October 18th, 1942...A US Navy PB2Y Coronado amphibious transport glides to a halt in the waters of Noumea Harbor in New Caledonia. On board is Vice Adm. William Halsey Jr., out on an inspection trip. As soon as the planes engines stop, a whaleboat turns up, and Vice Adm. Robert Ghormley's flag lieutenant hands Halsey a sealed envelope. Inside that is another envelope marked SECRET. Halsey wastes no time, and rips it open. It's orders from Adm. Chester Nimitz, and they read, "You will take command of the South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force immediately."
Halsey reads the dispatch twice, and bellows, "Jesus Christ and General Jackson! This is the hottest potato ever handed me!"
However, he reacts with poise, boarding Ghormley's flagship Argonne to find out what's going on. After the briefing, Halsey cuts his first orders. All officers will stop wearing ties. Until now, offices of the various services can be told apart at a glance by their ties. Halsey seeks to impose several ideas with the tie-removal: first, that the South Pacific is a joint service war. Second, ties are uncomfortable. Third, removing a tie is the image of a fighter stripping for action. Next, Halsey moves his headquarters off the crowded Argonne, and orders the Free French authorities to give him headquarters space. He then sends a signal to all commands, "Kill Japs. Kill Japs. Kill more Japs."
As USS Washington cruises through the tropical South Pacific heat, church services are held, a Marine PFC is released from the brig, and Rear Adm. Willis A. "Ching Chong China" Lee reads a message while smoking a Philip Morris. He nearly chokes on the cigarette. The message announces Halsey's appointment as COMSOWESPAC. Cdr. Ed Hooper, the gun boss, later says, "It was like a shot of adrenaline for the whole command; things had been pretty wishy-washy down there."
While Halsey takes command, the new Japanese offensive on Guadalcanal is taking shape. The various convoys have brought the 38th Infantry Division's 228th Regiment to Guadalcanal. The Japanese have underestimated the American defenses. They believe the Americans have 10,000 men on Guadalcanal. Actually, it's more than 27,000. The Japanese believe the Americans' southern area is weakly held.
The new 17th Army plan is complex, as usual. It calls for the 2nd Division to march to attack up the east bank of the Lunga to Henderson Field. 2nd (Sendai) Division will attack on three axes of advance. Secrecy is vital: cooking fires must not issue smoke, and soldiers should only eat crackers after crossing the Lunga River. Japanese engineers hack out a trail, the Maruyama Road, 20 to 24 inches wide, through the jungle, to lead up to the assault. Hyakutake's men are on the move, using compasses to navigate through the jungles. Each man staggers under the weight of ammunition, an artillery shell, and 12 days rations. Gunners disassemble their pieces and hand-carry them.
Today the 2nd Division reaches the Lunga River, and struggles across the water after sunset, avoiding American airmen. The move has been so slow, the attack is delayed to October 22nd.
The Imperial Japanese Navy is also on the move, to back up this attack, despite fuel shortages. Oil is siphoned from battleships Yamato and Mutsu at Truk into tankers for fuelling at sea. The Navy will cover the attack on Guadalcanal and hopefully lure the remaining American aircraft carriers, Hornet and Enterprise, to their destruction. The Japanese will attack with the carriers Shokaku, Zuikaku, Hiyo, Junyo, and Zuiho, when Henderson Field has fallen. The Japanese are short of fuel and pilots. They must win this battle.
Forgotten by all but those involved in it, the Madagascar campaign rumbles on. South African, British, and East African troops are seeking to take the Vichy French island, so that it does not become a Japanese base. The 22nd East African Brigade catches a Vichy French force 120 miles south of Tananarive, surrounds it and forces the 700 Frenchmen to surrender, with guns and transport. The South African forces' main enemies are illness and clouds of red dust.
RAF Squadron Leader Tony Hill is shot down over Le Creusot in France, and rescued and hidden by the French Resistance.
In the Egyptian desert, the British 8th Army is preparing for its massive counterattack. A massive deception goes on at the south end of the British line, masterminded by stage magician Jasper Maskelyne and his "Magic Gang." This group of illusionists has created a massive array of supply dumps, armor, and artillery - all of it fake. The army of wooden guns, cardboard tanks, and phony dumps is backed by specious radio traffic. Royal Engineers add to the sorcery by building a dummy water pipeline in the south, that cannot possibly be finished until a week or two after the actual attack. Rommel has fallen for this deception. The 21st Panzer Division and Italian Ariete Division are in the south, along with the Italian Folgore Parachute Division.
The Germans are worn out from dysentery, fatigue, poor rations, and supply shortages. Some of their best officers, like Gen. Frederick Von Mellenthin, have gone back to Europe - in his case due to dysentery - because of wounds or illness. The Italians are in worse shape, unwilling to undertake deep patrols. The Axis plant more and more minefields.
On the British side of the line, preparations for offensive are in full swing. 1st Ammunition Company of 2nd NZ Division sends 76 lorries loaded with 160 rounds a gun for the 25-pounders. Supply Company provides trucks equipped with beaters similar to drum and chain arrangements to rumble around the desert, creating tank tracks, as if a massive armored column is to roll southward.
At 22nd Battalion, General Bernard Montgomery decorates Sgt. Keith Elliott with the Victoria Cross. He tells the battalion, "A magnificent spectacle. I've seen you in action and on parade you're equally good. You've killed Germans before and you'll kill them again."
On the German side of the line, Rommel's staff digests a new Fuhrer Order, which says: "All enemies on so-called Commando missions in Europe or Africa challenged by German troops, even if they are to all appearances soldiers in uniform of demolition troops, whether armed or unarmed, in battle or in flight, are to be slaughtered to the last man. It does not make any difference whether they are landed from ships and aeroplanes for their actions, or whether they are dropped by parachutes. Even if these individuals, when found, should apparently be prepared to give themselves up, no pardon is to be granted them on principle."
Rommel's staff is horrified. The order further warns that any German officer who fails to carry this out, can be executed. Rommel and his aide, Gen. Siegfried Westphal, read the message while standing beside their command truck. They decide to burn the order and ignore it.
The Germans continue their attack at Stalingrad, driving on the "Red October' factory, threatening to encircle a Russian division. Chuikov orders a 200-yard retreat, the first he has ordered since taking over 62nd Army. He has little choice in the matter - 112th Rifle Division is down to 598 men and 115th Special Brigade has only 890. The 115th's Senior Commissar panics and begs the brigade's commander to withdraw across the Volga. 62nd Army orders the Commissar's court-martial.
October 19th, 1942...New Zealand's War Cabinet approves the Governor of Fiji's recommendation to expand local defense forces into a brigade group. New Zealand will send 59 additional officers and 210 enlisted men (other ranks in British parlance).
On Guadalcanal, 17th Army continues its snail-like advance. The Imperial Navy forwards excerpts from Allied radio broadcasts spreading gloom and doom about the American position on Guadalcanal. This news boosts Sendai morale. That night, Sendai infantrymen sharpen their bayonets. Pouring rain drenches the men, and they huddle together for warmth.
At Gibraltar, a two-star general of the US Army clambers aboard the British submarine HMS Seraph to embark on a schoolboy adventure. Maj. Gen. Mark W. Clark, followed by Brig. Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer and Col. Julius Holmes, joined by another Army colonel and a Navy captain, squeeze themselves and their pigskin luggage aboard the submarine, which is also jammed with a party from Britain's Special Boat Service. Their destination is Algeria, where Clark is to make contact with Vichy French generals, and help clear the way for the Allied invasion of French North Africa.
Under its skipper, Lt. Bill Jewell, Seraph heads out at 8 p.m., and makes a surface cruise at top speed.
