American B-24 Liberators making their bombing runs at Ploesti

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

Remembering the First Fight Against Fascism

Happier days for the crew of PT-109
(JFK is standing on the right)

July 13, 1943  

In the early morning hours, a Japanese task force consisting of the light cruiser Jintsu, and 9 destroyers made another attempt to land reinforcements in the Solomons. An Allied naval group under Admiral Ainsworth consisting of three light cruisers (Honolulu, HMNZS Leander, and St. Louis) and 10 destroyers met off the coast of Kolombangara. In the short battle, Leander was hit by a Japanese torpedo, severely damaged and she withdrew. Nearly 3000 shells were fired at  Jintsu, disabling her (the ship  was later sunk by torpedoes). After reloading torpedoes, the Japanese destroyers returned and managed to blow up an American destroyer and severely damage the two remaining US cruisers. The Allied forces withdrew and the Japanese landed 1200 troops on Vila Island.

German offensive operations at Kursk come to an end as one last attempt is made to break the Soviet lines on the southern face of the bulge. It failed. Hitler suspended Operation 'Citadel' and the vaunted Wehrmacht would never attempt a major strategic offensive on the Russian front again.  Meanwhile, the Soviet offensive opposite Orel, north of Kursk continues to make good progress against dogged German resistance.

British forces continue to advance in Sicily capturing Autusta and Raqusa. The "Herman Goring Division is beginning to shift position to face the advancing British 51st Infantry Division, 23rd Armored Brigade and Canadian 1st Infantry Division (Harpoon Force) near Vizzini, while the British 8th Corps opens attacks toward Catania and Lentini.

The Japanese forces at Mubo, New Guinea, are destroyed in heavy fighting.

American forces reinforce their positions at Rendova and New Georgia as attacks on the latter make some progress against very heavy Japanese resistance.

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July 14, 1943

Senior Sergeant Mariy Sergeyevna Borovichenko ended her military carrier as she had started it, facing insurmountable odds in the face of the enemy. Her last act of heroism was to place an anti-tank bomb on an enemy vehicle and rather than taking cover, used her body to shield a wounded comrade. The detonation destroyed the German tank, but shrapnel from the explosion killed her. She became a "Hero of the Soviet Union, for her dedicated and selfless service to the Motherland", one of 92 women in the entire war to be so honored.

The Soviet offensive on the Orel salient expands as the Voronezh Front strikes back at the German 4th Panzer and Army Detachment Kempf south of Kursk.

The Primrose Bridge: One of the most bizarre battles in the war is fought as German and British paratroops make several combat drops in the same area within hours of one anther near the Primrose Bridge in Sicily. The Primrose Bridge crossed a 400-foot gorge 7 miles south of Catania. It was the key to Montgomery's capture of the Catania plain. The German 3rd Parachute Regiment (which had dropped July 12) was reinforced by the drop of the 1st Para-MG battalion the previous day defended the area. In the early morning hours of 14th, the British 1st Parachute Brigade landed south of the bridge and secured it. The Germans struck the disorganized British at first light. The Brits were hard pressed until fire from the cruiser HMS Newfoundland delivered quick and accurate 6" gun rounds in support. The Germans launched heavier attacks, supported by artillery in the afternoon. Communications with the Newfoundland broke down leaving the Brits without support. They were forced to abandon the bridge late in the day. Meanwhile, British armor had been fighting hard to reach the paratroops. By early evening they had made contact with the British paratroops well south of the bridge. The Germans withdrew to the north bank anticipating a British night attack, but it never developed. The Germans were reinforced during the night, by yet another airborne drop (the final drop into the area came on July 17th when the German 4th Parachute Regiment was landed) and could declare victory at the Primrose Bridge.

In other fighting on Sicily, American forces secure the Biscari airfield and Niscemi while British forces capture Vizzini.

The American capture of Biscari was marred by two incidents. In one, Captain John T. Compton was charged with killing 36 POWs in his charge. He claimed to be following orders. Both the investigating officer and the Judge Advocate declared that Comptons's actions were unlawful but he was acquitted in a court-marshal.  In the second incident, Sergeant West was charged with killing POWs under his charge. He was found guilty, stripped of rank and sentenced to life in prison. This led to charges of uneven justice for officers and NCOs. Ultimately, West was released from prison as a private. Compton was transferred to another regiment and died a year later fighting in Italy.

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July 15, 1942

A major air battle is fought over Rendova. American pilots clamed over forty Japanese planes at a cost of only 3 friendly craft.

In Sicily, Patton's 7th Army, relegated to a minor roll of protecting Montgomery's left flank. Stung by the Alexander's decision to give Bradley's 2nd Corps front to Montgomery, Patton decides to drive west to Polermo with half his army while 2nd Corps is stuck advancing north through the trackless mountains.

