8 - 14 August 1942

8th August 1942

Atlantic Ocean : Battle of Slow Convoy SC-94 continues. German submarines U-379 and U-176 intercepted and attacked Allied convoy SC-94 485 miles southeast of the southern tip of Greenland in the afternoon; at 1325 hours. Under night attack the convoy ranks fell into chaos , some merchant ship crews prematurely abandoned their ships then reboarded them , U-379 torpedoed and fatally damaged British merchant ship Anneberg (that sank later in the day) and sank US merchant ship Kaimoku (50 survived); at 1518 hours, U-176 torpedoed and sank British merchant ship Kelso (3 were killed, 40 survived), sank British merchant ship Trehata (23 were killed, 25 survived), and disabled Greek merchant ship Mount Kassion which sank next day (47 survived).

In exchange Royal Navy corvette HMS Dianthus counterattacked U-379 by ramming and depth charges, sinking the German submarine; 40 were killed, 5 survived.
Later that afternoon, a masthead lookout on the Royal Navy corvette HMS Dianthus, commanded by C. E. Bridgeman, spotted two German submarines about six miles away. Bridgeman immediately fired twelve rounds from his main 4″ battery, but none hit and both submarines dived. Combing the area for several hours, HMS Dianthus finally regained contact with German submarine U-379 and fired off eight star shells. U-379 dived instantly, but her evasion was inept and HMS Dianthus blew him back to the surface with five well-aimed depth charges. When U-379 popped up, HMS Dianthus fixed the boat in her searchlight, dropped five more depth charges, and slewed about to ram, with all guns blazing. Firing snowflakes to illuminate the scene, HMS Dianthus crashed into the forward deck of U-379, rode over the U-boat, and dropped five more shallow-set depth charges. These explosions forced crew of U-379 to scuttle and abandon ship. As German crew were leaping into the sea, Bridgeman pumped another seven rounds of 4″ shells into the U-379, raked her with machine-gun fire, and rammed her three more times. After midnight on August 9, German submarine finally upended and sank , only five of her crew survived and picked up by HMS Dianthus.

German submarine U-98 mined waters off Jacksonville, Florida, United States.

Bay of Biscay : Italian submarine Morosini became missing with all hands due to unknown reasons in the Bay of Biscay west of France.

Cairo , Egypt : General Claude Auchinleck officially relieved from Commander in Chief Middle East. Churchill’s military secretary, Colonel Ian Jacob, was sent with a letter from Churchill informing Auchinleck of the decision and demanding a reply whether he would accept the new Iraq-Iran Command being offered. Jacob, carrying the fatal letter, felt “as if I were just going to murder an unsuspecting friend.” Jacob was deeply impressed with the calm manner with which Auchinleck received the news that ended his military career as a field commander. But both Churchill and Brooke had lost faith in Auchinleck, and the New Zealand official history records that “there is no record of a single voice being raised on [Auchinleck’s] behalf.

El-Alamein , Egypt : Rommel calculated that he had the resources for one ‘last‐chance’ attack on Auchinleck’s line at El Alamein. It had to succeed because after that the 1400 tons of fuel captured in Tobruk would be gone and there was insufficient coming down his extended supply line to sustain any further action. If he could break through the Eighth Army he could take Cairo and the port of Alexandria, his supply problems would be eased and the Suez Canal would be within reach. He told Lucie that ‘I must make best use of the next few weeks to prepare for it.’ He would attack on 30 August. ‘If this blow succeeds it could in part decide the whole course of the war.’

German–Italian partnership was about to take another big dip in North Africa. Following his failure to break through the Alamein Line, on 12 July Rommel wrote a report to the Army Operations Department and referred to ‘alarming symptoms of deteriorating morale’ in the Italian ranks. The Italian Pavia and Brescia Divisions had been all but wiped out in the recent fighting and Rommel claimed that ‘several times lately’ the Italians had deserted their positions. As a result, Rommel was pleading for more German troops.

When the Italians learned about this report it went down very badly indeed, not least with the newly promoted Maresciallo Ettore Bastico, the senior Italian commander in North Africa, and with Mussolini, who had given up waiting to march into Cairo on his charger and had gone back to Italy. During his three weeks in Libya, Rommel had not called on him once – justifiably, since he’d been in the thick of battle, but such excuses didn’t really wash with Mussolini. ‘Naturally,’ noted Count Ciano, ‘Mussolini has been absorbing the anti-Rommel spirit of the Italian commander in Libya, and he lashes out on the German marshal.’ The attitude of German troops was also, apparently, obnoxious. ‘The tone of the Duce’s conversation,’ noted Ciano a few days later, ‘is increasingly anti-German.’

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Turbulent torpedoed , shelled and destroyed the hulk of Italian destroyer Strale, which had run aground intentionally on 21 Jun 1942, after being attacked by RAF torpedo bombers, to prevent sinking.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Proteus sank German manned Greek sailing vessel Firesia with her deck gun in the Aegean Sea south of Naxos island, Greece.

Gibraltar : On Saturday night, August 8, there were seven ships from Operation Pedestal refueling in Gibraltar, enough that Admiral Burrough called a midnight meeting of their captains. In the nearby neutral Spanish town of Algeciras, two Royal Navy officers finished their late dinner and on their way out passed a German sitting at a table.“Today we see you,” the German told the officers with a knowing smile. “You sail out and you sail back, you sail out and you sail back. Then you will sail out and don’t come back. Then we go out and get you.”

Voronezh Front , Russia : The Soviet Army launched a counter-offensive of Voronezh under Marshal Timoshenko.

Kalach , Don River , Russia : Sixth German Army captured Surovikino , slowly destroying Soviet 62nd Army by severing its rear to Don river.

Caucasian Front , Russia : German panzers from First Panzer Army drive into Piatigorsk, and fight it out with Soviet political police and a women’s signal detachment. German troops short on fuel stumble into a convoy of Soviet American- made trucks loaded with gasoline, and keep on going.

Norwegian Sea : Soviet submarine M-173 was lost in Norwegian Sea for unknown reasons

Vichy France : The Vichy French make the possession of explosives a death- penalty offense.

London , UK : General Dwight Eisenhower established his headquarters in England, United Kingdom.
On 7 August, Ike lunched in his flat with General Harold Alexander, recently back from leading the British retreat from Burma, and designated as Mediterranean and Middle East Commander in Chief; General Patton had been pencilled in to lead the US forces. Ike’s aide Harry Butcher believed this was an important lunch for Ike. Alexander had about as much battlefield experience as any soldier in the British Army, while Ike was not only junior in rank but had no combat experience at all, let alone any battlefield command. ‘There was,’ commented Butch, ‘the touchy question of how accessible Ike might be to Alexander.’ He needn’t have worried; the two got on well and as the British general left, he told Ike that he thought he had got off to a ‘good start’. Eisenhower also impressed with Alexander suave , cool , confident and diplomatic behavior , later taking him as one of his role models as Supreme Commander.

A telephone call from the War Office on 8 August ordered General Bernard Montgomery to proceed immediately to Egypt to take command of Eighth Army at El Alamein. A B-24 Liberator bomber was standing by to fly him and one ADC out that evening, first to Gibraltar, then on to Cairo. Monty arranged for his stepson to stay with Major Reynolds and his wife. He warned them that ‘David’s grandmother will want him to go and stay for his holidays. On no account is he to go. She is a menace with the young.’

Bombay , India : The Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee passed the Quite India resolution, and Mahatma Gandhi gave the Quit India speech at Gowalia Tank park in central Bombay.

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : At Papua, New Guinea , three companies of Australian 39th Battalion departed Deniki separately shortly after dawn to attack the Kokoda village.

A brief lull in the fighting along the track followed before the second engagement around Kokoda took place over the period 8 to 10 August 1942. In the wake of the first engagement, both the Japanese and Australians had paused to bring up reinforcements. After sending the surviving members of ‘B’ Company back to Eora Creek, Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Allan Cameron – the brigade major of the 30th Brigade – took command of the 39th Infantry Battalion and advanced from Deniki on 8 August with around 430 men, intent on recapturing Kokoda to re-open the airfield. At the same time, the Japanese force, which had grown to around 660 men with the arrival of the remainder of Hatsuo Tsukamoto’s 1st Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment and supporting elements, began their advance on Deniki.

The two sides subsequently clashed along the main Kokoda Track around Pitoki, near Faiwani Creek, in an encounter battle. A see-sawing action followed over the next couple of days, in which the main Australian force, consisting largely of Captain Arthur Dean’s ‘C’ Company, was pushed back along the track to the battalion’s headquarters around Deniki. Dean was amongst those killed in the fighting and as the pursuers followed ‘C’ Company back to Deniki, Cameron hastily organised the defence of his headquarters, which had to fight off an attack over several hours. Elsewhere, ‘D’ Company, under Captain Maxwell Bidstrup, took Pirivi to the east of Eora Creek, thus placing pressure on the Japanese rear, while another Australian company – Captain Noel Symington’s ‘A’ Company – retook Kokoda, finding it practically undefended.

Guadalcanal , Tulagi , South West Pacific : US Marines captured the unfinished Japanese Lunga Point Airfield at Guadalcanal at 1600 hours without meeting any resistance (most Japanese troops and construction personnel ran to south and west of island , leaving behind food, supplies, intact construction equipment and vehicles, and 13 dead. 1st US Marine Dşivision would put these captured supplies in good use during incoming weeks) , which would later renamed Henderson Field by the Americans. The Marines are amazed to find intact three AA batteries, ammo dumps, radio stations, a refrigerating plant, an air compressor plant, vehicles, stacks of supplies - most of it intact. The Japanese have left behind their personal gear, cups and bowls of rice, meat stew and prunes at their mess tables. Marines find some beds neatly made, some dishevelled. The most important discoveries are a copy of the current version of the Japanese naval code – JN-25C – and an early Japanese radar set. Turner has this loaded on a transport for further study.

So far the Marine have done their job, seizing their objectives, but have run into trouble with command, coordination, poor maps, worse radios, and a lack of manpower to unload supplies on Red Beach

The US Marines also captured Tulagi (307 Japanese killed, 3 Japanese captured, 45 Americans killed) cleaned out remaining Japanese defenders from Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo (476 Japanese killed, 20 Japanese and Koreans captured, 70 Americans killed) islands in the afternoon. In Tulagi , during the night, the Japanese attacked the Marine lines five times, beginning at 22:30. The attacks consisted of frontal charges along with individual and small group infiltration efforts towards Edson’s command post, which at times resulted in hand to hand combat with the Marines. The Japanese temporarily broke through the Marine lines and captured a machine gun, but were quickly thrown back. After taking a few more casualties, the Marine lines held throughout the rest of the night. The Japanese suffered heavy losses in the attacks. During the night, one Marine—Edward H. Ahrens—killed 13 Japanese who assaulted his position before he was killed. Describing the Japanese attacks that night, eyewitness raider Marine Pete Sparacino said:

“… full darkness set in. There was movement to the front … you could hear them jabbering. Then, the enemy found a gap and began running through the opening. The gap was (sealed) when another squad closed the gate. Some Japanese had crawled within 20 yards of (Frank) Guidone’s squad. Frank began throwing grenades from a prone position. His grenades were going off 15 yards from our position (and) we had to duck as they exploded. The enemy was all around. It was brutal and deadly. We had to be careful not to kill our comrades. We were tired but had to stay awake or be dead.”

At daybreak on 8 August, six Japanese infiltrators hiding under the porch of the former British colonial headquarters shot and killed three Marines. Within five minutes, other Marines killed the six Japanese with grenades. Later that morning, the Marines, after landing reinforcements in the form of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines (2/2), surrounded Hill 281 and the ravine, pounded both locations with mortar fire throughout the morning, and then assaulted the two positions, using improvised explosive charges to kill the Japanese defenders taking cover in the many caves and fighting positions throughout the hill and ravine. The individual Japanese fighting positions were destroyed with these improvised explosives. Significant Japanese resistance ended by the afternoon, although a few stragglers were found and killed over the next several days. In the battle for Tulagi, 307 Japanese and 45 U.S. troops died. Three Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner.

Most of the 240 Japanese defenders on Tanambogo were aircrew and maintenance personnel from the Yokohama Air Group. Many of these were aircraft maintenance personnel and construction units not equipped for combat. One of the few Japanese soldiers captured recounts fighting armed with only hand sickles and poles. Rupertus detached one company of Marines from the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment on Florida Island to assist in assaulting Tanambogo, in spite of advice from his staff that one company was not enough. Incorrectly believing Tanambogo to be only lightly defended, this company attempted an amphibious assault directly on Tanambogo shortly after dark on 7 August. Illuminated by fires started during a U.S. naval bombardment of the islet, the five landing craft carrying the Marines were hit by heavy fire as they approached the shore, with many of the US Navy boatcrews being killed or wounded, as well as heavily damaging three of the boats. Realizing the position was untenable, the Marine company commander ordered the remaining boats to depart with the wounded marines, and he and 12 men who had already landed sprinted across the causeway to cover on Gavutu. The Japanese on Tanambogo suffered 10 killed in the day’s fighting.

Throughout the night, as the Japanese staged isolated attacks on the marines on Gavutu under the concealment of heavy thunderstorms, Vandegrift prepared to send reinforcements to assist with the assault on Tanambogo. The 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines , still embarked on ships off Guadalcanal, was notified to prepare to assault Tanambogo on 8 August.

The 3rd Battalion US Marines began landing on Gavutu at 10:00 on 8 August and assisted in destroying the remaining Japanese defenses on that islet, which was completed by 12:00. Then the 3rd Battalion prepared to assault Tanambogo. The Marines on Gavutu provided covering fire for the attack. In preparation for the assault, U.S. carrier-based dive bombers and naval gunfire bombardment were requested. After the carrier aircraft twice accidentally dropped bombs on the U.S. Marines on Gavutu, killing four of them, further carrier aircraft support was canceled. US light cruiser USS San Juan, however, placed its shells on the correct island and shelled Tanambogo for 30 minutes. The Marine assault began at 16:15, both by landing craft and from across the causeway, and, with assistance from two Marine Stuart light tanks, began making headway against the Japanese defenses. One of the tanks got stuck on a stump. Isolated from its infantry support, it was surrounded by a group of about 50 Japanese airmen. The Japanese set fire to the tank, killing two of its crew and severely beat the other two crewmembers before most of them were killed by Marine rifle fire. The Marines later counted 42 Japanese bodies around the burned-out hulk of the tank, including the corpses of the Yokohama executive officer and several of the seaplane pilots. One of the Japanese survivors of the attack on the tank reported, “I recall seeing my officer, Lieutenant Commander Saburo Katsuta of the Yokohama Air Group, on top of the tank. This was the last time I saw him”. The overall commander of troops on Tanambogo was Captain (naval rank) Miyazaki-san who blew himself up inside his dugout on the late afternoon of 8 August.

Throughout the day, US Marines methodically dynamited the caves, destroying most of them by 21:00. The few surviving Japanese conducted isolated attacks throughout the night, with hand to hand engagements occurring. By noon on 9 August, all Japanese resistance on Tanambogo ended. In the battle for Gavutu and Tanambogo, 476 Japanese defenders and 70 U.S. Marines or naval personnel died. Of the 20 Japanese prisoners taken during the battle, most were not actually Japanese combatants but Korean laborers belonging to the Japanese construction unit.

Once again, the tenacity of the Japanese defenders shocked those who had to overcome it. ‘I have never heard or read of this kind of fighting’, 1st Marine Divisiıon commander Major-General Alexander A. Vandegrift wrote to the Marine Commandant in Washington, and he went on to explain: ‘These people refuse to surrender. The wounded will wait till men come up to examine them, and blow themselves and the other fellow to death with a hand grenade.’

On Rabaul at 8 a.m., the Japanese hurl 27 Betty bombers and 15 Zero fighters from Rabaul against US Task Force at Guadalcanal. The aircraft pass over Aravia, a small mountain village in northern Bougainville, where Coastwatcher Jack Read is huddled over his teleradio.

Read, 36, has been in New Guinea public service for 12 years, and Bougainville since November. He is glued to his set, fascinated with the American carrier jargon, when he hears the Japanese bombers fly over. He flashes “45 bombers now going southeast” to Turner, who gets the message at 10:40 a.m., and sounds general quarters.

The Japanese avoid American F4Fs by a wide sing to the north and then a diving turn to emerge at treetop level over Florida island. 23 Bettys roar in, but heavy flak splashes one Zero and three Bettys. The bombers, following Organization No. 5, swoop in at 20 to 40 feet off the deck, fine against inaccurate Dutch anti-aircraft guns of January, but dangerous against radar- controlled 20mm guns of August. (HMS Prince of Wales had only seven when she was sunk, each transport at Guadalcanal alone has 12). Japanese planes, lacking armor and self-sealing fuel tanks, do flaming pinwheels into the sea. One Betty torpedoes US Navy destroyer USS Jarvis, killing 15, and another crashes into the transport George F. Elliot at 12:03. The transport erupts into flame, and the crew abandons ship. At least 17 die. The destroyer USS Ellet scuttles the transport later, but the burning hulk acts as a torch all day and all night. Only five of 23 Bettys stagger back to Rabaul. Two Zeros also fail to return. American air losses are nil.

Guadalcanal , South West Pacific : In the morning, seven Japanese cruisers and one Japanese destroyer under Admiral Gunichi Mikawa departed Kavieng, New Ireland and Rabaul, New Britain, sailing south without being detected; after sundown, the force caught the Allied warships by surprise off Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands; the Battle of Savo Island would result in the sinking of three US cruisers, one Australian cruiser, and one US destroyer , one of worst defeats in US Navy history.

Unprepared for the Allied landing operation at Guadalcanal, the initial Japanese response included airstrikes and an attempted reinforcement. Admiral Mikawa, commander of the newly formed Japanese Eighth Fleet headquartered at Rabaul, loaded 519 naval troops on two transports and sent them towards Guadalcanal on August 7. When the Japanese learned that Allied forces at Guadalcanal were stronger than originally reported, the transports were recalled.

Mikawa also assembled all the available warships in the area to attack the Allied forces at Guadalcanal. At Rabaul were the heavy cruiser Chōkai (Mikawa’s flagship), the light cruisers Tenryū and Yūbari and the destroyer Yūnagi. En route from Kavieng were four heavy cruisers of Cruiser Division 6 under Rear Admiral Aritomo Goto: Aoba, Furutaka, Kako, and Kinugasa.

The Japanese Navy had trained extensively in night-fighting tactics before the war, a fact of which the Allies were unaware. Mikawa hoped to engage the Allied naval forces off Guadalcanal and Tulagi on the night of August 8 and 9, when he could employ his night-battle expertise while avoiding attacks from Allied aircraft, which could not operate effectively at night. Mikawa’s warships rendezvoused at sea near Cape St. George in the evening of August 7 and then headed east-southeast.

The Japanese fleet was in fact sighted in St George Channel, where their column almost ran into American submarine USS S-38, lying in ambush. She was too close to fire torpedoes, but her captain, Lt Commander H.G. Munson, radioed: “Two destroyers and three larger ships of unknown type heading one four zero true at high speed eight miles west of Cape St George”: Once at Bougainville, Mikawa spread his ships out over a wide area to mask the composition of his force and launched four floatplanes from his cruisers to scout for Allied ships in the southern Solomons. At 10:20 and 11:10, his ships were spotted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Hudson recon aircraft based at Milne Bay in New Guinea. The first Hudson misidentified them as “three cruisers, three destroyers, and two seaplane tenders”. Some accounts state that the first Hudson’s crew identified the enemy ships correctly, but the composition of enemy forces was changed from the aircraft crews’ report by intelligence officers in Milne Bay.

The Hudson’s crew tried to report the sighting to the Allied radio station at Fall River, New Guinea. Receiving no acknowledgment, they returned to Milne Bay at 12:42 to ensure that the report was received as soon as possible. The second Hudson also failed to report its sighting by radio, but completed its patrol and landed at Milne Bay at 15:00. It reported sighting “two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and one unknown type”. For unknown reasons, these reports were not relayed to the Allied fleet off Guadalcanal until 18:45 and 21:30, respectively, on August 8.

Mikawa’s floatplanes returned around 12:00 and reported two groups of Allied ships, one off Guadalcanal and the other off Tulagi. By 13:00, he reassembled his warships and headed south through Bougainville Strait at 24 knots. At 13:45, the cruiser force was near Choiseul south-east of Bougainville. At that time, several surviving Japanese aircraft from the noon torpedo raid on the Allied ships off the coast of Guadalcanal flew over the cruisers on the way back to Rabaul and gave them waves of encouragement. Mikawa entered New Georgia Sound (later dubbed as “the Slot”) by 16:00 and began his run towards Guadalcanal. He communicated the following battle plan to his warships: “On the rush-in we will go from (south) of Savo Island and torpedo the enemy main force in front of Guadalcanal anchorage; after which we will turn toward the Tulagi forward area to shell and torpedo the enemy. We will then withdraw north of Savo Island.”

Mikawa heads on south. Aoba’s plane returns and reports two split Allied groups, north and south of Savo Island. At 16:42, Mikawa signals his battle plan. His force will penetrate the passage south of Savo in single line, torpedo the enemy units off Guadalcanal, sweep toward Tulagi to attack with gunfire and torpedoes, and withdraw by the passage north of Savo. Japanese task force will attack at 1:30 a.m. Banzai. At 6:30, all ships jettison topside flammables. 12 minutes later, Mikawa blinkers his ships, “In the finest tradition of the Imperial Navy we shall engage the enemy in night battle. Every man is expected to do his utmost.”

