Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 1049 July 15, 1942

In the last act of the dispersed convoy OS-33, U-582 sinks British SS Empire Attendant (all 50 crew and 9 gunners lost) at 3.30 AM 433 miles Southwest of Tenerife, Canary Islands. U-201, which was involved in the attack on convoy OS-33, sinks British SS British Yeoman in the same area at 1.46 AM (43 killed, 10 survivors picked up by Spanish tanker SS Castillo Almenara and landed in Cape Verde Islands).

First Battle of El Alamein, Egypt. By dawn, 4th and 5th New Zealand Brigades capture the Western end of Ruweisat Ridge but British 22nd Armoured Brigade does not arrive as planned. Lacking tank support or effective anti-tank defenses, the New Zealanders are assailed by waves of German tanks and finally overrun at 6 PM (730 taken POW). During the fighting, New Zealand Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham wins a bar to his Victoria Cross (the only double VC of WWII and the only combat soldier ever to win 2 VCs). Upham is wounded twice and captured by the Germans. At the Eastern end of Ruweisat Ridge, Indian 5th Infantry Brigade takes it’s objectives by mid-afternoon with the help of British 2nd Armoured Brigade. British 2nd Armoured Brigade then moves West along Ruweisat Ridge, arriving at the New Zealand positions at 6.15 PM and pushing the Panzers off the Ridge for the night.

Operation Pinpoint. British aircraft carrier HMS Eagle flies off 32 Spitfires to Malta. 1 Spitfire is lost en route.

At 7.49 AM in the Gulf of Mexico 125 miles West of Key West, Florida, U-571 torpedoes US tanker MV Pennsylvania Sun (2 killed). The cargo of 107,500 barrels of Navy fuel oil ignites forcing 42 crewmen and 17 armed guards to abandon ship in 3 lifeboats (picked up by US destroyer USS Dahlgren) but MV Pennsylvania Sun does not sink and is reboarded next day. The fires are extinguished and MV Pennsylvania Sun will reach Chester, Pennsylvania, under own power for repairs and return to service (ironically sold to Germany in 1955).

US submarine USS Grunion, on her first patrol, attacks Japanese anchorage at Kiska Island in the Aleutians. USS Grunion sinks Japanese submarine chasers Ch-25 (all 68 hands lost) and Ch-27 (all 68 hands lost) and damages Ch-26.

At 8.25 PM 75 miles East of Cape Fear, North Carolina, U-576 fires 4 torpedoes at convoy KS-520, sinking Nicaraguan MV Bluefields and damaging American SS Chilore, and Panamanian MV J.A. Mowinckel (both damaged ships head for shore and hit mines in a US defensive minefield). U-576 surfaces and is sunk by depth charges from 2 US Kingfisher aircraft and gunfire from US auxilliary USS Unicoi (all 45 hands lost).

At dusk in the South Atlantic 1225 miles West of Angola, German armed merchant cruiser Michel spots blacked-out British passenger/cargo ship SS Gloucester Castle (carrying aircraft, military equipment and petrol in drums on deck, plus 8 women and children as passengers). Michel's Captain, Helmuth von Ruckteschell (whose devastating attack in overwhelming force without warning will lead to a 10-year jail term as a War Crminal) decides to close fast and attack. At 7 PM, Michel begins raining down 6-inch shells on SS Gloucester Castle, which bursts into flames due to the petrol on deck and then rolls over and sinks in 8 minutes (85 crew, 6 women and 2 children passengers killed). 57 crew, 2 women and 2 boys aged 10 and 14 are picked up by Michel and interned at Singapore or Yokohama, Japan (2 will die in captivity).

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