Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 1056 July 22, 1942

There is fighting all along the El Alamein front, Egypt. British 2nd and 23rd Armoured Brigades fail to arrive to reinforce New Zealand 6th Brigade in the El Mreir depression. At dawn, 5th and 8th Panzer Regiments attack overrun the New Zealand infantry (900 casualties). At 8 AM, 23rd Armoured Brigade rumbles forward, straight into a minefield where they are obliterated by heavy German artillery and anti-tank fire (40 tanks destroyed, 47 badly damaged). On the coast, Australian 26th Battalion captures Tel el Eisa ridge (Australia Private Arthur Gurney wins the Victoria Cross for bayonet charges on 3 German machine gun posts that have pinned down his Company and caused many casualties). In the evening, Australian 24th Brigade and tanks of 50th Royal Tank Regiment attack towards Ruin Ridge, 50th RTR loses 23 tanks due to poor coordination with the infantry.

U-77 begins an unusual patrol targeting sailing vessels with the deck gun but not torpedoes, a week after leaving base from the Greek island of Salamis (near Athens). At 4.53 AM, U-77 sinks Greek sailboat Vassiliki (carrying 3580 barrels of oil from Beirut, Lebanon, to Famagusta, Cyprus) with 10 rounds after the crew abandoned ship (they reach Famagusta safely).

At 5.30 AM 5 miles off the East coast of Australia 185 miles South of Sydney, Japanese submarine I-11 torpedoes American "Liberty" ship SS William Dawes carrying a full load of jeeps, trucks, ambulances and explosives. SS William Dawes burns all day and eventually sinks at 4.30 PM (5 killed, survivors in lifeboats rescued by local fishing trawlers).

Invasion of Papua. US 5th Air Force bombers attack Japanese warships off Buna and Gona, damaging transport ship Ayatosan Maru. Destroyer Uzuki is strafed (16 killed). A reconnaissance platoon from Papuan Infantry Battalion (native Papuans and other tribesmen commanded by Australian Lieutenant John Chalk) spots Japanese at Gona. Chalk sends a runner back to the Battalion's commanding officer who replies with a note "You will engage the enemy." Overnight, Chalk’s platoon (40 men with bolt-action .303 Lee-Enfield rifles and 1 Thompson submachinegun) ambush Japanese soldiers moving inland along the road and then quickly withdraw.

American and Japanese diplomatic staffs, stranded in combatant countries by the start of hostilities in December 1941, are repatriated and exchanged at Lourenço Marques, Portuguese East Africa (now Maputo, Mozambique). Japanese liner Asama Maru arrives with 800 American and other foreigners from Japan, Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Italian vessel Conte Verde carries 600 passengers from Shanghai. Swedish liner MV Gripsholm arrives with 1,096 Japanese nationals from New York, USA, and Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Case Blue. German 6th Army reaches the great bend in the Don River (“Don Bend”) near Stalingrad, defended by Soviet Stalingrad Front. At Rostov-on-Don, German 198th Infantry Division, 14th and 22nd Panzer Divisions and Czechoslovakian Mobile Slovak Division attack from North of the city.

At 1.35 PM in the Caribbean 100 miles East of Nicaragua, U-505 sinks Colombian sailboat Urious with 22 rounds from the deck gun (13 killed).

At 8.12 PM 500 miles West of Freetown, Sierra Leone, U-582 sinks American SS Honolulan carrying 8350 tons of manganese ore and jute from Bombay, India, to Baltimore, USA (all 39 crew in 3 lifeboats picked up 6 days later by British MV Winchester Castle and landed in New York).

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