Mikawa’s run down the Slot was not detected by Allied forces. Admiral Kelly Turner commander of US Task Force and Landing Operations off Guadalcanal had requested that U.S. Admiral John S. McCain Sr., commander of Allied air forces for the South Pacific area, conduct extra reconnaissance missions over the Slot in the afternoon of August 8. But, for unexplained reasons, McCain did not order the missions, nor did he tell Turner that they were not carried out. Thus, Turner mistakenly believed that the Slot was under Allied observation throughout the day. However, McCain cannot totally bear fault, as his patrol craft were few in number, and operated over a vast area at the extreme limit of their endurance. Turner had fifteen scouting planes of the cruiser force, which were never used that afternoon and remained on the decks of their cruisers, filled with gasoline and serving as an explosive hazard to the cruisers.

To protect the unloading transports during the night, Australian admiral John Crutchley , commander of cruisers and other surface warships in Task Force , divided the Allied warship forces into three groups. A “southern” group, consisting of the Australian cruisers HMAS Australia and HMAS Canberra, cruiser USS Chicago, and destroyers USS Patterson and USS Bagley, patrolled between Lunga Point and Savo Island to block the entrance between Savo Island and Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal. A “northern” group, consisting of the cruisers USS Vincennes, USS Astoria and USS Quincy, and destroyers USS Helm and USS Wilson, conducted a box-shaped patrol between the Tulagi anchorage and Savo Island to defend the passage between Savo and Florida Islands. An “eastern” group consisting of the cruisers USS San Juan and HMAS Hobart and two U.S. destroyers guarded the eastern entrances to the sound between Florida and Guadalcanal Islands. Crutchley placed two radar-equipped U.S. destroyers to the west of Savo Island to provide early warning for any approaching Japanese ships. The destroyer USS Ralph Talbot patrolled the northern passage and the destroyer USS Blue patrolled the southern passage, with a gap of 7.5 - 12 miles between their uncoordinated patrol patterns. At this time, the Allies were unaware of all of the limitations of their primitive ship-borne radars, such as the effectiveness of the radar could be greatly degraded by the presence of nearby landmasses. USS Chicago’s Captain Bode ordered his ship’s radar to be used only intermittently due to the concern it would reveal his position, a decision that conformed with general navy radar usage guidelines, but which may have been incorrect in this specific circumstance. He allowed a single sweep every half hour with the fire control radar, but the timing of the last pre-engagement sweep was too early to detect the approaching Japanese cruisers. Wary of the potential threat from Japanese submarines to the transport ships, Crutchley placed his remaining seven destroyers as close-in protection around the two transport anchorages.

The crews of the Allied ships were fatigued after two days of constant alert and action in supporting the landings. Also, the weather was extremely hot and humid, inducing further fatigue and, inviting weary sailors to slackness. In response, most of Crutchley’s warships went to Condition II the night of August 8, which meant that half the crews were on duty while the other half rested, either in their bunks or near their battle stations.

In the evening, Admiral Turner called a conference on his command ship off Guadalcanal with Admiral Crutchley and Marine division commander Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift to discuss the departure of Admiral Fletcher’s carriers (Fletcher was anxious to pull his cariers from shalllow shore of Solomons which was way close to Japanese air and naval bases in New Britain and his carriers were low on fuel on 8th August. As a result of the loss of carrier-based air cover, Turner decided to withdraw his ships from Guadalcanal, even though less than half of the supplies and heavy equipment needed by the troops ashore had been unloaded. Turner planned, however, to unload as many supplies as possible on Guadalcanal and Tulagi throughout the night of 8 August and then depart with his ships early on 9 August) and the resulting withdrawal schedule for the transport ships. At 20:55, Crutchley left the southern group in light cruiser HMAS Australia to attend the conference, leaving Captain Howard Bode of USS Chicago in charge of the southern group. Crutchley did not inform the commanders of the other cruiser groups of his absence, contributing further to the dissolution of command arrangements. Bode, awakened from sleep in his cabin, decided not to place his ship in the lead of the southern group of ships, the customary place for the senior ship and went back to sleep. At the conference, Turner, Crutchley, and Vandegrift discussed the reports of the “seaplane tender” force reported by the Australian Hudson crew earlier that day. They decided it would not be a threat that night, because seaplane tenders did not normally engage in a surface action. Vandegrift said that he would need to inspect the transport unloading situation at Tulagi before recommending a withdrawal time for the transport ships, and he departed at midnight to conduct the inspection. Crutchley elected not to return with HMAS Australia to the southern force but instead stationed his ship just outside the Guadalcanal transport anchorage, without informing the other Allied ship commanders of his intentions or location.

As Mikawa’s force neared the Guadalcanal area, the Japanese ships launched three floatplanes for one final reconnaissance of the Allied ships, and to provide illumination by dropping flares during the upcoming battle. Although several of the Allied ships heard and/or observed one or more of these floatplanes, starting at 23:45 on August 8, none of them interpreted the presence of unknown aircraft in the area as an actionable threat, and no one reported the sightings to Crutchley or Turner.

Mikawa’s force approached in a single 3-kilometer (1.9 mi) column led by Chōkai, with Aoba, Kako, Kinugasa, Furutaka, Tenryū, Yūbari, and Yūnagi following. Sometime between 00:44 and 00:54 on August 9, lookouts in Mikawa’s ships spotted Blue about 9 kilometers (5.6 mi) ahead of the Japanese column.

South West Pacific : American submarine USS S-38 torpedoed and sank Japanese troop transport Meiyo Maru (which was bringing reinforcements but turned back after scale of US landings bwcame clear to Japanese) 14 miles west of Cape Saint George, New Ireland at 2000 hours; 353 Japanese naval troops aboard were killed.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Silversides torpedoed and sank Japanese freighter Nikkei Maru off southern Honshu island, Japan.

American submarine USS Narhwal torpedoed and sank Japanese cargo ship Bifuku Maru off Kuril Islands


09 August 1942

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-155 torpedoed and sank British tanker San Emiliano 450 miles east of Trinidad at 0324 hours; 40 were killed, 8 survived.

Atlantic Ocean : At 0649 hours, German submarine U-176 torpedoed and sank the already-abandoned British merchant ship Radchurch of Allied convoy SC-94 485 hours southeast of the southern tip of Greenland.

German submarine U-752 torpedoed and sank Dutch cargo ship Mendanau 400 miles southwest of Freetown, British West Africa at 2113 hours; 69 were killed, 16 survived. At 2237 hours, 750 miles west of Free town, German submarine U-130 torpedoed and sank Norwegian tanker Malmanger; 2 were killed, 32 survived but 2 were taken prisoner.

South Atlantic : Also on this day, German armed merchant cruiser Stier intercepted attacked British freighter Dalhousie with gunfire off Brazil ; all 37 aboard were captured before Stier scuttled Dalhousie with torpedoes

Gibraltar : Operation Pedestal started. Force R (two Royal Navy refueling ships and their escorts) left Gibraltar on 9 August, ready to meet the convoy at a rendezvous south of Majorca; Force F (combined Pedestal convoy merchant ships and their escorts) along with Royal Navy carriers (escorteed by Royal Navy battleships HMS Nelson, HMS Rodney, HMS Victorious, HMS Argus, HMS Sirius and escort destroyers) sailed from Scapa to rendezvous with carrier HMS Eagle and light cruiser HMS Charybdis from Gibraltar and carrirer HMS Indomitable and destroyer HMS Phoebe, from Freetown along with carrier HMS Furious that was tasked to deliver Spitfire fighters to Malta (Operation Bellows) , consisting of 59 warships and 14 merchant ships (South Africa’s Vice Adm. Neville Syfret will lead this force from the battleship HMS Nelson ) made an uneventful passage of the Straits in dense fog during the night of 9/10 August. Admiral Neville Syfret was a tough fighting sailor. He’d been a young gunnery officer on a cruiser in World War I, roaming the vicious North Sea. After the war he had been fleet gunnery officer for the Mediterranean Fleet and later had commanded the Naval Gunnery School at Devonport. Admiral Cunningham said Syfret was “a tower of strength, a man of great ability and of quick and sound decision with a brilliant war record. His great knowledge and charm of manner made him a delightful comrade.”Churchill had made Syfret an admiral when Syfret was secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and Churchill was that lord. He fit the prime minister’s mold, with the right stuff in his résumé for a mission like Operation Pedestal. He knew a lot about running to Malta, having commanded the cruiser Edinburgh on two previous convoys. He had taken six out of six freighters to Malta with Operation Substance; and, working with Admiral Burrough on Operation Halberd, had charted a daring course along the island of Pantelleria to deliver eight of nine.Syfret was fresh from victory in Operation Ironclad, the invasion of Madagascar, noew it was up to him to resupply Malta in this desperate hour.

Fishing boats and one merchant vessel were passed at close quarters of Pedestal Convoy and escorts but due to the moonless night and the fog, Admiral Neville Syfret commanding Pedestal convoty escorts from battleship HMS Nelson , thought it improbable that the force had been sighted from the shore. Actually Abwehr agents near Gibraltar and Ceuta had sighted the convoy and the British decrypted their Enigma coded radio messages, learning how well-informed the Axis were and of their plans to defeat the convoy.

This mass of guns and armor is the muscle to protect 14 merchant ships, the fastest that can be found, loaded with 85,000 tons of cargo, mostly flour. 11 are British, two American (Santa Elisa and Almeria Lykes), and the last an American ship with a British crew, Texaco’s large, fast tanker, SS Ohio, one of the largest in the world. She has been handed over to Britain’s Eagle Oil Shipping Co. and their Capt. Dudley Mason. Ohio has been specially prepared for this mission, her engines placed on rubber housings, the ship given extra 3-inch and 5-inch AA guns. She is loaded with 13.500 tons of kerosene and diesel fuels, enough to keep Malta’s stoves and Spitfires working until December. If Ohio does not reach Malta, the island will have to surrender. Ohio may carry the balance of the war in her holds.

The Germans and Italians planned separately and although they co-operated to an extent, Luftwaffe Fliegerkorps II in Sicily co-ordinating plans with the local Regia Aeronautica commanders but conducting its attacks separately. Supermarina, the Italian Navy headquarters, considered four contingencies, that the Allies would use their naval strength to protect a convoy, the main Allied battle fleet would sortie to provoke a fleet action, to use a powerful covering force for a convoy to force a passage to the north of Pantelleria, instead of turning west at the entrance to Skerki Bank or to use aircraft-carriers for attacks on Sardinian airfields, to ease the passage of a convoy. The Regia Aeronautica had 328 aircraft (90 torpedo-bombers, 62 bombers, 25 dive-bombers and 151 fighters) and the Luftwaffe 456 aircraft (328 dive-bombers, 32 medium bombers and 96 fighters (most of the Luftwaffe torpedo-bombers had been sent to Norway in June and were too late for the operation). About 20 Junkers Ju 88 bombers from Fliegerkorps 10 on Crete arrived at Sicily on 11 August, for operations the next morning and another eight Ju 88 bomber aircraft arrived from Crete the same day, after completing convoy escort operations in the Aegean.

The Regia Marina had four battleships, three heavy and ten light cruisers, 21 destroyers, 28 torpedo boats and 64 submarines but most of the capital ships were non-operational for lack of fuel and air cover. The navy had received only 12,000 long tons (12,000 t) of fuel in June, equivalent to 20 percent of fuel consumption by convoys and the Italian battleships had to refuel the smaller vessels. Because of the fuel-shortage, Mussolini suggested to Hitler that a Malta convoy should be opposed only by submarines and land-based aircraft. Supermarina managed to prepare the 3rd Cruiser Division with the eight-inch cruisers Gorizia, Bolzano and Trieste and seven destroyers, along with the 7th Cruiser Division with the six-inch cruisers Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli and Muzio Attendolo and five destroyers plus 18 submarines, 19 torpedo boats (six MS and 13 MAS); the Germans had three submarines and four fast torpedoboats. The Axis air forces lacked the fighters to escort surface ships, bombers and torpedo bombers and Mussolini preferred to use the fighters as bomber escorts and as cover for surface forces. Kesselring rejected the Italian request to provide air cover for the Italian fleet, because the Luftwaffe did not have enough fighters.

Kesselring doubted that the Italian heavy cruisers could succeed even with air cover and thought that the Italians used the lack of fuel as a pretext. Admiral Eberhard Weichold, the German naval attaché in Rome, wanted the Luftwaffe to provide air cover for Italian ships. Marshal Ugo Cavallero, Chief of the General Staff (Capo di Stato Maggiore Generale), also wanted Italian surface forces to participate in the operation but Supermarina did not want its big ships to operate without air cover. Axis tactics were similar to those used against Operation Harpoon in June; a joint special air reconnaissance of the western Mediterranean to be flown by Axis aircraft on 11 and 12 August, Axis aircraft based in Sicily and Sardinia, Italian submarines and German submarines and Axis torpedo boats and minefields being used as successive barriers. The four barriers were to cause the convoy to disperse and be vulnerable to a force of cruisers and destroyers. Twenty-two torpedo-bombers, about 125 dive-bombers all with fighter escorts and forty medium bombers were to be used in a synchronised attack. Priority was given to the destruction of aircraft carriers, to prevent them from intervening when Italian surface forces closed in on the remnants of the convoy. By 10 August 278 Luftwaffe aircraft were on Sicily along with 300 aircraft of the Regia Aeronautica and another 150 Italian aircraft and 50 Luftwaffe aircraft assembled on Sardinia.

The Axis navies had 19 submarines in the western Mediterranean and nine submarines were to be stationed north of Algeria between longitudes 01° 40’ E and 02° 40’ E. Ten submarines were to wait between Fratelli Rocks and the northern entrance to the Skerki Bank, some arrayed north-west of Cap Bon, to co-operate with aircraft. An Italian submarine was to patrol west of Malta, one off Navarino (Pylos) in Greece and three more about 87 nmi (100 mi) west-south-west of Crete. On the night of 12/13 August, thirteen MAS, six MS torpedo boats and four S-boats were to lie in wait south of Marettimo (an Aegadian Island) and off Cap Bon, then later to wait off Pantelleria. The 3rd Cruiser Division and the 7th Cruiser Division would be about 100 nmi (190 km; 120 mi) north of Pantelleria during the afternoon of 12 August and then sail through the night on an interception course south of Pantelleria, to attack the remains of the convoy and its close escort just before dawn. It was assumed that Axis aircraft could provide fighter cover against the larger number of British aircraft from Malta. Should an Allied convoy sail from Egypt, it would be attacked by the 8th Cruiser Division based at Navarino (Pylos) in Greece but the division was ordered into the Ionian Sea on 12 August, to support the 3rd Cruiser Division.

El Alamein , Egypt : At Alamein, British intelligence officer Peter Vaux was trying to predict for the next German attack. He knew that Rommel was receiving a lot of new tanks. Good ones too, including a couple of dozen of the latest Panzer IV with the new long-barrelled 75mm gun. Reinforcements were on their way to Eighth Army as well, but whereas Axis supply ships only had to cross the Mediterranean, British ones still had to circumnavigate Africa. Not much would arrive until September. It was likely that Rommel would strike while he held a temporary advantage.Vaux’s Intelligence Summary No. 76 concluded that

“All these factors, combined with his much improved situation in Russia, must soon persuade the enemy to resume the offensive which was so nearly successful.”

But where would the attack come? Rommel had tried to break through at el Alamein itself and he had tried the Ruweisat ridge. Vaux reasoned that this time he would break out between his two rocky strongpoints at Qarat el Abd and Jebel Kalakh. After this he might go straight down the barrel track to Cairo, but that was a risky waterless route, or else he might cut round to the coast. ‘It would be typically German’, Vaux decided, ‘to attempt again the encircling tactics which proved so successful at Gazala.’

“If any move of this nature is contemplated it will almost certainly be preceded by the move of 90th Light Division (always the key to German intentions in the southern sector); furthermore a breakthrough north of Mount Himeimat will first require a close recce (unlike the position at Hacheim) so that from the enemy’s moves during the next week or two we should obtain some indications of his intentions.”

In May, Vaux had predicted an almost identical southern overlap, and he had not been believed. This time the army command was in complete agreement. Vaux was instructed to watch German patrol activity closely and, in particular, to alert them the moment he had any clue that German 90 Light Division might be moving south.

Cairo : General Claude Auchinleck rejected newly formed Iraq-Persian Command in a soldierly pride because he considered it a demotion. Imperial Chief of Staff Alan Brooke’s version is rather different. Auchinleck, he noted at the time, was ‘in a highly stormy and rather unpleasant mood’ when he arrived in Cairo on 10 August wanting to know why he had been sacked. Unsurprisingly, Brooke’s explanation that it was ‘mainly lack of confidence in him’ was not well received by Auk.

Later that afternoon, following a long conversation with Churchill, at which they discussed the recently created Tenth Army Command in Iraq, Auchinleck was still apparently ‘in an unpleasant mood’. When he finally turned down the offer, Brooke noted coldly that he made an error of judgement because the Persia/Iraq front was ‘the one place where he might restore his reputation’. Their conversation took place on the embassy lawn in Cairo and the two men were observed by Churchill’s physician, Charles Moran, who was reading a book in the shade of a tree in another part of the garden. That evening he wrote in his diary,

“I could not hear what the Imperial Chief of Staff Brooke was saying, nor could I see the expression on Auchinleck’s face, but I did not need any help to follow what was happening. Auchinleck sat with his forearms resting on his thighs, his hands hanging down between his knees, his head drooping forward like a flower on a broken stalk … the whole attitude expressed grief: the man was completely undone. After a time they got up and went into the house. I tried to get on with my book, but I was somehow made miserable by what I had seen.”

Brooke was unmoved. Accusing Auchinleck of ‘behaving like an offended film star’, he wrote later that it would have been ‘a more “soldierly” act to accept what he was offered in war’. Auchinleck’s refusal to accept demotion to the Tenth Army destroyed any latent sympathy that Churchill may have harboured on account of the ‘blow’ he had inflicted on his commander-in-chief: ‘It is for him to settle whether he wishes to render further service to the Crown,’ he commented dismissively when he received the news.
Auchinleck decided to return India his spiritual home to assume Commander in Chief of Indian Army at Delhi.

General Harold Alexander arrived in Cairo to take command of Mediterranean and Middle East Command

Caucasian Front , Russia : Troops of the German 17th Army captured Krasnodar on the Kuban River in southern Russia. Nearby, troops of the First Panzer Army reached the Maikop oil fields, though most of the oil derricks and the fuel stores were burned by retreating Russians before capture. First Panzer Army had advanced more than 480 kilometres (300 mi) in fewer than two weeks. The western oil fields near Maikop were seized in from 8–9 August, but the oil fields had been sufficiently destroyed by the Red Army to take about a year to be repaired.

Meanwhile, Soviet cruiser Krasny Krym and destroyer Nezamozhnik evacuated troops from Novorossiysk, Russia.

Kalach , Don River , Russia : Fourth Panzer Army reached the eastern shore of the Don River bend west of Stalingrad, Russia, linking with German Sixth Army at Kalach , enveloping Soviet 62nd Army and 64th Army on the western shore of Don. Their spearheads made contact southwest of Kalach by late afternoon, trapping the main body (eight rifle divisions and five artillery regiments) of the Soviet 62nd Army in an encirclement. Joined by 51st German Corps the Germans began systematically destroying the surrounded Soviet forces.

Stalingrad , Volga River : General Yeremenko , Stalingrad Front commander received an urgent query from Vasilevskii, Stalin’s own questions put across the telegraph line:

Vasilevskii [9 August]Comrade Stalin has instructed me to discuss and obtain your opinion on these questions:
First: Comrade Stalin thinks it useful and timely to unite problems concerning the defence of Stalingrad in one set of hands, for which reason the Stalingrad Front is subordinated to you, leaving you for the moment as commander of South-Eastern Front. Your deputy at South-Eastern Front nominated as Lieutenant-General Golikov. Major-General Moskalenko nominated as commander 1st Guards Army in place of comrade Golikov.
Second: Comrade Stalin also considers it important to nominate as commander of Stalingrad town garrison comrade Sarayev of the NKVD, to whom NKVD division in Stalingrad will be subordinated. What are your comments on these questions?
Yeremenko: I am replying. There is no being cleverer than comrade Stalin and I consider this particularly correct and timely.
Vasilevskii: What will be your observations on the candidatures of Golikov, Moskalenko and Sarayev?Yeremenko: I consider all these nominations will pass. Excellent candidates.

Gordov, in the formal Stavka directive, became deputy commander of the Stalingrad Front, and the new command set-up became effective from 9 August. Stalin, however, was taking no chances and now ordered General Zhukov as well as Colonel-General Vasilevskii to fly to Stalingrad to report on the situation now that German units were moving up to the external defence line of Stalingrad itself, ‘Line O’, behind which lay ‘Line K’ and further back ‘Line S’, with ‘Line G’ within the city itself.

Germany : 192 British bombers (91 Wellington, 42 Lancaster, 40 Stirling, and 19 Halifax) from RAF Bomber Command attacked Osnabrück, Germany, destroying 206 houses, killing 62, and wounding 107; six bombers were lost on this mission.

Belarussia : Armed resistance was met by the Germans during the liquidation of the Mir ghetto in western Byelorussia.

Bombay , India : Mahatma Gandhi was arrested in Bombay, India by British forces for launching the Quit India Movement.

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : Japanese troops started counter attack to recapture Kokoda village and airfield in Australian Papua from Australian troops.
Colonel Tsukamoto Japanese South Seas Detachmrent , ordered a counter-offensive in driving rain. After reconnaissance of the rubber plantation, troops with mud-smeared faces and foliage tied to their clothing for camouflage tried to dislodge the new occupants of Kokoda but were driven back from well-set positions. With torrential rain adding to their difficulties the Japanese made a series of attacks throughout the day, probing the defences to ascertain the enemy’s positions.

