Sunday, August 14, 2022

June 15, 1942: Great Day For The Italian Navy

Monday 15 June 1942

HMS Bedouin sinks near Pantelleria, 15 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Royal Navy Tribal-class destroyer HMS Bedouin sinking during Operation Harpoon, 15 June 1942 (Ministero Della Difesa-Aeronautica, Regia Aeronautica). 

Battle of the Mediterranean: The Italian military gets a lot of grief from post-war armchair generals, but the navy proves it can fight and inflict heavy damage on 15 June 1942. This becomes known as the Battle of Pantelleria and merits a later visit (25 June) by Mussolino to congratulate the crews. Of course, the Battle of Pantelleria (In Italy, "Battaglia di Mezzo Giugno") is not played up in Allied post-war histories, rarely mentioned except occasionally as just another convoy battle.

The disaster that is Operation Julius, a conventional British resupply of Malta from both ends of the Mediterranean simultaneously, continues with more Allied losses. The situation has become so chaotic and untenable that the eastern half of the operation, Operation Harpoon, is temporarily called off, but then the order is reversed due to the "fog of war" - overly optimistic reports from Allied aircrews sent to attack the Italian fleet. 

It is a day of repeated Axis air attacks, many near misses and bombers shot down, and lost opportunities. After dark, Admiral Harwood finally cancels Operation Vigorous. Most of the ships are lost due to mines and the Italian surface fleet - two of the original six freighters make it to Malta despite the cancellation, delivering 15,241 tons of supplies. The failure of the tanker Kentucky to make port causes a fuel crisis on the island.

Italian Regia Aeronautica aircraft, which have been particularly effective during these attacks, bomb and severely damage Australian destroyer Nestor off Crete. It survives until the 16th, when it must be scuttled.

German E-boat S-56 (some sources say S-66) torpedoes Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Newcastle, severely damaging it. Newcastle does not become operational again until March 1943. British destroyer Hasty, damaged in the same way by E-boat S-55 before dawn, must be scuttled off Crete.

The Italian surface fleet also gets into the act. At dawn, Italian cruisers aided by the Regia Aeronautica hit the British off Pantelleria south of Sicily. Air attacks disable British tanker Kentucky (9457 tons) and freighters Chant, Bedouin, and Burdwan - all eventually sink due to naval gunfire or torpedoes.   

The British are able to strike back, though the weight of arms is heavily against them. Four Wellingtons out of Malta attack the Italian ships and score a torpedo hit on the cruiser Trento. Royal Navy submarines Maydon and Ultimatum spot battleship Vittorio Veneto and attempt attacks, but with no success due to the effective screen of cruisers. Submarine Umbra later finds Trento, dead in the water, and sinks it with two torpedoes.

Littorio bomb damage 15 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Damage to battleship Littorio from a 500-lb bomb hit by a USAAF B-24. The bomb apparently hit Turret No. 1, killing one man and injuring 12 but causing only superficial damage to the turret.

The Italian fleet, less Trento, continues south and is attacked by B-24 bombers, with battleship Littorio taking a hit from a 500-lb bomb and, much later, a torpedo hit that causes little damage. A later RAF attack and a dogfight ensues, the Luftwaffe shooting down two Beauforts and badly damaging five others (one crashes).

Ships Lost:

  • Trento (Italian cruiser) - 570 dead, 581 survivors.
  • HMS Airedale (destroyer) - 45 dead, 133 survivors
  • HMS Bedouin (destroyer) - 28 dead, 213 survivors
  • HMAS Nestor (destroyer) - four dead, scuttled 16 June.
  • Burdwan (6,069-ton British freighter)  
  • Chant (5601-ton U.S. freighter) - four dead, 81 survivors.
  • Kentucky (9308-ton British tanker) - damaged by Stukas, finished off by Italian surface fleet.
  • Burdwan (6069-ton British freighter) - damaged by Stukas, finished off by Italian surface ships.
  • HMS Newcastle (Town-class cruiser) - torpedoed and damage by S 56, towed to port and returned to service in March 1943.
  • Italian 215-ton minesweeper RD 7 - hits a mine and sinks off Saronikus, Greece.

On land, the situation is even worse for the British. Their struggling forces are pushed out of Knightsbridge, the Point 650 box lost, and General Erwin Rommel's 21st Panzer Division reaches Sidi Rezegh. The 15th Panzer Division cuts the road east of Tobruk, but the South African Division escapes before then. The struggling British Eighth Army does get some relief because the Luftwaffe is occupied with the convoys out at sea. This is one of the darkest days of the Mediterranean campaign for the British, with the certainty of more bad days to follow as they draw back on Tobruk.

The Fuhrer's staff apparently is pleased, and in any event he is still at the Berghof, so it is a good day at headquarters in East Prussia. General Franz Halder notes in the war diary that "Army Corps 'Africa' has broken through to the coast west of Toburk. Cheering success!

General Erwin Rommel, June 1942 North Africa worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Colonel-General Erwin Rommel with Major-General Georg von Bismarck, commander of the 21st Panzer Division, ca. 15 June 1942 (Otto, Albrecht Heinrich, Federal Archive Picture 101I-785-0286-31).

Eastern Front: General Manstein's attack toward Sevastopol continues making good progress, especially in the north. The Soviets are still fighting hard, though, and have plenty of ammunition remaining. Heavy operations continue on land, air, and sea, where an Italian mini-submarine has an unusual success when it torpedoes and sinks a surfaced Soviet submarine sailing off Cape Sarych. at Fuhrer Headquarters, General Franz Halder notes blandly in his war diary, "Advancing in southern and northern sector Sevastopol, and at Volchansk."

The German 132nd Division is leading the main attack in the north and now is within 900 meters of the Maxim Gorky fortress perimeter. The Soviet defenders of the 95th Rifle Division and 7th Naval Brigade are down to just 1000 men - basically, a single regiment. However, the Wehrmacht also has taken a staggering number of casualties just to get this far.

In the south, the Germans are stopped before Balaklava and the Soviets still hold the critical Sapun Ridge. Somewhat dismaying for the Germans is that they have captured only about 1000 Soviet soldiers but a staggering 1500 mortar projectiles, suggesting the defenders have plenty of ammunition while they themselves are always short.

The Luftwaffe, though, is making up for the German deficiencies on the ground. It has been averaging about 780 sorties a day since the start of the offensive with virtually no let-up. Attacks on Sevastopol cause first that can be seen in Feodosiya, 150 km away. From 13-17 June, the planes drop 3,086 tons of bombs.

Luftwaffe General Wolfram von Richtofen, a chief architect of the brewing German success at Sevastopol (and who rightfully deserves as much credit as Manstein), gets news that disgusts him. Reichsmarschall Goering phones him - usually quite an honor - and informs him that he is to be transferred north to Kursk to prepare for Case Blue - the summer attack toward Stalingrad. He will retain control of Fliegerkorps VIII, but his chief of staff, Oberstleutnant Torsten Christ, will remain behind and guide operations henceforth. 