Montgomery addresses his officers down to lieutenant colonel in his three corps, explaining the upcoming battle and his plan. The British objective is to "kill Germans. Even the padres, one per weekday and twice on Sundays."
Howard Kippenberger inspects 23rd NZ Battalion, and tells them "This is the turn of the war and the greatest moment of your lives." 23rd Battalion is to lead the New Zealand attack. The troops cheer.
German troops keep pushing on towards the factories in Stalingrad, while Chuikov scrapes the bottom of his replacement barrel. He turns his supply and service companies on the east bank into infantry outfits, and ships the blacksmiths, cobblers, and mechanics over to fight.
In the city, weary Russian troops spread rumors that Stalin himself has been seen in the city, leading the defense.
The Germans are engaging in wishful thinking, too. Goebbels orders all Knight's Cross recipients from Stalingrad brought back to Berlin for interviews. He also orders huge signs in German cities showing the distance to Stalingrad, to show war-weary Germans just how far the Wehrmacht has advanced.
Northwest of the city, the Don Front launches a counterattack, and the 64th Army does the same in the south. These gain little ground, but take the heat off 62nd Army. Fighting dies down in Stalingrad, giving Chuikov time to move exhausted regiments across the Volga to train replacements.
October 20th, 1942...USS Washington goes to dawn GQ with Task Force 64 in Torpedo Junction, the area where Japanese submarines have punched out two American aircraft carriers and the battleship North Carolina. The battleship's No. 3 turret trains on an imaginary target for gunnery practice and her guns strike a Kingfisher seaplane on its portside catapult, slicing off the starboard wing, fuselage and tail assembly. The plane is a total loss and hurled over the side. Later, an artist paints a Kingfisher seaplane on the side of No. 3 turret.
At 7:30 p.m., Task Force 64 splits into two groups, with cruisers San Francisco, Chester, and Helena 15 miles to the east. Two hours later, Ed Hopper watches a "spectacular flash" in the night. The Japanese submarine I-176 has slammed a torpedo into Chester's engine room. Yet another American heavy ship is temporarily out of action, due to Torpedo Junction. Washington's bugler, gongs, and boatswain's pipes sound GQ, but the enemy is gone.
At Noumea, Halsey continues to move aggressively. He orders his headquarters moved from Auckland to Noumea, and demands millions of square feet of space for his men. He summons Vandegrift from Guadalcanal for a briefing. The Marine general tells Halsey of men who are "practically worn out" from two months of bombing, short rations, disease, and enemy attacks.
"Are we going to evacuate or hold?" asks Halsey. "Yes, I can hold," answers Vandegrift. "But I have to have more active support than I am getting."
Vice Adm. Richmond Kelly Turner, responsible for the Navy's ships, protests, saying his ships can find no shelter at Guadalcanal, and Japanese submarines are a menace.
Halsey overrules Turner. "All right, go on back. I'll promise you everything I've got."
On Guadalcanal, Lt. Gen. Masao Maruyama leads his Sendai Division up the Maruyama Road, pushing himself forward with his white cane. Maj. Gen. Yumio Nasu, commanding Maruyama's left flank, tries to keep pace, battling malaria. Everyone is living off half rations of rice. The task of man-hauling guns is too hard on the weary troops, and they leave the components of their guns by the trail.
While this advance goes on, the Japanese launch a diversionary attack on their extreme let flank, sending the 4th Infantry Regiment and three tanks under Col. Nakaguma against the 5th Marines. The Japanese attack is greeted with heavy American artillery fire. "One shot from us brings down hundreds in retaliation," says Nakaguma.
The Americans react to these moves with some confusion. They have no concrete information, except a captured map suggesting a three-pronged attack from south, east, and west. But air searches see no sign of the eastern prongs. The 164th Infantry Regiment, being new, is assigned the east, the least likely area to be attacked. Next is the 7th Marines, all the way to Lunga, then the 1st, and finally the 5th. The extreme left is "McKelvy Group," a horseshoe-shaped area held by 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, and 3rd Battalion 1st Marines. 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, truck-mounted, is the reserve, along with the M3 Stuart light tanks of 1st Tank Battalion.
The 1st Marine Division is exhausted from two months of hard fighting and living. Supplies are short.
The First Lord of the Admiralty announces that 530 German U-Boats have been sunk since the war's beginning.
Mary Lindell, a decorated British Red Cross officer of World War I and holder of the Croix de Guerre from 1916, parachutes into France to establish the "Marie-Claire" escape line for Allied airmen. She has three teenaged children when she parachutes into France. The French know Lindell as the Comtesse de Milleville, part of Paris society. Armed with her French passport, she has smuggled British evaders to Spain, begging high-ranking German officers for permits and petrol coupons - and got them. After a spell in Fresnes prison, she has escaped, and now returns to France on the eve of Trafalgar Day to resume her work.
Monty continues to brief his officers on the big push at Alamein. Under his plan, the main attack is by the 30th Corps, under Lt. Gen. Oliver Leese. He commands some of the toughest outfits in the 8th Army - 51st Highland Division, 4th Indian Division, 9th Australian Division, 2nd New Zealand Division, and 1st South African Division. All are the first team. Their divisions are to take Miteiriya Ridge, codenamed "Oxalic," and grind two corridors through the minefields. Through these corridors, the 1st and 10th British Armoured Divisions (British 10th Corps) will drive. South of that, 13th Corps, under Lt. Gen. Brian Horrocks, will attack in the south, primarily to draw off the Axis forces. Horrocks has the 7th Armoured Division - the famed "Desert Rats" - and two British Divisions, the 50th and 44th, along with two French brigades and the 1st Greek Brigade.
Monty's plan is a reverse of all tactical thinking. In previous battles, the British have tried to defeat the Axis armor, then the infantry. Montgomery plans to destroy the Axis infantry, thus leaving the armor unsupported.
One of the critical British advantages in this battle is the result of American generosity. Because of the destruction of British armor at Gazala, President Roosevelt has given the British 300 Sherman tanks - something new in war. The tanks were originally built to a British order and specifications and design - for cash - before Lend-Lease. When America entered the war, they were taken by the Americans for the 2nd Armored Division. Now they have gone back to their original purchasers.
The M-4 Sherman tank has advantages over the Grant it replaces - lower silhouette, a 75mm gun in a traversing turret, and welded instead of riveted armor. Later in the war, it will be inferior to German tanks. But right now, it is superior to German Mark IIIs and Mark IVs.
The British forces are eager to fight. The men have seen the vast caravans of supplies and artillery coming up to the front. They have heard the aggressive words of Montgomery inspiring them. And they are eager to avenge hateful defeats and humiliations. The South Africans want to avenge their countrymen's surrender at Tobruk. 51st Highland Division has been reconstituted after its predecessor's surrender at St. Valery in France in 1940. 9th Australian and 2nd New Zealand carry their nation's honor on their sleeves. Up until now, Rommel has seemed invincible. Now Montgomery is determined to end that permanently.
Amid the ruins of Stalingrad, a platoon from the 42nd Guards Regiment is putting up a fanatical defense for a four-story building 300 yards from the riverbank. Sgt. Jakob Pavlov leads the defense of "Pavlov's House," engaging German tanks with machine guns and anti-tank rifles from the top stories, which are higher than the German tanks can elevate their main guns. Several civilians in the basement join in the fight, including Mariya Ulyanova. Pavlov's men kill more Germans than the Germans have lost in the capture of Paris.