Private Hirano’s platoon had advanced to within seventy metres of the Australians in the dusk attack but were unable to charge from there, having got their formation wrong in the downpour and the darkness. Later in the night, after moving closer on hands and knees in the mud and slush, they got to the enemy guard under the rubber trees. One Australian was killed by bayonet before machine-gun fire forced the attackers back. The Japanese platoon scattered and couldn’t reassemble in the dark, preventing a repeat charge. Hirano went to the rear with two soldiers in an attempt to assemble his men, but took a wrong turn in the dark and found himself within range of an enemy soldier throwing hand grenades. He speedily retreated, ending a night of failure. As the platoon rested, struggling to ignore cold and hunger, Hirano recorded in his diary his ‘tears of bitterness’ for the men they had lost.

Sergeant Imanishi had been participating in the attack on Deniki when his platoon too was ordered back to help regain Kokoda. In China he and his comrades had experienced little counter-attack—hence Tsukamoto’s light defence of Kokoda and its airstrip—but it was becoming clear that here they were dealing with a different enemy. Imanishi began to worry about more rearguard sorties by the enemy and found he was looking anxiously behind himself as well as at the known Australian positions in front. The campaign, despite its progress, was growing more dangerous and uncertain. And having seen the slouch hat for the first time, Imanishi wondered what it said about the enemy he was about to do battle with. He recalls: ‘Sometimes I saw Australian soldiers wearing a hat with a wide brim. I wondered if they could really fight the war with a hat like that.’

Rabaul , New Britain : Six US B-17 Flying Fortress bombers attacked Rabaul, New Britain, causing little damage; 2 bombers were lost on this mission.

Espiritu Santo , South West Pacific : US Navy Admiral Richmond Turner put the HQ 2nd Marines ashore on Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. Unfortunately the rest of the regiment was on Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. To make matters worse the Marines then forgot all about them until the 29 Oct 1942 when a boat was sent to collect them.


9 August 1942

Naval Battle of Savo Island : Off Guadalcanal, the night is oppressively hot, broken by periodic rain squalls, as Japan’s Vice Adm. Gunichi Mikawa’s Striking Force plows through the sea, undetected.

Five Allied cruisers, four American, one Australian, steam back and forth in two groups, three in the Northern, two in the Southern, patrolling the waters. In the Southern Group, light cruiser HMAS Canberra changes watch at 11:45 p.m. Sublt. Mackenzie Gregory takes the conn. Surgeon Lt. Kenneth Morris lies on a mess table to take a nap. Stoker Second George Faulkner is in his final minutes of duty in the after engine room. Able Seaman Stephen St. George, in Y turret’s handling room, takes off his anti-flash gear to play cards with his pals.

Behind HMAS Canberra is American cruiser USS Chicago, under Capt. Howard Bode, in temporary command of Southern Force. The overall boss, Rear Adm. Victor A. Crutchley, VC from Royal Navy , has gone with his flagship, HMAS Australia, to confer with the top Allied brass. Bode is fast asleep.

The Northern Force consists of American cruisers USS Vincennes, USS Quincy, and USS Astoria. Capt. Fred Riefkohl of USS Vincennes commands this force. He does not know Crutchley has left. Crutchley hasn’t told Riefkohl. On Quincy, QM2 Thomas Morris wakes up Lt. Cdr. Edmund Billings, who is to take the watch. Billings, a former enlisted man, asks if there is any action on the bridge. None. Billings pulls on his uniform and pulls out his pipe.

The US ships enjoy many technical advantages…search radar, rapid-fire guns, and Talk Between Ships radio. But they are over-dependent on their technology. Japanese lookouts can outrange American radar with their Zeiss binoculars. American warships are full of combustibles, ranging from lifeboats to wardroom pianos. And the Japanese are no technical slouches, either, with superb Long Lance torpedoes that can cut the waves at 49 knots.

At 00:40 a.m., Mikawa’s flagship, Chokai, spotted Savo Island. A lookout also spotted a ship approaching 30 degrees to starboard. It is the patrolling American destroyer USS Blue. Mikawa calmly cut speed to 22 knots to reduce the phosphorescent wakes of his five heavy and two light cruisers. Incredibly, USS Blue made a 180-degree turn to starboard, and plods slowly away, not having spotted the Japanese.

Moments later, Chokai’s lookouts spot another blob on the horizon, and the formation glides by an unsuspecting inter-island schooner, and behind that, the equally sleepy American destroyer USS Ralph Talbot. Neither spotted the Japanese.

Mikawa then swung his ships to hide in a fold of low clouds, then cranks up to 30 knots. At 1:33, he blinkered “All ships attack.” At 1:36, Chokai’s lookouts spot “three cruisrs” to starboard. There are actually two. Mikawa altered to course 120, orers “independent firing,” and four Long Lances hit the water at 1:38, streaking off towards Canberra. At 1:43, Chokai’s 8-inch guns opened up on the Australian cruiser.

At that moment, HMAS Canberra’s lookout spots Chokai 4,500 yards off. Just as Gregory looks at his chart-table clock (it reads 1:43) to fix ship’s position, the first of 24 hits HMAS Canberra will suffer, hit home. Shell splinters scythed down the crew.

Shells exploded as HMAS Canberra’s alarm goes off. Sailors raced to battle stations, including Capt. Frank Getting, who has been selected for Admiral. Able Seaman Henry Hall is talking on the phone when the shells hit home. “Stupid bloody Yanks,” he mutters, What the hell are they up to? Why are they dropping flares?" Then his telephone headset disintegrates and the man next to him dies.

On the bridge, Getting arrives just as shells hit his boiler room, knocking out ship’s power. HMAS Canberra glides to a halt, her guns trained out and useless. Another shell hits the plot room and Getting falls to the deck, mortally wounded. His navigator and gunnery officer lie dead nearby. Cdr. James Walsh, the XO, takes over, while Dr. Downward, the ship’s surgeon, tends Getting. The captain tells Walsh, “Fight her till she goes down, Jim!”

But the ship is a wreck, her boiler rooms destroyed. Down below, Seaman Albert Warne puts on his antiflash gear and struggles through unbearably hot air, to squeeze through a hatch to escape. He has to fight his way up three decks through thickening smoke and flames, that sting his throat and lungs. When he reaches the upper deck, a tropical rainshower begins, cooling him.

Dr. Morris, using a flashlight attached to his headband, bounces off his messtable to tend the wounded. Gregory orders his men to start tossing ammunition into the sea before it catches fire. Stoker George Yates picks himself up and stares at an arm lying on the deck. “Look! Someone’s arm has been shot off!”

Ship’s Butcher John Quigley, bringing his medical kit, shouts, “Lie down and be quiet! It’s yours!”

Walsh orders his men to slip all petrol tanks, dump remaining torpedoes, flood magazines, and all hands on deck. Because HMAS Canberra’s radios are wrecked, and she lacks TBS, she cannot put out a warning.

Next victim is USS Chicago, which turns hard to starboard when her lookouts see torpedoes from the Japanese heavy cruiser Kako. The fish hit USS Chicago’s starboard bow, but one fails to explode. The one that does sends a column of water as high as the foretop and damages the main battery director. BMC Steve Balint falls across his gun as a splinter rips open his stomach. Lt. Cdr. Cecil C. Adell, hit in the neck, crawls aft to dentist Lt. Cdr. Benjamin Osterting. He sews Adell together without anesthetic. USS Chicago keeps moving west, not spotting any enemy ships. Incredibly, Bode does not sent a report of his encounter.

Mikawa’s ships race past the wrecks in the gloom, and American destroyer USS Patterson sounds the tocsin at last, radioing “Warning! Warning! Strange ships entering harbor!” She then gets in a gun duel with the enemy light cruisers, who knock out her two aft 5-inch guns.

Now Mikawa’s ships are split into two formations, four heavy cruisers to the east, two light and one heavy to the west. Between them lie the three American ships of the Northern Force. None are awake. At 1:44, watches on all three ships note underwater explosions from the south. A minute later, they see gunfire. On American cruiser USS Vincennes, Riefkohl is summoned to the bridge. He sees the gunfire but decides it is a light unit in battle with the Southern Group. He increases speed to 15 knots, but decides to let the situation develop.

At 1:48, Japanese light cruiser Chokai launches a spread of four torpedoes at USS Vincennes from 12,000 yards. At 1:50, the Japanese pop their searchlights on the three cruisers, fully illuminating them. Riefkohl thinks the Southern Group is there, and asks over the radio for the lights to be extinguished, as there might be enemy vessels around.

The Japanese answer the radio message with a fusillade of shells and torpedoes. 8-inchers destroy the flammable aircraft hangar, aviation fuel, the movie booth, the signal flagbags, and 5-inch ammunition aboard USS Vincennes. As Riefkohl orders a starboard turn, torpedoes explode in the No. 4 fireroom, knocking it out. “Both engine rooms are black and dead,” the bridge is told.

USS Vincennes still shows fight. An 8-inch shell hits Japanese heavy cruiser Kinugasa’s steering gear, and the cruiser staggers behind her sisters. And SMC George Moore, seeing the flag shot away, hoists another one, braving shot and shell to keep Old Glory flying. Lt. Cdr. R.L. Adams, the gunnery officer, stays at his post, even though an unexploded Japanese shell lies at his feet.

USS Vincennes takes a staggering 85 direct hits. Captain Riefkohl orders his men to prepare to abandon ship. Cdr. Loker locks the confidential codes in the ship’s disbursing safe, then throws the signal book overboard. DK1 Willess jettisons the coding gear and carries off the disbursing records. Sailors calmly man liferafts and don life vests.

The exhausted cruiser rolls over on her port side, her deck guns awash, shells exploding in ready boxes. “All right,” Riefkohl says, “It’s all over. Let’s go.” With 342 aboard, USS Vincennes goes down at 2:58 a.m.

Next in line is USS Quincy, which goes to GQ just as Capt. Samuel N. Moore reaches the bridge. “Fire at the ships with the searchlights on,” he orders. But Quincy’s guns aren’t ready. “Fire the main battery!” Moore shouts, but the Japanese hit first, landing the first shell on the fantail at 1:53. The shell shears off the bases of 5-inch cartridges in the fuse pots and kills all hands on the left side of the gun. At 1:55 another shell hits a float plane in the well deck that sprays flaming gasoline. That ignites the other four seaplanes.

At 2 a.m., Quincy finds herself amid Japanese fire. Turret 3 is jammed in train. The Japanese rake her from both sides, wrecking the steering, and shattering the bridge, killing the XO, navigator, and damage control officer. Moore, mortally wounded, crawls to a phone and gasps over the 1MC: “We’re going down between them – give them hell!”

Lt. Cdr. Billings staggers out of the bridge, half his face shot away, telling his men, “Everything will be okay, the ships will go down fighting.” Then he crumples to the deck.

QM2 Morris finds himself amid a wreck at Battle 2, his left hip shattered by a shell. He pulls himself together, and crawls across dying Sailors to a gunshield. He pulls himself up with a rope over the shield, then hears someone say, “Drop.” He does, and lands softly on the roof of Turret 3. BMC George Strobel helps tend Morris’s wounds, and carries Morris into the water, hauling him to a floater net.

The Japanese are amazed as USS Quincy sprints between Japanese ships, Turrets 1 and 2 blazing. One of her shells hits Chokai’s chartroom, destroying it and barely missing Mikawa. The Japanese simply return fire. Quincy’s Turret 2 explodes from a direct hit, incinerating the signal flagbags on the bridge. Japanese shells explode AA batteries and start more fires. Lt. Roland Rieve of Radar 1 finds his station shattered into small fires and debris.

Lt. Cdr. John Andrew reaches the bridge, hoping for orders. He finds it “a shambles of dead bodies with only three or four people still standing.” One of them is the signalman at the wheel, trying to beach the ship. Andrew sees Moore lying near the wheel. “At that instant the Captain straightened up and fell back, apparently dead, without having uttered any sound other than a moan.”

Command falls on Lt. Cdr. Harry Heneberger, senior surviving officer. He orders abandon ship, and the crew put the few remaining life rafts in the water. Marine Col. Warren B. Baker, on board as a spotter for artillery, remembers “a tremendous explosion ripped through USS Quincy as she started down, and capsizing to port, she slipped beneath the sea bow first, her stern reared high in the air with the propellers still churning.” She goes down at 2:38 a.m., taking 389 bluejackets with her.

Last to wake is the cruiser USS Astoria, which carried the body of Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Saito from America to Japan as a goodwill gesture in 1939. "The people of Japan, where cherries bloom; In future far away; Will never forget their gratitude to the Astoria," a Japanese poet wrote at the time.

When the Japanese open fire, USS Astoria gunnery officer Lt. Cdr. William H. Truesdell trains out his guns, but supervisor of the watch Lt. Cdr. James R. Topper only says, “Stand by to sound General Quarters.” QM3 R.A. Radke pulls the alarm rattlers anyway. Truesdell opens fire. At that moment, Capt. William Greenman reaches the bridge, and demands, “Who gave the order to commence firing?”

Topper says he hasn’t. Greenman says calmly, “Topper, I think we are firing on our own ships. Let’s not get excited and act too hasty. Cease firing!” Topper agrees. He orders cease fire, and turns on the ship’s navigation lights.

But Truesdell shouts back, “For God’s sake give the word to commence firing!”

Greenman sees shells splash by USS Vincennes and USS Quincy. He says, “Whether our ships or not, we would have to stop them. Commence firing.” He has wasted four minutes, a fatal eternity. The Japanese shells so far have been short. The four minutes has given Mikawa time to correct the range.

Mikawa’s shells hit a minute later. Japanese cruiser Chokai guns hit the hangar and boat deck (a familiar story) and cut power to Turret 3 (another familiar story). Another shell rips apart USS Astoria’s bridge (yet another familiar story). The ship’s passageways fill with dense smoke, and shrapnel flies on deck. Greenman turns hard left to avoid USS Quincy. Greenman takes 11 wounds from shrapnel, but his cruiser puts a shell into Chokai’s foremost main battery turret, killing 15 men.

Among the watchers is LCDR Slim Townsend of Enterprise, an aviator on “Wacky Mac.” He sees the flare and bright scatter of explosions lighting the sky, and hears the thunder and rumble of 8-inch shells.

Coastwatcher Don McFarland sees the flashes, too, as does Martin Clemens, who laconically diaries, “May be a naval battle of Guadalcanal.”

On HMAS Australia, Rear Admiral Crutchley is awakened. He staggers up to the bridge, past exhaustion, and sees and hears the explosions westward. He calls his ships by radio, but gets no answer from four cruisers. He orders his surviving destroyers to rendezvous for a torpedo attack. He asks Bode on USS Chicago, “Are you in action?”

“Was, but not now,” Bode radios back cryptically and uselessly.

Meanwhile, Mikawa’s force, dashing past the three American wrecks, runs into the destroyer USS Ralph Talbot. The baffled destroyer’s commander opens fire, but also broadcasts his identity over TBS and flashes his recognition lights. The Japanese light cruiser Yubari answers USS Ralph Talbot with a fusillade of shells that disable the destroyer’s guns and torpedoes, knock out the radar, hit the wardroom, and kill the doctor. The destroyer staggers off into the dark.

At 2:16 a.m., closing a night of American errors, the Japanese make the final and fatal error. Mikawa summons his staff. His ships have taken only trifling damage and have 60 percent of their ammunition, half their torpedoes. But it will take him two hours to reassemble his ships and reach the transport anchorages, leaving one hour until daylight. If Mikawa and his ships are off Guadalcanal by daylight, they will be easy meat for Fletcher’s carriers.

Mikawa does not know Fletcher’s carriers are long gone. He is satisfied with his victory, claiming five cruisers and four destroyers. By leaving the transports alone, the Americans are able to unload more supplies. Had Mikawa pursued the transports, the Marines would have been completely isolated.

Mikawa, however, orders a retirement. The Japanese Striking Force reassembles at 3:40 a.m., shuffles into anti-aircraft formation, and heads home. Damage is minor. Japanese heavy cruiser Chokai has taken six 8-inch hits and four 5-inch hits, including some duds. Her operations room is wiped out, and her Number One turret out of action. Another heavy cruiser Kinugasa has a flooded storeroom and damaged engine room. The other ships have minor dents. Total casualties: 78. Mikawa sets torpedo defense watch and course for Kavieng.

Before he can get out of The Slot, Radio Tokyo announces the sinking of one battleship, five cruisers, four destroyers, and 10 transports. “British and American naval strength has been reduced to a third-rate power.”

Behind Mikawa, chaos reigns in what will now be named Ironbottom Sound. HMAS Canberra remains afloat with a sharp list, fierce fires, and a dying captain. Her crew forms a bucket brigade. Destroyer USS Patterson sends over hoses and a hand pump, which combine with a rainsquall to put out fires. Seaman Henry Hall carries wounded men from the wrecked bridge to the forecastle. One midshipman refuses to move until the captain is aided.

Dr. Morris, still using his flashlight to find the wounded, struggles on. He doesn’t even stop to curse when an overzealous officer yells, “Put out that light,” as if the flashlight’s beams outshine the ship’s raging fires. Lt. Gregory goes to forward control to find his officers’ cap with its gold embroidery. But there is only a large hole where the hat had been.

Able Seaman St. George works with the ship’s chaplains, giving the wounded beer and cigarettes from HMAS Canberra’s NAAFI stores. The rest dump ammo overboard.

At 5 a.m., Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner orders Admiral Crutchley to scuttle HMAS Canberra if she cannot join the retreat at 6:30. With fires preventing access to engineering spaces, this order is a death warrant. Walsh orders “Abandon ship” at 5:15. The able- bodied crew refuse to leave until the wounded are all off. USS Selfridge is given the unpleasant chore. She fires four torpedoes at Canberra. Only one hits, another embarrassment for American torpedoes. She opens up with 263 rounds of 5-inch, and the passing American destroyer USS Ellet mistakes USS Selfridge for a Japanese ship. USS Ellet fires at Selfridge, causing some angry radio exchanges. Finally, USS Ellet launches a torpedo at 8 a.m. that sends the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy to the bottom. With her go 84 dead. Getting, watching this scene, dies later that day.

Meanwhile, on USS Astoria, Greenman collects 400 men on the bow to form bucket brigades. Unknown to them, 150 other survivors are on the stern, trying to keep her afloat. The XO, Cdr. F.E. Shoup believes the ship can be saved. At 4 a.m., rain puts out some fires. At 4:30, USS Bagley arrives to take off the wounded. But the magazines are not flooded, and the fire is moving towards them. Greenman orders off the bow party.

At 5:45 Greenman and a repair party of 325 men return to the wrecked ship, and try to get steam up. No dice. The fires won’t go out. The list gets worse. At 11 a.m., the forward 5-inch magazine explodes. Greenman orders his men off at 12:05. Ten minutes later, USS Astoria rolls over and sinks by the stern. With her go 235 Bluejackets.

The Japanese add to this whole misery by sending in an airstrike from Rabaul in late afternoon that bombed and sank already damaged destroyer USS Jarvis with all hands in Solomon Sea.

Total Allied casualties at Battle of Savo Island: 1,077 killed, 700 wounded.

It is the greatest defeat at sea in the history of the US Navy, four cruisers ( one of them was allied Australian cruiser) lost and in addition a US destroyer sunk , none to the enemy. In addition one US Navy cruiser and two destroyers were damaged. The Japanese suffered moderate damage to one cruiser.

An angry Turner begs Vice Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher to bring back the carriers and attack the retreating Japanese. Fletcher is unmoved, and heads south US carrier task force. Turner risks his ships by staying at Guadalcanal without cover for all of August 9th, unloading vital supplies. But all he can unload is a small portion of the embarked food supplies. The Allied transports and warships all departed the Guadalcanal area by nightfall on August 9.

At dusk, Turner gathers his surviving ships from task force, and sails south for Noumea. The Marines are left on Guadalcanal alone, lacking naval gunfire cover, and desperately short of supply.

Infuriated, Marines use the ample sheet-metal left behind by the Japanese to create the “George Medal” to dishonor the Navy. This sarcastic medal shows a Sailor dropping a hot potato to a Marine, and has the words, “Faciat Georgus” on it, meaning “Let George Do It.”

The US responds swiftly to the debacle. When Adm. Chester Nimitz hears of it, he quietly goes out to the Pearl Harbor gun range and relieves his anger with some target practice. Then he requests the Secretary of the Navy to investigate the debacle. Adm. Arthur Hepburn, one of the Navy’s senior gunnery experts, is sent to the Pacific to probe the fiasco. He interviews Turner, Crutchley, and as many senior officers as possible.

Hepburn reports, "The primary cause of this defeat must be ascribed generally to the complete surprise achieved by the enemy." This six months after Pearl Harbor. Hepburn also blames Fletcher for withdrawing the carriers, Crutchley for leaving the scene, weak communications, misplaced confidence in radar, and an inadequate state of readiness on all ships to meet sudden night attack.

The whole battle, he says, falls in a “twilight zone” between culpable inefficiency and “more or less excusable errors in judgment.” Only Captain Bode from USS Chicago receives censure. And after Bode gives his testimony, he commits suicide in 1943. There is no censure for Vice Admiral Crutchley, but it is his last action. Crutchley was later gazetted with the Legion of Merit (Chief Commander).

Admiral Turner assessed why his forces were so soundly defeated in the battle:

“The Navy was still obsessed with a strong feeling of technical and mental superiority over the enemy. In spite of ample evidence as to enemy capabilities, most of our officers and men despised the enemy and felt themselves sure victors in all encounters under any circumstances. The net result of all this was a fatal lethargy of mind which induced a confidence without readiness, and a routine acceptance of outworn peacetime standards of conduct. I believe that this psychological factor, as a cause of our defeat, was even more important than the element of surprise”.

Historian Richard B. Frank adds that “This lethargy of mind would not be completely shaken off without some more hard blows to (U.S.) Navy pride around Guadalcanal, but after Savo, the United States picked itself up off the deck and prepared for the most savage combat in its history.”

