Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 1112 September 16, 1942

Convoy PQ-18. In the Barents Sea 200 miles Northeast of Murmansk, USSR, British destroyer HMS Impulsive sinks U-457 with depth charges (all 45 hands lost). Luftwaffe abandons aerial attacks on the convoy having lost 29 torpedo bombers on September 13th and 14th (the loss of pilots is particularly worrying).

Siege of Leningrad Day 374. Stalemate continues, as Soviet Volkhov Front brings up reinforcements into the Sinyavino gap to push through the last 3.5 miles to the Neva River. German 502nd Tank Battalion brings the new Tiger I tanks (officially Panzerkampfwagen VI H, Sd.Kfz. 182, sporting the the Krupp 88 mm gun) into combat for the first time.

Stalingrad. There is grim fighting all day as Germans try to push into the city. They especially want to place artillery on the dominating heights of Mamayev Kurgan, from which they can shell ferries bringing Soviet troops across the Volga, but an NKVD rifle battalion manages to hold on to the top of Mamayev Kurgan despite bitter fighting. German infantry advance down the Tsaritsa River gorge towards the Volga, again threatening to cut the soviet defenses in two.

At 11 AM 75 miles East of Trinidad, U-558 sinks American SS Commerical Trader (10 killed, 28 survivors reach Tobago in 1 lifeboat after 12 hours but 1 man dies later in hospital).

Laconia Incident. At 11.25 AM, an American B-24 Liberator bomber from Ascension Island spots 3 German and 1 Italian submarines (heading to West African coast to rendezvous with Vichy French warships, to transfer survivors from British troopship Laconia torpedoed by U-156 on September 12). The pilot, seeing Red Cross flags and survivors on deck, radios for instructions. US Captain Robert Richardson III replies “Sink sub”, either in confusion or a desire to protect the secrecy of the Allied airbase on Ascension Island. At 12.32 PM, the B-24 drops bombs and depth charges, turning over lifeboats and forcing the submarines to dive; hundreds of Laconia survivors are put back in the water and many die, although the submarines later surface and collect as many as possible. This incident causes Admiral Dönitz to issue his “Laconia order” forbidding the rescue or aiding of Allied survivors by U-boats.

At noon, deep in the St. Lawrence River 10 miles Northwest of Cap-Chat, U-165 attacks convoy SQ-36 heading to Montréal, Canada, sinking Greek SS Joannis (no casualties) and damaging British SS Essex Lance (1 killed, towed to Quebec, repaired and returned to service in May 1943) and Pan York (no casualties, repaired at Montréal).

Kokoda Track, Papua. There is a stalemate along the Ioribaiwa Ridge, with both sides having committed their reserves yesterday. It is not clear who has the upper hand but Japanese mountain guns maintain their deadly fire. The Australians have most to lose, with only 25 miles to Port Moresby, and pull back during the day to preserve troops for a counteratteck.

Aleutian Islands. US bombers from Adak Island again bomb the harbor at Japanese-held Kiska Island. At 4.37 AM, Japanese transport ship Nojima Maru sustains several hits and is immobilized (will be towed out and eventually abandoned after several more bombings).

In the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, Japanese submarine I-29 sinks British SS Ocean Honour sailing from Liverpool to Alexandria, Egypt, with a cargo of 6000 tons of military supplies and trucks (15 crew and 5 gunners killed, 30 crew and 3 gunners reach an isolated island, rescued by the RAF and taken to Aden).

In convoy ON-127, 25 miles East of St. Johns, Newfoundland, British tanker MV F.J. Wolfe (damaged 6 days ago by a torpedo from U-96) collides with British SS Empire Soldier (previously German SS Konsul Hendrik Fisser captured on November 22, 1939) which sinks. MV F.J. Wolfe continues and arrives at St. Johns later in the day.

Overnight, RAF sends 369 bombers to Ruhr Valley, Germany. Bombing is scattered but 8 industrial targets are damaged in Essen, including the Krupps works which is hit by 15 high-explosive bombs and by a crashed bomber full of incendiary canisters (47 civilians killed, 92 injured). Bochum, Wuppertal, Heme and Cochem are also hit and suffer civilan casualties. 21 Wellingtons, 9 Lancasters, 5 Stirlings, 3 Halifaxes & 1 Whitley are lost.

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