Soviet soldiers still take time to write letters home. Lt. Charnosov of the 384th Artillery Regiment sends his love to his wife Shura and "kisses to our two little birds, Slavik and Lydusia. I am in good health. I have been wounded twice but these are just scratches and so I still manage to direct my battery all right. The time of hard fighting has come to the city of Stalin. During these days of hard fighting I am avenging my beloved birthplace of Smolensk, but at night I go down to the basement where two fair-haired children sit on my lap. They remind me of Slavik and Lyda." The letter is the last he ever writes. It is found on his body, along with a note from Shura, saying, "I am very happy that you are fighting so well, and that you have been awarded a medal. Fight to the last drop of your blood, and don't let them capture you, because prison camp is worse than death."
Both letters are found on Charnosov's body.
October 21st, 1942...At 8:13 a.m., USS Washington's lookouts spot the crippled USS Chester limping slowly for Espiritu Santo. The battleship and her consorts continue to patrol, but encounter no enemy forces.
At 1 a.m., fire breaks out in the Japanese carrier Hiyo's engineering spaces, and the ship's speed is cut to 16 knots. She retires to Truk with two destroyers, taking her flight deck out of the impending battle. Commanding the carriers is the veteran Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo. His record is mixed: victory at Pearl Harbor and in the Indian Ocean, crushing defeat at Midway.
On Guadalcanal, the Japanese advance struggles on. Maruyama has not reached his line of departure, and the big attack is postponed until October 23rd. Sendai Division struggles on, unable to wade through the dense jungle.
However, the Japanese 11th Air Fleet opens its bombardment with 25 Zeros and nine bombers. The Americans hit back with 15 F4Fs. One Zero and two F4Fs fall.
Coastwatchers Carden Seton and Nick Waddell paddle ashore to the island of Choiseul in a rubber boat at 12:54 a.m. Waddell, rowing in the dark, is reminded of the poem "The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna," "Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note, as his corse to the rampart we hurried."
It takes them three hours to reach the reef, and they finally carry their gear the last 50 yards ashore. The yellow raft is left on the reef. Taking their knives and bayonets, the two Coastwatchers stab it death, just before a Japanese flying boat lumbers by. The two collapse in the bushes near the beach, and sleep, exhausted. When it rains, they wake up and build a small leaf hut.
While they do this, a native named Beni walks up, and in one of the bizarre coincidences of World War II, Beni recognizes Waddell from the pre-war days, and offers his tribe and fellow police officers to help serve the Crown.
At 4 a.m., in the Mediterranean, HMS Seraph arrives at its appointed spot, five miles off the African coast, near the port of Cherchel. The sub then dives for the day. Capt. Dicky Livingstone of the Special Boat Service breaks out his canoes at 9 p.m. amid brilliant moonlight. Livingstone shares his boat with Holmes, Clark with Capt. G.B. Courtney, and Lemnitzer with Lt. Jimmy Foot. However, one boat is damaged, so Clark goes in with Captain Wright. The young Britons paddle slowly to ease the strain on the flag officers.
When the boats come ashore, they are immediately greeted by the US Consul in Algiers, Robert Murphy, who says, "Welcome to North Africa." He leads Clark - the deputy commander of the Allied invasion - up a stony path to a red-roofed villa of white stone. All hands are to stay at the villa. Clark tells Seraph he is doing so, and confirms his identity by referring to obscure and discreditable incidents in the past history of the submarine's crew.
All across Egypt, British and Commonwealth troops attend briefings in the field on their upcoming battle, finally getting the full picture. The attack is to be launched on the evening of the 23rd, during the full moon.
The Axis are entering the battle with 104,000 men, 50,000 German, the rest Italian. They have 211 German tanks: 85 Mark IIIs, 88 Mark IIIJs (with 50mm guns), eight Mark IVs, and 30 Mark IV specials. The Italians have 278 tanks, mostly M13/40s, inferior to the British armor. The Axis have 475 Field and Medium guns. 200 of those are German, the rest Italian. The Axis has 744 anti-tank guns, 444 of them German, 86 of them the feared 88mm gun. 68 are captured Russian 76.2mm guns, 290 50mm guns, 300 Italian guns. Many of the German artillery pieces are captured British guns. The Luftwaffe has 275 aircraft on hand, 150 of them serviceable, while the Italians have 400 aircraft, 200 of them serviceable.
Against this, the British field 195,000 men, and 1,029 tanks. Of the tanks, 170 are M3 Grants, 252 M4 Shermans, 216 Crusader 2-pdrs., 78 Crusader 6-pdrs., 119 M3 Stuarts, and 194 Valentine infantry support tanks. The british have 2,311 artillery pieces, 908 field and medium guns, 1,403 anti-tank guns. Of those, 554 are the outdated 2-pdr., but 849 are the modern 6-pdr. 57mm gun. The RAF has 730 aircraft on hand, 530 of them serviceable. For the first time the RAF has deployed Spitfires to Egypt, superior to the German Me 109s and Italian Macchi 200s.
However, the Germans have a gigantic minefield defense line, and know the attack is coming - Panzerarmee Afrika's intelligence team, from listening to British radio transmissions, has deduced that the British attack is likely on the 23rd.
At Hitler's headquarters, optimism over Stalingrad is high. Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel notes, "The Fuhrer is convinced the Russians are collapsing. He says that 20 millions will have to starve."
At the front, optimism is less high. 6th Army attacks the "Barricades" and "Red October" factories, and gain no ground.
Both sides' men take time in the evening to write letters. Soviet letters are often one page and three themes: the family at home, reassurance, and preoccupation with the battle. Russian soldiers talk about the importance of the battle. One lieutenant tells his wife, "People might reproach me, if they read this letter about the reason why I am fighting for you. But I can't distinguish where you end, and where the Motherland begins. You and it are the same for me." Other Russian soldiers tell their families of dire food shortages, of scrounging for food, and suffering from dysentery. 62nd Army censors report that from October 1 to October 15, military secrets are divulged in 12,747 letters.
One lieutenant writes, "German aircraft are very good...Our anti-aircraft people shoot down only a very few of them." That officer is held for treason.
The Germans, however, are sounding hurt. A German lieutenant writes, "I often ask myself, has mankind gone crazy? This terrible time will mark many of us forever."
Deep in a Russian forest, German troops find a family camp of Jews. Jewish farmers and their families, fleeing the Nazis, have established these camps amid dark forests to avoid slaughter, foraging for food. The Nazis kill 461 of the evaders.
October 22nd, 1942...112 Lancaster bombers of 5 Group and Pathfinders are sent to bomb Genoa, to coincide with the opening of the 3rd Battle of El Alamein. The RAF hits the Italian city on a perfectly clear moonlight night and delivers "prompt and accurate" bombing, with only 180 tons of bombs. No Lancasters are lost. Heavy damage is done in the city center and eastern districts. Many old buildings, including the Ducal Palace, several museums and churches, are destroyed. Casualties are reported at 39 dead and 200 injured. The attack damages the fragile Italian morale in Genoa.
T Force embarks from New Zealand in the US transport President Jackson, bound for Tonga. This force consists of 41 New Zealand officers and 702 enlisted. While these Kiwis sail, the 3rd New Zealand Division exercises in jungles in the Kaimai Ranges between the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. "The Battle of the Kaimai" is later remembered by New Zealand veterans as more rigorous than the actual Solomons fighting.
The Japanese plod on through Guadalcanal's jungles, trailing around Mount Austen and splitting in two. Nasu's left flank heads towards Henderson Field. Maj. Gen. Kiyoke Kawaguchi's right flank heads off to the southeast.
During the day, the Japanese open up with artillery at the Matanikau, shelling, among others, Gen. Thomas Holcomb, Commandant of the Marine Corps. He calmly walks through front-line positions as shells rain down. At 1 p.m., Japanese Val dive-bombers add to the din and Holcomb's impressions, pursuing the destroyer USS Nicholas. 29 fighters down two Vals. Nicholas goes unhurt.
