August 10, 1942...On Guadalcanal, Coastwatchers don't know if they should come in to US lines from the bush, or stay deep.
Indians react to the arrest of Gandhi with massive riots in Bombay and Delhi.
The Americans get their first measure of revenge for the catastrophic Battle of Savo Island (which cost the US and Australia four heavy cruisers) when the ancient American submarine S-44 spots Japanese Cruiser Division 6 heading back to Kavieng. Her skipper, Lt. Cdr. John R. "Dinty" Moore, closes the range to a mere 700 hards and fires four Mark X torpedoes. Unlike the newer Mark XIVs the American surface ships use (which are useless), the Mark X has a simple contact exploder that works. As do these. The fish rip massive holes in the cruiser Kako at 9:10 a.m., and she sinks five minutes later. 71 of her men go down with her.
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.
Gerhart Riegner, secretary of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva, sends a telegram to the Jews in London and New York saying that he has word that "in the Fuhrer's headquarters, a plan has been discussed, and is under consideration, according to which all Jews in countries occupied or controlled by Germany, number three and a half to four milliions, should, after deportation and concentration in the East, be at once exterminated, in order to resolve, once and for all the Jewish question in Europe."
That day the plan "under consideration" is put into action as the Nazis deport Jews from France, Belgium, Holland, and several Polish cities. Nazi forces total 87,000 murdered Jews in the Volhynia and 9,000 in Byelorussia. A thousand Jews from Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia arrive by rail in Maly Trostenets. 40 are taken for labor, the rest are gassed on spot.
Australian troops counterattack toward Kokoda with three companies, seizing the airfield, but not permanently.
German troops, having taken Maikop, move south to Pyatigorsk in the Caucasus.
Convoy "Pedestal" puts to sea, entering the Mediterranean. 18 Italian and three German submarines await them. Behind that are 784 Axis aircraft, 23 motor torpedo boats, and the heavy ships of the Italian fleet. The Axis knows the British are coming, because of their agents in Spain, who have full view of Gibraltar harbor. In addition, the convoy's destination, despite the secrecy, is well-known to Gibraltar stevedores.
The Swedish liner Gripsholm arrives at Rio de Janeiro from Portuguese East Africa with 187 US officials and dependents, 125 Canadians and South American officials, and 1,146 US and other civilians from the Far East.
August 11th, 1942...Adm. William Leahy suggests the Burma Road be re-opened. He isn't the first, and won't be the last.
Australian troops abandon the newly-won Kokoda airfield in New Guinea as being untenable.
On Guadalcanal, US Marines use Japanese explosives and hand shovels to loosen dirt from a small hill near their unfinished runway. Engineers transport the dirt as fill to the runway's gap with hopper cars and truckers. There a Japanese air compressor tamps down the earth to prevent settling.
At high noon in the Mediterranean, the German U-73, under Kapitanleutenant Helmut Rosenbaum, spots HMS Eagle approaching. The massive carrier looks to Rosenbaum like a "giant matchbox floating on a pond." Rosenbaum takes his sub to 100 feet, cracks on full ahead, closing on the carrier on a parallel course and returns to periscope depth. U-73 evades detection in the Mediterranean's layers of cold water. He holds fire until 500 yards off, then launches four torpedoes. All four explode on Eagle's portside, and the carrier, her bulkheads cracking open, slowly rolls over to her portside.
Lt. Hugh Popham, sitting in a Hurricane on Indomitable's flight deck, turns to see "smoke and steam suddenly pour from (Eagle), she took on a very heavy list to port, and the air shook with a series of muffled explosions.
"Over the sound of the engine, I yelled 'Eagle's been hit!'"Listing to port, she swung outwards in a slow, agonized circle, and in seven minutes turned sharply over. For a few seconds more her bottom remained visible; and then the trapped air in her hull escaped, and with a last gust of steam and bubbles she vanished. All that remained of her was the troubled water, a spreading stain of oil, and the clustered black dots of her ship's company."
Eagle sinks in less than eight minutes. Out of the ship's company of 1,160, 900 are saved, including her skipper, Capt. L.D. Mackintosh. Four of her planes land on the other carriers.
Shortly after, the destroyer HMS Wolverine rams and sinks the Italian submarine Dagabur. At sunset the first air attack comes in, 36 German planes, doing no damage.
HMS Furious launches her Spitfires, which reach Malta; she then returns to Gibraltar, mission accomplished.
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.
August 12, 1942...In the Aleutians, both sides face their worst enemies, weather and isolation. US Army Dr. Benjamin Davis writes, "There was a terrific shortage of proper food. We never had any but powdered milk and eggs in the 29 months I was up there. Bad food ruined the men's teeth...When I finally got back to Anchorage I had my mouth X-rayed and found that every tooth in my mouth was abscessed. I left all my teeth in Alaska. Not only that, but for months I was without a set of replacements. That could have been worse, though -- at the time it didn't matter much because we didn't have any meat to eat anyway." Airmen at Umnak catch their own fish to supplement canned C-rations. A quick way to defeat the Japanese is proposed -- "Feed them the same food we have to eat." Pilots quip after endless breakfasts of fatty tinned Vienna sausages, that they are going "from bad to wurst."