Battle of the Baltic: Soviet submarine M-95 hits a mine east of Suursaari Island around this date, when she is declared missing. All hands are lost, the wreck is discovered in 2015. Also lost on this date is Soviet G-5-class motor torpedo boat No. 61.

Battle of Pantelleria 15 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The crew of Italian cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli watches tanker Kentucky and freighter Burdwan burn, 15 June 1942 (Regia Marina).

Battle of the Pacific: Following the decisive victory at Midway, the Americans are reorganizing and making new plans. Admiral Nimitz reorganizes his carrier force, making Admiral Fitch temporarily commander of Task Force 11 in place of Admiral Fletcher, who takes a badly needed break for a couple of weeks. The first plan for Task Force 11 is to resupply Midway with aircraft. Later it is to head to the Southwest Pacific in July.

In the Aleutian Islands, bad weather aborts a bombing mission to Kiska Island by 3 B-17 and 2 B-24 bombers of the 11th Air Force.

US Navy submarine USS Seawolf torpedoes and sinks Japanese auxiliary gunboat Nampo Maru off Corregidor.

European Air Operations: Major General Carl Spaatz, new Commanding General of the USAAF's 8th Air Force, arrives to take up his command in the UK. The VIII Bomber Command establishes the 1st Bombardment Wing (Provisional) at Brampton Grange, England.

U-751 commander Gerhard Bigalk, 15 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U-751 commander Gerhard Bigalk at St. Nazaire, 15 June 1942. He has just this day returned from U-751's sixth war patrol, during which it has sunk two American ships totaling 4555 tons of shipping (Federal Archive Bild 101II-MW-6433-39).

Battle of the Atlantic: U-172 (Kptlt. Carl Emmermann), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 2438-ton Norwegian freighter Bennestvet in the Caribbean. There are 12 dead and 13 survivors, who are rescued by USS PC-458.

U-552 (Kptlt. Erich Topp), on its ninth patrol out of St. Nazaire, has a big day against a British convoy, with five ships sunk. This is one of the top totals of the war. He sinks 15,858 tons of shipping in one day in one convoy not too far from his base and then quickly heads back to port to stock up again on torpedoes.

First, it torpedoes and sinks 2759-ton British freighter City of Oxford west of Cape Finisterre, Spain. It is part of convoy HG 84. There are one death and 42 survivors, who are picked up by freighter Stockport.

U-552 gets another one in the same convoy in the same general vicinity west of A Coruña, Spain. This victim is 1943-ton British freighter Etrib. There are four deaths and 41 survivors, who are rescued by HMS Marigold.

U-552's third victim in the convoy is 1346-ton British freighter Pelayo. There are 17 deaths and 30 survivors, rescued by freighter Copeland.

U-552's fourth ship is the 2436-ton British freighter Thurso. There are 13 deaths and 28 survivors, rescued by HMS Marigold.

U-552 also gets a fifth victim, Royal Navy 7374-ton tanker Slemdal, also 400 nautical miles northwest of A Coruña. All 37 crew survive. It is unconfirmed whether this was by U-552.

Battle of Pantelleria 15 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Italian destroyers watch Allied ships burn, 15 June 1942. Photo taken from destroyer Oriani, with Ascari and Oriani ahead.

U-502 (Kptlt. Jürgen von Rosenstiel), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, also has a big day. It sinks three ships to end its patrol with 54,045 tons of shipping sunk.

First, it torpedoes and sinks 5010-ton Panamanian freighter Cold Harbor 100 nautical miles (190 km) northwest of Trinidad. There are seven deaths and 44 survivors, who are rescued by U.S. ships Exmouth and Kahlua and U.S.S. Opal.

U-502 also torpedoes and sinks 8001-ton U.S. freighter Scottsburg 90 nautical miles (170 km) west of Grenada. There are five dead and 46 survivors, rescued by U.S. ship Kahuku.

U-502 also torpedoes and sinks 5702-ton U.S. Freighter West Hardaway 30 nautical miles (56 km) west of Grenada. All 50 crew are rescued by Venezuelan ship Maracaibo.

U-68 (KrvKpt. Karl-Friedrich Merten), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 9242-ton Vichy French tanker Frimaire northeast of Santa Maria, Columbia. All 60 crewmen perish.

U-126 (Kptlt. Ernst Bauer), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, shells and sinks 125-ton British sailing freighter Dutch Princess east of St. Lucia and northwest of Barbados. All nine crewmen survive.

In the South Atlantic off the coast of Brazil, Italian submarine Archimede torpedoes and sinks 5586-ton Panamanian freighter Cardinia.

U-701 (Kptlt. Horst Degen), on its third patrol out of Lorient, recently has laid mines at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, and today they pay off dramatically with multiple hits.

Royal Naval trawler HMT-Kingston Ceylonite hits a mine and sinks in the Chesapeake Bay off Virginia Beach, Virginia while with Convoy KN 109. There are 18 deaths and 14 survivors. U.S. 11,615-ton tanker Robert C. Tuttle also hits a mine in the same vicinity and sinks, with one dead and 46 survivors. Tuttle, however, is later raised, repaired, and returned to service.

U.S. 9310-ton tanker F.W. Abrams sinks after hitting a U.S. mine off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on 11 June. The tanker had been hiding in the minefield for safety when it blundered into one in heavy rain, then drifted into a second one. Attempts to salvage have failed, and it finally sinks today about 20 km off Ocracoke. Every one of the 36-man crew survives, with one injured.

Royal Navy motor torpedo boat (MTB) 201 is badly damaged by German surface warships off Dover and sinks while under tow.

F.W. Abrams sinking, 15 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
U.S. tanker F.W. Abrams sinking off Cape Hatteras, 15 June 1942 (The Mariner's Museum).

Spy Stuff: The leader of the German spy ring that is staying at a Manhattan hotel, George Dasch, has called the New York office of the FBI and told them about his operation in an effort to surrender. Displeased at the result, however, he sits and brews, waiting until the weekend to take a train down to Washington, D.C., to surrender.

U.S. Military: 63d Bombardment Squadron, 43d BG, 5th Air Force moves from Sydney to Charleville with its B-17s.

American Homefront: Exiled Greek King George II addresses the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C.

Coogee Beach, Sydney, 15 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Coogee Beach, Sydney, Australia, 15 June 1942, taken 13,000 feet by an Adastra Airways plane as part of a survey (Royal Australian Historical Society).


2022

Sunday, July 31, 2022

June 14, 1942: British Withdraw Toward Tobruk

Sunday 14 June 1942

Hitler and Eva Braun, Berghof, 14 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun relaxing with their dogs at the Berghof, Berchtesgaden, 114 June 1942. Hitler is taking a break from the war before the beginning of "Case Blue," the summer offensive in the Soviet Union that he thinks will end the war. (Federal Archive B 145 Bild-F051673-0059).