The 11th Air Fleet's liaison officer on Guadalcanal tells his bosses that American airpower has been "generally suppressed."
In the evening, Maruyama's men reach the deployment line, and begin forming into their assembly areas. Col. Masanobu Tsuji, on hand to help plan the assault, chats with Kawaguchi as the men get into line.
Kawaguchi doesn't like Tsuji's plan. Kawaguchi wants to go around to the right, and avoid a repetition of the Bloody Ridge battle. Tsuji ignores Kawaguchi, regarding him as a complainer who is reluctant to execute captured enemy soldiers. Tsuji promises to take up the point with Maruyama, but does not do so, confining himself to wishing Kawaguchi success.
Coastwatchers Henry Josselyn and John Keenan, on the island of Vella LaVella, having gone through a variety of adventures, are finally ready to work. They have set up a camouflaged lean-to atop a 300-foot hill, hauled up their teleradio all by themselves, and turn it on. They make initial contact with headquarters on Guadalcanal. Then the set goes dead and refuses to work.
At the very southern edge of the German Caucasus advance, the Nazis capture two partisans, and shoot them. These partisans have been parachuted in. The Germans find more in the ensuing weeks, and use cavalry patrols of renegade Cossacks to hunt them down.
At 3 a.m., in Cherchel, Algeria, the Anglo-American team under Mark Clark stumbles into a Moorish villa, owned by a Frenchman named Teissier. Teissier is risking his life with his hospitality. Clark will later reward Teissierby making him the French liaison officer to Clark's US 5th Army. Livingstone and his commandos go to sleep.
At 5 a.m., Maj. Gen. Charles Mast, commanding the Vichy French Algerian Division, drives up to meet with Mark Clark. Clark tells Mast that an Anglo-American force is coming to invade French North Africa - but doesn't say when. Mast tells Clark the Amercians must move quickly to grab Tunisia, as the Germans can send troops there by air in 36 hours. He also suggests the Americans send troops to Southern France, in case the Nazis invade the Unoccupied Zone. He also agrees to assist the Americans when they land, saying that the French will obey the orders of General Henri Giraud.
Clark and Murphy agree the Allies should send Giraud a letter giving their intentions if he should be brought from France by an American submarine. The Americans agree that France should be restored to her 1939 boundaries, be considered an ally, and gain supreme command in North Africa at the appropriate time. Mast agrees and heads back his HQ before reveille. He leaves staff officers behind to brief the Americans on the location of French forces and supplies in Algeria.
These talks drag on all day, as the French give Clark and Murphy a comprehensive briefing, down to assessments on which French forces (mostly the Navy) will resist the landings. The British commandos spend the day admiring the coastline.
The Americans plan to leave in the evening, and tell the commandos to get the boats ready at 8 p.m. As they do, Murphy's caretaker, a "nervous little Frenchman in horn-rimmed spectacles" dashes up to say the police are arriving. Clark, his party, and the commandos head into the basement. Livingstone plans to bribe his way out - he has 5 and 10-dollar gold coins sewn into his pants, along with 1,000 franc notes - "enough to bribe every policeman in North Africa."
The flics find the American Consul in Algiers, his vice-consul, and some French friends having a few drinks, and singing loud songs. While they pad around, Clark sits in the basement, amid dusty champagne bottles, fiddling with his carbine, muttering "How does this thing work?" One of the commandos forgets rank and barks, "For heaven's sake, put it down!"
After two hours, the gendarmes decide to head back to town for more gendarmes. Murphy tells his guests to get moving.
The commandos and generals head down to the beach and try to paddle back to HMS Seraph. But the surf is too fierce, and flips the boats in the undertow. At one point, Clark and paddle are hurled out of a canoe, and someone yells, "Never mind the general, for heaven's sake, get the paddles!"
Clark and his team cannot return to Seraph. They look for another point from which to row out.
If an aerial observer was to look down at the deployments of the British 8th Army at El Alamein, he would see a vast concentration of food, ammunition, and petrol in the southern part of the line, with tracks leading from the rail lines to the staging areas. In the north, he would see a few empty tracks. An attack may be possible in a few days.
In reality, the ammunition dumps and pipelines are nothing but stick, string, tin, and canvas, and the vast power of the 8th Army is hiding under sunshields. And all leave is cancelled.
At 2nd NZ Division, the artillerymen take the day off, after putting the finishing touches on an extremely complicated fire plan. However, artillery commander Col. Steve Weir and Lt. Gen. Bernard Freyberg, 2nd Division's CO, tour the positions. So do Howard Kippenberger and Brian Horrocks.
The heroes of the Soviet defense of Stalingrad are the snipers. Vasily Zaitsev is one of the greats, with 149 kills. Another, identified only as "Zikan," is on his way to 224 Germans killed.
Zaitsev, however, is pulled out of the line and ordered to train young snipers, and does so successfully. His students include Uzbeks and Ukrainians. One of the toughest Ukrainians is sniper Kovbasa, who uses a sleeping trench and two fire trenches for his deadly business, along with fake positions and white flags connected to levers. He pulls them at a distance with cords, attracting Germans. When the Germans appear, Kovbasa opens fire.
The Germans react to Zaitsev by sending in the chief of their sniper school. The two snipers hunt each other in movie-style fashion, and Zaitsev wins when he spots the enemy under a sheet of corrugated iron.
Soviet snipers' preferred target are the Germans who haul food containers of A.K. to the frontline soldiers, or water-carriers. If those are killed, Zaitsev tells his students, the Germans must drink polluted water, and suffer dysentery.
Paulus sends in the 79th Infantry Division with tanks to attack the factories, breaking the "Barricades" defenses. German troops move through railway sidings and reach the northwest corner of the "Red October" steel plant.
October 23rd, 1942...At dawn, USS Washington sounds GQ for entering port, and arrives at Segond Channel, parking at 7:09 a.m. Nearby are the battered cruisers USS Salt Lake City and USS Boise, battered from Cape Esperance. Washington takes on fuel. At 8:30, USS Chester limps in under tow from the tug Bobolink. The sight of the damaged cruiser impresses Washington's crew. They get another unusual sight later that day, the hospital ship Solace in dazzling white paint, taking home wounded crewmen from the Esperance battle.
At daylight, USS Enterprise completes her sprint from Pearl Harbor. The hastily-repaired ship, with a brand-new airgroup, is ready for action. She hooks up with Hornet and the new fast battleship South Dakota, and heads north to face the Japanese.
That evening, Washington, USS Atlanta, and three destroyers all head back to sea. Washington is the lead of Task Force 64, joined by USS San Francisco and Helena, to guard waters south of Guadalcanal, between Rennell Island and San Cristobal, in position to engage any Japanese reinforcement or bombardment groups coming down the Slot. The Battle of Santa Cruz is about to begin.
At dawn on Guadalcanal, Maruyama's men are still not in position. He postpones the attack a third time. Vandegrift flies to Noumea again for another conference, putting Geiger in charge. The Japanese greet the acting CO with an airstrike of 19 Zeros and 16 Bettys. The Americans send in 24 Wildcats and four P-39s. The Americans claim 21 Japanese planes, Joe Foss four alone. Actual Japanese losses are six fighters and a bomber. Seven Wildcats return damaged.
The incoming airstrike is seen by Josselyn and Keenan, but their radio is still defective.
The Japanese troops fan out into their positions for the line of departure, amid stinking jungle. Bayonets fixed on the 19th are now rusty, and men are hungry and exhausted. Capt. Jiro Katsumata writes, "I cannot any longer think of anything, the enemy, food, home or even myself...(I am) only a spirit drifting toward an undefined, unknowable world." Kawaguchi doesn't get the word until mid-afternoon, when he's still a day and a half from his departure line. He phones Maruyama to say so, and discovers that Tsuji has lied.