The two diversions are alcohol and gambling. The queue to Dutch Harbor's Blackie's Unalaska Bar extends all the way around the outside of the building, whisky being 50 cents a shot (Privates are earning $50 a month). Other bases lack bars, and soldiers set up stills. Poker games become monumental, classic, and endless. Sergeant Clifford Hunter, Umnak's mess sergeant and poker banker, never carries less than $1,000 cash in his pockets.
Weather breaks the monotony with wind and fog. Cpl. Dashiell Hammett, the great mystery writer says, "There was a gauge to measure the wind, but it only measured up to 110 miles an hour, and that was not always enough." Wind rolls buildings away until troops use steel cables to lash them to the ground.
The weather affects aviation, of course. A squadron of B-17s flies to attack at 25 feet, each plane following the seawake of its immediate leader's propellers to stay on course. The standard joke is: "Stick your hand out. If it touches a ship's mast, you're flying too low." A B-17 flying at 35,000 feet reaches temperatures of Minus 85F.
Williwaws flip aircraft around like kites, wrecking them, shaking up instruments, rusting landing gear, loosening window seals, ruining fuel lines, freezing bomb-rack releases. Mechanics forge their own bellows and hammers to repair planes. The only store of spares are other wrecks. It takes four hours to refuel a B-17 by hand. Aircrashes are routine events. Five planes are lost in two hours during landings -- not one due to combat.
As the campaign drags on, American servicemen go from tedium to boredom to madness, suffering from yellow jaundice. GIs develop an apathy of boneless sprawls and glazed, opaque eyes, called the "Aleutian stare," and some are sent back to stateside hospitals under sedation.
The Japanese, lacking American technology, do no better. Their Rufe seaplane fighter pilots fly six missions a day, hollow-eyed and underfed, and run smack into the bristling machine guns of American bombers.
Soldiers dig at tundra and muskeg with picks and shovels to level runways for land-based planes. No sooner is ground levelled than mud and water oozes in. American bombs add to the suffering, as Japanese troops move into timber-shored tunnels underground, which are full of moisture. That breeds foot rot and nervous tremors. Japanese troops, never dry, huddle around small radios to listen.
When the Japanese finally make progress on their runway, American bombs smash it. When the Navy builds a shore pen for midget submarines, American bombs turn it to rubble. A small freighter arrives with the first mail in weeks, and American bombs sink it with the mail sacks still aboard.
Convoy "Pedestal" plods on through the Mediterranean. The Luftwaffe attacks at dawn, but British Sea-Hurricanes chase them off. At noon, 100 Axis bombers come back, into a terrific barrage that includes Rodney's 16-inch guns. Bombs damage the merchant ship Deucalion, which later sinks.
Later that afternoon, British radar picks off the Italian submarine Cobalto. The British pepper it with depth charges, and the sub surfaces near the destroyer Ithuriel, which crunches into Cobalto's conning tower. British tars leap aboard the battered sub to seize her crew and papers, but it starts to sink under their feet. The British hustle 41 Italians onto Ithuriel, which must limp back, with crushed bows, to Gibraltar.
At nightfall, the convoy steers for Skerki Channel, known as "Bomb Alley," and the Luftwaffe returns with 80 bombers, joined by 20 Italian machines. The German planes swoop down amid some of the fiercest AA shot of the war. Gunflashes and sunset create an eerie atmosphere amid exploding ships. The Germans torpedo the destroyer HMS Foresight, blasting off her rudder and screws. She has to be sunk be her own forces. More bombs hit carrier Indomitable, starting fuel fires. The Luftwaffe loses seven aircraft. The only operational carrier left is Victorious.
As night falls, Syftret, according to plan, withdraws the battleships and carriers, which cannot operate in "Bomb Alley." Rear Adm. H.M. Burrough in HMS Nigeria is in charge. The big ships leave at 7 p.m., and the Luftwaffe attacks minutes later. German Ju 88s torpedo Nigeria, the cruiser HMS Cairo...and Ohio, sending a pillar of flame into the air above mast height. The British Sailors charge into the fire with extinguishers while bombs continue to fall, quelling the blazes.
Burrough transfers his flag to the destroyer Ashanti, while sending his flagship home with three destroyers. On Almeria Lykes, an unexploded torpedo mine is caught on the bridge. A Sailor calmly saws away the silk strands, and the mine tumbles peacefully into the water.
As soon as order is restored, the Luftwaffe returns for another shot at the convoy. Ohio's fires are out, but engine power will take another half hour to restore. 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.
Meanwhile 100 Ju 88s and He 111s pound the convoy. AA gunners blaze away. On Almeria Lykes, a gunner says, "Get a bucket of water, bud, this barrel's melting and there are more planes coming."