Heavy fighting continues on the Russian front as the Soviet Central Front (General Rokossovsky) joins in the offensive toward Orel, attacking from his positions north of Kursk. To the south 4th Panzer Army has relinquished all the ground it captured during the recent offensive and has returned to their start line from two weeks ago.

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July 16, 1943

In a statement by Churchill and Roosevelt to the people of Italy, the two leaders said, "The sole hope for Italy's survival lies in honorable capitulation to the overwhelming, power of the military forces of the United Nations. If you continue to tolerate the Fascist regime, which serves the evil power of the Nazis, you must suffer the consequences of your own choice . . . we are determined to destroy the false leaders and their doctrines which have brought Italy to her present position."  Editor's Note: To those who still feel Bush is the second coming of Churchill, compare the statement above to "Smoke 'em out" and "Bring 'em on."

Allied forces continue to advance in Sicily. The US 3rd Infantry Division engages in heavy fighting at Agrigento and Porto Empedocle. The British 50th Infantry Division establishes a brigehead at the Primrose Bridge across the Simeto River and the Canadian 1st Infantry Division captures Caltagirone and moves on toward Piazza Armerina.

Manstien's defeated panzers begin to give ground on the southern edge of the Kursk bulge as Soviet Voronezh Front counter-attacks develop into general offensive.

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July 17, 1943

The Soviet Southwest Front (commanded by General Malinovsky) joins the attacks hitting German positions around Voroshilovgrad. To the north, Central Front's attacks toward Orel are temporarily checked as German tanks counterattack the spearheads. South of Kursk, the German remnants of the 4th Panzer Army continue their fighting withdrawl.

American air attacks on Bouganville hit Japanese naval forces hard, sinking a destroyer.

On Sicily, American forces capture Agrigento and Porto Empedocle.

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July 18, 1943

Patton's free-wheeling armored columns continue their romp over western Sicily capturing  Caltanisetta and cutting the Palermo-Enna road. Canadian forces capture Valguarnera in the interior while on the east coast, British are stopped by stubborn resistance north of the Simeto River.

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July 19, 1943

Patton's armored columns continue to drive north and west toward Palermo. Montgomery's forces are still unable to move forward, and he shifts his spearheads inland aiming at Gerbini, Agira and Leonforte.

American bombers hit Rome for the first time in the war, destroying the Basilica at San Lorenzo.

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July 20, 1943

Canadian and American forces in Sicily continue to advance capturing Enna and Menfi while the British continue to be thwarted by heavy resistance. Italian forces begin to surrender en masse.

The Soviet offensive on the eastern front continues as Bryansk Front (Popov) captures Mtsensk.

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July 21, 1943

The first "island hopping" operation starts in the Pacific American forces land on Vella Lavella in an attempt to bypass the Japanese stronhold at Kolombangara.

The Allies continue to advance in Sicily, capturing Gerbini, Leonforte, Corleone and Castelvetrano.

The Soviet offensive continues to roll forward as Russian forces capture Bolkhov.

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July 22, 1943

Patton's 2nd Armored Division drives into Palermo and completes the isolation of 45,000 Italian troops in western Sicily. German mobile forces were able to avoid the advance and withdraw in good order to the northeast.

Heavy US Naval forces (2 battleships and 4 cruisers) bombard Japanese positions on Kiska Island in the Aleutians.

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July 23, 1943

Patton's attack continues as his spearheads turn toward Messina along the northern coastal road. His forces reach Termini Imerese. Other 7th Army forces capture Trapani and Marsala.

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July 24, 1943

RAF Bomber Command continues its terror bombing campaign against German cities, this night hitting Hamburg with 780 bombers carrying 2300 tons of bombs. The highlight of the evening raid was the first use of "chafe", thin strips of metal foil dropped from planes to confuse German radar. It worked remarkably well as only 12 planes were lost in the raid

The Italian Fascist Grand Council met for the first time since December 1939. The topic of debate was the continued leadership of Mussolini. In the end, the council voted 19-7 to remove el Duce from command of all Italian forces.

In Sicily, the drive of the 45th Infantry Division on the northern coast continues as Cefalu is captured. Further inland, American forces move toward Nicosia.

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July 25, 1943

Mussolini is arrested on orders of King of Italy. Marshal Badoglio, a national war hero from the First World War, is declared Prime Minister. His first acts are to declare martial law, outlaw the Fascist Party, and incorporate the Fascist militias into the regular armed forces thus removing Mussolini's muscle from the political equation. Hitler, knowing this was in the works, ordered his pre-positioned forces into southern Italy to disarm the renegade Italians and secure the situation for his ends.

Hamburg continues to burn a day after the RAF visited the city. Fires could be seen 200 miles away. The US Army Air Force bombed the city during the day, creating even greater destruction, leaving 100,000 people homeless.