The two officers shout at each other, and Maruyama orders his subordinate to follow orders to the letter. "I cannot take responsibility for a frontal attack as a unit commander," Kawaguchi shouts. That's fine with Maruyama. He rings Kawaguchi again, and summons him to division headquarters, relieved of his duties. Col. Toshinari Shoji is given command of the right flank. Shoji, down with malaria, protests that relieving officers on the eve of battle is not the way of the samurai. He is told, "Follow orders."
While the officers bicker, Maruyama and Hyakutake quite forget to tell Sumiyoshi that the attack is delayed again. The diversionary assault thus goes in a day ahead of time.
Sumiyoshi hurls his men into attack at 3 p.m., with the 1st Tank Company's T-97 and T-95 tanks leading the assault. They rumble forward, covered by artillery. As the sun sets, Sumiyoshi finally gets word the attack is postponed. It's too late to call it off. 1st and 2nd Battalion of the 4th Infantry are marching on the Matanikau River, covered by artillery.
At dusk, a heavy barrage hits the Matanikau horseshoe and the Marines defending it. The Americans are surprised to see T-97 tanks driving up the coastal track, but are ready with 37 mm anti-tank guns. One gun blasts a hole in the first tank. The second tank stops near the foxhole of Marine Pvt. Joseph D.R. Champagne, who hops out and places a grenade on the tank's track, which stops it dead. A Marine 75mm gun destroys the machine. Marines fire flares to light up the night and enable anti-tank guns to disable the Japanese. Of the 44 men of 1st Independent Tank Company, only 17 survive.
The Marines open up on pre-planned range ladders with the firepower of 40 howitzers. SBD dive-bombers add more high explosive to the din, but the Marines can hear Japanese troops groaning and screaming under the bombardment. 6,000 Marine rounds stop the attack before it can get started, and rain at 9 p.m. puts out the fires. Japanese losses are uncounted, but heavy. American losses are two dead and 11 wounded.
Bomber Command strikes again on Genoa, with 122 aircraft - 53 Halifaxes, 51 Stirlings, 18 Wellingtons from 3 and 4 Groups. Three RAF bombers are lost. Genoa is cloud-covered, and the RAF loses its way in the muck, dumping its bombs on the town of Savona, 30 miles from Genoa.
At 4 a.m., the surf at Cherchel, Algeria, is not much better. But Livingstone is determined to return to Seraph. He and his team dump all their gear - coats, mess tins, rations, clothes, kit, gold-laden trousers, $20,000 in gold, and three bottles of champagne. All hands struggle through in the dark, battling the surf. Two of the boats fill with water and have to be dragged onto the beach and emptied of water. But finally they spot Seraph's conning tower, and pull alongside. All wearily fling themselves onto the sub's deck, and abandon the boats.
While Clark's team stumble below, the gendarmes return to the villa and interrogate Murphy. He insists that he and his host have been having a loud, raucous party, and the cops believe the story.
Seraph pulls out, with Lemnitzer worrying about the lost money - it's later found - and Clark grateful to Jewell. "Doesn't the Royal Navy have rum aboard?" Clark asks the submarine's skipper.
"Yes, sir, but only for emergencies."He will. He signs the order, and the crew splices the main-brace.
"Well, I think this is one. How about a double rum ration for all hands?" "Yes, sir, but someone of rank will have to sign the order."
"Will I do?" Clark asks.
German agents in Spain, their binoculars trained on Gibraltar, report massive Allied naval and air concentrations there.
At Hampton Roads, Virginia, elements of the US 3rd Infantry Division embark for North Africa. It is the only invasion of the war to be loaded in the United States.
Geoffrey Barkas finds he has nothing to do at his dummy supply depots, so he drives into Alexandria to wage the paper war. The weather is beautiful. Towards sunset, he decides to camp for the night beside the trail, on a "golden evening, serene and still."
Barkas and his crew, exhausted from their creation of phony forces, lie down amid the reddish sand, watching the sun set. Barkas thinks about his days in the trenches.
While the British camofleurs relax, the British 8th Army makes its final preparations. Brig. Howard Kippenberger walks through his men, seeing them make their final preparations. As the sun sets, 5 Brigade's first-line vehicles and anti-tank guns are deployed. Brig. John Currie's 9th Armoured Brigade rumbles up to support the New Zealanders, and everyone stands around, constantly looking at their watches.
Montgomery puts out an order to his officers, with his "General Conduct of the Battle" orders: "Methodical progress; destroy enemy part by part, slowly and surely. Shoot tanks and shoot Germans. He cannot last a long battle; we can." His personal message to the 8th Army is tougher: "The battle which is now to begin will be one of the decisive battles of history. It will be the turning point of the war. The eyes of the whole world will be on us, watching anxiously which way the battle will swing. We can give them their answer at once, 'it will swing our way.'
"We have first-class equipment; good tanks; good anti-tank guns; plenty of artillery and plenty of ammunition; and we are backed up by the finest air striking force in the world.
"All that is necessary is that each one of us, every officer and man, should enter this battle with the determination to see it through - to fight and to kill - and finally, to win. If we all do this there can be only one result - together we will hit the enemy for 'six,' right out of North Africa. Let us all pray that 'the Lord mighty in battle' will give us victory."
He briefs the press in the morning, and heads over to his Tac HQ in the evening, reads a book, and goes to sleep.
At 9 p.m., the British troops move to their start-lines, which are marked by the usual white tape. Kippenberger joins the 23rd Battalion, which advances single file, 50 yards apart, saying, "Good luck, boys." The men respond, "We'll do it, sir. We won't let you down, sir." Battalion CO Col. Reg Romans blows his whistle, and the lead battalion moves off to its startline. Kippenberger walks back to his command vehicle.
All across the frontline, German and Italian troops climb out of their trenches as night falls, stretch, eat their Alte Mann, and relax.
At 9:38 p.m., New Zealand artillery gunners give the order, "Lay on Serial One, HE Charge Three. Angle of Sight zero. Two minutes to go."
In a bunker of the 164th Light Division, Colonel Markert is sipping tea at 9:40 p.m. He says to his staff, "Tomorrow is full moon," and thinks, "Monty does not appear to be ready; this would be the most favorable time for an offensive."
At that moment, (9:40 p.m.), 882 British field and medium guns open fire with a roar that shakes the desert floor that is heard and felt miles away. They are joined by 125 Wellington bombers, all pounding the Axis artillery.
The eastern sky turns pink from the barrage, and the sky is criscrossed with the whistle, scream, and roar of thousands of shells. British machine-gunners fire tracer to help their spotters locate enemy positions in the dark. Bofors AA guns and searchlights do the same. Maj. Gen. Francis de Guingand, Monty's chief of staff, watches German gun positions explode from 30 Corps HQ.
At his command vehicle, Kippenbergr watches the bombardment, awed and fascinated, joined by Freyberg. "If ever there was a just cause," Freyberg says, before departing.
"Hell was let loose," says a 23rd Battalion infantryman. "The sky behind us was a blaze of fire. Every man of every unit on the Alamein line will never forget till his dying day the great bombardment on the night of the 23rd. It was beyond description, the air was filled with screaming shells and the ground fairly shook under us."
The inferno of shellfire tears apart German and Italian artillery positions and communications lines. For 20 minutes, the British guns roar. They cease fire at 9:55, the Axis artillery silenced.
For five minutes, silence hangs over the battlefield. De Guingand hops into a jeep to report to 8th Army's Tac HQ and catch an hour or two's sleep.