The report of the inquiry caused the US Navy to make many operational, and structural, changes. All the earlier models of US Navy cruisers were retrofitted with emergency diesel-electric generators. The fire mains of the ships were changed to a vertical loop design that could be broken many times and still function.

In the late evening of August 9, Mikawa on Japanese cruiser Chōkai released the four other cruisers of Japanse Cruiser Division 6 to return to their home base at Kavieng. At 08:10 on August 10, Japanese heavy cruiser Kako was intercepted , torpedoed and sunk by American submarine USS S-44 110 kilometers (68 mi) from her destination. The other three Japanese cruisers picked up all but 71 of her crew and went on to Kavieng.

Admiral Yamamoto signaled a congratulatory note to Mikawa on his victory, stating, “Appreciate the courageous and hard fighting of every man of your organization. I expect you to expand your exploits and you will make every effort to support the land forces of the Imperial army which are now engaged in a desperate struggle.” Later on, though, when it became apparent that Mikawa had missed an opportunity to destroy the Allied transports, he was intensely criticised by his comrades.


Just colorized this picture from the battle:



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10 August 1942

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-510 damaged British motor tanker Alexia with three torpedoes 50 miles east of Antigua at 0215 hours.

At 1850 hours, German submarine U-155 intercepted and sank Dutch merchant ship Strabo with her deck gun northeast of Paramaribo, Suriname; all 13 aboard survived. At 2130 hours, U-600 stopped British sailing vessel Vivian P. Smith with a warning shot from her deck gun 140 miles east of Turks and Caicos Islands; after the crew of 11 abandoned ship, Vivian P. Smith was scuttled by U-600’s deck gun. Also on this day, Italian submarine Reginaldo Giuliani intercepted , first torpedoed and then sank British merchant ship Medon on surface with her deck gun 1,500 miles east of Trinidad; all 64 aboard survived.

Atlantic Ocean : German submarines U-660 and U-438 continued to attack Allied convoy SC-94 500 miles west of Ireland; at 1220 hours, U-438 torpedoed and damaged Greek merchant ship Condylis; at 1221 hours, afterwards U-660 torpedoed and sank Condylis, sank British merchant ship Empire Reindeer (all 65 aboard survived), British merchant ship Cape Race (all 63 aboard survived), and fatally damaged British merchant ship Oregon (2 were killed, 36 survived); at 1629 hours, later in the day U-438 sank the already-abandoned Oregon.

Cairo , Egypt : Prime Minister Churchill and his entourage accompanied by General Alan Brooke and General Archibald Wavell left Cairo and flew to Tehran , en route to Moscow to meet with Stalin and other Soviet leaders about informing them future Allied strategic plans including Operation Torch and cancellation of Second Front in France for 1942

Before leaving Cairo , Churchill left two definite instructions to General Harold Alexander , recently appointed commander in chief Middle East who will take command on 15th August :

  1. Your prime and main duty will be to take or destroy at the earliest opportunity the German-Italian Army commanded by Field Marshal Rommel together with all its supplies and establishments in Egypt and Libya.
  2. You will discharge or cause to be discharged such other duties as pertain to your command without prejudice to the task described in paragraph 1, which must be considered paramount in His Majesty’s interests.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy anti-submarine trawler HMS Isley located and sank Italian submarine Scirè (which was bringing human torpedoes manned by Italian Decima MAS frogmen to attack port of Haifa) with depth charges 7 miles off Haifa, Palestine; all 55 crew and Decima MAS frogmen were were killed.

German submarine U-77 sank Palestinian sailing vessel Kharouf with her deck gun off Palestine at 0120 hours

Convoy Pedestal was discovered by Axis. At about 08:00 on 10 August, German reconnaissance aircraft detected the convoy and at 12:45 reported that the convoy was about 70 nmi (130 km; 81 mi) north of Algiers. At 17:00 a French aircraft reported two aircraft carriers, two battleships, two cruisers, fourteen destroyers and twelve merchant vessels about 50 nmi (93 km; 58 mi) north of Oran.[36] Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft reported at 19:00 that a convoy of two battleships, two carriers, two cruisers, fourteen destroyers and twelve merchantmen was on an easterly course, 55 nmi (102 km; 63 mi) north-north-east of Oran. By the afternoon of 10 August, Kesselring and Supermarina were aware that a convoy of forty to fifty ships, including possibly two carriers and 19 freighters, was in the western Mediterranean, sailing on an easterly course at a speed of 13–14 kn (24–26 km/h; 15–16 mph). The convoy was expected to be south of Majorca by 06:00 on 11 August and south of Sardinia by the same time on 12 August. Fliegerkorps II in the western Mediterranean was alerted and Fliegerkorps X was ordered to reconnoitre the eastern Mediterranean beyond the 25° E line of longitude after dawn on 11 August.

If the convoy’s presence and location were now known, its intentions remained a mystery to the Italians. It seemed too big to be merely taking supplies to Malta. General Ugo Cavallero, commander in chief of the Italian High Command (Comando Supremo), thought this might be an invasion of North Africa, and he canceled a trip to Africa because he believed there would be a huge air and naval battle in the days ahead. Admiral Luigi Sansonetti argued that with five aircraft carriers, it had to be a massive flying-off of aircraft to Malta, and if so it must be stopped at all costs, as an RAF offensive from Malta would ruin them. Others thought that some of the convoy must be headed for Alexandria, to build up the fleet there. Admiral Arturo Riccardi ordered reconnaissance aircraft from Sardinia to snoop around when the convoy got within range.

The Italian submarine Uarsciek sighted the British ships at 04:30 on 11 August; the captain approached on the surface and fired three torpedoes, claiming a hit on the carrier (she did not hit anything and missed all torpedoes) in a 09:36 sighting report and during the evening a Ju 88 photographed the fleet from high altitude, immune to anti-aircraft fire or Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm fighters.

Don River , Russia : Troops of the German Sixth Army crossed the Don River in southern Russia.

The pocket that held most of encircled Soviet 62nd Army west of Don river at Kalach was mostly wiped out in four days, by German Sixth Army 11 August. Nearly 50,000 Russian prisoners were taken, and the Germans claimed the destruction of a thousand Soviet tanks and 750 guns, although the claims of destroyed Soviet tanks are considered a little exaggerated. These losses threw the Soviet leader Josef Stalin into a panic and compelled him to feed more reserves into the fight at Stalingrad.

Both Soviet tank armies and the 62nd Army suffered heavy losses during the battle. The German Sixth Army closed to the Don River and prepared to advance on Stalingrad, but had also taken losses during the two-week battle. Among areas of Soviet resistance not cleared up was a small bridgehead across the Don at Kremenskaya. Months later, this bridgehead became one of the launching points for Operation Uranus, the Soviet offensive that encircled and eventually forced the surrender of German Sixth Army.

The loss of the Kalach bridgehead brought the close-in defense of Stalingrad nearer to actuality on the Soviet side, and the Stavka committed more of its reserves, totalling fifteen rifle divisions and three tank corps between 1 and 20 August. The losses suffered during the Battle of Kalach resulted in the disbandment (for the time being) of the 1st Tank Army, the remnants of which were used to partially rebuild the 62nd Army starting on 17 August.

That was because Soviet 62nd Army was almost destroyed. The 33rd Guards Rifle Division, commanded by Colonel Aleksandr Utvenko, found itself trapped on the west bank of the Don, attacked by two German divisions. ‘They would have quickly finished us off if we had not dug ourselves in deeply,’ Utvenko told the writer Konstantin Simonov shortly afterwards. His division, down to 3,000 strong, was having to send the wounded on carts and camels to the rear at night. The Germans were also sustaining heavy losses. On just one battalion sector, 513 German corpses were dragged into a balka, or gully. The Russians were so short of ammunition that they had to attack to capture enemy guns and ammunition. They had so little to eat that they boiled wheat from surrounding fields. On 11 August, the remains of the division split into small groups to fight through to the Don. ‘I myself reloaded my pistol five times,’ Utvenko recounted. ‘Several commanders shot themselves. Up to 1,000 men were killed, but they sold their lives dearly. One man took a leaflet out of his pocket and started walking towards the Germans. Galya, a woman interpreter on our staff, shouted: “Look at him! The snake is going to surrender!”, and she shot him with her pistol.’

The last pocket of resistance, having run out of anti-tank ammunition, was overrun by German panzers. Utvenko and his remaining companions jumped from a small cliff into a marsh, where he was wounded in the feet by shrapnel from a shellburst. Able only to crawl, Utvenko spent the next day hiding in a field of sunflowers with some twenty soldiers. That night, they collected more survivors, and swam across the Don. Eight of them drowned. Utvenko was pulled across by his adjutant, a former gynaecologist called Khudobkin, who had an epileptic fit just after they reached the far bank. Utvenko remarked afterwards that it was fortunate he had not had it in the river. ‘If we don’t die here,’ Khudobkin replied, ‘we’ll survive the war.’

By 10 August, the Red Army had been cleared from most of the west bank of the Don, but Soviet resistance continued in some areas, further delaying Army Group B. The Wehrmacht advance on Stalingrad was also impeded by supply shortages caused by the poor state of Soviet roads. The Luftwaffe sent an ad-hoc force of 300 JU-52 transport aircraft, enabling the Germans to advance; some bombers were diverted from operations to supply flights under the Stalingrad Transport Region force.

The Soviet defence at the Don forced the Germans to commit more and more troops to an increasingly vulnerable front, leaving few reserves to back up the Axis divisions on either flank

Air support in the battle was crucial. Luftwaffe Vice Marshal Fiebig’s Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers mercilessly hammered the trapped Soviet troops and vehicles while Heinkel He 111 and Junkers Ju 88 medium bombers bombed the Soviet railway network and airfields with impunity, destroying 20 Soviet aircraft on the ground on 10 August alone, the technically and numerically inferior Soviet 8th Air Army achieving nothing thanks to losing its 447 replacement aircraft from 20 July to 17 August as fast as it received them. The Soviet Air Forces had poor logistical systems, a low level of crew training and abysmal standards for army-air communications and liaison. The Soviet aircraft were prematurely committed to the fight immediately upon arrival and were promptly and easily destroyed by the experienced German aviators. The disparity in effectiveness between the combatants became evident on 12 August when Fliegerkorps VIII destroyed 25 of 26 Soviet aircraft that attacked German airfields that day, suffering no losses in turn. No German losses were sustained the next day either as Fliegerkorps VIII destroyed 35 of 45 Soviet aircraft that tried to attack the German airfields

Caucausian Front , Russia : German troops from First Panzer Army reached the Krasnodar-Pyatigorsk-Maikop line and captured Pyatigorsk in southern Russia. Over Novorossiysk, five German HE-111 bombers of German Luftwaffe group KG 55 were attacked by Soviet LaGG-3 fighters; Soviet pilots claimed 3 bombers destroyed, one of which by deliberate ramming

Black Sea : Soviet passanger liner Sevastapol was torpedoed and sank by German fastr torpedoboat S 102 off Tuapse , 924 passangers and crew killed.

UK : Luftwaffe bombers raided Colchester during the night

Lviv , Ukraine : Jews of Lvov Ghetto in Ukraine started to be deported to concentration camps; 40,000 were deported within the following 12 days

Bombay , India : Police in Bombay, India opened fire on a mob rioting following the arrest, on the previous day, of Mohandas Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Dr. Maulana Azad, and all the members of the Indian Congress Party who attended the 5 August 1942 Bombay meeting.

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : As the fighting around Kokoda intensified, the Australians continued to hold out in the hope of being reinforced or resupplied by air, but this hope faded mid-morning when the expected aircraft overflew Kokoda without landing. Japanese 143rd Regiment intensied its attacks both from east and west. On the 10th, two days after the Australian reoccupation of Kokoda, the Japanese advanced into heavy gunfire. They responded with grenade launchers and machine-guns but were pushed back. A second Japanese attack about noon was not able to break through either. Waiting until dusk, when the predictable drizzle would begin, Tsukamoto’s men charged under the cover of smoke candles and the proven tactic of cacophony, which joined with the crack of bullets in an eerie symphony. The Japanese were not repelled this time—although Private Hirano managed to catch his foot on a fallen tree and sprawl flat on his face—and they breached the Australian defences. But once again Australians had withdrawn during the charge.

Finally, running low on ammunition and food, and having not received the promised aerial resupply , lone Australian company A from 39th Militia Battalion was forced to withdraw west of Kokoda at 7:00 pm on 10 August, crossing Madi Creek south of the airstrip by means of a precipitous wire bridge before falling back south through the scrub. They subsequently re-crossed to the eastern side of Madi Creek before halting on the western side of Faiwani Creek, before moving on to the village of Naro where they were met by a small patrol which led them to Isurava, which they reached on 13 August.

Casualties during the second engagement amounted to 21 Japanese killed and 44 wounded, while the Australians experienced similar losses with 23 killed and 17 wounded. The circuitous route that ‘A’ Company had to take to withdraw from Kokoda meant that it was subsequently unavailable for the fighting that followed around Deniki in the days that followed, as it was ordered to withdraw to Eora village to rest. It was replaced by fresh, but inexperienced troops from ‘E’ Company – formed from the battalion’s machine gun company – who were ordered to move up to Deniki from Isurava. Ironically, the day after the engagement Allied aircraft, unaware that the village had fallen due to communications delays, arrived over Kokoda dropping the supplies that Symington’s company had been expecting. These fell into Japanese hands, alleviating some of their supply problems. Several hours later, Allied aircraft returned to bomb the village after news of its capture reached the Allied high command.

While not ultimately successful in holding Kokoda, the attack by Cameron’s force had the effect of surprising the Japanese commanders and subsequently delayed the advance on Deniki by four days. In the wake of the action, the Japanese estimated that the Australian force holding Kokoda had numbered around 1,000, to 1,200. Because of this, coupled with news of developments on Guadalcanal, the Japanese subsequently decided to delay the advance on Port Moresby. This delay ultimately bought the Australians time to reorganise prior to the fighting around Isurava. Meanwhile, the main body of Major General Tomitaro Horii’s South Seas Detachment arrived in mid-August

Tokyo , Japan : At Hashirajima island in Hiroshima Bay, Japan, Admiral Yamamoto convened a meeting aboard Yamato with Vice Admiral Nagumo of First Air Fleet, Vice Admiral Kondo of Second Fleet, and other top Combined Fleet staff officers. Yamamoto discussed his desire to exploit Mikawa’s success and the need to protect convoys carrying troops to recapture Guadalcanal.

Guadalcanal , Solomon Islands : Stranded, US Marines prepared artillery and defensive positions at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. On Guadalcanal, US Marines unload survivors of sunken ships from small boats, hauling wounded men ashore. With the Navy gone, Maj. Gen. Archibald Vandegrift has 10,819 Marines on Guadalcanal. Vandegrift sets up a perimeter. Stops all landings at the water’s edge. Eastern end of the flank defense line is Alligator Creek - the Americans think it is the Tenaru River. The line goes to a point 1,000 yards southwest of Kukum, and then inland through dense jungle to the beach.

The Marines lack picks, axes, shovels, and bulldozers, and have only 18 reels of barbed wire. They strip more from cattle fences. The Marines are also backed by two battalions of 75 mm pack howitzers and one of 105s, plus the 3rd Defense Battalion with its 90 mm AA guns.

Vandegrift also has a huge supply of captured Japanese equipment, which includes everything a modern force might use: food, clothing, arms, ammunition, equipment, transportation, tools, and building materials. Marines can eat the Japanese tins of fruit, milk, seaweed, beef in soy sauce, crabmeat, rice and candy. Japanese fuel powers the 12 captured Chevrolet trucks. On a two-meal-a-day schedule, the marines have four units of fire and 17 days of food.

Marine engineers mobilize captured Japanese construction equipment to finish the airfield, six road rollers, four generators, six trucks, 50 handcarts for hauling dirt, 75 hand shovels, explosives, and two exotic-looking gasoline-powered locomotives – dubbed the “Toonerville Trolley” – that pulled hopper cars for earth moving. Turner has promised aircraft by August 11th. The Marines get to work with Japanese explosives and hand shovels.

Meanwhile, in Japan, radio broadcast announced that Japanese air attacks had thus far sunk 28 Allied ships in the Guadalcanal area.

On Guadalcanal, Coastwatchers don’t know if they should come in to US lines from the bush, or stay deep.

Tulagi , Gavatu-Tanambogo , Solomon islands , SW Pacific : During the battle, about 80 Japanese escaped from Tulagi and Gavutu–Tanambogo by swimming to Florida Island. They were, however, all hunted down and killed by Marine and British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defence Force patrols over the next two months.

The Allies quickly turned the Tulagi anchorage, one of the finest natural harbors in the South Pacific, into a naval base and refueling station. During the Guadalcanal and Solomon Islands campaigns, Tulagi served as an important base for Allied naval operations. Since the Japanese exerted control over the nearby seas at night throughout the Guadalcanal campaign, any Allied ships in the Guadalcanal area that could not depart by nightfall often took refuge in Tulagi’s harbor. Allied ships damaged in the naval battles that occurred between August and December in the vicinity of Guadalcanal usually anchored in Tulagi’s harbor for temporary repairs before heading to rear-area ports for permanent repairs.

Later in the campaign, Tulagi also became a base for US PT boats that attempted to interdict “Tokyo Express” missions by the Japanese to resupply and reinforce their forces on Guadalcanal. A seaplane base was also established on nearby Florida Island. Except for some troops left to build, garrison, operate, and defend the base at Tulagi, however, the majority of the U.S. Marines who had assaulted Tulagi and the nearby islets were soon relocated to Guadalcanal to help defend the airfield, later called Henderson Field by Allied forces, located at Lunga Point


11 August 1942

Atlantic Ocean : At 1913 hours, German submarine U-109 torpedoed and sank British tanker Vimeira in the Atlantic Ocean; 17 were killed, 37 survived.

At 1427 hours, about 870 miles west-southwest of Freetown, Norwegian tanker Milo was torpedoed and sank by German submarine U-130 (Korvettenkapitän Ernst Kals).

Mediterranean Sea : Operation Berserk concluded. Early in the morning 38 Spitfire fighters launched from Royal Navy aircraft carier HMS Furious successfully landed on Malta. HMS Furious then detached from rest of Pedestal convoy and retuened to Gibraltar

Enigma decrypts showed that at 11:55, Italian light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli, Muzio Attendolo of the 7th Cruiser Division at Cagliari had been ordered by Italian Navy command to be at two hours’ notice from 18:00 and that with the heavy cruisers Gorizia, Bolzano and Trieste of the 3rd Cruiser Division at Messina, had been informed at 13:00 that Italian submarines were operating north of Bizerte. Three Axis submarines were seen departing Cagliari at 20:45 and the British learned that at 18:00 the 7th Cruiser Division with seventeen destroyers, had sailed east and that the 3rd Cruiser Division had departed from Messina and Naples. Allied intelligence also learned that Panzer Army Afrika in Egypt believed that the convoy was a threat to Tobruk. Kesselring thought that a landing on the North African coast might be attempted and next day issued an order of the day, that landings by the Allies would influence operations in Africa and must be prevented.

In the afternoon Pedestal convoy suffered its first and a grriveous loss. At 08:00 , German submarine U-73 sighted ships out of range but behind them another group of merchantmen were followed by Royal Navy carrier HMS Eagle. She was able to manoeuvre within 400 yd (370 m) and fire four torpedoes which hit HMS Eagle at 13:15, sinking the ship eight minutes later 70 nmi (130 km; 81 mi) south of Cape Salinas, 80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi) north of Algiers. The destroyers HMS Lookout, HMS Laforey and the tug Jaunty rescued 929 men of the complement of 1,160 but 231 men and all but four Sea Hurricanes (in the air during the sinking) were lost, about 20 percent of the fighter cover for the convoy. The German submarine escaped, possibly due to layers of the sea being at different temperatures, affecting the ships’ Asdic and after the torpedoing there were frequent false alarms.

At 14:30 a JU-88, one of ten Aufklärungsgruppe 122 aircraft that had shadowed the convoy from 10:10, flew a reconnaissance sortie over the convoy, too high for British Sea Hurricane fighters to intercept. The Luftwaffe attacked just after sunset at 20:56, when the convoy was about 200 nmi (370 km; 230 mi) from Sardinia, with 27 JU-88 bombers and three He 111 torpedo-bombers. The Heinkels flew low to drop torpedoes and the JU 88s attacked out of the dusk in shallow dives, that evaded the fighters.

At 2045, radar detected Axis aircraft. A flag was raised from the stern of batleship HMS Nelson that told the ships to expect the attack in seven minutes. Thirty Junkers Ju 88 bombers came out of the clouds at 2056, while six twin-engine Heinkel 111s, each carrying two torpedoes under the fuselage, came skimming low over the water.

“By the time the attack developed, the sun was setting in a big red glow,” Anthony Kimmins told his BBC radio audience. Kimmins had been a Royal Navy officer before the war and would become an actor, playwright, and filmmaker during and after it; Operation Pedestal was one of his early dramatic performances. He described the scene from the bridge of the cruiser HMS Nigeria, where he had been standing alongside Admiral Burrough and trying to stay out of his way.

“The barrage put up by our ships was one of the most staggering things I have ever seen,” he said. “Tracers screaming across the sky in all directions, and overhead literally thousands of black puffs of bursting shells. The din was terrific, but through it all you could hear the wail of sirens for an emergency alteration of course to avoid torpedoes, and the answering deep-throated hoots of the merchantmen as they turned in perfect formation. Then suddenly, a cheer from a gun’s crew, and away on the port bow a Ju 88 spinning vertically downwards with both wings on fire and looking like a giant Catherine Wheel [fireworks pinwheel]. More cheers, and over to starboard another JU-88 was diving headlong for the sea, with smoke pouring out behind. At about 500 feet the automatic pullout came into action, and she flattened out and crashed on her belly with a great splash of water. Against the sunset you could see the parachutes of her crew as they drifted slowly downwards.”