Eastern Front: General Erich von Manstein's 11th Army troops have scored a deep penetration into Soviet lines on the northern front of the Sevastopol perimeter on 14 June 1942. Manstein's forces have captured Fort Stalin, opening a wedge into the Soviet lines. The German 24th, 50th, and Romanian 4th Mountain Division advance through the central valley. The first objective is the Maxim Gorky fortress, defended by the greatly weakened Soviet 95th Rifle Division and 7th Naval Brigade.

The German also make some progress in the south, where the German 72nd and 170th Infantry Divisions advance along north the coast. The Romanian 18th Mountain Division attacks the Soviet 386th Rifle Division to keep pressure off their flank. The Luftwaffe is flying from fields just behind the front, averaging 780 sorties a day, many against Sevastopol itself.

At Fuhrer headquarters in East Prussia, General Franz Halder receives an updated casualty list for Operation Barbarossa through 10 June 1942. It shows total Heer (army) losses of 1,268,434 soldiers (39.58% of the army's establishment strength of 3.2 million). There have been 9,915 offices and 256,302 of other ranks killed, 27,282 officers and 915,575 of other ranks wounded, and 38,084 officers and 230,350 of other ranks missing. While things appear to be going well on the battlefield, the Wehrmacht in the USSR is shrinking fast.

Halder also has a conference with supply chief General Wagner. He writes: "On the whole quite satisfactory. Situation difficult in fuel and tank and AT [antitank] ammunition." Ammunition shortages plagued the Wehrmacht throughout Operation Barbarossa.

USS Wakefield arrives in New Zealand, 14 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com.
 USS Wakefield arrives at King's Wharf in Wellington, New Zealand, carrying U.S. troops of the 1st Marine Division, on 14 June 1942.

Battle of the Pacific: Following its devastating losses at the Battle of Midway, the remaining Japanese fleet arrives at Hashirajima. This completes the events directly related to the battle and this date is sometimes given as the end of the Battle of Midway.

Wounded sailors are immediately taken to naval hospitals, placed in isolation, and classified as "secret patients" so word of the disaster will not get out. The men on the ships are quickly transferred to other postings, many in remote locations in the South Pacific, without being able to see their families or give accounts of the battle. The flag officers retain their positions and are not disciplined, with Admiral Nabumo given command of the new carrier force, as his old one was completely sunk, and he begins implementing new policies such as refueling aircraft on the flight deck and not taking the extra time to bring them down to the hangar.

On the American side, of course, it is quite different. They cannot talk enough about the battle. Admiral Chester Nimitz begins drawing up an offensive campaign in the southern Solomon Islands to protect supply lines to Australia.

The Japanese public is kept completely in the dark about the epic loss. Emperor Hirohito is one of the few people outside of the military who receives accurate information.

In the Aleutians, the USAAF 11th Air Force sends four B-17s and three B-24 Liberators to attack Japanese shipping in Kiska Harbor. To B-17s are heavily damaged, and a scout seaplane is shot down - the attackers claim hits on Japanese cruisers that are not verified. A long USN PBY Catalina attacks shipping southwest of Kiska, but only scores a near-miss on light cruiser HIJMS Tama. Japanese bombers bomb Nazan Bay on Atka Island, and the Japanese send the light cruiser Abukuma accompanied by four destroyers to investigate Amchitka Island.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: German raider Thor shells and sinks 6307-ton Dutch tanker Olivia midway between Madagascar and Perth, Australia (far south of India). There are 41 deaths, with one crewman taken captive and four crewmen making landfall in Madagascar.

LA Times 14 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Society Section of the 14 June 1942 LA Times is full of bathing beauties.

European Air Operations: It is a quiet day on the Channel Front with no major operations.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-172 (Kptlt. Carl Emmermann), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 8289-ton U.S. bulk carrier Lebore 200 nautical miles (370 km) north of Cristóbal, Panama. There are one death and 93 survivors, rescued by USS Erie and Tattnall.

U-504 (KrvKpt. Hans-Georg Friedrich Poske), on its third patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 3280-ton Latvian freighter Regent 200 nautical miles (370 km) southwest of the Cayman Islands. There are 11 deaths and 14 survivors.

Norwegian 1942-ton freighter Gunvor hits a mine and sinks 25 nautical miles (46 km) north of Key West Lighthouse, Florida. There are two deaths and 20 survivors.

While forming up for Convoy HX 194 at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Swedish 3386-ton freighter Kaaparen collides with Norwegian freighter Tungsha and sinks. All 36 crew survive.

Arizona Daily Star, 14 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Arizona Daily Star of Tucson, Arizona, 14 June 1942. The Battle of Midway is still being celebrated. 

Battle of the Mediterranean: German General Erwin Rommel continues his breakout from "the Cauldron," sending his panzers north to the Libyan coast. The British command reacts quickly, with Auchinleck authorizing General Ritchie, 8th Army commander, to withdraw his forces from the Gazala line west of the German advance. The retreat is not easy, as the remnants of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division must break through Italian forces (27th "Brescia" and 17th "Pavia" Divisions) to the south to make their escape. Auchinleck, under pressure from London, orders Ritchie to hold a new line. The defensive position is to run to the west of Tobruk, running southeast from Acroma through El Adem to Bir El Gubi. 

It is a day of heavy and continuous Axis air and naval attacks against British convoys that are quite successful. Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers attack Operation Harpoon, heading east from Gibraltar (part of Operation Julius, a Malta resupply effort from both ends of the Mediterranean simultaneously). They torpedo the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Liverpool, which is part of Force W escorting convoy WS.19. The torpedo hits the starboard side at the engine room, reducing her speed to 4 knots. The Italian attacks then focus on Liverpool, and while it survives, it is further damaged by near-misses. There are 15 dead and 22 wounded

Liverpool must be towed to Gibraltar, then on to Rosyth, Scotland, for repairs and is out of service until October 945. This is despite the actual battle damage being repaired by July 1943 - there just are not enough crew available to staff her. Liverpool has had several instances of heavy battle damage, including a torpedoing on 14 October 1940 that also was done by an SM.79 and numerous bombings.

Also sunk during the SM.79 attacks is the 8169-ton Dutch freighter Tanimbar, which is part of the Gibraltar convoy, sunk south of Sardinia. In a separate action, A German motor torpedo boat (S-55) torpedoes the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Hasty off Sirte and damages her so badly that the ship must be scuttled on 15 June. Also destroyed by Luftwaffe air attacks is 6811-ton Dutch freighter Aagtekirk, which is hit after it develops engine trouble, runs aground, and burns out, with several freighters badly damaged. British 6104-ton freighter Bhutan also is sunk by the Luftwaffe. Near Malta, air attacks sink HM MTB 259 as it is being towed to Alexandria. The Italians only lose about five bombers.

The Axis attacks could have been worse, but the Luftwaffe in North Africa is grounded for most of the day by dust storms. In an illustration of the wide scope of operations, British land forces are hampered when the RAF must divert its Hawker Hurricanes and Kittyhawks to protect the convoys.