At 10 p.m., the guns speak again. This time they blast Rommel's minefield, exploding them in bunches, creating huge gaps in the carefully-laid Axis defenses. The drumfire goes on for 10 minutes. At 10:20 the British infantry goes in - 23rd Battalion attacks at 10:23 - with bayonets fixed at high port.
The British advance on two thrusts, 13th Corps in the south and 30th Corps in the north. 30th Corps' objective is a line called "Oxalic." They must create two corridors for the armor to advance.
As usual, the Australians lead the attack, the 9th Division moving along the coastal sector north of the railway line with a diversionary raid at 9 p.m. 20th and 26th Brigades make the main attack, supported by British Valentine tanks of 40th Royal Tank Regiment. The Valentines run into mines, and struggle to keep up with the Australians.
South of 9th Australian, 51st Highland Division attacks in its first battle, under Gen. Douglas Wimberley. The Highlanders don't wear kilts, but every man wears a St. Andrew's Cross of white scrim on the back for identification, and pipers accompany each platoon officer. The skirl of bagpipes, playing familiar tunes, exhilarates the Scots and frightens the enemy, piercing the din of shellfire. 51st's objective points are given Scottish names that are home to the attackers. The Gordons and Black Watch attack Arbroath, Montrose, and Forfar, for example, while the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders will storm Paisley and Renfrew, Greenock and Striling.
"Platoon by platoon they filed past" Wimberley writes later," heavily laden with pick and shovel, sandbag and grenades - the officer at the head, his piper by his side. There was nothing more I could do now to prepare them for the battle, it was only possible to pray for their success, and that the Highland Division would live up to its name and the names of those very famous regiments of which it was composed."
Backed by 50th Royal Tank Regiment's Valentines, the Scots advance. An officer wires, "Through the din we made out other sounds - the whine of shells overhead, the clatter of machine-guns...and eventually the pipes. Then we saw a sight that will live for ever in our memories - line upon line of steel-helmeted figures with rifles at the high port, bayonets catching the moonlight, and over all the wailing of the pipes...As they passed they gave us the thumbs-up sign, and we watched them plod on towards the enemy lines, which by this time were shrouded in smoke. Our final sight of them was just as they entered the smoke, with the enemy's defensive fire falling among them."
The Highlanders achieve thunderclap surprise, scooping up baffled Italians of the Trento Division, even an officer in pajamas. But the Italians recover, and take aim at the bagpipes - Piper Duncan McIntyre is hit three times. When his body is brought in, his fingers are still on the chanter. He is 19 years old.
South of the Highlanders, 5 NZ Brigade advances through dust and smoke, battling machine-gun fire and communications breakdowns. 23rd clears its gap, and the tanks move forward. Sgt. Ray Minson takes over his platoon when his platoon leader is killed, and knocks out all enemy resistance in the Italian network of trenches and dugouts. 23rd Battalion's objective is a crashed aircraft near a ridge. When the battalion finds a crashed plane, they assume it's the objective. "Surely there are any number of crashed aircraft in the desert," says an officer. Col. Romans stops the discussion by pointing at Miteiriya ridge ahead of them. "You see that rise ahead of you. That is your objective. Take it! We haven't done any real fighting yet - let's get cracking!"
Below the Kiwis, the South Africans advance. The Natal Mounted Rifles and Cape Town Highlanders run smack into machine gun fire and are pinned down. The Frontier Force Battalion has even worse luck, hitting an uncharted minefield that turns out to be actually a strongpoint of the German 164th Division. A and B companies of the Frontier Force are slaughtered by boobytraps, mines, mortars, and machine gun fire. Only 50 men are left effective. The Natal Mounted Rifles joins the attack, bringing in mortars and machine guns, overcoming the defenders. The Natal Mounted Rifles lose 189 men and capture 36 Germans.
The South African left flank consists of the 1st Rand Light Infantry, the Royal Durban Light Infantry, and the Imperial Light Horse. They also run into the 164th Division, and use Bangalore torpedoes to rip apart the German barbed wire.
At the southern end of the British line, 13th Corps under Brian Horrocks, led by the 7th Armoured Division - the famed "Desert Rats" - faces the equally tough Italian Folgore Parachute Division and the German Ramcke Parachute Brigade, both hoping for action after wasting all summer, waiting uselessly to assault Malta. 7th Armoured is joined by another determined force, the 1st Free French Brigade, veterans of Bir Hakim, and 44th Home Counties Division, a new outfit.
7th Armoured's lead force, 22nd Armoured Brigade, joined by 1st/7th Queens of 44th's 131st Brigade, is in position when the barrage begins. "It was a shattering fantastic sound," writes a British officer, "drowning the subdued whispering of boots in the sand and the occasional clink of a rifle or bayonet as the infantry moved up. The din of nearly 1,000 field guns firing along the front was like gigantic drum-beats merging into one great blast of noise. As we went forward we could hear the sighing whistle of the shells overhead and the flicker of their bursts on the dark horizon and beyond...Bofors guns on fixed lines were lobbing tracers shells in a lazy curve towards the enemy lines ahead of us, to help the Queen's Brigade maintain the correct axis of advance."
However, the Germans are ready, and the British guns fire short. Three officers of 1st/7th Queens are killed instantly, and the Axis paratroopers kill many attackers. The tanks run into soft sand and mines. The battle rages on as clocks turn over at midnight.
In Stalingrad, Paulus' 79th Division continues to attack the "Barricades" factory, seizing two-thirds of the plant. German soldiers with submachine guns penetrate the "Red October" workshops.
October 24th, 1942...USS Washington picks up an enemy Mavis reconnaissance plane at 9:47 a.m. 45 minutes later, a Japanese Rufe seaplane fighter turns up, worrying all aboard the battleship - a Rufe is a sure sign that Japanese ships are around. The Kingfisher pilots volunteer to deal with this menace with their .30-caliber guns, but Capt. Glenn Davis knows they are inferior to the Rufe in every way. Task Force 64 continues steaming north to Guadalcanal.
The RAF sends 88 Lancasters on a daylight raid on Milan, flying independently across France under cloud cover to a rendezvous at Lake Annecy. The formation crosses the Alps and hits Milan by broad daylight. Italian AA guns and air defense are both week.
Milan is completely surprised by the raid. The bombs explode before the air raid sirens go off, and the city takes 135 tons of bombs in 18 minutes. One Lanc reportedly swoops down to rooftop level and strafes the streets, which would be amazing, if true. The bombs start 30 large fires and destroy or damage 441 houses.
The Italian government admits damage to the university, the prison, the offices of the local Fascist Party, two churches, two schools, and a maternity hospital. RAF reconnaissance photographs, however, note that a number of commercial and industrial buildings are also hit, including the Caproni aircraft factory, where workers are becoming increasingly restive under war, low rations, Fascist rule, and pay caps. At least 171 people are killed. The RAF loses three Lancs.
That evening the RAF sends 71 more aircraft to Milan, losing six. This force runs into storms and flies over Switzerland, where Swiss AA gunners defend their neutrality. Only 39 aircraft hit Milan, causing little further damage.
In the Aleutians, the Japanese decide to abandon Attu and move the troops to Kiska. The Americans are unaware of this, and never know they could have taken the island without a shot. Kiska, however, is being turned into a fortress, with underground bunkers, flak guns, and midget submarine pens.