“It is impossible to describe the massive antiaircraft barrage that was put up by fourteen well-armed merchant ships and about fifty major warships, and it is equally impossible to understand how the enemy were able to survive,” said Frank Pike in 2005. At the time of Operation Pedestal, he was a nineteen-year-old British Army corporal being transported to Malta on the Santa Elisa. Because he had artillery experience, Captain Thomson assigned him a battle station at the Oerlikon on the forward starboard bridge wing.

"In asking some of the soldiers to help man the Oerlikons,” said Pike, “I think that the captain was probably trying to find a useful employment for us and at the same time give his crew some assistance. It was a service that we took on most willingly. The third officer, Mr. Larsen, spent some time instructing us in the loading of magazines, as well as the loading and operating of the gun, and dealing with stoppages.”

The battleships and aircraft carriers had water-cooled, eight-barreled pom-pom guns, which recoiled with each shot; each barrel could fire 90 rounds per minute, and the gun spat out empty shells as if it were drooling brass. With 720 pumping strokes per minute, the pom-pom got the name “Chicago piano” because the barrels bounced like the keys of a boogie-woogie piano. There were at least ten of them in the convoy, sending thousands of pretty white puffs of shrapnel high into the sky.

“Crump-crump-crump-crump-crump they went, belching forth flame, death and destruction all over the sky,” wrote Dag Dickens. It was a “picturesque barrage,” reported the liaison officer on Brisbane Star.

If the pom-poms sounded like the rhythmic fast beat of a drum, the battleships’ sixteen-inch guns were like hand grenades going off in the orchestra pit. It was HMS Rodney’s guns that had sunk the German battleship Bismarck, killing 1,946 out of 2,065 men. Now they were loaded with special shrapnel shells, for the first-ever attempt to use the big guns to shoot down airplanes.“Nelson’s and Rodney’s main armament were spectacular morale boosters to have in company,” said Hector Mackenzie, a Fleet Air Arm officer on the aircraft carrier Indomitable. “Our fighter pilots reported that even thousands of feet above these shell bursts, they were lifted about 500 feet, if over one when it burst.”The shrapnel shells made the guns louder than ever, and the barrels puked huge clouds of brown smoke when they burst, as pieces of hot metal scattered over any nearby ship.

The anti-aircraft fire from the convoy shot down two JU 88s for no ship loss and then damaged several British fighters as they landed on. First days attack on Pedestal convoy was over.

At midnight on US cargo ship Santa Elisa, the crew listened to the German news broadcast:

“This is Berlin calling. Now here is the news in English: The German High Command has just announced a naval victory in the Mediterranean. Here is the report. At 1 p.m. today, Central European time, one of our U-boats successfully torpedoed and sank a large British aircraft carrier. This carrier was part of an exceptionally heavily escorted convoy which is heading eastward toward Malta. Operations against this convoy will continue.”

During the night the Axis airfields in Sardinia were attacked by B-24 Liberators and Beaufighters, which set a hangar on fire and destroyed several aircraft.

Leningrad , Balric Front : The German 250th Infantry Division, consisted of Spanish volunteers, was redeployed on the Volkhov River near Leningrad, Russia.

Kalach , Don , River , Russia : German Sixth Army captured Kalach in southern Russia and linked up with German Fourth Panzer Army.

The encirclement was finally accomplished at Kalach. From the top of a small precipice overlooking the ‘quiet Don’, the first panzer crews gazed across at the town of Kalach in the violet evening light. The setting sun behind their tanks threw long shadows in front of them towards the east. Beyond Kalach, the steppe stretched ahead to Stalingrad. Kalach itself consisted mainly of small workshops, a dilapidated railway station and ‘höchst primitiv’ wooden shacks.

After their success, the panzer crews joked among themselves with relief and happiness, coming down from the tension of battle. Songs rang out from some of the tanks. But soon their commanders pulled them back into ‘hedgehog’ defensive position. After dusk had fallen, the thousands of Russian stragglers trapped on the west bank started to attack, and the night was continually broken with bursts of machine-gun fire, flares and crackling exchanges of rifle fire.

The next day, the Germans started to clear the woods systematically, a number of officers comparing it to a rather large deer shoot. The prisoners taken included a senior signals officer and his personnel, most of whom were women. That night, another battle broke out, this time by moonlight, around the German positions. The following morning, the Germans set fire to the dry brush to drive the remaining Russians out of the woods. Finally, the area was regarded as ‘cleansed of enemy’. Few escaped. Of the 181st Rifle Division of 62nd Army, which had been 13,000 strong at the start of the fighting, only 105 men slipped back across the Don.

Black Sea : Soviet cargo ship Kuban was hit and sunk by Lufttwaffe JY-87 dive bombers off Novorisissk

Germany : 154 British bombers (68 Wellington, 33 Lancaster, 28 Stirling, and 25 Halifax) from RAF Bomber Command attacked Mainz, Germany, killing 162 and destroying many buildings in the city center; six bombers were lost on this mission.

UK : RAF Bomber Command issed orders to create a Pathfinder Force for night navigation since Luftwaffe air defence began jamming of RAF radio beams

Tehran , Iran : Winston Churchill and his entourage landed Tehran , dined with Shah of Iran Pahlavi II , and flew to Moscow next morning

Vichy France : Pierre Laval reached an agreement with the Germans that 150,000 French workers would go to Germany in exchange for 50,000 French prisoners of war

Kokoda Track , Papua New Guinea : 39th Australian Militia Battalion reached and entrcnched on Deniki.
While not ultimately successful in holding Kokoda, the attack by Cameron’s force had the effect of surprising the Japanese commanders and subsequently delayed the advance on Deniki by four days. In the wake of the action, the Japanese estimated that the Australian force holding Kokoda had numbered around 1,000, to 1,200. Because of this, coupled with news of developments on Guadalcanal, the Japanese subsequently decided to delay the advance on Port Moresby fort four days This delay ultimately bought the Australians time to reorganise prior to the fighting around Isurava. Meanwhile, the main body of Major General Tomitaro Horii’s South Seas Detachment arrived to Gona and Buna in mid-August.


12 August 1942

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-508 torpedoed and sank Cuban freighters Santiago de Cuba (10 were killed, 19 survived) and Manzanillo (23 were killed) 10 miles south of Key West, Florida, United States at 1355 hours.

North Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Sturgeon torpedoed and sank German merchant ship Boltenhagen 20 miles off southern Norway.
Royal Navy submarine HMS Unshaken torpedoed and sank German merchant ship Georg L. M. Russ 20 miles off southern Norway.

Cairo , Egypt : General Bernard Montgomery landed in Cairo , Egypt and started an inspection tour of froıntline and army facilities immediately without informing relieved current General Claude Aucinleck who takes offense due to pride issues (as if Montgomery as a new army commander awaiting a decisive enemy attack within two weeks had any time to waste for pride of a relieved general)

Montgomery wastes no time, summoning the Deputy Chief of Staff in Cairo, Lt. Gen. Sir John Harding, to his new headquarters, and grilling him for about an hour on all formation commanders down to brigades. “From all this muckage,” Montgomery asks, “Can you organize for me two desert-trained armoured divisions and a mobile infantry division?”

“And hold the front too, presumably?” Harding says.
“Yes, of course.”
“Yes, I think I can.”

A story, probably apocryphal but popular at the time, is that the appointment caused Montgomery to remark that “After having an easy war, things have now got much more difficult.” A colleague is supposed to have told him to cheer up—at which point Montgomery said “I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about Rommel !”

Mediterranean Sea : At 00:54, Royal Navy destroyer HMS Wolverine, part of the escort force for carrier HMS Furious returning to Gibraltar , had been detached with four more destroyers for anti-submarine patrols after the loss of HMS Eagle, detected a submarine at 4,900 yd (4,500 m) with radar , accelerated, obtained a visual contact at 700 yd (640 m) and rammed the Italian submarine Dagabur at 27 kn (50 km/h; 31 mph), sinking Italian submarine with all hands.

Royal Navy carrier HMS Indomitable was disabled south of Sardinia, Italy.

Axis aircraft resumed shadowing at 05:00 and at 06:10, Royal Navy carrier HMS Indomitable launched Martlet fighters to shoot down two German Ju 88 reconnaissance aircraft, which proved too high and too fast to intercept. Four Sea Hurricanes and Fulmars took off from the two carriers for air cover and every aircraft was readied to fly. German reconnaissance aircraft kept watch on the convoy, flying too high and fast for the FAA fighters. At 09:15, when the convoy was about 130 nmi (240 km; 150 mi) south-south-west of Sardinia, 19 German Ju 88s dive-bombers of Lehrgeschwader 1 (LG 1) approaching the convoy , were intercepted 25 nmi (29 mi; 46 km) out. Four Ju 88s were shot down by Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Sea Hurricane fighters and another two were claimed by navy anti-aircraft gunners for the loss of one FAA fighter. The German crews made extravagant claims but did little damage and three Italian reconnaissance aircraft were also shot down.

RAF Beaufighters returning from a raid on Sardinia saw the Italian 7th Cruiser Division (Da Zara) at sea and raised the alarm. The cruisers had sailed from Cagliari into the Tyrrhenian Sea at 08:10 on 11 August, escorted by the Maestrale-class destroyers Maestrale, Oriani and Gioberti, to rendezvous with Attendolo from Naples.

Early on 12 August, Trieste sailed from Genoa for Naples with the Fuciliere and a torpedo-boat, Ardito to join the 3rd Cruiser Division, which had left Messina early with the cruisers Gorizia, Bolzano and six destroyers after receiving a signal from U-83 that four cruisers and ten destroyers (MG 3) were close to Crete. The Italian cruisers and destroyers rendezvoused 60 nmi (69 mi; 110 km) north of Ustica off Palermo at the west end of Sicily, some of the ships being short of fuel and then moved south in two squadrons, preceded by the torpedo-boats Climene and Centauro. British reconnaissance aircraft from Malta had flown over Italian ports, a Spitfire pilot saw that the 3rd Cruiser Division had left port and at 18:54 a Baltimore crew saw the Italian ships rendezvous. On Malta, Vice Air Marshall Keith Park was not disturbed until the convoy and escort losses of the day, which depleted Force X; five RAF Wellington bombers were sent to find the Italian cruisers and 15 RAF Beaufort torpedo-bombers and 15 RAF Beaufighters stood by.

The biggest attack on convoy came around noon from Sardinia-based aircraft; a wave of ten Italian SM.84 bombers from 38° Gruppo BT and eight CR.42s of 24° Gruppo CT flying as bombers with 14 MC.202 fighter escorts, followed after five minutes by nine Savoia-Marchetti SM.79s and ten SM.84 torpedo bombers attacking the starboard side of the convoy, escorted by 12 Re.2001 fighters and 21 SM.79s and 12 Re.2001s from the port side, all the bombers aiming for the merchant ships. The second wave had been delayed by 15 minutes due to a shortage of mechanics for the Re.2001s and only 31 Italian aircraft could take off. The bombers were met by a big anti-aircraft barrage, the merchantmen took evasive action and none was hit by the bombers that managed to get into range. The third wave comprised a pair of Re.2001G/V fighter-bombers from the Sezione Speciale (Special Section), intended to carry 1,390 lb (630 kg) low-altitude armour-piercing bombs. The bombs were not ready and the aircraft carried anti-personnel bombs; the fighter-bombers were accompanied by a special radio-controlled SM.79, loaded with a 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) bomb and directed by Generale di brigata Ferdinando Raffaelli in a Cant Z1007.

The wave was escorted by two of the five Fiat G.50 fighters of the 24° Gruppo CT which managed to find the formation. The pilot of the SM.79 pointed the aircraft towards the ships and parachuted, Rafaelli in the Z.1007bis guiding the bomb by radio. The radio failed and the SM.79 flew straight on, instead of diving on one of the aircraft carriers as intended and crashed into Mount Khenchela in Algeria. The two Sezione Speciale Re.2001G/V fighter-bomber aircraft carrying armor piercing bombs were luckier though , they were mistaken for a Hurricane formation and both hit Royal Navy carrier HMS Victorious, one bomb hit the carrier killing six sailors and wounding two, the other bouncing off the deck and exploding over the sea. The first ten SM.84 bombers carried electric Motobomba FFF torpedoes which were designed to travel in an increasing spiral. The torpedoes were dropped 2,000 yd (1,800 m) from the ships, which used the evasive manoeuvres practised in Operation Berserk to escape.

Between the second and third waves of Regia Aeronautica aircraft, 37 German Ju 88s from Kampfgeschwader 54 (KG 54) and Kampfgeschwader 77 (KG 77) attacked, having flown from Sicily with 21 Bf 109 fighter escorts, after using radio-countermeasures to blind the British radar on Malta. Five aircraft had turned back with mechanical failures but the rest evaded RAF fighter escorts. One of the British merchant ships , Deucalion was hit by bombs and forced out of the convoy, escorted by destroyer HMS Bramham. The number of Axis aircraft in the attacks was unprecedented, with 117 Italian and 58 German sorties for only meagre results. Two bombers, a torpedo-bomber and a fighter had been lost for one hit on HMS Victorious and the damage to Deucalion. The quantity of anti-aircraft fire had led many aircrew to release their bombs and torpedoes early but the Italian aircraft from Sardinia could refuel and rearm to attack again and a Cant Z1007 and several Luftwaffe aircraft continued to shadow the convoy.

Enigma decrypts showed the British that at 18:30 on 12 August, an S-boat (fast torpedoboat) flotilla was due to sail at 16:00 from Porto Empedocle in Sicily for Cap Bon to operate in the area until about 04:30 on 13 August. At 21:45, a Fliegerkorps II assessment revealed that the Axis thought that there were 51 ships in the western Mediterranean, including two carriers, two battleships, seven cruisers and twenty destroyers. The Germans mistakenly thought that a US Yorktown-class aircraft carrier was present but correctly identified batleships HMS Rodney and HMS Nelson. The convoy was thought to consist of 13 freighters of 105,000 long tons (107,000 t), protected by ten to sixteen fighters and plenty of anti-aircraft guns. The Italian submarine Brin was driven off by destroyers and at 09:30 a RAF Sunderland flying boat bombed and severely damaged another Italian submarine Giada off Algiers. At 13:34 another RAF Sunderland from 202 Squadron caused more damage but Giada shot down RAF flying boat with her deck gun before heading for Valencia (until 14 August) with one dead and eight wounded crewmen on board.

The convoy was approached at 16:30 by Italian submarine Emo. Emo manoeuvred into position to fire torpedoes at a carrier from 2,200 yd (2,000 m) but a sudden course change led her Captain Franco to change targets, launch four torpedoes and dive. The convoy had changed course again and the torpedoes missed; observers on escort destroyer HMS Tartar saw the torpedo tracks and raised the alarm. Lookout sped towards a periscope, which was that of Italian submarine Avorio moving into an attack position and forced it to dive, spoiling its attack; at 17:40, HMS Lookout returned to the convoy.

At 16:49 another Italian submarine Cobalto was located , depth charged by Royal Navy escort destroyers HMS Zeland , HMS Tartar and HMS Pathfinder while at periscope depth and forced to the surface, engaged by gunfire from another Royal Navy destroyer HMS Ithuriel , then rammed by HMS Ithuriel that sank Italian submarine at 17:02. HMS Ithuriel lost two crewmen who had boarded Cobalto to try keep the submarine afloat; two Italian seamen were lost and the other crewmen were rescued by the British. Although she emerged victorious from the engagement , Royal Navy destroyer HMS Ithuriel was badly damaged, lost its Asdic, was slowed to 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph) and had to make for Gibraltar.

Admiral Syfret , commanding Pedestal Convoy had two destroyers on each flank of the convoy drop depth charges every ten minutes to deter submarines. The convoy entered the Italian submarine ambush area C and just after 16:00 escort destroyer HMS Pathfinder obtained an Asdic contact on Italian submarine Granito, forced it away with five depth charges but then had to return to the convoy. (Many submarine alarms were possibly caused by ghost Asdic contacts, caused by the warm waters of the Mediterranean.)

The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force) units based in Sardinia managed to prepare eight Cr.42 dive-bombers and an escort of nine Re.2001 from 362° Squadriglie and nine SM.79 bombers from Decimomannu. The SM.79s failed to find the convoy and a Re.2001 was shot down by an 806 Squadron Martlet fighter from carrier HMS Indomitable. The convoy crossed the 10th parallel, beyond which aircraft based in Sicily could fly with fighter escorts and 105 aircraft were to attack in three waves. Problems with the fighter escorts were encountered because the Re.2001s of the 2° Gruppo CT had escorted the Sardinia-based bombers, landed in Sardinia and were not available until the next day. The torpedo- and dive-bombers were sent to Pantelleria to fly with the 51° Gruppo CT (MC.202s) and avoid the problems of co-ordination when aircraft flew from different bases. Four aircraft were sent on reconnaissance sorties and then four of the Italian Ju 87s of 102° Gruppo BT were found to lack long-range tanks; torpedoes could not be attached to six SM.84s. Fleet Air Arm Fulmar figters from carrier HMS Victorious shot down a SM.79 on reconnaissance but a Cant Z1007 maintained contact. Fliegerkorps II arranged to co-ordinate with the Italians but the operations were independent. I Gruppe, Sturzkampfgeschwader 3 (StG 3) had transferred from Trapani to Elmas and at 17:30 hrs 20 Ju 87s with Bf 109 escorts took off.

Italian Ju 87s of 102° Gruppo arrived in poor visibility but at 18:35 the clouds parted. The Italian formation had been detected by radar while 40 nmi (46 mi; 74 km) out and three Martlets, twelve Sea Hurricanes and three Fulmars were airborne but faced MC.202 and German ME-109 escort fighters, the best Axis fighters. The dive- and torpedo-bomber attacks were well synchronised, the Ju 87s Stuka dive bombers diving as the torpedo bombers approached in three waves at 1,200 ft (370 m) The Ju 87s managed a near miss on battleship HMS Rodney with the 1,100 lb (500 kg) bomb exploding in the sea, one Stuka being shot down by a British Hurricane fighter and one by anti-aircraft fire. As the ships manoeuvred to evade the torpedo-bombers, another wave of German Ju 87 dive bombers arrived at 9,000 ft (2,700 m) and bombed HMS Indomitable from out of the sun, hit the flight deck twice and near-missed three times, with 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) bombs, killing fifty and wounding 59 men and seriously damaging the ship, which caught fire and slowed to 17 kn (31 km/h; 20 mph), leaving HMS Victorious as the last operational carrier escorting the convoy. By 20:30, HMS Indomitable had worked up to 28.5 kn (52.8 km/h; 32.8 mph) but the damage to the flight deck left it out of action. Aircraft landed on HMS Victorious but those that could not be accommodated were thrown overboard.

Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Charybdis, destroyers HMS Lookout, HMS Lightning and HMS Somali gave assistance to HMS Indomitable and the SM.79 torpedo-bombers were met with concentrated anti-aircraft fire. Only twelve SM.79s were able to drop torpedoes, at the long range of 3,000 yd (1.7 mi; 2.7 km); Royal Navy destroyer HMS Foresight was hit by an air launched torpedo from a SM79 torpedo bomber on the stern, sending crewmen flying through the air. The ship was scuttled on the following day. A final Axis attack with twelve SM.79s and 28 Ju 87s cost two German Ju 87 Sukas shot down by Fleet Air Arm fighters and anti aircraft guns and two more Axis aircraft damaged for no Allied loss.

After returning to Pantelleria, the Axis aircraft were strafed by three RAF Beaufighters from Malta, which flamed a Lufttwaffe fuel depot, destroyed a Ju 52 transport aircraft, damaged two SM79s, an SM.84 and killed an Italian pilot caught on the airfield. The Axis air forces had flown 180–220 escorted bomber sorties during the day and the Germans claimed that they had damaged an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, a destroyer and a large merchant ship. Both sides over-claimed, the British counted 39 shot-down aircraft against the true figure of 19 Axis aircraft lost; three Fulmars, three Sea Hurricanes and a Martlet had been shot down.

The loss of HMS Eagle with its 16 aircraft and the damage to HMS Indomitable which kept its 47 more aircraft out of action, reduced the number of operational fighters to eight Sea Hurricanes, three Martlets and ten Fulmars, as Force Z was due to leave the convoy, to remain outside the range of Axis aircraft based in Sardinia. Admiral Syfret had intended Force Z to turn west upon reaching the Skerki Bank at 19:15 but ordered the turn at 18:55 to get carrier HMS Indomitable out of danger. HMS Rodney was having boiler trouble which slowed Force Z to 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph) but because of the number of aircraft involved in the Axis attacks, Syfret thought that there could be no more before dark and that the danger at the Skerki Bank would come from after dawn. About forty minutes after the turn a Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft reported the new course; Pedestal was about 250 nmi (290 mi; 460 km) from Malta with no local air cover, because of the four Fulmar fighters left for the convoy, one had been shot down and one damaged by German Me-109 fighters. At 18:55, Admiral Burrough with the close escort of Force X continued towards Malta with the merchant ships and Force R (remaining carriers in the convoy HMS Victorious , HMS Indomitable and battleships HMS Rodney and HMS Nelson with their escort destroyers and cruisers) cruised back in the western Mediterranean in case it was needed, until ordered to return to Gibraltar (arriving in the morning of 16 August since the carriers needed repair)

At about 20:00, the convoy manoeuvred from four to two columns to pass through the Skerki Channel, the starboard column with light cruiser HMS Kenya in the lead and another light cruiser HMS Manchester sixth back, the port column with cruiser HMS Nigeria leading and HMS Carlisle in the centre, ten destroyers sailing outside the columns. Five Italian submarines were waiting and at 19:38, Italian submarine Dessiè fired four torpedoes at a freighter from 2,000 yd (1,800 m) and heard three explosions. The sound of the detonations turned out to be from torpedoes fired by Italian submarine Axum (under command of Captain Renata Ferrini) executing a perfecting ambush , hitting three targets with a spread of four torpedoes) hitting light cruiser HMS Nigeria with 52 men killed, light cruiser HMS Cairo and tanker Ohio with a torpedo each , blowing a hole on Ohio 23 ft × 26 ft (7.0 m × 7.9 m) in its side and starting a fire; the crew of tanker Ohio thankfully drilled excellently by her Captain Dudley Mason , put out the fire and were soon able to make 7 kn (8.1 mph; 13 km/h). Her main steering position is also knocked out, and Mason must conn his ship from after steering, without gyro or magnetic compass. Ohio has a 24- foot hole in her pumproom, with massive tears. Yet her welded hull remains intact. Had she been built with rivets, she would be sunk. Mason learns his ship’s steering gear is not working, but the rudder can be moved by operating the valve on the steering engine at the after end of hte poop. Movement orders to this station must be given by phone from the bridge. The tanker staggers on.