After dark, Admiral Harwood, after receiving an update from Admiral Vian sailing with the convoy, orders Operation Vigorous to be abandoned. The ships head back toward Alexandria but are harassed along the way by both Italian aircraft and the Italian surface fleet, with the battleship Littorio receiving a minor torpedo hit. Operation Harpoon, the convoy heading east from Gibraltar, continues on toward Malta, but the covering force retires to Gibraltar today, leaving the freighters on their own.

FDR and representatives of Mexico and The Philippines sign the United Nations Declaration, 14 June 1942
President Roosevelt, Manuel Quezon, and the Mexican Ambassador sign the United Nations Declaration. FDR Library Photograph Collection. NPx 48-22:3868(473).

Spy Stuff: German spy George John Dasch calls the New York Office of the FBI and gives details of his sabotage mission - how he and several others landed on a Long Island beach a couple of days ago and are saboteurs. He identifies himself as "Pastorius" (After the codename for his mission) and states that he will travel down to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., to turn himself in.

Allied Diplomacy: Mexico and the Philippines government in exile sign the "Declaration by United Nations," begun during the Arcadia Conference in January 1942. This binds them to employ all resources against the Axis powers and forbids a separate peace. President Quezon is particularly pleased because he interprets this as the U.S. recognizing the Philippines as a separate nation and no longer a U.S. colony.

U.S. Miltary: General Electric Corporation in Bridgeport, Connecticut, finalizes the development of the M1 bazooka anti-tank rocket launcher. This is the equivalent of the Wehrmacht Panzerschreck (but not the more famous Panzerfaust), which is apparently based on a captured bazooka in North Africa in November 1942.

The U.S. 1st Marine Division begins arriving at Wellington, New Zealand.

M1A1 Bazooka replica worldwartwo.filminspector.com.
An M1A1 Bazooka replica at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. 

Holocaust: In Amsterdam, Anne Frank makes her first entry in the diary she received for her 13th birthday on 12 June.

Italian Homefront: Roma beats Modena 2-0 to become Scudetto champions of Italy (Serie A). Roma will not repeat the feat until 1983.

Japanese Homeland: There is a magnitude 7.0 earthquake at a depth of 15.0 km 231 km (144 miles) east southeast of Saipan. There are no reports of anyone noticing it.

American Homefront: Today is Flag Day, and President Roosevelt gives a national radio address to commemorate the occasion. He says that "The four freedoms of common humanity are as much elements of man's needs as air and sunlight, bread and salt. Deprive him of all these freedoms and he dies—deprive him of a part of them and a part of him withers."

Kenosha, Wisconsin, Block Bros Store, 14 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Block Brothers Store in Kenosha, Wisconsin, southeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 58th Street, Sunday morning, 14 June 1942 (UW-Madison Libraries).






2022

Sunday, April 17, 2022

June 13, 1942: British Disaster in North Africa

Saturday 13 June 1942

Bf-109 of Luftwaffe ace Hans-Joachim Marseille 13 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Bf-109F4Trop of Luftwaffe ace Hans Joachim Marseilles (WNr 10137) of 3.JG27 near Bir Hackeim in North Africa, 13 June 1942. Note planes taking off in the background (Optiz, Richard, Federal Archive Picture 101I-443-1567-19).

Eastern Front: The Germans continue grinding forward toward the port of Sevastopol on 13 June 1942. In the northeast sector, the German 22nd Infantry Division attacks at 03:00 with the goal of taking the important Soviet fortress Fort Stalin. The Soviets have just 200 men to hold it. After brutal hand-to-hand fighting, the Germans take the critical fort, which controls the way to Severnaya Bay.

The Soviets counterattack, but the Germans, now in possession of the fort, hold it and wipe out a company of Soviet soldiers. The Germans lose 32 dead, two missing, and 126 wounded and now have a clear path into the port of Sevastopol. At Fuhrer Headquarters in East Prussia, General Halder notes with satisfaction that "According to reports from frontline commands, the enemy is beginning to soften." This is a good thing for 11th Army Commander General Erich von Manstein (undoubtedly the source of this "news") because Hitler has been threatening to withdraw attack forces and convert the battle into a siege due to its slow progress. This would rob Manstein and the 11th Army of the glory of a quick, victorious campaign, so he needs results soon.

Local Luftwaffe commander Wolfram Von Richtofen, though, is more concerned about turf wars. His flak guns (primarily 88mm) are also useful against ground targets, so the army keeps "borrowing" them without asking his permission. This has been a constant source of friction throughout the campaign that has reached the highest levels of local leadership. He vents his frustration in his diary today:
I keep all flak guns subordinate and deploy them together in great concentration at Schwepunkte [the point of attack] against ground targets. The army wants formally to control them and spread them throughout divisions and, therefore - as always, like last time at Kerch - fritter them away. The most basic reason: the competitive jealousy of the army's artillery [soldiers], to whom I cannot give my flak guns because they have obsolete ideas and want to deploy them according to the tactical viewpoints of Wallenstein [from the 17th Century]. I remain stubborn, and the army continues to rage.
While this sort of thing may seem minor, it is a vivid illustration of the inter-service rivalries and jealousies that characterize the Wehrmacht (and other armies to one extent or another).

In general, the Luftwaffe is having a great time over Crimea. The front is so confined that Richtofen can actually see the remaining Soviet airfields from his observation tower. He personally can see when they are preparing to take off (dust clouds erupt when the engines start) and alerts his own fighter units, which can shoot them down as they take off. "Destroyed 18 Russian [aircraft] in this manner today," he writes today in his diary, "four by bombing. It is great fun!"

P-40E in the Aleutian Islands, 13 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
P-40 "Aleutian Warhawk," 13 June 1942. This 11th Fighter Squadron Curtiss P-40E, ship #19 and named "Ruthie Babe," taxis out on Umnak's steel matting to takeoff for patrol duty in the Aleutian Islands.

Farther north on the front, the Germans have been trying to corner a large partisan force led by Soviet General Mayor Belov in the vicinity of Bryansk. Operating in a heavily wood area, Belov has a heterogeneous force composed of partisans, airborne troops, regular army soldiers, trucks, wagons, and tanks. The weak link in the German effort is a thinly held road on the east (the Rollbahn) which Belov's forces have been able to cross basically at will because the Germans do not have enough troops to close it. The Germans finally succeed in building a screening line along the entire road about this date and await a breakout attempt.

The main concern among German leadership, though, is not these minor operations, but the looming main offensive on the southern front. General Halder notes with satisfaction success in one of the preliminary operations for Operation Blau. Operation Wilhelm is a shallow pincer operation launched by the Sixth Army on June 10th east of Kharkov by VIII Corps in the north near Volchansk and III Panzer Corps in the south near Chuguyev. The aim was to cross the Donetsk River and meet near Belyy Koloez. Today the pincers meet after III Panzer Corps fights through several lines of Soviet tanks. Halder notes with satisfaction, "Operation Volchansk has scored a fine success. Large enemy bodies encircled, 20,000 PWs [prisoners] so far." The total POW count after all the counting is done comes to 24,800. Another preliminary attack, Operation Fridericus II, is planned to begin in about a week.