As dawn breaks on Guadalcanal, Marines on the Matanikau see a long column of Oka's men advancing on a bare ridge, menacing the horseshoe from the American left side. If the Japanese press their advance, three battalions of Marines will be cut off and surrounded. The Americans move with alacrity, sending the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, to defend this area. This move leaves only Lt. Col. Chesty Puller's 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, to hold the 2,500-yard line in front of Henderson Field, from Bloody Ridge to the east. Puller stretches his men to hold Edson's Ridge as well, with a 46-man platoon on the left flank, under Platoon Sgt. Ralph Briggs. Companies, A, C, and B defend the line. Puller himself walks the entire front line to check his defenses, exemplifying Marine leadership traditions. He orders his men to plant more sandbags and pieces of metal to act as tripwires.
Late that afternoon, Marine Scout-Snipers spot Japanese "rice fires" and enemy officers eyeing their positions with binoculars. Clearly the Japanese are about to attack.
The Japanese are indeed doing so. Sendai Division finally reaches their start lines at 2 p.m., and Maruyama sets attack time at 7 p.m. But at 4 p.m., rain pours down on the battlefield, turning the jungle into bogs of mud. Clouds obscure the moon and units lose cohesion during the night. At 7 p.m., the Japanese still can't attack. An exasperated Maruyama holds off until 9 p.m., when the rain stops, and a full moon illuminates the assault.
By now Sendai Division's men are exhausted, hungry, and soaked. Maruyama orders his men forward.
On the right flank, Shoji's men get lost in the jungle, actually going through Briggs's positions without a fight. Briggs and his men spend the next few days working through enemy lines back to their area, losing six dead and 10 wounded. Some of Shoji's troops stumble into Puller's lines at 10 p.m., and Puller has his men hold their fire, figuring the Japanese are merely lost. The Japanese are. They wander off, and never make contact with the defenders.
The left wing, however, under Nasu, sends three battalions in column against Puller, with 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry, leading. The Japanese move through the jungle, through the dark, as the clock ticks to midnight.
On Vella LaVella, Josselyn and Keenan realize they have to have their radio repaired. The nearest Coastwatcher is Donald Kennedy at Segi on New Georgia, 150 miles away. The Coastwatchers need native help. Another coincidence to benefit the Coastwatchers happens: two natives paddle by. Josselyn and Keenan hail them. The natives row away. The Coastwatchers figure the natives will rat them out, and prepare to flee. Then another native canoe sails in, bearing Silas Lezatuni, chief of Paramata village, six miles to the south, who is ready to help. There are no Japanese at his village, but the Rev. A.W.E. Silvester, a Methodist missionary, is still in his village. Josselyn decides to go and see him, while Keenan stays behind to organize scouts and observation posts.
A Catalina flying boat rendezvous with HMS Seraph and takes off Clark and his party. All those involved in the feat form the "African Canoe Club."
A new figure enters the war this date - a tall, dyslexic, anti-Semitic, profane, three-star general named George Smith Patton Jr. He is to lead the Western Task Force in the invasion of French Morocco. He boards the heavy cruiser USS Augusta, flagship of WTF (Task Force 34), which leads the convoy out of Norfolk Harbor. As the ships shuffle into anti-submarine formation, Patton writes in his diary: "This is my last night in America. It may be for years and it may be forever. God grant that I do my full duty to my men and myself."
At the Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines, starvation and survival are the orders of the day. 2nd Lt. Hadley Watson, suffering malaria and beri-beri, slips into a 1,000-man work detail going to a prison farm, where the food is better. Most men are slowly starving - rations of meat consist of a cubic centimeter of carabao once every three months.
At El Alamein, midnight is punctuated by the remorseless Allied advance. 9th Australian Division is stalled 1,000 yards short of its objective when its supporting British Valentine tanks rumble up in time. The Australian advance leaves the ground "carpeted" with dead Germans of the 164th Division.
South of 9th Australian, 51st Highland Division continues to attack by night, suffering heavy casualties. Two companies of the Gordons are cut down to three officers and 60 men. Another company is cut down by mines, mortars, and machine guns, and stopped cold. The 1st Black Watch suffers heavy casualties reaching its objectives.
In the 2nd New Zealand area, the 22nd, 21st, and 28th Maori Battalions go forward, "What a sight!" writes Mick Kenny of 22nd Battalion. "Red flashes all over the place, the air became thick with dust, smoke and burnt cordite. The sound of the Highland bagpipes and the Maori Battalion doing their war cries. What a scene! Something we can't ever forget."
Lt. R. Wardell leads his men into attack under heavy enemy fire. "By now we were going through thick dust like fog caused by bursting shells and smoke from bursting shells; it was pinkish to look at as tracer bullets winging through all the time made it so. The enemy used tracer a lot and it was actually possible to avoid machine gun tracer and you could see where it was going and walk beside it as they were firing mostly on fixed lines. "We returned their fire with Bren and rifle fired from the hip, also Tommygun. Then a mortar shell landed almost at my feet, blew me up into the air and when I came to I was quite all right, but Hori Toms my batman had blood pouring from a wound gaping in his hip, and his leg all twisted and broken. Then Adams got hit badly and set his trousers on fire. Sergeant Reidy and I ripped them off. Then Lofty Veale then Simmonds and a few more got wounded, and our stretcher bearers following up did great work. We pushed on all the time.
"On we went and now right in front of us was a large German machine gun pit with about 7 or 8 Germans firing with all they had; we charged them with Brens, Tommys and grenade and finished them off. Then on again. We had come a long way by this time and the fire was terrific. Then we were going through a very heavy cloud of dust and smoke, and I got a most terrific whack on my shoulder and I was on the sand again with blood running down my arm onto my chest."
Casualties are immense - one platoon is led by a corporal - but the battalion moves up Miteiriya Ridge slowly but surely. One man, while lying on his stomach, feels "what seemed like a worm give a wriggle in the back of my shirt - only it felt hot." An enemy bullet has gone into the top of his haversack, through a packet of army biscuits, a tin of bully beef, and broken in two, doing the soldier no damage. By 2:35 a.m. 22nd Battalion has Miteiryia Ridge, for the loss of 110 men. Before dawn, 22nd's supporting armor moves up. Sgt. Bart Cox spots clouds of dust heading towards his position through the gloom. "Someone yells, 'Hell, look at that.' A long line of tanks breaks through the gloom.
"'They can't be ours. Too many of them.' To old desert digs who have waited so often in vain for our tanks to arrive it seemed too good to be true. But it is true, and they are ours - an endless stream pulling in to form a wall of steel along the ridge."
The Cape Town Highlanders of the South African Division finally clear their original start line by 4 a.m., and then reach their ride by dawn. The Imperial Light Horse battles its way to the top of Miteiriya Ridge, reaching their final objective. 30th Corps has taken Oxalic Line, enabling 9th Armoured Brigade to commence its advance.
9th Brigade's Grant and Sherman tanks rumble through the German minefields. Periodically a tank explodes on uncleared mines, but by 4 a.m., the Warwickshire Yeomanry's Grants cross Miteiriya Ridge's eastern slope, finding 25th NZ Battalion. Six Shermans attack and hit mines, exploding, halting the advance.
The task of mine-clearing is extremely difficult, as it is undertaken by hand. The Germans have hundreds of thousands of them, many unsuspected. British troops prod for mines by eye, with earphones, and bayonets. Once spotted, the mines are carefully exposed and lifted by hand. It takes Royal Engineers two hours to clear a 16-yard-wide gap to a depth of 400 yards. One of the worst aspects is that the German S-mines are springloaded devices that, on contact, bounce into the air, and often explode at a man's waist-height.
As the British move forward, the armored reserve of 10th Corps advances just after midnight to their startlines. There, 1st and 10th Armoured Divisions refuel from panniers and advance. 1st Armoured moves in support of the Australians and 51st Highland, while 10th Armoured drives to aid the New Zealanders. The ambitious program will hurl the armor through the gaps created by the infantry and across the enemy lines.
