fire, it was clear to Colonel Desmond Young (later to become Rommel’s biographer), who was serving with the Indian Army, that the enemy ‘had, indeed recovered the initiative which General Ritchie had wrested from him and had no intention of giving it up. 5 June was the turning point of the battle, though the chance of winning it outright went three days earlier.’

Panzer Army Afrika had had much the best of the battle. Rommel (who was forewarned of incoming Aberdeen attack by decoded radio communication of British units provided from his German Wireless Intercept Company 621. Unfortunetely for British , Eighth Army wireless security was notoriously lax) had prepared his defences and counter attack well, had taken full advantage of the collapse of Ritchie’s plans, and the men of the 8th Army had once more suffered heavily because of their commander’s inexperience. It is difficult to understand how, at this late stage, General Ritchie was prepared to allow a vital battle to be fought by junior commanders with a command system that could never be expected to equal the efficiency of the strong personal control habitually exercised by Rommel. He was also seriously at fault in using only one armoured brigade, an army tank brigade, and two infantry brigades in Operation “Aberdeen” when he should have left his bases to look after themselves and concentrated every possible British formation and all the guns that could be made available to ensure the destruction of the enemy.

General Claude Auchinleck British Middle East commander had previously emphasised to General Neil Ritchie that the British armour must: "Not fight in bits and pieces. They have been trained to fight as divisions and fight as divisions they should. Norrie must handle them as a corps commander, and thus be able to take advantage of the flexibility that the fact of having two formations gives him" Ritchie paid lip service to this advice and by failing to consolidate his armour it would be destroyed in detail.

Bir-Hakeim , Gazala , Libya : From 5 to 6 June, the DAF flew fewer sorties at Bir Hakeim, concentrating on the Knightsbridge Box and around 11:00 a.m. on 6 June, German 90th Light Division attacked with the support of pioneers to try to clear a passage through the minefield. The pioneers got within 800 m (900 yd) of the fort, having breached the outer minefield and during the night they managed to clear several passages into the inner perimeter. German infantry gained a foothold but the French troops in foxholes, dug outs and blockhouses, maintained a great volume of small-arms fire, which forced the Germans under cover.

Sevastapol , Crimea : German troops continued the aerial and artillery bombardment of Sevastopol, Russia, using weapons including the 800mm railway gun Schwerer Gustav.

Air support continued with 643 sorties on 3 June, 585 on 4 June, and 555 on 5 June, with some German crews flying daily averages of 18 missions. By the start of the ground attack on 7 June, the Luftwaffe had flown 3,069 sorties and 2,264 tons of high explosive and 23,800 incendiary bombs were dropped. Many of the bombs dropped were 1,000 kg SC 1000, 1,400 kg SC 1400, and 2,500 kg SC 2500 bombs. The heavy-caliber weapons were aimed at Soviet concrete bunkers. Ivan Laskin, commanding the 172nd Rifle Division in the northern sector recalled, “Bombers in groups of twenty to thirty attacked us without caring for their targets. They came in, wave after wave, and literally ploughed up the earth throughout our defence area. German aircraft were in the air above our positions all day long. The sky was clouded by smoke from explosions of thousands of bombs and shells. An enormous dark grey cloud of smoke and dust rose higher and higher and finally eclipsed the sun”. The German air campaign against Sevastopol in June 1942 surpassed by far the German bombings of Warsaw, Rotterdam or London. From 3 to 6 June, the Luftwaffe carried out 2,355 operations and dropped 1,800 tons of high explosives

Kharkov , Russia : On the afternoon of 5 June, as a last treat, many officers and soldiers from German Sixth Army went to the Kharkov ballet. The unpaid dancers had been kept alive through the winter on Wehrmacht rations. That day, they danced Swan Lake and the packed audience, sweating in their feldgrau uniforms, greatly enjoyed their interpretation of Prince Siegfried’s tragedy, trapped by the wicked Rothbart. (This curious conjunction of two code-names - Siegfried, the original name for Operation Blue, and Rothbart, the German equivalent of Barbarossa - was entirely coincidental.) After the performance, the audience hurried back to their units. On that hot moonless night, leading elements from the Sixth Army started to move north-eastwards to the Volchansk sector.

