Desert Raiders of the SAS head for Tobruk

Project 60: A Day-by-Day Diary of WWII 

Remembering the First Fight Against Fascism

The Wasp burns after being hit by two torpedoes

September 8, 1942  

Japanese forces open a new offensive on the Kokoda Trail in an attempt to force the Owen Stanley Ridge in their bid to take Port Morseby.

US Marines and paratroopers attacked the Japanese postions at Taivu Point on Guadalcanal.

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September 9, 1942

Field Marshal List is sacked as commander of Army Group A as Hitler loses patience with the gains being made by this force.

Japanese aircraft, launched from submarines, bombard the woods near Brookings, Oregon forests with incendiary munitions, starting several small fires.

British troops fighting the French on Madagascar take control of the Mozambique Channel.

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September 10 1942

Red Army forces attacking out of Leningrad halt their operations after taking heavy losses in attack. At Stalingrad, Russian forces fall back deeper into the city as German pressure continues and bloody house-to-house fighting continues.

The German U-boat, U-69, laid 12 mines in the Chesapeake Bay. It would be the last such mission on the Virginia coast in the war.

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September 11, 1942

Attacks in the southern sector at Stalingrad continue with heavy fighting reported. German forces approach "The Grain Elevator", a massive concrete structure dominating the area, and are stopped cold by the fanatical defense of a mere 40 Russian Marines.

RAF Bomber command raids Dusseldorf causing extensive damage.

Australian forces stop the latest Japanese offensive at Ioribaiwa, on the Kokoda Trail, a mere 32 miles from Port Morseby.

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September 12, 1942

The German U-boat, U-156, torpedoed and sank the 19,695-ton British transport Laconai. To the horror of the German crew, the ship carried 1800 Italian POWs, captured in North Africa and heading for Canada. The German skipper, Captian Hartenstein, attempted to save as many as possible, cramming 200 liberated prisoners into his boat. He then, over open channels, reported the incident, calling for assistance and guaranteeing not to attack Allied ships who respond. Later, American planes operating out of Ascension Island attacked the submarine on the surface even though it displayed a huge Red Cross flag. Of the original complement of 2732 on the Laconai, 1111 survived. The incident led to the German "Laconia Order", prohibiting U-boat skippers from picking up any survivors from their victims.

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September 13, 1942

British Commandos from the land, sea and air, hit the German installations at Tobruk, Bengazi and Brace. The attacks were a dismal failure and resulted in heavy losses to the British. The Royal Navy destroyers Sikh and Zulu, along with the AA-ship Coventry were sunk in action in the Tobruk operations, and several hundred marines were killed. Damage to Tobruk's depots and port installations were minimal. The raid on Brace succeeded in shooting up the town and some of the 30 planes at the field with no losses. The attack on Bengazi was a bloody affair as surprise was lost almost at the start of the attack and the commandos withdrew.

Two Japanese battalions were destroyed (1200 Japanese casualties) in heavy fighting at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.

After days of heavy house-to-house fighting in Stalingrad, a massive and concentrated effort began as 6th Army hits the center of the city.

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September 14, 1942

Japanese forces struck Marine positions on "Bloody Ridge" on Guadalcanal. The vicious fighting, often hand-to-hand left 600 Japanese dead and 143 Marine losses.

The German 51st Corps succeeds in driving through the city to the banks of the Volga, splitting the Soviet defenses. Heavy counterattacks by the 62nd Army fail to restore the situation.

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September 15, 1942

Fierce fighting at Stalingrad centers on Mamayev Kurgan, the dominant high ground overlooking city and the important ferries over the Volga.

The aircraft carrier USS Wasp , conducting air operations in support of the Marines on Guadalcanal, is torpedoed by a Japanese submarine I-19off Espirtu Santo. Two of the torpedoes strike the ship and detonate the aircraft fuel tanks and magazine. The forward part of the ship was torn by explosions as flames raced out of control. Within an hour of being hit, the order to abandon ship was made. Less than an hour later, the crew was off. Wasp sank during the night after fire completely gutted the ship. 1,941 men were saved.

Elements of the US 32nd "Red Arrow" Division begin landing at Port Morseby as McArthur prepares to expel the Japanese from New Guinea.

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September 16, 1942

Heavy fighting at the central railway station and yard at Stalingrad takes place. The buildings and yards change hands several times during the day. Losses are heavy on both sides in the fierce fighting.

Japanese forces abandon Attu and move to Kiska. 

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September 17, 1942

The Governor General of Madagascar calls on the British invasion force to negotiate an surrender. The demands of the British were deemed unacceptable and the negotiations broke down quickly.

German forces north of Stalingrad open a new offensive in the northwest suburbs as fighting in the center city bogs down.

Colonel Leslie Grove is placed in charge of the Manhattan Project.

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September 18, 1942

4000 Marines are landed on Guadalcanal and for the first time in a month, full food rations were provided to the troops.

In an attempt to relieve pressure on Stalingrad, Red Army forces from the Voronezh Front, 250 miles from the city, open a massive offensive.

Col. Groves purchases 1250 tons of high quality Belgian Congo uranium ore stored on Staten Island. The race to the A-bomb is on.

British forces land on the east coast of Madagascar and occupy Tamatave.

A German U-boat laid a dozen mines off Charleston, South Carolina. None were ever struck.

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September 19, 1942

Col. Groves purchases 52,000 acres of land in Tennessee. The site will be the massive weapons grade uranium enrichment facility known as Oak Ridge.

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September 20, 1942

Newly appointed commander, Dwight Eisenhower, declared that November 9 would be the date for the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa - Operation Torch.

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September 21, 1942

RAF Bomber command hits Munich and the Saar Valley in heavy raids.

British forces launch their first land offensive against the Japanese hitting in the Arakan in Burma.