Not everything is rosy in Rastenburg, however. Halder records a meeting with General Quartermaster (supply chief) Eduard Wagner regarding Blau. "Fuel problems. Computations indicate that the fuel reserve for 'Blau' will last only until mid-September." He also has a meeting with General Blumentritt about "Preparations for next winter," though nobody has any idea where the front will be then.

A more ominous entry is a meeting that Halder has with General Ochsner about the Crimean campaign. "Approach to chemical warfare of the part of the enemy powers (increasing interest)," Halder writes,  and the conversation then turns to "Conditions for gas warfare on the Volkhov river." The implication here is that Allied preparations for chemical warfare (some is being manufactured in Canada, for instance) may be used by the Germans as a pretext for actually using gas on the battlefield.

Luftwaffe reconnaissance of Sevastopol, 13 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Luftwaffe aerial reconnaissance of Sevastopol (Karantinna Bay, Artilleryskaya Bay, scale 1:8000), 13 June 1942 (Federal Archive Picture 168-278-020).

Battle of the Pacific: The victorious U.S. Navy carriers of Task Force 11 from the Battle of Midway return to Pearl Harbor, now commanded by Admiral Frank Fletcher aboard USS Saratoga. Fletcher's command is short-lived, however, as he disembarks today and is soon replaced. The Japanese fleet - what remains of it - is still a day away from a safe anchorage at Hashirajima.

The Japanese send 27 "Betty" bombers against the RAAF airfield at Port Darwin. Led by Lieutenant Commander Goro Katsumi of the Takao Ku, the bombers leave Koepang at 08:12, escorted by 45 "Zeke" fighters of the 3rd Ku. They are intercepted by 36 P-40 Warhawks of the 49th Fighter Group. The Americans lose three planes in the encounter, while the Japanese lose two Zekes. There are multiple accusations by American pilots that the Japanese strafed U.S. pilots in parachutes, though everyone survived. The bombers do get through and drop 19,980 kgs of bombs on the airfield, damaging the runways, water pipeline, fuel dum, and telephone poles. One Lockheed Hudson is damaged on the ground.

In Alaska, the USAAF 11th Air Force continues to harass the new Japanese presence on Kiska Island. Despite bad weather, it sends five B-17s three B-24 Liberators, and PBY Catalinas to bomb shipping there.

US submarine USS Sargo torpedoes and sinks Japanese troopship Konan Maru off Yap, Caroline Islands.

US Submarine Drum (SS-228) torpedoes and sinks Japanese freighter Shonan Maru northeast of Mikimoto, Honshu.

Japanese freighter Nagasaki Maru hits a Japanese mine and sinks off Nagasaki, Japan.

RAAF Hudsons attack Japanese shipping off Ambon, NEI (Indonesia), sinking auxiliary patrol boat Taifoku Maru and damaging gunboat Taiko Maru.

The USAAF 5th Air Force once again sends B-17 bombers to attack Lakunai Airfield at Rabaul.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: An unidentified Japanese submarine torpedoes and sinks 3748-ton Yugoslavian freighter Supetar in the Mozambique Channel about 100 nautical miles (190 km) south of Beira, Mozambique.

Crashed P-40, 13 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A downed P-40 after the 13 June 1942 Japanese raid on Port Darwin (Credit: "49th Fighter Group: Aces of the Pacific" by William N Hess).

European Air Operations: The weather continues to be poor on the Channel Front ("10/10ths" in pilot-speak). Many RAF units occupy themselves throughout the day with practice bombing, gas drills, aerobatics and formation flying, and similar exercises. There are some convoy patrols that do not find any enemy ships. 

Luftwaffe planes find 345-ton Dutch freighter Brabant off the coast of north Cornwall and sink it. there are no known casualties.

Battle of the Baltic: Soviet submarine Shch-405 has hit a mine and sinks in the Gulf of Finland off Someri Island, and today the Soviet Navy writes it off. The wreck is found in 2018. The Finns have an observation post on the island and the Soviets are considering sending a force to occupy it.

Battle of the Atlantic: US Coast Guard cutter USS Thetis drops depth charges on U-157 (KrvKpt. Wolf Henne), on its second patrol out of Lorient, northeast of Havana, Cuba, sinking it with all hands. All 52 aboard perish. U-157 ends its career with one victory of 6401 tons.

Italian submarine Leonardo Da Vinci torpedoes and uses its deck gun to sink 6438-ton British freighter Clan Macquarrie in the general vicinity of Freetown. There is one death, the Chief Engineer.

Before dawn, U-159 (Kptlt. Helmut Friedrich Witte), on its second patrol out of Lorient, pumps two torpedoes into 4693-ton US passenger ship / freighter Sixaola 50 miles off Bocas Del Toro, Panama. There are 29 deaths and 172 survivors. Most of the survivors are picked up by American gunboat USS Niagara (PG-52) and US Army tug Shasta, while 42 make landfall in a lifeboat.

U-159 gets another victim at sunset when it sends another two torpedoes into 6762-ton American freighter Solon Turman 100 miles north of Cristobal, Canal Zone. There are one death and 52 survivors. In both of these sinkings, the U-boat surfaces and offers assistance to the survivors before departing.

U.S. tanker Gulfprince has a close call six miles south of the Ship Shoals Sea Buoy off the coast of Louisiana when U-506 attacks it. The tanker evades two torpedoes, then evades a third. A fourth hits it but does not explode. Gulfprince scoots into New Orleans.

The Vichy French agree to immobilize aircraft carrier Béarn, light cruiser Emile Bertin, and training cruiser Jeanne D'Arc at Martinique, French West Indies.

Allied convoy forming up, 13 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
An Allied convoy forms up to cross the Atlantic Ocean, 13 June 1942. (Naval Supply Corps Newsletter/Library of Congress).

Battle of the Mediterranean: German General Erwin Rommel's forces break out of the "Cauldon," routing British and South African forces trying to hold the Gazala Line. This becomes known as "Black Saturday" in the British Army.

The breakout begins when the 21st Panzer Division uses the cover of a sandstorm to attack the 2nd Scots Guards and 6th South African Anti-tank battery (eight guns) at Rigel Ridge, a key defensive position on the "Knightsbridge Box." The Guards Brigade is forced to withdraw after dark. Ultimately, the South African artillery unit is overrun, with the gunners firing at the approaching panzers over open sights. The Germans capture over 3000 prisoners and destroy 138 Allied tanks. 

British 8th Army now has only 75 armored vehicles remaining. This disaster compels British commander General Auchinleck to order a general retreat from the Gazala Line. This once again exposes Tobruk to attack. Auchinleck also is quickly falling out of favor with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

At sea, Axis forces continue their attacks on two Royal Navy convoys converging on Malta from opposite ends of the Mediterranean. The convoy heading from Gibraltar is Operation Harpoon, while that from Palestine and Egypt is Operation Julius.