The torpedoing of cruisers HMS Nigeria and HMS Cairo (latter eventually sunk by the British next day when it was impossible to salvage her , the former severely damaged returned back to Gibraltar), the diversion of escort destroyer HMS Ashanti to become Admiral Burrough’s new flagship and the detachment of four Hunt-class destroyers to stand by the damaged cruisers, temporarily deprived Force X of its commander, the two columns of the leaders and deprived the convoy nearly half its escort. On hearing that HMS Nigeria and HMS Cairo, which were equipped as Fighter Direction ships had been torpedoed, Admiral Syfret ordered Force Z to send back light cruiser HMS Charybdis also fitted for fighter direction, with destroyers HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali to reinforce Force X. HMS Nigeria and the other damaged ships turned back to Gibraltar, escorted by HMS Derwent, HMS Wilton and HMS Bicester.

Luftwaffe squadrons KG 54 and KG 77 dispatched 30 Ju 88s with seven He 111 torpedo-bombers from 6/KG 26 escorted by six Bf 110s of 6/ZG 26 and the destroyers were still with the damaged ships and when the raid was detected by radar at 20:35; six long-range RAF Beaufighters of 248 Squadron from Malta arrived and were also fired on by the convoy anti aircraft gunners. Royal Navy destroyers HMS Ashanti and HMS Penn laid a smokescreen to cover the light western horizon, the sun having set at 20:10 but the reduced anti-aircraft firepower of the convoy and escorts failed to prevent the attack.

Luftwaffe aircraft began picking merchant ships of convoy one by one. After thirty minutes merchant ship Brisbane Star was stopped, torpedoed in the bows (possibly by the Italian submarine Alagi), eventually to continue at 5 kn (5.8 mph; 9.3 km/h). Another cargo ship Clan Ferguson was torpedoed by German He-111 torpedo bombers and set ablaze, later to be destroyed by an ammunition detonation, cargo ship Rochester Castle was damaged by another German aerial torpedo and cargo ship Empire Hope was bombed and fatally damaged by German JU-88 bombers and later was sunk by a Royal Navy destroyer after rescuing the crew. At 21:05 Italian submarine Alagi fired a salvo of four torpedoes at HMS Kenya, the tracks of which were seen on cargo ship Port Chalmers and reported. HMS Kenya turned sharply and avoided three of the torpedoes but the fourth hit aft on the starboard side; HMS Kenya was able to keep up but this left Force X with HMS Manchester as the only undamaged cruiser. Italian submarine Bronzo torpedoed and sank damaghed merchant ship Deucalion and the captain of HMS Kenya described the state of the convoy as “chaotic” At 21:30, the commander of Italian submarine Alagi reported that he had sunk the merchant ship Empire Hope and damaged light cruiser HMS Kenya and that

… from 180 degrees around to 140 degrees we could see a continuous line of flame from the burning, sinking ships … A burning ship blows up.

— Puccini

At 23:56, the convoy passed south of Zembra Island towards Kelibia on Cap Bon, to avoid the minefields between Africa and Sicily, still out of formation. Three minesweeping destroyers sailed ahead, followed by the cruisers HMS Kenya, HMS Manchester and two freighters. Light cruiser HMS Charybdis and the destroyers HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali from Force Z were still some hours behind and destroyer HMS Ashanti was steaming fast to overhaul the main body. Three destroyers remained with nine of the merchantmen and destroyer HMS Bramham was en route after the damaged cargo vessel which escorted , Deucalion had also been sunk.

Tobruk , Libya : Royal Navy submarine HMS Porpoise laid mines just off Tobruk, Libya , then intercepted , torpedoed and sank Italian cargo ship OIgaden off Sollum , Libya.

Caucasian Front : Troops of the German Army Group A captured Elista, the capital of Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and Slavyansk, in southern Russia.

Germany : 138 British bombers from RAF Bomber Command attacked Mainz, Germany, hitting the rail station, industrial areas (at least 40 were killed), and the nearby villages of Kempten (130 houses were damaged) and Gaulsheim (97 houses were damaged); five bombers were lost on this mission.

Moscow , Russia : Winston Churchill arrived at Moscow, Russia at 1700 hours. At 1900 hours, he met with Joseph Stalin for the first time at the Kremlin, among other things convincing him there would be no second front at least until 1943 as the Western Allies would soon be invading French North Africa.

Churchill flew to Moscow via Tehran, travelling high above the Volga river. About a hundred miles to the west, Russian armies were struggling to defend the line of the River Don. He landed in the evening of 12 August, and began his first visit to the capital of the communist world. He thought back twenty-three years to the time he had led French and British efforts to destroy the new Bolshevik regime. But this was not a moment to dwell on past antagonisms. At any moment the Germans threatened to pour through into the Caucasus.

The British party was entertained in a style that would not have disgraced Tsar Nicholas. Luxurious villas, servants in immaculate uniforms, tables piled with every delicacy: ‘Totalitarian lavishness’ was Churchill’s description. Averell Harriman had flown in to offer America’s endorsement to what Churchill had to say. Soviet chauffeurs drove the two of them into the Kremlin for their first meeting with Stalin.

The Soviet dictator was clipped and coldly formal. He began by telling Churchill that the news from the front was not good and that, although Moscow was safe for the moment, the Germans had enough forces to present a grave threat to it whenever they chose. After receiving this dismal account, it was Churchill’s turn to report on the state of the war in the west. He began by explaining why an invasion of France was impossible in 1942. Instead, he offered a significant operation in mainland Europe in 1943. Stalin, looking grave, suggested a series of places on the French coast where a demonstration with six divisions might seriously damage the German armies in the west. Churchill maintained that any such operation risked handing the enemy a propaganda coup when it went wrong, as it surely would, and would only fritter away troops that could be better employed in 1943.

Stalin argued that the German forces in France were second rate and that Hitler’s best troops only fought in the east. Churchill disagreed and said that his intelligence services had identified many first-class German units in France, Norway and the Low Countries. Stalin countered with his own, contradictory, intelligence reports and, as the atmosphere grew more sombre, the two men traded opinions about the quality of the German army in France. War, Stalin said, was war, and involved some risk.

Churchill, argued back, said to Stalin that risk was one thing, folly quite another. The British officials taking minutes reported that Stalin was now looking both glum and restless, and at this point diplomacy gave way to insult. Stalin said that, as far as he was concerned, the British were unprepared to face the necessary challenges of war. He advised his opposite number that Britain ‘should not be so afraid of the Germans’.

Churchill tried to turn the meeting. He spoke of the RAF bombing offensive and Stalin agreed that bombing was of ‘tremendous importance’ and necessary to break enemy morale. Churchill thought that the RAF could shatter almost every dwelling in every German city over the course of the following twelve months. This prospect cheered Stalin who remarked “That would not be so bad.” He also urged Churchill to drop Britain’s new four-ton bombs "with parachutes, otherwise they dug themselves into the ground." and the meeting grew warmer. They discussed the best way of dropping two- and four-ton bombs. Then Churchill took out a map of the Mediterranean and spread it out in front of the Soviet delegation. ‘What is a Second Front?’ he asked them. ‘Is it only a landing in France?’ With a jab of his finger he explained that, within three months, a large Anglo-American army would be on the north-west African shore. This action would, at a stroke, recruit a large slice of the French Empire to the Allied cause, neutralise the threat from Spain and threaten Rommel from the rear.

Stalin leaned over the map, smiled and showed great interest in every detail of the landings. Would this mean an attack on Tunisia and the removal of every German base in Africa? Hopefully, yes. And an attack on Sicily and Italy? Probably, yes. And what of the Vichy French? It might well split the government there and force the Germans to occupy the whole of France. As they speculated excitedly, Churchill drew a picture of a Nazi crocodile, meant to demonstrate that a victory in Africa would expose its ‘soft underbelly’ in southern Europe. Stalin looked pleased at last, and turned to Harriman to hear the American saying that Roosevelt stood four-square behind the strategic thinking that had been outlined by the British Prime Minister.

The meeting had lasted three hours. Churchill sent a cable to Clement Attlee, the Deputy Prime Minister in London : ‘He knows the worst, and we parted in an atmosphere of goodwill.’ Then he returned to the totalitarian comforts of his villa".

Vichy France : Vichy French minister Pierre Laval tells radio listeners that “the hour of liberation for France is the hour when Germany wins the war.”

This announcement comes as little joy to the scores of Frenchmen who are rounded up that day to be deported to Germany as slave labor.

Berlin , Germany : The responsibility for maintaining law and order in German-occupied Belgium, Denmark, Holland, and Norway was given to Himmler and the SS organization

Rabaul , New Britain : Eight US B-17 Flying Fortress bombers attacked Rabaul, New Britain, damaging transport Matsumoto Maru in Simpson Harbor.

Guadalcanal , South West Pacific : The 11,000 Marines on Guadalcanal initially concentrated on forming a loose defensive perimeter around Lunga Point and the airfield, moving the landed supplies within the perimeter and finishing the airfield. In four days of intense effort, the supplies were moved from the landing beach into dispersed dumps within the perimeter. Work began on the airfield immediately, mainly using captured Japanese equipment. On 12 August the airfield was named Henderson Field after Lofton R. Henderson, a Marine aviator who was killed during the Battle of Midway.

William Sampson, flying a PBY Catalina aircraft, became the first pilot to have landed at Lunga Point Airfield (later Henderson Field) on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

Allied troops encountered a severe strain of dysentery soon after the landings, with one in five Marines afflicted by mid-August. Although some of the Korean construction workers surrendered to the Marines, most of the remaining Japanese and Korean personnel gathered just west of the Lunga perimeter on the west bank of the Matanikau River and subsisted mainly on coconuts. A Japanese naval outpost was also located at Taivu Point, about 35 kilometers (22 mi) east of the Lunga perimeter. On 8 August, a Japanese destroyer from Rabaul delivered 113 naval reinforcement troops to the Matanikau position.

On the evening of 12 August, a 25-man US Marine patrol, led by Division D-2 Lieutenant Colonel Frank Goettge and primarily consisting of intelligence personnel, landed by boat west of the US Marine Lunga perimeter, east of Point Cruz and west of the Japanese perimeter at Matanikau River, on a reconnaissance mission with a secondary objective of contacting a group of Japanese troops that U.S. forces believed might be willing to surrender. Soon after the patrol landed, a nearby platoon of Japanese naval troops attacked it and almost completely wiped it out. Only three Marines survived and returned back to Henderson Field.

On 12th August , Japanese destroyer Yuzuki bombarded US Marine positions at Lunga Point Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

Tokyo , Japan : The Japanese General Staff order Gen. Hyakutake, commanding the 17th Japanese Army in Rabaul , and responsible for Guadalcanal, to counterattack, using the Ichiki Detachment, an elite force, to recapture Henderson Field. 900 men will land at Taivu Point, 22 miles east of the American position, and advance. As a diversion, 250 Special Naval Landing Force men will land to the west of the Americans at Kokumbona.

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13 August 1942

Caribbean Sea : German submarine U-658 torpedoed and sank Dutch cargo ship Medea of Allied coastal convoy WAT-13 between Cuba and Haiti at 0507 hours; 5 were killed, 23 survived.
German submarine U-171 torpedoed and sank US tanker R. M. Parker, Jr. with two torpedoes and her deck gun 25 miles off Louisiana, United States at 0750 hours; all 44 aboard survived.
At 0948 hours, U-600 attacked Allied convoy TAW-12 between Cuba and Haiti, torpedoed and sinking Latvian cargo ship Everlza (23 were killed, 14 survived) and US passenger-cargo ship Delmundo (8 were killed, 50 survived).

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-752 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Cripple Creek 400 miles southwest of Freetown, British West Africa at 0740 hours; 1 was killed, 51 survived. Also on this day, Italian submarine Reginaldo Giuliani torpedoed and sank US cargo ship California 1,400 miles west of Freetown; 1 was killed, 35 survived.

Scotland , UK : US Navy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa, destroyers USS Rodman, USS Emmons, and HMS Onslaught departed Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom with ammunition, aircraft parts, and other war goods for the Soviet Union.

Cairo , Egypt : General Bernard Montgomery officially took over command of Eighth Army. Montgomery goes to Eighth Army’s Tac HQ and briefs all the headquarters officers at sunset. Chief of Staff Gen. Francis de Guingand wrote, “We all felt that a cool and refreshing breeze had come to relieve the oppressive and stagnant atmosphere.” Monty told his men, "Any further retreat or withdrawal is quite out of the question. Forget about it. ‘If we cannot stay here alive, then let us stay here dead.’

General Douglas Wimberley , commander of 51st Highland Division just arrived to Egypt and his division in reorientation and desert training , ran into both Alexander and Montgomery at the officers’ shop in Cairo buying khaki drill uniforms. Although neither would explain their presence, Wimberley, who had already witnessed the suppressed excitement at General Headquarters, guessed what was happening. He was delighted:‘

“Alex’ had been head student of my year at the Staff College . . . Monty had been not only my late commander in S.E. England, but had been Brigade Major to our Brigade in Ireland 20 odd years before, and had taught me at Staff College.”

This was just one example of the web of connections which both Alexander and Montgomery had built up during their careers (unlike previous Eighth Army and Middle East Commanders) which would serve them well in the future.

Montgomery drove up to Eighth Army on 13 August. His meeting with Eighth Army Acting (not official) Chief of Staff Brigadier Freddie de Guingand went well; Freddie told Montgomery that ‘the Eighth Army wanted a clear lead and a firm grip from the top; there was too much uncertainty and he thought the “feel of the thing” was wrong’. Montgomery met with General Ramsden, the acting Army Commander, who explained the current situation and the future plans for meeting an Axis offensive and the projected attack in the north in September. Montgomery then dismissed him with: ‘All right, I’ll carry on here. You can go back to your corps.’ The interregnum was over.

After a day of ‘savage thinking’, Montgomery addressed his new staff and gave the clear direction which was most certainly needed. Montgomery told his staff that he was going to create a new atmosphere: ‘The bad old days were over, and nothing but good was in store for us.’ He ordered the removal of the headquarters from the Ruweisat ridge and insisted that Eighth Army Headquarters must be linked with the Air Headquarters. He cancelled all orders for retreat or withdrawal. He informed his staff that he would immediately start with the planning for an offensive and mentioned the need for a corps d’élite of two armoured divisions and the New Zealand Division. Most importantly , army command as his authority and orders would be final , and his orders would be obeyed immediately , “No more bellyaching” or questioning or disobeying army commander authority will be allowed anymore.

According to Monty the terms like battlegroup and Jock Colums would cease to exist and divisions would henceforth fight as divisions. Firepower of divisions , artillery , anti tank guns and armor would be concentrated as divisions , no more piecemental small unit deployments as easy prey for Rommel’s Afrikakorps. And there would be no more box style defensive deployments that could be infltrated or or open flanks to be turned around. “Box is apparatus with a lid that you put something in , that’s it !” he said. The deployments would be on a regular defensive line and all arms artillery , infantry , armor , air force would combine and coordinate and cooperate each other (indiciplined British armored commanders clashed a lot with Monty after that)

Perhaps his most important decision was to appoint Freddie de Guingand as his Chief of Staff. This role had not hitherto been used within the British Army. The accepted role for the Brigadier General Staff, the senior staff officer at an Army Headquarters, was to act as a first among equals; the commanding general was still expected to manage his staff. Montgomery dispensed with this system. As Chief of Staff, de Guingand would now act as the main conduit for all Montgomery’s decisions and the responsibility and management of all staff work would lie with him. As de Guingand later recalled:

"That address by Montgomery will remain one of my most vivid recollections. It was one of his greatest efforts. We all felt that a cool and refreshing breeze had come to relieve the oppressive and stagnant atmosphere. The effect of the address was electric – it was terrific! And we all went to bed that night with a new hope in our hearts, and a great confidence in the future of our Army. "

There is no doubt that Montgomery’s address re-energised the staff of Eighth Army. Montgomery had begun to execute the ‘Projection of Personality’ he had taught at Staff College in the twenties. He projected confidence, determination and a clear direction which was bound to be appealing to a rather jaded and confused group of staff officers.

However, it is difficult in hindsight to disentangle the triumphant ‘Monty’ of post-1942 fame from the white-kneed lieutenant-general who came to command Eighth Army. Montgomery’s last experience of command in action had been with the 3rd Infantry Division during the retreat to Dunkirk. Since then, he had developed a powerful reputation as an energetic trainer of troops and an unconventional commander who drove his men hard. However, he had no experience of actually commanding mechanised forces in action or of the very different dimensions of time and space as they now operated in the deserts of Egypt.

His initial orders to burn all plans for withdrawal included both the tactical plan for the ‘thinning out’ of Eighth Army to take up its defensive positions and Auchinleck’s (previous now sacked Chief of Staff) Corbett’s plans for the retreat of the whole army. As part of this policy of ‘no retreat’, Montgomery also ordered the removal of all unnecessary transport from the front lines. Any possibility of tactical mobility or rapid redeployment of the front line forces was removed. At one stroke, Montgomery had committed Eighth Army to a static defence (as they were trained , doctrinated and their most accustomed comfortable operational way. Monty knew how his army functioned far better than his predecessors. He was methodic , systematic , careful and meticilous and fit to the British Commonwealth Eighth Army he commanded like a glove) in the face of any future Panzer Army Afrika attack.

Montgomery’s response on seeing the spartan mess for Eighth Army Headquarters was also legendary. Brigadier Kisch , chief of army engineers had constructed a wire cage around the mess tables in an attempt to keep flies out but instead this had acted as a flytrap and Auchinleck set the entire field HQ very close to frontline in vey spartan and uncomfortable conditions. Montgomery burst out: ‘What’s this, a meat safe? . . . You don’t expect me to live in a meat safe, do you? Take it down at once, and let the poor flies out!’ Montgomery reacted badly to conditions that were far from unusual in Eighth Army. Auchinleck’s Headquarters on Ruweisat ridge had never been intended to be permanent. It only became so when the expected advance in pursuit of a beaten Panzer Army Afrika never happened. The quality of accommodation and fare was quite usual for the Eighth Army but certainly unusual for a commander straight from England. Nonetheless, Montgomery was correct in moving the Headquarters to Burg el Arab where a proper, more comfortable mess could be arranged and where the staff officers could bathe in the sea after a long day. The crisis at Alamein was over and the Main Headquarters no longer needed to be up in the front line. The move of the mess also acknowledged the important fact that there would be no more fluid fighting; static positional warfare would predominate for the next few months. On top of that Montgomery moved Eighth Army HQ directly next to Desert Air Force Tactical HQ at Burg El Arab to coordinate and cooperate with RAF better. That alone shows his coordinated and cooperated operational doctrine emphasis with other arms.

Montgomery’s reception by the officers and men of Eighth Army was more cautious than perhaps the legend allows. Montgomery met General Freyberg , the commander of 2nd New Zealand Division on his first day in the desert. Freyberg emphasised the importance of his charter from the New Zealand government. He went on to say:

"I have had great anxiety in the past with higher commanders who have a mania for breaking up military organisation. . . . I have seen two full Generals, eleven Lieutenant-Generals and innumerable Major-Generals sacked because they have put their trust in:

1 The ‘Jock Columns’
2 The ‘Brigade Group’ Battle
3 The ‘Crusader Tank’. "

Along with most of Eighth Army, Freyberg maintained a healthy scepticism about any new commander fresh from England. Indeed, Freyberg was ‘determined not to take part in the Battle of Alamein unless I was given an undertaking that we would fight as a Division’. Not surprisingly, Montgomery’s insistence on fighting ‘Divisions as divisions’ was music to the ears of Freyberg and Morshead, neither of whom had agreed with the brigade group policy. Freyberg noted pointedly that:

“after the abolition of the Brigade Group battle there was no disagreement between the N.Z.E.F. and the C.in C. on questions of battle policy, and harmonious relations were maintained up to the finish of the war.”

At the same time, Montgomery’s policy of ‘no withdrawal’ was welcomed by Australian general Morshead who had opposed any withdrawal from the Tel el Eisa salient. (as Auchinleck intended before as “mobile elastic defence”) Eighth Army finally found a winner commander who understood how they worked in most efficient way.

He asked Alexander to send him two new British divisions (51st Highland and 44th Home Counties) that were then arriving in Egypt and were scheduled to be deployed in defence of the Nile Delta. He moved his field HQ to Burg al Arab, close to the Air Force command post in order to better coordinate combined operations.

Field Marshal Lord Gort, Commander of the BEF in France in 1940 and, by the summer of 1942, Governor of Malta, once remarked that in dealing with Monty, ‘*one must remember that he is not quite a gentleman’. This was not an insult anyone could throw at General Harold Alexander, but the fact that Monty was such an outsider in the boys’ club that was the British Army, and yet had still made it to lieutenant-general, says much about his determination and utter belief in his abilities and destiny.