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Editor's Corner 

The items found in this section are comments from the editors of Project 60 and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of bartcop.

The Grain Elevator

Fighting in a city is without a doubt the hardest, most strenuous and dangerous place soldiers can ply their trade. When our chickenhawk leadership claims that Iraq will be a "cakewalk", consider this. Combat ranges shrink to feet instead of miles in the confined spaces of a modern city. In the country one is lucky to see their victims. In the city, you fight so close that you can smell your opponent and feel his last breath in your face as your knife slides between his ribs. This is the most brutal of arenas in the most brutal of endeavors.

And Stalingrad was the worst of the worst. At this place on the Russian steppes, the most technologically advance, best trained and equipped army the world had yet known came to grips with one of the poorest equipped, and marginally led forces. The city evened the fight. The technologically advanced and highly trained army was beaten to a bloody pulp.

In this fight, isolated bands of Russian soldiers would often fight on, their commanders writing them off as lost. One such band, hold itself up in the massive concrete grain elevators 60 years ago this week. Survivors from both sides, left behind their notes. They are reproduced here.

The German's story

September 16: Our battalion, plus tanks, is attacking the elevator, from which smoke is pouring - the grain in it is burning, the Russians seem to have set light to it themselves. Barbarism. The battalion is suffering heavy losses. There are not more than 60 men left in each company. The elevator is occupied not by men but by devils that no flames or bullets can destroy.

September 18: Fighting is going on inside the elevator. The Russians inside are condemned men; the battalion commander says 'the commissars have ordered those men to die in the elevator.' If all the buildings of Stalingrad are defended like this, then none of our soldiers will get back to Germany.

September 20: The battle for the elevator is still going on. The Russians are firing on all sides. We stay in our cellar; you can't go out into the street. Sergeant-Major Nuschke was killed today running across the street. Poor fellow, he's got three children.

September 22:Russian resistance in the elevator has been broken. We found about forty Russians dead in the elevator building. Half of them were wearing naval uniform - sea devils. One prisoner was captured, seriously wounded.

That wounded soldier was Andrey Khozyaynov of the Marine Brigade and he wrote this

I remember on the night of the 17th, I was called to the battalion command post and given the order to take a platoon of machine-gunners to the grain elevator and, together wit the men already in action there, to hold it come what may. We arrived that night and presented ourselves to the garrison commander. At that time the elevator was being defended by a battalion of not more than thirty to thirty-five guardsmen. Eighteen well-armed had arrived from our platoon.

At dawn enemy tanks and infantry, approximately ten times our numbers, launched an attack from the south and west. After the first attack was beaten back, a second began, then a third, while a reconnaissance 'pilot' plane circled over us. It corrected the fire and reported our position. In all, ten attacks were beaten off on September 18.

In the elevator,, the grain was on tire, the water in the machine-guns evaporated, the wounded were thirsty, but there was no water. This is how we defended ourselves twenty-four hours a day for three days. Heat, smoke, and thirst - all our lips were cracked. During the day many of us climbed up to the highest points in the elevator and from there fired on the Germans; at night we came down and made a defensive ring round the building. We had no contact with other units.

September 20th arrived. At noon twelve enemy tanks came up from the south and west. We had already run out of ammunition for our anti-tank rifles, and we had no grenades left. The tanks approached the elevator from two sides and began to fire at our garrison at point-blank range. But no one flinched. Our machine-guns and tommy-guns continued to fire at the enemy's infantry, preventing them from entering the elevator. Then a Maxim, together with the gunner, was blown up by a shell, and the casing of the second Maxim was hit by shrapnel, bending the barrel. We were left with one light machine-gun.

The explosions were shattering the concrete; the grain was in flames. We could not see one another for dust and smoke, but we cheered one another with shouts. German tommy-gunners appeared from behind the tanks. There were about 200 of them. They attacked very cautiously, throwing grenades in from of them. We were able to catch some of the grenades and throw them back. On the west side of the elevator, the Germans managed to enter the building, but we immediately turned our guns on the parts they occupied. Fighting flared up inside the building. We sensed and heard the enemy soldiers' breath and footsteps, but we could not see them in the smoke. We fired at sound.

At night, during a short lull, we counted our ammunition. There did not seem to be much left. We were surrounded. We decided to break out to the south. To begin all went well. We passed through a gully and crossed a railroad line, then stumbled on an enemy mortar battery. The Germans scattered, leaving behind their weapons, but also bread and water. 'Something to drink!' was all we could think about. We drank our fill in the darkness. We then ate the bread we had captured and went on.

But alas, what happened to my comrades I don't know, because the next thing I remembered was waking in a dark, damp cellar. A door opened, and in the bright sunlight I could see a tommy-gunner in a black uniform. On his left sleeve was a skull. I had fallen into the hands of the enemy.


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Special Editions:
Pearl Harbor | The Doolittle Raid | Midway

Editor's Corner Archive:

The Past Through Tomorrow "It is quite frightening to realize just how similar our nation's actions have been and appear to be heading when compared this way..."

Afghanistan and Vietnam: When the "war against terrorism" began, many knowledgeable people warned that our operations in Afghanistan would turn into another Vietnam.

Want to Win - Think Before You Lash Out - "If we are serious about taking the war to the enemy, it is time to look ..."

The First Fight Against Fascism - We must remember the Spanish Civil War also.

Arguing Victory - "... Each nation who fought against fascist tyranny in WWII brought with it part of whole needed to defeat that evil..." 

War, Glory, Honor and Remembrance - "War is a brutal and savage insult on human society..."

The First Casualty... in time of war, those in power are even more inclined to hide the truth, since that truth is often manifest in the most gruesome and terrible acts.  

Those wishing to contribute items. stories or comments should contact D.A. Friedrichs



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