1st Armoured moves through vast dustclouds and minefields, which delay the advancing Shermans. The tank engines overheat and the tankers believe they are 3,000 yards further west than they actually are.
10th Armoured clatters through ground taken by 2nd New Zealand Division and up the forward slope of the Miteiriya Ridge. Their Crusaders and Grants charge over the crest of the dirge, silhouetted against the approaching dawn. The Germans open up with 76.2 mm and 88 mm guns, blasting six Crusaders and 10 Grants. The British are forced to retreat.
In the 13th Corps sector, the British advance is slowed by soft sand, which in turn slows down the advancing armor. 7th Armoured gets jammed in an area under observation from the Himeimat peaks.
At 2:30 a.m., Pierre Koenig's 1st French Brigade attacks Himeimat ridge, running into a German group of eight captured Stuart tanks. The Germans shoot up the advancing French column, killing 100 men, stalling Koenig's advance.
At dawn, the British advance is slowly plodding forward through fierce Axis defenses. There has been no breakthrough or breakout. Some Italian battalions have panicked, and two battalions of the German 164th Division are destroyed. The 62nd Regiment of the Trento Division has disappeared. At Stumme's Tac HQ near El Daba, General Stumme tries to cope with the onslaught. Short of artillery ammunition, he refuses to let his guns open fire on probably enemy concentration areas. Stumme, an East Front veteran, grabs his driver and Col. Buechting from the staff, and hops into a staff car to find out what's going on. Chief of Staff Siegfried Westphal asks Stumme to take along an escort and signals truck. Stumme answers jovially that he won't be gone long.
Stumme drives over to 90th Light Division's Tac HQ to find the situation is obscure there - communications are being knocked out - but hears that 15th Panzer is engaged. He heads off to 15th Panzer, Obergefrieter Wolf at the wheel. As the car races across the desert, it comes under British machine gun fire, killing Buechting while Stumme is standing on the running-board and hanging on to the rear door. Wolf spins back to 90th Division at top speed. When he returns to 90th Light, the only passenger is the dying Buechting. Stumme is missing. The commander-in-chief of the Axis forces has vanished at the height of the battle. Westphal takes over, hoping someone can relieve him soon.
On the other side of the line, Montgomery is angry that 10th Corps is not advancing. He summons its boss, Gen. Herbert Lumsden, and warns Lumsden to "drive" his divisional commanders. If there is any more hanging back, Monty will sack them. The armor must get through to the New Zealanders.
While Montgomery speaks to Lumsden, De Guingand tabulates casualties. So far 1,000 POWs have been taken, 300 of them German. 30 Corps has lost about 2,500 men, 350 Australians, 350 South Africans, 600 New Zealanders, and 1,000 from 51st Highland Division.
By day, Horrocks' attack is stalled. 7th Armoured Division cannot break through the minefields without suffering immense losses. Brig. John Harding, leading the 7th's attack, confers with his commanders under German fire, and then drives off, personally wheeling his jeep. A German shell lands in front of the jeep, killing Harding's aide-de-camp. After this narrow escape, Harding asks for volunteers to clear gaps in the mines. A colonel of engineers protests the order, then calls for volunteers. They try to clear the gap, but are dispersed by enemy fire. Harding then sends in two tanks, which become targets for German guns. Nonetheless, the tanks clear gaps in the minefield. But the gaps are useless, as German anti-tank fire covers the gap exits. Harding orders his armor to wait until nightfall, then try again. In the north, Freyberg calls for support from 8th Armoured Brigade. His message has to go from his Tac HQ to 30th Corps, who passes it to 10th Corps, and then to 10th Armoured Division. This slow communications route wastes time.
Meanwhile, Wimberley, following his 51st Highland Division, sets off in a jeep and into battle. Mortar fire hits his jeep and flips the general out of it. He regains consciousness with some burns, and manages to return to his HQ for medical treatment. His two aides in the jeep are killed.
While Wimberley's wounds are tended, his officers argue with 50th Royal Tank Regiment over where everyone is and supposed to be. 51st Division's object is Kidney Ridge, codenamed "Aberdeen." After some arguing, 2nd Armoured Brigade moves forward and attacks. The Seaforths take 85 casualties, including all the officers and sergeant-major of one company, which is led on the last charge by the company clerk.
In the dust and smoke, 10th Hussars, which believe they are 3,000 yards west of where they actually are, run smack into German defenses, and lose 20 Sherman tanks.
Across the line, General Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma, commanding the Afrika Korps, turns up at Panzerarmee Afrika's Tac HQ to discover his boss, Stumme, missing in action. He takes over from Westphal, and learns about the new Sherman tank, which is apparently invulnerable to 15th Panzer Division's Mark IIIJ tanks. The 50mm longbore guns cannot penetrate the Sherman's armor. Thoma cannot release the 21st Panzer and Ariete Divisions from the south to stop the British in the north. The static line has been breached in many places, and Thoma has no reserve.
He sets off from Panzerarmee Afrika's Tac HQ to 15th Panzer Division's Tac HA to organize a counterattack.
While the battle rages in Egypt, the one man who can restore order to such fluid situations is at a convalescent home in Semmering, Austria. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and his wife and son, are vacationing. Rommel, worn by dysentery and fatigue, is having his first leave in years. During the afternoon, he gets a phone call from Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Hitler's chief lackey at Oberkommando Wehrmacht. Is Rommel possibly well enough to fly to the desert and take up command immediately?
Rommel is stunned. Of course, he says. Keitel tells Rommel to pack. Back in the desert, the Germans have solved one mystery - Stumme's body has been found alongside the track leading to 90th Division HQ. Apparently he hung on to the side of the car as long as possible, and then suffered a heart attack.
Thoma, however, is at 15th Panzer Division's Tac HQ, and finds things are a mess. He has three days' fuel instead of 30, and 15th Panzer division has only 31 tanks fit for action. Recovery teams trying to bring back damaged vehicles are being cut down by British aircraft and artillery.
The British attack continues. By now traditional problems are dogging the 8th Army. New Zealanders are not coordinating with their attached British armor. Freyberg tells his corps commander that he cannot attack as the British armor has not arrived. The British tankers have no confidence in a night attack. The attack is ordered anyway.
That evening, New Zealand sappers start clearing lanes for the advance, coming under German fire. German guns batter 26th Battalion. Making matters worse, New Zealand guns, acting on erroneous information, shell their own troops. The battalion takes a pounding from both sides. Under the barrage, 2nd New Zealand Division's Divisional Cavalry struggles forward through the gaps, 9th Armoured Brigade's Crusader tanks rumble through the gap, and find themselves going the wrong way. Brigadier Currie personally reconnoiters a path and sends the Grants and Shermans of 3rd Hussars off.
Nottinghamshire Yeomanry follows, and a German shell hits a petrol carrier, illuminating the column and spreading an inferno across it. The Germans target the tightly-packed column of vehicles and destroy 25 trucks, sending fuel, ammunition exploding into a stunning and horrifying display. 8th Armoured Brigade is halted. Freyberg is furious, and he rings Leese to say that 10th Armoured is doing nothing. Leese passes this call on to Guingand. The battle between Allied and Axis forces (and between Allied generals) continues to rage beyond midnight.
Both sides at Stalingrad are fighting hard, despite heavy casualties and growing weakness. A German division can only fight for five days before having to rest to absorb replacements and supplies. Soviet machine gunners set up their weapons in the furnaces of the "Red October" factory, blazing away at German troops in the foundry shop. The Soviet 37th Guards, 108th and 193rd Infantry Divisions are almost non-existent.