The Germans put a torpedo through Brisbane Star, and the merchantman staggers out of the convoy. More bombs hit freighter Empire Hope, igniting her aviation petrol. The crew has to abandon ship. Next to get hit is Clan Ferguson, by bombs. An orange mushroom of flame, black smoke and flying debris gushes from her. The Italian submarine Alagi (after torpedoing and damaging the cruiser Kenya) picks up 53 surviving members of her crew. Clocks on all ships turn over to midnight.
Winston Churchill arrives in Moscow for a four-day visit, to explain why there will be no Second Front in 1942. The Soviets counterattack German troops at Rzhev, but German armor in the Kuban drives towards Slavyansk, nearing the Sea of Azov. Nazi troops have nearly cut off the Caucasus from the rest of Russia, and Iran and Iraq, Britain's oil supply, are imperilled.
When Churchill breaks the news to Stalin, the Soviet leader's face crumples into a frown.
Why, he asks, are the British "so afraid of the Germans?"
Churchill then explains the plan for Operation Torch, and how it will open up Italy to combined Allied assault, "threatening the belly of Europe," Churchill says.
That, Stalin says, "Would not be so bad." He also urges Churchill to drop Britain's new four-ton bombs "with parachutes, otherwise they dug themselves into the ground."
Actor Clark Gable enlists in the Army in Los Angeles as a private. He later enrolls as an officer in the Army Air Force School in Miami.
Lt. Gen. Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, 36th of his class of 150 at Sandhurst, takes over command of the British 8th Army. Montgomery holds the DSO from World War I, where he served in the trenches, showing a high degree of physical courage and a marked distaste for the war's tactics. "I went through the whole war on the Western Front, except during the period I was in England after being wounded; I never once saw the British Commander-in- Chief, neither French nor Haig, and only twice did I see an Army Commander. The higher staffs were out of touch with the regimental officers and the troops. The former lived in comfort, which became greater as the distance of their headquarters behind the lines increased."
After that, he attended the Staff College, and served in India and Palestine. As a peacetime battalion leader he kept his men in harsh training instead of polishing brass. "Study the individual soldier. Create the atmosphere of success. Morale means everything."
When war broke out, Montgomery commanded the 3rd Division of the BEF, becoming the first division commander to wear battledress instead of Sam Brownes in the field. When the Germans invaded France, Montgomery's troops showed ample determination, but little success. Montgomery himself stood up to his superiors. When Lord Gort appointed the weak Lt. Gen. Michael Barker to head I Corps, Monty told Gort coldly that Barker was in no shape to command a corps, and that Alexander should get the job. Alexander got the job. "You must have the will to win; it is much more important to fight well when things are going badly than when things are going well."
During invasion summer of 1940, Montgomery's division defended Kent. He kept the division on its toes with hard training, including weekly seven-mile runs for all hands. When one pear-shaped colonel said such an effort might kill him, Monty snapped that the colonel's death in training would be less damaging to the army than his death after battle had been joined. "If you are going to die -- die now and let us find a replacement." Monty says, "The discipline demanded of the soldier must become loyalty in the officer."
Montgomery is abrasive and singleminded. He wants his battles tidy, and to make use of overwhelming force, so as to reduce casualties on his own side. He believes in keeping his people in the picture. "I have never lost. Except when my wife died," he says.
Other officers say of him, "An officer of great military ability who delights in responsibility. He is very quick. He writes very clear memoranda...definitely above the average and should attain high rank in the army. He can only fail to do so if a certain high-handedness, which occasionally overtakes him, becomes too pronounced...He is really popular with his men whom he regards and treats as if they were his children."
A more succinct view: "Quick as a ferret; and almost as likable."
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."
Heinrich Himmler is made responsible for maintaining law and order in occupied Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and Holland, which is like putting Willie Sutton in charge of a bank.
Guadalcanal's runway is opened for business. It is named "Henderson Field" after Marine Major Lofton Henderson, a Marine flier killed at Midway
That day it receives its first aircraft, Admiral McCain's personal PBY Catalina, who arrives to inspect the real estate. His aide, Lt. W.S. Simpson, flying the PBY, pronounces the strip fit for fighters. When McCain flies out, he takes along two wounded men on what will be become the primary route for medical evacuation, air.
Eventually that route will take wounded men by plane to Harewood Airport in Christchurch, and down what is now Memorial Avenue (then called Burnside Road) by ambulance to Christchurch Hospital.
The Americans take a few prisoners, mostly Korean laborers, but also a Japanese Sailor. The Marines ply the Sailor with sake, and he suggests some of his buddies west of the Matanikau might also surrender. Lt. Col. Frank Goettge, division intelligence officer, leads a patrol by boat that evening.
The party comes ashore too close to Matanikau, Goettge holding the PoW on a leash. As the pair splash ashore, Japanese machine gun fire kills them both. With the patrol pinned down on the beach, Cap. Wilfred Ringer, now in command, sends a runner for help.
Meanwhile, the Japanese and Allied high commands are taking action after Savo. The Navy hastens the movement of the new fast battleship USS South Dakota to the Pacific. The War Department empowers local commanders to divert aircraft enroute to Australia for use in the South Pacific.
The Japanese order Gen. Hyakutake, commanding the 17th Army, 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.