Patton's headlong advance comes to a screeching hault as the forces driving along the northern coast meet stiff resistance. IN an attempt to break the deadlock on his front, Montgomery launches a set piece attack by British and Canadian forces on Agira. 

Reinforced with the US 25th Infantry Division, American attacks in the Solomon Islands start again. Some progress is made in the Bartley Ridge area.

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July 26, 1943

With the collapse of the Kursk Offensive and the invasion of Sicily, Hitler orders the transfer of several units, including the 1st SS Panzer Division west.

July 27, 1943

Heavy fighting is reported in Sicily as attacks at Agira and Nicosia occur. The German theater commander, General Kesselfing, orders preparations to begin for the evacuation of the island.

Mussolini is moved from Rome to Ponza under heavy guard.

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July 28, 1943

RAF Bomber Command hits Hamburg again, this time with 722 bombers. Nine square miles of the city are left burning.

The Japanese evacuate the 6000-man garrison off Kiska island in the Aleutians. The Americans are left completely in the dark and continue with their plans to invade the island.

In the Solomon Islands, American attacks intensify as ground forces move toward "Horseshoe Hill". Air attacks against Japanese naval forces at Rabaul result in the sinking of two Japanese destroyers.

After very heavy fighting American forces capture Nicosia while the Canadians take Agira.

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July 29, 1943

In an attempt to relieve the pressure on German units between Kharkov and Orel, the Germans open an offensive by the 3rd Panzer Corps (Army Group A) along the Mius River north of Taganrog. The attack fails to make any impression on the Red Army forces in the area.

With Hamburg in utter ruin, the evacuation of the city of 1,000,000 is ordered.

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July 30, 1943

Soviet forces launch limited counter-attacks against the German positions along the Mius River, thus ending the German attacks.

Heavy fighting continues in Sicily as the US 45th Division moves toward Santo Stefano and Troina, while the British succeed in capturing Catenanouva.

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July 31 1943

US forces capture Santo Stefano while British and Canadian troops move toward Regalbuto and Centuripe on Sicily.

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August 1, 1943

Black Sunday - The Ploesti Raid: The US Army Air Force launches the first of its attacks against the Rumanian oil complex at Ploesti. 177 heavy B-24 Liberator bombers take part in the long-range low-level raid. After flying 1000 miles to the target at altitudes sometimes as low as 50 feet, the bombers were met by a series of flak belts that tore apart their formations. The return trip was harassed by enemy fighters who gleefully picked off crippled bombers. The attack was an utter disaster as 52 of the bombers are brought down. Only 35 of the survivors returned to base without any battle damage. One plane came back with 365 holes in the plane. Another returned with corn stalks in its engine cowling. Four "Congressional Medal of Honors" were won by participants in this heroic, but ultimately fruitless raid

RAF Bomber Command continues to kick at the carcass of Hamburg, launching yet another raid on the city.

Horrible terrain and a reorganized and energized enemy combine to bring the advance in Sicily to a halt. Heavy fighting is reported around Troina, Regalbuto and Cenuripe.

On the eastern front, Hitler permits the withdraw of forces in the Orel salient (which are already retreating on their own.

Another Soviet female hero falls as Lt. Lydia Vladimirovna Litvak was reported missing after attacking a group of German bombers near Donetsk. In her carrier, she was credited with 12 kills, 4 assists and 168 combat missions. Her combat carrier lasted less than a year and she was wounded twice in that time. Her "Hero of the Soviet Union" medal was not awarded until 1990.

In a little noticed incident in the Solomon Islands, a small patrol boat on picket duty is reported lost and probably sunk. The boat was PT-109 commanded by  Lt. John F. Kennedy. Later it would be learned that the boat was cut in half by the Japanese destroyer Arnagiri. Kennedy pulled most of the crew from the burning wreck and managed to keep the men going until they were rescued 8 days later.

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August 2, 1943

The Allies continue to desimate Hamburg as the 9th raid in 8 days is launched against the pile of rubble formerly known as a city. As of this day, more bombs have fallen on Hamburg than were dropped on London during the entire blitz. 50,000 civilians were killed in this city alone, more than all of the civilians lost in England during the entire war so far.

Heavy fighting continues in Sicily as the Allies make limited progress. The Canadians capture Regalbuto while the British take Centuripe.

The Americans make progress in the Solomon Islands as they reach Munda airfield. The Japanese begin to withdraw some of their more exposed garrisons to Kolombangara where they intend to make their last stand.

The Soviet offensive continues as Znamenskaya falls.

American naval forces hit the now abandoned Japanese postions on Kiska Island, completely unaware that their enemy has left.

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Special Editions:
Pearl Harbor | The Doolittle Raid | Midway

Editor's Corner Archive:

Hitler's Angle "The story of Prescott Bush and his association with the Nazis begins just before the end of World War I..."

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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