Monday, August 6, 2012

Day 1072 August 7, 1942

Allies take the offensive against the Japanese, aiming to push them back to the Home Islands. Their first goal is to recapture occupied territories in the South Pacific starting at the furthest extreme, the Solomon Islands. US warships arrive in the Solomon Islands, taking Japanese by surprise, to land 1st Marine Division. US warships shell the landing sites and dive-bombers from aircraft carrier USS Wasp destroy 15 Japanese seaplanes at anchor. At 8 AM, 2nd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment and Edson's Raiders (1st Raider Battalion) land on Tulagi unopposed and, by nightfall, compress the Japanese defenders into prepared positions on Hill 281 on the Southeast corner of the island. At 9.10 AM, 11,000 Marines come ashore on Guadalcanal unopposed and advance to within 1 km of the Japanese airfield at Lunga Point before halting for the night. More resistance is met at the linked islets of Gavutu-Tanambogo. At noon, 397 troops (1st Marine Parachute Battalion) land on Gavutu under heavy Japanese machinegun fire (taking 10% casualties) but they clear the tiny islet by the evening. Believing Tanambogo to be only lightly defended, 1 company of Marines are sent to capture the adjacent islet but they are repelled by machinegun fire and depart with wounded in their boats or run across the causeway to Gavutu. In response, Japanese send naval aircraft from Rabaul, New Britain, to attack the US warships throughout the day but without success.

Off Wotje in the Marshall Islands, US submarine USS Tambor sinks Japanese auxiliary net layer Shofuku Maru.

At 7 AM 85 miles East of Cape Greco, Cyprus, U-77 sinks an unidentified sailing vessel. In the Aegean Sea 100 miles South of Athens, British submarine HMS Proteus (which has been shooting up Greek sailboats with the deck gun) torpedoes 8467-ton German freighter Wachtfels. At 12.55 PM 50 miles Southwest of Crete, British submarine HMS Thorn attacks an Italian convoy from Benghazi, Libya, to Piraeus, Greece. HMS Thorn is detected and machinegunned by a Ju-88 bomber and then sunk at 1.45 PM by depth charges from Italian torpedo boat Pegaso (all 61 hands lost).

Egypt. A Bristol Bombay (RAF 216 Squadron), flying British General William “Strafer” Gott from Borg el-Arab to Cairo to take command of 8th Army, is shot down by Messerschmitt Bf-109s and crash lands. The flight crew survives but 17 passengers, including Gott, are trapped in the fuselage and burn to death. Churchill gives command of 8th Army to General Bernard Montgomery, later commenting on "the part that the hand of God had taken in removing Gott at the critical moment".

Case Blue. In the Don Bend, Soviet 62nd and 64th Armies resist German attacks by Paulus’ 6th Army West of the Don and by 4th Panzer Army South of the Don. German 17th Army’s advance into the Caucasus threatens Soviet Black Sea Fleet at Novorossisk, on the Black Sea coast. Soviet cruiser Krasny Krym and destroyer Nezamozhnik evacuate troops from Novorossisk further South to Batum.

South Atlantic. At 1.33 AM, U-108 sinks Norwegian MV BreƱas (1 killed, captain taken prisoner by U-108 and held in a POW camp until July 1943, 32 survivors rescued and taken to Trinidad). At 2.25 AM 800 miles West of Freetown, Sierra Leone, U-572 sinks Dutch SS Delfshaven (1 killed, 38 survivors in 2 lifeboats reach French Guinea and interned by the Vichy French until December 1942). At 9.47 PM 1400 miles West of Freetown, U-109 sinks Norwegian tanker SS Arthur W. Sewall (all 36 crew picked up 3 days later by Greek SS Athina Livanos).

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