The three separate convoys of Operation Julius assemble off of Mersa Matruh, Egypt, during the afternoon as the weather deteriorates. As a side effort, a submarine accompanying the convoy lands five commandos on Crete, and they destroy about 20 Luftwaffe aircraft at Maleme Airfield. This does not stop Axis air attacks, however, which begin after dark and last through the night, with the convoys illuminated by flares.

U-83 (Kptlt. Hans-Werner Kraus), on its eighth patrol out of Salamis, while patrolling off Al-Ramkin Island, Lebanon, uses its deck gun to sink 91-ton British schooner HMS Farouk. There are nine deaths and nine survivors.

Allied convoy heading toward Malta, 13 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Scene from one of the convoys to Malta on or about 13 June 1942 (© IWM A 10853).

Battle of the Black Sea: The Luftwaffe, which is once again permitted to operate over the Black Sea due to a secret deal between the local Luftwaffe commander and the head of local naval forces (and contrary to a standing order of overall Luftwaffe commander Wolfram von Richthofen), bombs and sinks Soviet transports Gruzyia and TSch-27, patrol boat SKA-092 and minesweeper T-413 off Cape Fiolent, motor ship SP-40, five barges, and a floating crane, most in Sevastopol Harbor.

The Soviets get one back with a pre-dawn attack on the German naval base at Yalta. Bombers hit the port while a Soviet MTB slips in and fires three torpedoes at the crowded port. It sinks the Italian mini-submarine CB-5 and causes damage to other vessels. This attack alarms local naval commander Konteradmiral Schweinitz and causes the Germans to send additional flak batteries to the port and for the Kriegsmarine to install anti-torpedo nets.

Spy Stuff: The four German saboteurs landed by U-2020 on Amagansett Beach (Operation Pastorius) on 12 June arrive in New York City and book hotel rooms in Manhattan. Up to now, they have strictly followed protocol and assumed that everyone else in their unit is devoted to the Third Reich. However, during the evening two of the men have a heart-to-heart and confess to each other that they oppose the regime and the mission.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guardsman who spotted the Germans during his normal foot patrol as they arrived, Seaman 2nd Class John C. Cullen, alerts his superiors. A search of the beach reveals their buried uniforms and equipment. The Coast Guard alerts the FBI and the White House. This begins a manhunt, but the authorities have no idea where to look. The incident is kept secret so as to not alarm the public.

The U.S. O.S.S. is formed by Executive Order on 13 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The OSS, the predecessor of the CIA, is created on 13 June 1942.

Applied Science: The US Navy uses non-rigid airship K-2 to test the Long Range Navigation (LORAN) system from the airship base at Lakehurst, New Jersey. This first airborne test is a success, as the equipment guides the airship from 50-75 miles offshore to, as the pilot says, "the middle of the hangar." 

US Military: The first issue of Yank magazine is published, dated 17 June 1942. The final issue is 28 December 1945.

The US 1st Armored Division in Northern Ireland receives the last of its tanks. The Americans hold a parade through town, and Sir Archibald Sinclair gives a speech. The US presence in Ireland is intended not just to build up an American military presence in the British Isles, but also to play on Irish sympathies for America. Americans, for instance, financed much of the Irish fight for independence and there are many Irish-Americans in the U.S. armed forces.

The Bureau of Navigation is renamed the Bureau of Naval Personnel.

German Military: Munitions Minister Albert Speer, General Adolf Galland, and General Erhard Milch visit Peenemunde to observe a test flight of the Me 163A. Three aircraft take off at once in a formation takeoff. The Me 163 Komet is a revolutionary rocket plane already has set a new world speed record (on 2 October 1941). While very fast, the plane still has some issues, such as a jettisonable undercarriage that makes landing an adventure.

US Government: President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9182, creating the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and Office of War Information (OWI). The former, which coordinates overseas espionage activities, is ultimately succeeded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The latter is a major propaganda initiative that results in the Voice of America (VOA), numerous patriotic radio programs that glorify the new U.S. ally Russia (such as "An American in Russia,"), and pro-war effort films and documentaries (such as "This is Our Enemy").  

Typical ad in the The New Yorker, 13 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Advertisement in The New Yorker, June 13, 1942 p. 9.

American Homefront: In her syndicated "My Day" column, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt writes:
In the morning paper I read that, not satisfied with wiping out the village of Lidice, the Germans have gone further and killed 34 more people in the cities of Prague and Bruenn ‘in reprisal.’ It does not seem to cross their minds that they are imprinting the name of this village on the minds of the people of the world. None of us will ever forget a little village named Lidice. Reprisals of this kind only bring more reprisals, so that it is an unending spiral of murder.
Roosevelt is correct that the name of Lidice will be long-remembered. The Germans have placed a bounty on the assassins of Reinhard Heydrich and given local communities until 18 June to turn them in.

Future History: Abdulsalami Abubakar is born in Minna, Northern Region, British Nigeria. He joins the new Nigerian Air Force in 1964, later transfers to the Nigerian Army, and becomes the 11th President of Nigeria in 1998 due to the military coup of 1983.

The Saturday Evening Post, 13 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Saturday Evening Post of 13 June 1942.


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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

June 12, 1942: First US Air Raid On Occupied Europe

Friday 12 June 1942

Free French attack in North Africa, 12 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Free French on the attack near Bir Hackeim, 12 June 1942 © IWM E 13313.

Eastern Front: On vacation in Berchtesgaden, Adolf Hitler is full of hope and secret dread for the coming "decisive" summer offensive in the Soviet Union. The whole point of the attack, he muses, is to "clear the table" and win the war. "If I do not get the oil of Maikop and Grozny, then I must end this war," Hitler admits to his cronies.

The current attacks are not going well, let alone ones in the future. The assault on entrenched Russian defenses at the Crimean port of Sevastopol continues on 12 June 1942 without much progress by either side. The Soviets receive reinforcements when cruiser Molotov and destroyer Bditel'nyy evade the Axis blockade and deliver 2,314 soldiers, 190 tons of ammunition, and 28 artillery pieces to the besieged garrison.

German ground attacks continue without much success. In the critical northeast sector, LIV Corps continues its relentless attacks and loses 1957 men in the fighting of 11-12 June, but the Soviet defenders also are in bad shape. 

The Germans, though, are determined. Super-heavy artillery piece "Dora" and eleven 420 mm mortars open fire on Fort Stalin, which guards the approaches to Severnaya Bay but have little impact. Finally, a dive-bombing attack by Junkers  Ju-87 Stukas of StG 77 knocks out three of the fort's main 76.2 mm guns, and General Erich von Manstein's 11th Army assembles an attack force to take the fort for early on the morning of 13 June.