Washington , USA : United States declared war on Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.

Russia : Unternehmen Vogellied (Operation Birdsong): In the Roslavl and Bryansk region in Russia, 5,000 German security troops tracked down a destroyed a 2,500-strong partisan group. But a German military report expressed dissatisfaction at the results. ‘The partisans’, one senior officer complained, ‘continued their old tactic of evading, withdrawing into the forests, or moving in larger groups into the areas south and south-west of the Roslavl—Bryansk highway and into the Kletnya area.’ Although no further partisan attacks were reported in the ‘pacified’ area, the officer wrote, nevertheless ‘mines continued to be planted’ and several German vehicles had been damaged. Within two months, Soviet partisans had returned to the ‘Birdsong’ area in force.

Berlin , Germany : For the Germans involved in Final Solution of Jewish question, the problem was one of technology. In an official note dated June 5, a senior civil servant in Berlin gave details of ‘technical modifications of special vehicles put into service’. Since December 1941, he explained, ‘using three vehicles, 97,000 persons have been “processed”, without any defects occurring in these vehicles’, and he added: ‘The explosion which is known to have occurred in Chelmno should be considered as an isolated case, caused by a technical failure. Special instructions have been sent to the depots involved, in order to prevent such accidents in the future.’ There was one more fault that had to be mentioned; the ‘merchandise’ in the gas van, the civil servant explained, displayed during the operation a regrettable if natural ‘rush towards the light’ which was hampering the efficiency of the procedure. This fault would be ‘rectified’.

Indian Ocean : Japanese merchant raiders Aikoku Maru and Hokoku Maru intercepted and sank British passenger liner Elysia with gunfire 350 miles off Durban, South Africa .
To the north on the same day, off Portuguese Overseas Province of Mozambique, Japanese submarine I-10 torpedoed and sank Panamanian cargo ship Atlantic Gulf at 0231 hours, then I-10 torpedoed and sank US freighter Melvin H Baker at 1044 hours, and I-20 torpedoed and sank Panamanian cargo ship Johnstown.

Pacific Ocean : Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi was scuttled by direct order of Combined Fleet chief Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. At 0520 hours, she sank bow first after two or three torpedo hits out of four fired into her starboard side by destroyers Arashio, Hagikaze, Maikaze and Nowaki. She sank in position 30-30 N, 178-40 W. More than 1,070 survivors were rescued, including her skipper Taijiro Aoki, who had replaced Hasegawa in the spring, though he had to be ordered off the ship. Only 263 petty officers and men were lost. Survivors were subsequently transferred from destroyers to Mutsu, one of the battleships in Yamamoto’s Main Body. Akagi became the first Japanese capital ship to be scuttled by own ships in the Pacific War.

At 0015 hours, Yamamoto ordered the night engagement at Midway to be canceled; at 0255 hours, he ordered the entire Operation MI to be canceled. In the battle zone, heavily damaged Japanese carriers Akagi and Hiryu were scuttled. To the west, heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma suffered a collision as they attempted to avoid submarine USS Tambor; Mogami suffered 92 killed and heavy damage in the collision. Far to the north, in the Aleutian Islands, aircraft from Japanese carriers Ryujo and Junyo attacked Dutch Harbor, US Territory of Alaska as Japanese troops occupied Attu.

Japanese destroyer Tanikaze was ordered to search for the disabled carrier Hiryu and to rescue survivors, but she was not able to find Hiryu (which already sank). Tanikaze was in turn attacked by 32 US Navy dive bombers. One of the five near-misses caused an explosion in the after turret, killing six.

Midway Island : Japanese submarine I-168 surfaced 1,100 yards southwest of Midway at 1024 hours and fired 6 shots with her 10-centimeter deck gun, inflicting no damage. When she was caught by American searchlights, she submerged and evaded American return-fire. She survived two subsequent attacks, one by a patrol vessel and another by PBY Catalina aircraft, incurring no damage

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