They made an unlikely couple, Alex and Monty, yet their backgrounds, experience, and differing skills complemented one another perfectly. Together they made a team, as solid as Mary Coningham and Tommy Elmhirst in Desert Air Force, a team which, both Churchill and Brooke desperately hoped, would bring them victory and the prestige to give them a lasting equal partnership with the Americans.

Montgomery was determined that the army, navy and air forces should fight their battles in a unified, focused manner according to a detailed plan. He ordered immediate reinforcement of the vital heights of Alam Halfa, just behind his own lines, expecting the German commander, Erwin Rommel, to attack with the heights as his objective, something that Rommel soon would do.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Unbroken torpedoed and damaged Italian heavy cruiser Bolzano (so severely damaged that after towed to Spezia she was never repaired again and used as an empty hulk) and Italian light Muzio Attendolo 21 miles north of Capo d’Orlando, Sicily, Italy.

Operation Pedestal continues. Pedastal convoy entered E-Boat Alley in Skerki Bank in early hours of 13th August. The main part of the convoy was attacked at 00:40 by four fast torpedoboats of the German III Squadron and thirteen torpedo boats of the Italian 18° MAS, 2° MS and 20° MAS, which made 15 attacks; the long line of merchant ships and the reduced number of escort ships providing an easy target. The 18° MAS detected the convoy on radar, south-east of Pantelleria and attacked the escorts at the head of the procession, coming under fire, as they fired torpedoes to no effect. The Italian boats then attacked the merchant ships.

The convoy was vulnerable because the lighthouse at Cap Bon revealed their position about 10 nmi (12 mi; 19 km) offshore. German fast torpedoboats S 58 and S 59 sighted the first ships at 00:20, attacked and S 58 was damagedby gunfire from Royal Navy escort ships , turning away for Port Empedocle. S 59 attacked and claimed a freighter about 5 nmi (5.8 mi; 9.3 km) north-east of Cap Bon, but no ships were hit there. At 01:02 near Ras Mustafa south of Kelibia, Italian fast torpedoboats MS 16 or MS 22 attacked the convoy to no effect but then attacked light cruiser HMS Manchester from close range and each scored a hit, flooding its boilers, fuel tanks and magazines and that wrecking three of its four propeller shafts, the ship taking on a 12° list until counter-flooding reduced the list to 5°. The cargo ships in the convoy Waimarama, Almeria Lykes and Glenorchy following on, swerved around HMS Manchester and lost formation. Glenorchy mistakenly claimed the destruction of a torpedo boat and the two Italian MAS torpedoboats ran aground in Tunisia. Power was restored on HMS Manchester and 156 men were taken on board destroyer HMS Pathfinder but at 05:00, the captain ordered the ship be scuttled and the remaining crew to make for the Tunisian coast. (where they were interned by Vichy French)

Between 03:15 and 04:30 about 15 nmi (17 mi; 28 km) off Kelibia, German fast torpedo boats hit and sank cargo ships Wairangi, Almeria Lykes (US), Santa Elisa (US) and Glenorchy, as they took a short cut to catch up with the convoy. Rochester Castle was torpedoed but escaped at 13 kn (15 mph; 24 km/h) and caught up with the main body by 05:30, by when light cruiser HMS Charybdis, destroyers HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali had arrived, increasing the escort to two cruisers and seven destroyers around cargo ships Rochester Castle, Waimarama and Melbourne Star. The tanker Ohio and its destroyer escorts were slowly closing the distance and further back were cargo ship Port Chalmers and two destroyers. Another cargo ship Dorset was sailing independently and last cargo ship Brisbane Star lurked near the Tunisian coast, ready to make a run for Malta after dark. Dawn brought an end to the torpedo boat attacks and at 07:30, Admiral Burrough sent HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali back to help sinking HMS Manchester but they arrived too late, took on survivors who had not reached the shore and made for Gibraltar.

An attack by the Italian cruisers appeared imminent, after RAF air reconnaissance had sighted them the previous evening, heading south about 80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi) from the west end of Sicily, on course to reach the convoy at dawn. At 01:30 the cruisers had turned east and run along the north coast of Sicily; British aircraft from Malta had conducted a ruse to decoy the cruisers but the main attacking force on Malta was held back, in case the Italian battleships sailed from Taranto. Some of the Italian cruisers were ordered to return to port and the rest were sent through the Straits of Messina to join the 8th Cruiser Division against the MG 3 decoy convoy in the eastern Mediterranean.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Unbroken (commanded by Captain Alastair Mars , one of best Royal Navy submarine officers) had been waiting since 10 August 2 nmi (2.3 mi; 3.7 km) north of the Capo Milazzo lighthouse and after being attacked, moved close to Stromboli, arriving early on 13 August. The Italian cruisers were heard first by hydrophone and then seen through the periscope at 07:25, heading north between the islands of Filicudi and Panarea. The ships were making 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph) with eight destroyer escorts and two Italian CANT Z.506 aircraft overhead. Her commander Captain Mars raised the periscope for only short periods, to avoid being seen by the destroyers and the Cants, while manoeuvring into an attack position.

At 08:05, the cruisers slowed to 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph) for Italian light cruiser Gorizia to fly off a seaplane and then Italian destroyer Fuciliere machine-gunned a periscope seen at 450 yd (410 m). The Italian destroyers chased several Asdic contacts and three sailed within 1,000 yd (910 m) of HMS Unbroken, which fired four torpedoes after they had passed by. HMS Unbroken dived to 80 ft (24 m) and after 2.15 minutes, an explosion was heard followed by a second after another 15 seconds. Observers on Italian cruisers Gorizia and Bolzano had seen torpedo tracks and Gorizia was turned sharply but Bolzano was hit while beginning its turn. The deck crew of Muzio Attendolo had not seen the torpedo tracks or received the alert from Fuciliere and the ship took evasive action only after Bolzano was hit, which was too late when Italian cruiser was also hit by a torpedo. HMS Unbroken descended to 120 ft (37 m) and commenced silent running; Italian destroyers Fuciliere (carrying Asdic) and Camica Nera slowed to hunt the submarine. The destroyers detected HMS Unbroken at 08:45 and accurately dropped 105 depth charges in the next 45 minutes but at too shallow a depth. Two destroyers escorted Gorizia and Trieste to Messina and five remained with Bolzano and Muzio Attendolo, periodically dropping depth charges as a deterrent.

Italian light cruiser Muzio Attendolo was hit forward and 82 ft (25 m) of its bow was blown open but suffered no fatalities. The ship was towed towards Messina but when the bow fell off, the ship managed to sail on at 5 kn (5.8 mph; 9.3 km/h), escorted by destroyers Grecale, Ascari and later Freccia, reaching Messina at 18:54. Italian heavy cruiser Bolzano was struck amidships, six engine rooms and a magazine flooded and a fire started, the commander of the 11th Destroyer Flotilla being ordered to tow the ship and run it aground on Panarea. Bolzano burned until the next day, watched over by Italian fighters and after a month of crude temporary repairs, was towed to Naples then she was towedto La Spasia naval base but damage of Bolzano had been so heavy she could never be repaired by Axis. Muzio Attendolo also remained damaged for the duration of the war, and Bolzano was destroyed in June 1944, in an attack by two British SBS (Special Boat Squadron) human torpedo craft.

After remaining submerged for ten hours, HMS Unbroken surfaced and was recalled to Malta. (Supermarina had re-routed the cruiser force after a submarine (Unbroken) had been detected, which had been predicted by Mars, enabling him to forestall the Italians, who broke orders by not zigzagging and by slowing. After the incident, Supermarina assumed that the submarine had escaped because Italian depth charges were not powerful enough, rather than the Asdic-equipped ships had been hampered by the turbulence of destroyer wakes and depth charge explosions.)

At 07:00 Pedestal convoy was about 120 miles (220 km) from Malta and Axis reconnaissance accurately reported four freighters two cruisers and seven destroyers but not five more destroyers. Trailing behind were cargo ships Dorset and Port Chalmers with two destroyers and two more off to the west. Another cargo ship Brisbane Star was in the Gulf of Hammamet and south of Pantelleria were six British submarines. However by the morning the remants of the convoy was fighter range and air cover from Malta and Vice Air Marshal Park sent every fighter available to protect Pedestal convoy. Fliegerkorps II sent 26 Ju 88 bombers in several waves and at 09:15, 16 Ju 87s escorted by eight ME 109s and ME Bf 110s attacked. Ten Ju 88 bombers of II/LG 1 near missed Ohio and hit cargo ship Waimarama which disintegrated; the aviation fuel on deck burst into flame and one of German bombers was destroyed in the explosion. HMS Ledbury passed through the fires, rescuing 27 survivors of the ship’s complement of 107 men.

The wreckage of Waimarama showered flaming debris on Melbourne Star and several of her crew abandoned ship prematurely, some of whom were later rescued by Royal Navy HMS Ledbury which bravely plunged into burning patch sea among flaming debrids and rescued survivors. Then the crew of Melbourne Star reboarded their ship , restarted the engines and continued their passage to Malta.

At 09:23, eight Italian Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers with ten MC.202 escorts attacked to tanker Ohio sailing in 13 knots and a Stuka was shot down by accurate anti aircraft fire from tanker Ohio (by Norwegian merchant marine gunner Fred Larssen) and crashed onto deck of Ohio, another was shot into the sea by anti aircraft fire and a Spitfire was shot down, either by a MC.202 or navy anti-aircraft fire. Aboard Ohio , a little later the chief officer telephoned Captain Mason to announce that a shot-down Stuka had just arrived on the stern. Mason answered nonchalantly, ‘Oh that’s nothing. We’ve had a Ju 87 on the bow for nearly half an hour.’

The cargo ship Rochester Castle was damaged by a near miss from a Ju 88 and cargo ship Dorset was hit by Stukas of I/StG 3 and abandoned. The attackers lost two Ju 87s and a Bf 109 and a RAF Beaufighter was shot down. The cargo ship Port Chalmers was hit and at 11:25, five Italian SM.79 torpedo-bombers, with 14 MC.202 escorts, attacked and the crew found a torpedo caught in the starboard paravane, a torpedo became entangled in the paravane floats streaming behind Port Chalmers which had been meant to catch mines. The crew carefully released the paravane, the weight of which pulled the torpedo underwater, where it exploded harmlessly. An Italian SM.79 was shot down by a Spitfire and two Royal Navy destroyers were left behind with the disabled ships.

20 Ju 88s returned later that in the afternoon, and scored a bomb hit on Ohio’s starboard side, knocking out the power and boiler fires. Hard-working engineers use fuel starter torches to re-light the boilers, and Ohio is doing 16 knots within 20 minutes…only to get hammered by more bombs that also damage the electric fuel pumps. These hits finally stop the engines.

Ohio is joined by destroyers HMS Penn and HMS Ledbury , which start towing the battered tanker with 10-inch manila rope. Not only is Ohio immobile, but unable to defend herself as her 20mm Oerlikon anti aircraft guns are all damaged from heavy use.

The Luftwaffe tries again at 1:30, and a Ju 88 drops its bomb just before anti aircraft fire destroys the plane. The bomb rips open Ohio. Capt. Mason orders his exhausted crew to abandon ship. Destroyer and tanker crews, having gone without sleep for three days, are near the limits of their endurance. Royal Navy escort destroyer HMS Ledbury’s captain boosts morale by ordering a rum issue.

The remnants of the convoy steamed on to meet the four minesweepers and seven motor minesweepers of the 17th Minesweeper Flotilla of the Malta Escort Force at 14:30. RAF fighters from Mala dispersed rest of Axis aircraft on rest of the ships , shooting down five JU-87 Stukas , three Italian SM79 torpedo bombers , three German JU-88 bombers and four Italian Macarati 202 fighters and one German ME-109 fighter.

The cargo ships Melbourne Star, Port Chalmers and Rochester Castle reached Grand Harbour at Valletta at 16:30 the cheers of inhabitants lining the ramparts. Malta’s Governor, Lord Gort, was on the Upper Barrakka gardens overlooking the harbour, listening to the cries of ‘Wasal il-Konvoy! Diehel il-Konvoy! (The convoy is here! The convoy is entering the harbour!)’. Amid the continuous roar of Spitfires overhead, a band struck up the Maltese national anthem and a selection of naval marches. The flags were out too – British, American and Maltese. The warships came in with their guns pointing up, and their crews standing on the edges of the decks stripped to the waist. Meanwhile, seventy miles out to sea, two motor launches and the minesweeper HMS Rye had also gone to help the Ohio.

Malta now has food to sustain the siege till winter, but the critical oil is still 70 miles away, on a sinking ship.

In Valetta where Operation Ceres, the immediate unloading of the ships began. Another air attack at dusk by 14 Ju 87s, sank the cargo ship Dorset but when the main body was within 80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi) of Malta, 18 Ju 88s were recalled in the face of 407 Spitfire sorties from the island.

Royal Navy escort estroyer HMS Penn tried to tow tanker Ohio but the tanker was listing and snapped the tow line and in a later attack, a bomb hit the same area as a previous torpedo hit and broke Ohio’s keel. Still she is afloat.

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13 August 1942

Mediterranean Sea : The last cargo ship from Pedestal Convoy to arrive Valetta Harbour , Brisbane Star evaded a U-boat and managed to steam at 5–9 kn (9.3–16.7 km/h; 5.8–10.4 mph) despite the damage to its bows. Off Tunisia, the last cargo ship of the convoy straggled behind Brisbane Star was attacked by two SM.79 torpedo bombers, whose torpedoes turned out to be duds. The cargo ship evaded Italian MAS boats; it was then boarded by Vichy French Sousse harbour master, who tried to impound the vessel until persuaded to relent and let the ship sail on after dark. Next day Brisbane Star arrived Valetta harbour to the suprise of everybody , fourth cargo ship that reached Malta from remants of Pedestal.

Now only tanker Ohio and its precious 14.000 tons of fuel to be delivered to Malta remained. Royal Navy destroyer HMS Ledbury escorting damaged tanker Ohio was attacked by two SM.79 torpedo bombers but anti aircraft gunners shot them down. On Royal Navy destroyer HMS Penn, Capt. Mason sees Admiral Burrough’s ships coming and minesweeper HMS Rye approaching, and knows he has more resources to bring his ship to Malta. He asks for volunteers from his crew to go back aboard Ohio, and all weary merchant sailors volunteer do so, checking valves and steering gear, stopping leaks. Mason removes his ship’s rudder and auxiliary steering gear. The ship will be hand-steered to Malta.

But at 6:30 the Luftwaffe comes back for one more try, and a JU-88 score a bomb hit that explodes on the boiler tops, blowing most of the engine room to pieces. Ohio has broken her back. Mason again orders abandon ship.

That evening, Mason and Lt. Cdr. Swain, HMS Penn’s skipper, discuss the situation. Ohio is flooding, but Mason is determined to get her oil to Malta. “We’ll do everything we can,” Swain says. They come up with a new plan to save the tanker.

Force X had turned for Gibraltar at 16:00 with the cruisers HMS Charybdis, HMS Kenya and five destroyers and Fliegerkorps II made a maximum effort against the force, which made it easier for the remaining merchant ships to reach Malta. Force X was attacked by 35 Ju 88s and 13 Ju 87s, achieving only a near-miss on HMS Kenya for a loss of a Ju 88 and a Stuka. The Regia Aeronautica attacked with 15 bombers and 20 torpedo-bombers for no loss and during the afternoon, Force X met Force Z, the ships being attacked by aircraft, submarines and light craft but reached Gibraltar next day without further damage. The destroyers HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali, carrying survivors from HMS Manchester were the last to reach Gibraltar at 17:30 on 15 August.

Caucausian Front , Russia : First Panzer Army captured Elysia , 200 miles south of Stalingrad, and 155 miles from the Caspian Sea. The Caucasian town of Mineralniye Vody falls to the Germans as well.

Vinnisa , Ukraine : At his wooden headquarters - “Werewolf” - at Vinnitsa in the Ukraine, Hitler discusses the French coast. If Nazi strategy fails, the Second Front will come sooner or later. Hitler orders Armaments Minister Albert Speer to create an “Atlantic Wall” of fortifications against any Allied landing. Hitler wants 15,000 concrete bunkers set at 50- or 100-yard intervals, to be built without regard for cost. Hitler recalls for Speer’s benefit his World War I days, how hard it was for the Allies to dig German troops out of trenchlines. “Our most costly substance,” Hitler says, “Is the German man. The blood these fortifications will spare is worth the billions.” It is a strange move for the man who has espoused mobile warfare with such success, to fall back on fixed fortifications.

Don River , Russia : German Sixth Army was held off by remants of 62nd Soviet Army and 1st Tank Army at Kletskaya in narrow bridgehead , 40 miles away from Stalingrad. Since he was short of manpower , General Paulus , commander of Sixth Army decided Fourth Panzer Army to attack rear of this ramshackle blocking force and destroy it. Meanwhile with total mobilisation , Soviet defences around Stalingrad are getting stronger each day.

Stalingrad : On 12 August, Vasilevskii conferred with Yeremenko about the defensive preparations required to deal with this even more dangerous situation: Yeremenko was of the opinion that the first stage of the German offensive – wiping out the Soviet bridgeheads on the western bank of the Don and west of Kalach – was now done. He anticipated a heavy German attack against 4th Tank Army and the forcing of the Don, at the same time as German formations struck from the south. The intelligence data at Yeremenko’s disposal confirmed this: for Kalach-Stalingrad, up to 10–11 German divisions, to the south (Plodovitoe-Stalingrad) some 5–7 German divisions, indicating a concentric blow. In the wake of Vasilevskii came V.A. Malyshev, deputy chairman of the GKO with a group of senior officials, to look into local supply, railway transport and the movement of Volga river traffic.

Moscow , Russia : Second Moscow Conferance continues. General Alan Brooke , Imperial Chief of Staff (whose aircraft was behind Churchill’s) landed on Moscow and joined second day of talks. The good humour with which two sides had parted the previous evening had disappeared.

It crossed Brooke’s mind that Stalin had taken the bad news about the Second Front to his Politburo and had been shaken by their reaction. Whatever had happened, Stalin had returned to the theme of an invasion of France in 1942, his insistence reinforced with more insulting attacks on the British, culminating in some withering criticism of the Royal Navy for their conduct during the PQ17 convoy.

“This is the first time in history that the British Navy has ever turned tail and fled from the battle. You British are afraid of fighting. You should not think the Germans are supermen. You will have to fight sooner or later. You cannot win a war without fighting.”

Churchill, beginning to lose his temper, defended British courage and described the months during which his country had fought on alone in 1940 and ’41. He did not go so far as to point out that at that time Stalin had been allied to Hitler, but doubtless meant Stalin to reflect on the fact. Churchill became so transported by his own passionate eloquence that he barely left time for the translator and had to keep stopping to ask, ‘Did you tell him that?’ He concluded by saying that he would pardon Stalin’s abuse of the Royal Navy, but only ‘on account of the bravery of the Russian troops’. Stalin laughed. He replied that although he had not understood everything that Churchill had said, he could tell from his demeanour that Britain’s fighting spirit burned brightly in her Prime Minister.

Having vented all his anger, Stalin asked Churchill and his party to join him for a banquet. A hundred people gathered in one of the Kremlin’s most ornate dining rooms: ministers, diplomats and Soviet generals festooned with medals. Just before he was driven there, Alan Brooke received the latest, depressing news from the Pedestal convoy. As if this were not enough to put him off his food, the sight of it made him feel distinctly queasy. The tables were piled high with every kind of roast meat, poultry and fish, with generous quantities of caviar and dozens of bottles of vodka. Brooke spent most of the evening trying to avoid the gaze of a small sucking pig, smothered in an unappetising white sauce, and equipped with a black truffle eyeball that threatened to drop out. Whenever he felt that no one was looking he carefully refilled his vodka glass with water.

Churchill, however, was in his element. Piling food on to his plate with aplomb, he joined in enthusiastically as Stalin toasted all of his generals and admirals in turn. Stalin toured the room, insisting on clinking glasses with the recipients of his toasts, some of whom, Brooke noted disapprovingly, were soon glassy-eyed and unsteady on their feet. Churchill drank to Stalin’s own health while other guests proposed ‘Death and damnation to the Nazis!’ and suchlike. Stalin teased Churchill by recalling pre-war visits to Moscow by sympathetic British politicians who had told him that ‘Churchill, the old warhorse’ was finished. Stalin claimed to have predicted even then that the warrior would make a comeback.

The next day was spent recovering from the banquet. Stalin and Churchill had parted on extremely good terms the night before, with Stalin taking the unusual step of escorting his guest to the gates of the Kremlin. Then, during the evening of 14-15 August, Stalin asked to see Churchill again in private. He arrived at seven in the evening and stayed until three in the morning after Molotov joined them for another boozy dinner. Abuse had now softened into jokes, and even nostalgia. Stalin remembered London where, in 1907, he had been a young Bolshevik agitator alongside Lenin, while Churchill was already a minister in the British government. Stalin asked Churchill why he had ‘bombed his Molotov’, reminding him of the moment when the RAF had attacked Berlin during one of Molotov’s meetings with his German opposite number in the days of the Nazi–Soviet alliance. The Germans were talking of Britain’s imminent defeat, as they cowered in a shelter from British bombs, something that Stalin and Molotov thought very funny indeed.

Berlin , Germany : SS Lt. Gen. Karl Wolff writes the manager of the German Ministry of Transportation, saying, “It gives me great pleasure to learn that already, for the last 14 days, one train goes daily with 5,000 passengers of the Chosen People to Treblinka; and we are even in a position to complete this mass movement of people at an accelerated rate.”