Resistance to superior orders is fairly common within the Wehrmacht, but everyone in uniform knows that it must be done "the right way." An example occurs today in Crimea. Luftwaffe General Wolfram von Richtofen has forbidden all air attacks in the Black Sea for fear of hitting Axis naval vessels. The local German naval commander, Vizeadmiral Gotting, vehemently disagrees, but von Richtofen's order is final and he will not listen to any complaints.

Accordingly, Gotting meets today in private with von Richtofen's naval liaison, Koneradmiral von Eyssen - who gives von Richtofen all of his naval information. Together they secretly agree that the order prohibiting Luftwaffe operations at sea is counterproductive and they jointly limit the order to a very small restricted zone directly off Crimea - without, of course, telling von Richtofen. Von Eyssen then coordinates this with Luftwaffe Oberst Wolfgang von Wild, who commands Lufftwaffe forces (Fliegerfuhrer Sud) operating over the Black Sea. Von Wild also agrees that von Richtofen's order is nonsense, and all three men subvert von Richtofen's direct order. This is the "right" way to disobey orders in the Third Reich and is done by different commanders throughout the war.

At Fuhrer Headquarters in East Prussia (Hitler is on vacation on the Obersalzberg), General Franz Halder has a disturbing conference with Vice Admiral Fricke and his aide. It is disturbing because, as Halder records in his diary, "Those people are dreaming in terms of continents." He writes that they "assume without another thought" massive German land victories that will obtain ports on the Persian Gulf and on the East African coast. "The problems of the Atlantic," Halder notes with incredulity, "are treated with off-hand superiority and those of the Black Sea with criminal unconcern."  Halder, of course, has first-hand information on just how precarious the Axis position in the USSR really is.

Battle of the Pacific: Both sides are heading for home following the decisive American victory at Midway Island. Admiral Frank Fletcher, in command aboard USS Saratoga, is one day's sail from Pearl Harbor, while Admiral Nagumo is still two days' sail from Hashirajima. the Americans are eagerly publicizing their victory, while the Japanese are keeping their losses a guarded secret known only to the Emperor and a small number of high-ranking naval personnel.

USS Swordfish (Lt. Cdr. Chester C. Smith SS-193), operating northwest of Poulo Wai in the Gulf of Siam (later Gulf of Thailand), torpedoes and sinks Japanese freighter Burma Maru. The wreck is discovered in February 2017.

Japanese submarine I-21, operating off the east coast of Australia, torpedoes and sinks 5527-ton Panamanian coke freighter Guatemala while on the surface. The freighter is traveling in an eight-ship convoy from Newcastle to Whyalla, such convoys having been organized only recently due to the recent submarine assault on Sydney Harbor. HMAS Doomba picks up the crew, all of whom survive.

In China, the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) has a big day. At dawn, the 1st Squadron shoots down four Ki-27 Nate bombers and five other twin-engine plans over Kweilin (Guilin, on the west bank of the Li River).

B-17s of the 5th Air Force bomb Lakunai Airfield and Vunakanau at the Japanese main overseas base of Rabaul.

NY Times 12 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
NY Times, 12 June 1942.

Battle of the Indian Ocean: Japanese submarine I-10 shells and sinks 2052-ton Panamania freighter Hellenic Trader in the northwestern Mozambique Channel near Bahla de Cruz. Later in the day, I-10 torpedoes and sinks 5064-ton British freighter Cliftonhall.

Japanese submarine I-16 torpedoes and sinks 3748-ton Yugoslav freighter Supetar in the Mozambique Channel near Cabo de Sao Sebastiao.

Japanese submarine I-20 shells and sinks 5063-ton British freighter Clifton Hall in the Mozambique Channel off Angoche, Mozambique.

European Air Operations: A small force of a dozen U.S. Army Air Force B-24 Liberators flying from northeast Egypt bomb the Ploesti, Romania, oil fields after taking off at 22:30 on 11 June. The bombing is extremely inaccurate due to poor weather and no appreciable damage is caused. The bombers encounter flak and a few enemy fighters. Altogether, the planes drop 24 tons of bombs, with a thirteenth bomber attacking the port of Constanta. The bombers then proceed on to Habbaniyah, Iraq, making this an early example of shuttle bombing. Four bombers make it to Habbaniyah, while the others land at other fields in Iraq and Syria. Four of the bombers land in Turkey and their crews are interned. 

This is the first offensive mission by U.S. planes over Europe during World War II. General Dwight D. Eisenhower comments drily that the failed attack "did something to dispel the illusion that big planes could win the war." The bombers are from the Halverson Project 63, or HALPRO and have flown across the Atlantic for the mission. This small force forms the genesis of the 1st Provisional Bombardment Group (PBG) and the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group, completing another 450 missions.

The poor weather of spring 1942 continues and gets worse throughout the day on the Channel Front, but it is mild enough in the morning and early afternoon for some operations.

Group Captain Ken Gatward and navigator Flight Sargeant George Fern conduct The Beaufighter Raid on Paris, or Operation Squabble. This has been delayed for a month due to poor weather. This is a daring propaganda strafing run on a German parade down the Champs-Élysées that includes dropping Tricolor flags on prominent monuments (the Arc de Triomphe and the French Naval Ministry, currently being used as Kriegsmarine headquarters).

The two men take off from RAF Thorney Island in rain and clouds, but the weather clears sufficiently to carry out the mission. Flying at an extremely low altitude, the Beaufighter circles the Eiffel Tower at 12:27 and then heads for the Champs-Élysées. It turns out there is no German military parade (it hasn't begun yet), but the men drop the flags as intended. After strafing the Ministry building, the men return to RAF Northolt at 13:53. During the strafing run, the plane suffers a birdstrike, and the French crow is found in the starboard radiator. Gatward receives the DFC and Fern the DFM for their efforts.

RAF aircraft of Coastal Command engage in routine convoy patrols. They bomb and sink 1497-ton Swedish freighter Senta 30 nautical miles Cuxhaven, Germany (near the Weser River). There are no casualties.

RAF Beaufighter, 12 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Beaufighter Mk IC T4800 code ND-C of No. 236 Squadron RAF on the ground at Wattisham Suffolk 12 June 1942.

Battle of the Baltic: Swedish 1046-ton Bojan hits a mine and sinks off Saßnitz, Germany.

Battle of the Atlantic: German cruiser Michel, operating off the coast of Brazil, on 6 June had spotted the disabled 7176-ton U.S. freighter George Clymer and launched its MTB Esan. The MTB torpedoed the freighter and the crew abandoned ship. However, the ship remained afloat, and the crew re-embarked. British armed merchant cruiser HMS Alcantara has remained in the vicinity of the badly damaged ship since arriving on the scene on 8 June, but today departs, leaving the freighter still afloat. It is assumed that George Clymer eventually sinks.

U-158 (Kptlt. Erwin Rostin), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks US 8192-ton tanker Cities Service of Toledo 20 miles east of the Trinity Shoal Buoy in the Gulf of Mexico. There are 15 deaths.