Kokoda Track : Japanese Army troops attacked Australian positions at Deniki, Australian Papua but they were repulsed by well prepared defensive positions of 39th Australian Militia Battalion. Next day though when realising they are being outflanked Australians retreated from Deniki to Isauva village where they prepared a new series of defensive entranchments , prepared positions and reinforcements from rest of the battalion concentrated.

Rabaul , New Britain : Japanese 17th Army plots its grand counterattack to regain Henderson Field in Guadalcanal. Chief of Staff Gen. Akisaburo Futami reckons American numbers at 7,000. They’re actually twice that.

Col. Kiyono Ichiki, boss of the 2,000-man Ichiki Detachment, gets his orders. He holds a distinguished record…expert infantry tactician, hard-driving officer…he led troops in the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge incident, thus singlehandedly starting the Sino-Japanese War. His 28th Infantry Regiment has led numerous amphibious assaults, and his Ichiki Detachment (part of that force) was to land on Midway. His tactics so far have relied on night attacks with bugles, swords, and bayonets – and he has never lost.

Ichiki is told that the Americans are going to withdraw. He tells his bosses he will attack two days after landing on Guadalcanal. His men will carry only 250 rounds of ammo per man and seven days’ rations.

Philippines : In the Philippines, Gen Nishino, the newspaper correspondent with the Kawaguchi Detachment of 3,500 men, gets word from the detachment’s CO, Gen. Kiotake Kawaguchi, that the detachment is heading for Guadalcanal.

Kawaguchi briefs the reporter, saying, “This is our new destination – Gadarukanaru. It’s true there will be nothing heroic in it, but I’d say it will be extremely serious business. If you decide to continue on with us, you must put your life in my hands. Both of us will probably be killed.” Nishino says he will go.


14 August 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-598 attacked Allied convoy TAW-12 50 miles northeast of Pueto Padre, Cuba at 1155 hours, torpedoed and sinking British freighter Michael Jebsen (7 were killed, 40 survived), sinking British tanker Empire Corporal (6 were killed, 49 survived), and damaging British tanker Standella (6 were killed, 52 survived).

At 1930 hours, Italian submarine Reginaldo Giuliani sank British ship Sylvia de Larrinaga 700 miles southwest of Cape Verde Islands; 3 were killed.

South of Saint Helena island, German armed merchant cruiser Michel intercepted and sank British freighter Arabistan with gunfire; 66 were killed.

The first US Army Air Force P-38 Lightning kill in the European Theatre occurred when the 33rd Fighter Squadron flying from Iceland destroyed a marauding Fw 200 maritime patrol bomber.

Normandy , France : Operation Barricade a British Commando raid was launched. It was carried out by 11 men of No. 62 Commando over the night of 14/15 August 1942, and had as its objective an anti-aircraft gun and radar site north-west of Pointe de Saire south of Barfleur. The raiders crossed the English Channel by Motor Torpedo Boat.

They opened fire on a German patrol in dark , killing three and wounding six, before withdrawing without loss to the Commandos

El Alamein , Egypt : General Bernard Montgomery reviewed his army’s defensive positions and plans. They stressed mobility, but Montgomery were not believe his forces are the equal of Rommel’s in a mobile battle, as infantry and armor did yet work together. (and he was right , too many times cavalry minded indiciplined British armor commanders made only tank charges and then were trapped and destroyed by German anti tank gun screens and leaving infantry and artillery unprotected) Monty would rather depend on tenacity. Instead of an open system Rommel can penetrate, Eighth Army will be a fortress against which Rommel will dash himself to pieces.

Montgomery’s last move was to request the immediate move forward of 44 (Home Counties) Division, still in desert training. Gen. Harold Alexander said, “If that’s what Monty wants, let him have it.” Montgomery intended to position it directly on vital Alam El Halfa ridge at Adam Nayil peak which was left undefended by previous command of Eighth Army. Montgomery also ordered an intensified entrenchment and defensive works construction , minefield laying on Alamein line though made it appear as little as possible and concealed/camauflaged as much as possible at southern flank of Alamein line where he intended to lure and repulse Rommel’s Panzer Army. He also brought 22nd Armored Brigade with 139 medium M3 Grant tanks and had it positioned on Alam el Halfa ridge in hull down position to meet German armor. Its commander Brigadier Roberts was instructed to meet and throw back an enemy attack but no pursuit or mobile battle to let his armour caught open against enemy anti tank guns like happened too many times since these Grant tanks were last hope of Egypt (252 M4 Sherman tanks sent from US yet to arrive in September)

Montgomery made it clear that he wanted no more belly aching from his subordinates , his orders to be obeyed immediately therefore restoring ill dicipline of Auchinleck era Eighth Army. Anyone disobeyed or insubordinate paid the price pretty soon recalled Eighth Army chief of Staff Brigadier De Guingand later. Then equally important thing , restoring morale took priorty. Monty immediately began visiting and inspecting front line units.

Back in Eighth Army HQ , new army commander made another speech to his subordinates. It had not started well. He was thirty minutes late after his escort officer had accidently led him into a minefield. It took some time to extract themselves. Then Montgomery, small, slight, pale skin and speaking in a high-pitched voice, certainly lacked Auchinleck’s commanding presence. But his words made a lasting impression. Indeed, it has become one of the most famous speeches in British military ­history:

“You do not know me. I do not know you. But we have got to work together; therefore we must understand each other and we must have confidence in one another. I have only been here a few hours. But from what I have seen and heard since I arrived, I am prepared to say, here and now, that I have confidence in you. We will then work together as a team, and together we will gain the confidence of this great army and go forward to final victory in Africa.”

“Here we will stand and fight; there will be no further withdrawal. I have ordered that all plans and instructions dealing with further withdrawal are to be burnt, and at once. We will stand and fight here. If we can’t stay here alive, then let us stay here dead … Now I understand that Rommel is expected to attack at any moment. Excellent. Let him attack. I would sooner it didn’t come for a week, just give me time to sort things out. If we have two weeks to prepare we will be sitting pretty; Rommel can attack as soon as he likes after that and I hope he does … Meanwhile, we ourselves will start to plan a great offensive; it will be the beginning of a campaign which will hit Rommel for six right out of Africa … He is definitely a nuisance. Therefore we will hit him a crack and finish with him.”

Meanwhile , the first indications of Eighth Army operational changes along with Montgomery’s biography already reached Panzer Army Field HQ at Alamein. After his intelligence officers went over them during a conferance , Rommel remarked to his subordinates “This man (Montgomery) is dangerous because he knows his profession and what he is doing”

Mediterannean Sea : Royal Navy destroyers HMS Penn, HMS Bramham, HMS Ledbury, and minesweeper HMS Rye began towing the previously abandoned tanker Ohio of Allied convoy Pedestal, still carrying her cargo of fuel. Later on the same day, lighly damaged British freighter Brisbane Star reached Malta at 1615 hours.

Ohio was surrounded by ships to nurse the tanker to Grand Harbour and several British and American volunteers from Santa Eliza manned anti-aircraft guns on Ohio during the tow.

The weight of the tanker kept breaking the tow lines, while constant air attacks were made by 20 Italian bombers in 10:00 AM that destroyed the rudder, made a hole in her stern and brought the decks awash.

That morning, Regia Aeronautica sent its best Stuka pilots after the Ohio. All the two-man Ju 87 crews in Gruppo 102 were dive-bombing aces.“At about 0800 the enemy air activity commenced and continued,” said Captain Mason. “I was now in one of the motor launches, about three cables astern of the Ohio.”

“Suddenly they were over us, and peeled off one after the other to come screaming down,” said Roger Hill , captain of HMS Ledbury. “There were nine of them, and it was horrible to be secured each end, to HMS Rye and Ohio, moving at two knots and quite unable to dodge.“ About the fourth plane released his bomb a fraction late, and this seemed to be coming exactly at us on the bridge. ‘Lie down!’ I shouted, and the 500-pound bomb whistled over the top of the bridge and landed with a great splash alongside the focsle. I waited for the explosion and then the ship to go up, but nothing happened. The water came all over the ship, and then we saw a large widening circle of oil.“

"We were saved by Axis thoroughness. They were dropping oil bombs, in order to set the tanker on fire.”

The United States had invented napalm earlier that year but hadn’t used it yet. The oil bombs near-missing the Ohio were a primitive Italian version of napalm.

Shortly after midnight, 60 miles from Malta, HMS Penn and Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Rye try to tow Ohio to Malta, doing 4.5 knots. But at 1 a.m., the tow is broken, and the British have to try again. The destroyer HMS Branham suggested the tanker be moved by towing alongside. The captain of Ohio , Dudley Mason and some of his British crew along with some American voluntteers (survivors who were aboard HMS Ledbery who were picked up after sinking of their cargo ship US flagged Santa Elisa) finally got some sleep. At dawn, they buried at sea the body of a Royal Navy gunner killed in action. HMS Ledbury turned up to assist with the tow, and sends sailors aboard to hook in cables. They returned to the destroyer with one large typewriter, two 20mm Oerlikon guns, 12 magazines, a number of field telephones, and a large megaphone with SS Ohio stamped on it. Mason also went aboard and inspects the tanks. His ship is holding better than he expected despite heavy damage.

They decided to try ‘sandwiching’ the tanker. HMS Penn attached itself to the starboard side and Bramham to the port side, where, being shorter than Penn, she was able to stay clear of the dangerous flange of metal. It now appeared that the two destroyers were the only thing keeping the tanker afloat. Captain Mason was advising the captain of HMS Bramham.

“Through trial and error we discovered that if the Ohio took a swing to starboard HMS Penn should increase speed by a third of a knot which would very slowly check that swing and would bring her back again. And the swing would go past the right course and come towards my way so then I would increase speed slightly. So in fact the actual course was a zigzag, but it worked extraordinarily well.”

Mason then went back aboard the Ohio to join his crew.

After initial Italian air attack in the morning , HMS Penn was endeavouring to keep the engine room pumped dry but the water was gaining six inches per hour. The mean freeboard of the Ohio was now two foot six inches and the stern half of the vessel was expected to fall off at any time. She was drawing forty feet aft instead of twenty-nine feet.

Joined by three more minesweepers, Ohio struggled on.

But at 10:45, six German Ju 88s swung in. Massed British guns from escort destroyers and two functional anti aircraft guns aboard Ohio , shot down one German bomber, and the rest released their ordenance too early. Three more echelons of German aircraft came in, but 16 Spitfire fighters from Malta sighted the enemy, and shook up the German formation. Six German bombers were shot down by Spitfires , one by Canadian fighter ace Buzz Beurling known as Knight of Malta. The Germans toss a 1,000-kg. bomb at Ohio, which misses , then retreated , Spitfires chasing in. Ohio has 45 miles to go.

That afternoon, the air was full of Spitfires, which screened off German aircraft, but submarine menace remained. The tanker’s life at sea might have been measurable in hours or even minutes, as she struggles along at a steady five knots and taking water below decks. Crewmen staggered about like sleepwalkers, nodding off at their stations.

At dusk, lookouts spot Malta’s cliffs, and the force squeezed into the mineswept channel off Delimara Point. The King’s Harbor Master arrived in the tug HMS Robert to take charge of the final part of the tow. As the ship staggered in, Maltese coast defenses spotted an enemy submarine and scared it off with 9.2-inch shells.

The battle isn’t over yet…shortly after that, an enemy torpedoboat sweep in from the northeast. British coast defenses at Malta light up searchlights. At the last moment, the Axis fast torpedoboat commander decided the certainty of destruction by 9.2-inch guns was not worth the risk, and torpedoboats withdrew.

The tanker was towed in by the destroyers HMS Ledbury and HMS Penn lashed on either side, with the minesweeper HMS Rye acting as a stabiliser at the stern. More air attacks disrupted the towing formation, until it was re-established with HMS Bramham replacing HMS Ledbury for the remainder of the journey

London , UK : Dwight D. Eisenhower was named Anglo-American commander for Operation Torch.

‘Trying to follow the evolution of TORCH is like trying to find the pea in a three-shell game,’ noted Harry Butcher in his diary on 12 August. Two days earlier, Ike had submitted his latest plan to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, which, in a nutshell, suggested there should be four landings, at Bône, Algiers, Oran, and Casablanca, ‘with a view to the earliest possible occupation of Tunisia, and the establishment in French Morocco of a striking force which can ensure control of the Straits of Gibraltar’. The landings inside the Mediterranean, which would include the US 1st Infantry Division, would come directly from Britain; those along the Atlantic coast would come straight from the USA.

This was agreed in principle, but there were still all manner of stumbling blocks that needed to be overcome, from the issue of timing through to the continued problem of shipping, even to the swell and surf conditions on the Atlantic coast, and the thornier issues of how the Vichy French, and even the Spanish, would react.

The British also seemed to be having great difficulty in letting the Americans know their exact shipping capabilities – again, this depended on a number of factors, including whether they suspended any further Russian convoys and whether the Americans could help out in protecting British home waters. The two navies did agree, however, that they could not jointly provide escort for simultaneous attacks on Casablanca and inside the Mediterranean. Matters were not helped by the sinking of the carrier HMS Eagle – earmarked for TORCH – during a convoy to Malta on 11 August. Another carrier, HMS Indomitable, was also badly damaged on the same operation. Moreover, the losses on this convoy further underlined the danger for any Allied shipping venturing into submarine-infested waters of the western Mediterranean. Nor were there enough assault craft, either for the operation itself or with which the troops could immediately train. And the US Big Red One’s equipment had still not arrived. This alone did not augur well. On 12 August, Ike was told that there were only nine combat loaders (vessels of all kinds for unloading troops) available – hardly enough for training the twelve divisions needed for the landings. ‘Ike said he would be glad if someone would give him some good news,’ noted Harry Butcher, ‘as every step in planning disclosed further obstacles.’

That same day, General Marshall informed Ike that the view in Washington was that TORCH appeared to be increasingly hazardous. ‘As the British might say,’ noted Harry Butcher, having observed their penchant for understatement, ‘the prospect for success is somewhat less than consoling.’

At least Ike was surrounded by men he both liked and trusted. His deputy for TORCH now that Alexander was out was General Mark Clark, whom he had also placed in charge of plans. General Patton was also in town to discuss planning – he was still to lead the US invasion force. Like Ike, Patton had been one of the few members of the US Army to think progressively during the 1920s and thirties. ‘Patton is a good fellow,’ noted Butch, ‘curses like a trooper and boasts that while he is stupid in many particulars (his own description) there is one quality he knows he has – the ability to exercise mass hypnotism.’ In these difficult times, Ike needed people with this kind of self-belief around him.

Together with Clark and Patton, Ike drew up an assessment of the situation for Marshall on 15 August. Success or failure depended on a huge range of ‘ifs’. Vichy French forces in North Africa stood at fourteen divisions – mostly poorly equipped, moderately trained, and reasonably ably commanded – and five hundred aircraft, albeit mostly obsolete. If these forces resisted strongly, it would make life very difficult for the Allies indeed. Gibraltar was also a cause for concern, because of its vulnerability due to its proximity to Spain. Though Spain was neutral at the moment, it was a fascist state and might allow Germany to use its airfields or, worse, even enter the war on the side of the Axis. It was recognized that any unusual activity in Gibraltar was known in Berlin within twenty-four hours – so deception plans were also needed. Weather could also potentially become a critical factor. Having taken a copy of Ike’s cable to Marshall, Harry Butcher summarized the situation for his diary: ‘The chances of making successful initial landings look better than even. The chances of capturing Tunis before Axis reinforcements arrive look considerably less than fifty per cent. Building up a land-based air force presents great difficulties. Poor port facilities will delay heavy concentration of ground troops. Communications between Oran and Casablanca are long and uncertain. The attitude of the French remains problematical. Any sign of failure or hesitancy might lead the Axis to occupy Spain at once, with serious results to the whole course of the war.

British Intelligence at Bletchley Park , UK scored yet another coup, breaking the main Enigma code used by the SS, and call it “Quince.” The Germans never know it is broken, and the British read it until V-E Day. The only code that eludes the British is the Gestapo Enigma, known as TGD.

Don River , Russia : Troops of German Sixth Army and Fourth Panzer Army set fire to wooded areas west of the Don River in southern Russia in an attempt to drive out the remnants of the surrounded Soviet 62nd Army.

The fighting had indeed been hard. Many German soldiers did not share General Paulus’s confidence, nor Hitler’s opinion that the enemy was finished. On the first day, the anti-tank battalion of the 371st Germnan Infantry Division lost twenty-three men. More and more often, Sixth Army soldiers, like those in the 389th Infantry Division, were hearing the ‘Urrah!’ of charging Soviet infantry. One soldier writing home was utterly dejected by ‘the many, many crosses and graves, fresh from yesterday’, and the implications for the future. Heavy losses in other divisions also seem to have dented morale. The 76th Infantry Division had to detail extra soldiers for burial parties. One of those men selected told his Russian interrogator, when captured a month later, that he and his two companions had had to deal with seventy-two corpses in a single day. An artillery corporal, on the other hand, who had worked for twenty-nine hours without a proper break, was in no doubt about a victorious outcome for the Wehrmacht. ‘The Russians can shoot as much as they want, but we’ll shoot more. It’s a great pleasure when a couple of hundred Russians attack. One self-propelled assault gun is enough, and they all make a run for it.’

Some German units were rewarded with extra rations of chocolate and cigarettes for their exertions, which they enjoyed during the relative cool of the evening. The fighting had been hard. ‘The only consolation’, a pioneer wrote home, ‘is that we will be able to have peace and quiet in Stalingrad, where we’ll move into winter quarters, and then, just think of it, there’ll be a chance of leave.’

Caucasian Front , Russia : In the Caucasus region of southern Russia, German troops from 1st Panzer Army crossed the Kuban River near Krasnodar.

Marshall Semyon Budenny assigned the defence of the Maikop-Tuapse line to the 12th and 18th Armies, supported by the 17th Cavalry Corps with its Kuban Cossack troops and reinforced by 32nd Guards Rifle Division pulled out of 47th Army. At Tyulenev’s HQ the debate raged about the location of the basic defence line – the Terek or the Sulak; in the first week in August, Tyulenev reported to Colonel-General Vasilevskii that the Military Soviet had decided to base its defence on the Terek river line, with powerful bridgeheads in the areas of Kizlyar, Staroshchedrinskoe, Mozdok, Maklinskii and Prishibskaya. The Stavka in turn gave Tyulenev full authorization to put this plan into effect. By mid August, when the breakthrough of strong German armoured forces into Tuapse, Novorossiisk and Grozny appeared imminent, Tyulenev decided to move his forces forward to Mineralnye Vody to support Malinovskii’s battered troops. With the Rostov-Baku railway line jammed with trucks evacuating factory equipment, movement was almost impossible and the situation rendered more chaotic by the torrent of refugees – the ‘doleful trains’ crammed with the aged, with women and children, rolling through Nalchik to Beslana, on to Makhatchkala and from Derbent to Baku. The GKO was vitally concerned that the Trans-Caucasus Front should not be isolated as its communications were severed one by one, and ordered local plants to go over to the production of ammunition, equipment and weapons; a central repair base was set up in Tyulenev’s rear, and only heavy equipment (tanks and aircraft) were sent in from the central industrial regions.

Belarussia : The Germans try yet another anti-partisan sweep in Russia, Operation Griffon, against partisans at Orsha and Vitebsk. Once again the Germans land a bunch of haymakers against partisans on the Moscow Highway from Brest-Litovsk through Minsk to Smolensk. Once again the bulk of Soviets escape the German nets.

Vichy France : 7,000 “stateless” Jews were arrested in France by German authorities.

Papua New Guinea : Australian 39th Battalion fell back 4 miles from Deniki to Isurava in Australian Papua after learning Japanese troops had infiltrated its rear, which turned out to be faulty intelligence. To the north, 3,000 Japanese troops of the 14th Naval Construction Unit and 15th Naval Construction Unit arrived at Buna, tasked with building major naval facilities.

Guadalcanal : At 7:35 a.m, Martin Clemens and his team leave their post on Guadalcanal to contact the Americans.

The Marines face two menaces on Guadalcanal. First comes the problem with 200 to 300 head of captured cattle, roaming the perimeter as a mobile food dump. The Japanese bomb the herd, which causes a stampede. The terrified cattle launch an all-out assault on 1st Marine Division’s Tac HQ, and tear it apart, in one of the war’s most bizarre episodes.

That evening, to deal with roving Japanese bands, the Marines issue challenges that require passwords like “polyglot,” “Lilliputian,” and “bilious.” The Americans believe the Japanese cannot pronounce the letter “L.”

That evening, nervous Marines scream “Hallelujah” at each other all night long to confirm their identities, and the incident is ever afterward known as “Hallelujah Night.” The policy is dropped next evening.

Pacific Ocean : American submarine USS Seawolf torpedoed and sank Japanese passenger-cargo ship Hachigen Maru in the Sibitu Passage between Borneo and Sulu, Philippine Islands.

American submarine USS S-39 ran aground and became stuck off Rossel Island of the Louisiade Archipelago 200 kilometers southeast of Australian Papua. The crew was rescued by Austrsalian corvette HMAS Katooba.

The Japanese Navy changed its radio code J-25. It was suspected, but not proven, that the code was changed in response to suspicions that the Americans had broken the previous code scheme.


Man…Pedestal Convoy was insane and took me to comb a whole a lot books and resources to make a sense of it. The voyage of British manned tanker Ohio and her escorts was literally crazy


Great coverage! Boy the British luck with carriers was not good.


Great work You are doing :clap::clap::clap:


First light by Spitfire pilot Wellum is a really good account of among other events Pedestal. He had to take off for Malta and saw the Ohio arrive. At first there were cheers but then people became glum and took there hats off as they saw the dead on deck.

The film is really good as well and Wellum plays himself as he reflects on the film version of his. The book and film are pure realism and Wellum wrote about the continuous stress about losing friends in training and combat.


And Again I really appreciate the great work here.