U-124 (Kptlt. Johann Mohr), on its ninth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 4093-ton British freighter Dartford south of Cape Race. There are 17 survivors and 30 deaths.

U-129 (Kptlt. Hans-Ludwig Witt), on its fifth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 9005-ton refrigerated cargo freighter Hardwicke Grange 120 nautical miles (220 km) north of Puerto Rico. There are three deaths and 78 survivors. The survivors are in four lifeboats for two weeks, and each lifeboat lands in a different country: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Haiti.

German 125-ton minesweeper M-4212 (formerly Belgian trawler Marie-Frans) hits a mine and sinks south of Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains, France. The mine was laid previously by French submarine Rubis.

Map of North African campaign, 12 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Map of North African campaign, 12 June 1942.

Battle of the Mediterranean: The British in the El Adem "box" are under intense pressure by General Erwin Rommel's 15th Panzer Division and give ground as the Germans attempt to break out of  "the Cauldron." The 2nd and 4th Armoured Brigades retreat 6 km (3.7 miles) in disarray, leaving only the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade holding its ground. Rommel orders the 21st  Panzer Division to join the attack on the 13th. A breakthrough here would open a pathway to Tobruk.

The Allies are only in as good a situation as they are due to the previous stout Free French defense at Bir Hakeim. Now that the fortress has fallen, the Germans can bring much greater pressure to bear on the British. Today, General Auchinleck praises the French, saying, "The United Nations need to be filled with admiration and gratitude in respect of these French troops and their brave General Kœnig."

While the intense Luftwaffe air campaign against Malta has eased in recent weeks, it remains in a precarious position due to supply shortages. Today, the Royal Navy begins Operations Harpoon and Vigorous, typical convoy missions to the embattled island. Harpoon sets out from Haifa, Palestine, while Vigorous begins at Gibraltar.

Convoy MW4 leaves Gibraltar heading east with six merchantmen (the British Troilus, Burdwan and Orari, the Dutch Tanimbar, the American Chant, and the tanker Kentucky) carrying 43,000 short tons (39,000 t) of cargo and oil. It is protected by Force X, which includes distant cover by battleship HMS Malaya and aircraft carriers Argus and Eagle.

The westward operation is a little more complicated. Convoy MW-11a embarks from Haifa with five merchantmen (British Ajax, City of Edinburgh, City of Pretoria, City of Lincoln, and Elizabeth Bakke) heading west. It is escorted by the 7th destroyer flotilla. This convoy has trouble immediately when Elizabeth Bakke is ordered back to port because it cannot maintain station due to overloading and its poor condition. Convoy MW11b departs from Alexandria, Egypt, with a tanker (Bulkoil), a merchantman (Potaro), and a decommissioned battleship (Centurion) being used as a freighter. It is escorted by five destroyers, four corvettes, and two rescue ships (Antwerp and Malines). There also is a third convoy from this direction that departs from Port Said, MW-11C, composed of freighters Aagtekirk, Bhutan, City of Calcutta, and Rembrandt.

The objective is to confuse and disperse the Axis defenses with all of these simultaneous convoys. In theory, this should enable maximum resupply of the island despite inevitable losses.

Unknown to the British, the Axis knows all about these operations already due to a major security breach by the US Military Attaché in Egypt, Colonel Bonner Fellers. Italian military intelligence (Servizio Informazioni Militare) has broken the American code and thus has deciphered Fellers' detailed reports to Washington. While not strictly Fellers' fault, better precautions could have avoided this. In any event, this incident proves that codebreaking during World War II was not just a one-way street that benefited only the Allies.

With the Axis ready and waiting, the attacks begin almost immediately. In the evening, 15 Junkers Ju 88 bombers of I Kampfgeschwader 54 based in Crete attack MW-11c. They score a near-miss on City of Calcutta, which slows it and forces the freighter to divert to Tobruk along with its towed MBT, escorted by two escorts. During the night, MW-11c slows to arrange a rendezvous with the other two convoys off Mersa Matruh.

Separately, U-77 (Kptlt. Heinrich Schonder), on its sixth patrol out of La Spezia, torpedoes and sinks the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Grove (L77) off Sollum, Egypt. The ship sinks in 14 minutes with 110 deaths and 79 survivors. Escort destroyer HMS Tetcott picks up the survivors.

SS Hardwicke Grange, sunk on 12 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British refrigerated freighter Hardwicke Grange, sunk by U-129 on 12 June 1942.

Spy Stuff: U-202 (Kptlt. Hans-Heinz Linder), on its sixth patrol out of Brest, arrives off the south coast of Long Island, New York, in early-morning darkness and disembarks four German spies/saboteurs. The four men land at Amagansett. This is Operation Pastorius, one of a series of such operations planned to disrupt the economy of the United States. They are wearing German Navy uniforms to avoid being shot as spies if captured during the landing. However, upon landing and finding themselves alone on the beach, they quickly change into civilian clothes and bury their uniforms and other equipment.

A problem quickly develops when Coast Guardsman John C. Cullen spots the men posing as fishermen on a raft. Cullen also notices the submarine and sees that the men are armed. He approaches them, and the spies give Cullen $200 to keep quiet. Cullen takes the money but alerts his superiors later in the day, by which time the four spies have taken the LIRR into Manhattan.

Anne Frank's diary, begun on 12 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The first page of Anne Frank's diary, written on 12 June 1942.

Holocaust: In Amsterdam, Anne Frank is gifted a red-and-white plaid diary on her thirteenth birthday. The Franks, German Jewish refugees, have not yet gone into hiding. Her first entry begins, "On Friday, June 12th, I woke up at six o’clock and no wonder; it was my birthday." Later in the entry, she says, "I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support."

US Military: The US Army activates the 100th Infantry Battalion, composed of Japanese-Americans from Hawaii.

German Military: Oblt. Egon Albrecht becomes Staffelkapitaen of 1./ZG 1.

George Bush joins the US Navy, 12 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
George Bush during World War II.

Russian Homefront: Russian revolutionary Anna Yakimova dies in Novosibirisk, aged 86. She was a prime early agitator against the Tsar around the turn of the 20th Century.

American Homefront: In the evening, a tornado hits the southwest section of Oklahoma City near Will Rogers Airfield. Local sources (the Ada Evening News) report 21 dead, 25 critically injured, and 250 made homeless.

Future President George Herbert Walker Bush graduates from high school and immediately enlists in the U.S. Navy despite already having been admitted to Yale University.

Future History: Bert Sakmann is born in Stuttgart, German Reich. He grows up to become a noted cell physiologist who wins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Erwin Neher in 1991. As of this writing, Sakmann leads an emeritus research group at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Heidelberg, Germany.

Memorial to the 100th Infantry Brigade, activate on 12 June 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Brothers in Valor Monument in Honolulu, Hawaii, commemorating the 100th Infantry Battalion and other Japanese-American units in World War II (Photo: Sarah Sundin).


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