Project 60 - "The First Fight Against Fascism" - Archives

March, 1943


March 1, 1943

Te nsion between the Polish exile government in Britain and the Soviet Union escalated as, in response to the Polish protests regarding her borders with Belarus and Ukraine, the Soviet News Agency issued a statement accusing the  Poles of being imperialist and having been pro‑Fascist before the war.

Red Army forces occupy Demyansk as the Germans withdraw from the salient.

March 2, 1943

US aircraft spot and attack a Japanese convoy carrying elements of General Nakano’s 51st Division en route to Lae from Rabaul.

US forces in Tunisia follow the retreating Germans, occupying Sbeitla and advancing toward Feriana. Fighting continues in the north as von Arnim continues to probe at the British defenses.

March 3, 1943

Red Army forces occupy Rzhev as the Germans withdraw from the exposed postion. Soviet attacks north of Kharkov continue to gain ground as Lgov, west of Kursk, is captured. The situation south of Kharkov is not going well as the Papov finally realizes his mistake and begins to withdraw. 9000 prisoners are taken in the first of many surrenders to come in the next few weeks.

Wingate’s Chindits make their presence know to the Japanese by blowing up several miles of the Mandalay-Myitkyina railroad in Burma.

Attacks continue on the Japanese convoy carrying elements of the 51st Division in the Bismarck Sea.

An air raid warning was sounded in London. It was a false alarm. Regretably, 173 civilians were killed a panicked crush attempting to enter the shelters at Bethnal Green.

March 4, 1943

US PT-boats join in the air attacks on the convoy carrying the Japanese 51st Division. After three days of attacks, all 8 transports, carrying 7000 troops, along with 4 of the 8 escorting destroyers are sunk. At least half of the infantry force is lost. In the air, 25 Japanese planes were shot down while the US-Australian force lost 5 planes.

Montgomery reinforces his already strong defenses around Medenine as elements of the 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions head south.

North of Kharkov, Red Army forces continue to make advances against the Germans capturing Olenino and Chertolino to the west of Rzhev, and Sevsk and Sudzha west of Kursk. However, von Manstein's redirects his attacks at Kharkov sending the SS Panzer Corps west from Poltava and elements of 4th Panzer Army attack northward from positions along the Berestovaya River, west of Izyum.

Japanese forces in Burma launch an attack against the British columns attempting to take Akyab.

March 5, 1943

After a winter of limited raid, “Bomber” Harris unleashes RAF Bomber Command in a major offensive against Germany’s industrial heartland in the Rhur. The first victim in the terror bombing raids is Essen where 443 planes attacked. The use of the Oboe targeting system greatly improved accuracy as 160 acres of the city were devastated including 53 buildings in the Krupps works. Over 5000 homes were destroyed and 475 civilians killed.

Von Manstein’s attack continues as elements of 4th Panzer Army mauls the retreating Soviet forces west of Izyum. However, the attack could not be forces over the Donets River as the ice on the river was breaking up preventing bridging operations.

March 6, 1943

Red Army troops capture Gzhatsk, between Vyazma and Rzhev.

Rommel launches his attack on Medenine. Montgomery’s defenses defeat the attack. Rommel renewed the attack in the afternoon and, once again, failed to make any headway against the thick defenses. By the end of the day, Rommel had less than 100 tanks left.

Wingate’s Chindits continue blowing up bridges and railroads in Burma.

A US Navy force of three cruisers and seven destroyers bombard Japanese airfields at Munda and Vila. In a chance engagement, the force stumbles on two Japanese destroyers, which are.

General George S. Patton takes command of the beaten and poorly handled US II Corps in Tunisia after their drubbing at Kassarine Pass.

U-boats intercept convoy SC-121 in the north Atlantic. 13 merchants of the 56-ship convoy would be sunk

March 7, 1943

Von Manstein redirects 4th Panzer Army westward and now attacks northeast from around Krasnograd in an attempt to link up with the SS Panzer Corps.

March 8, 1943  

As the jaws of von Manstien’s pincer attack begin to close on the Red Army forces outside Kharkov, Soviet troops take Sychevka between Rzhev and Vyazma.

In an attempt to improve communications security, the German U-boats begin operating with a fourth rotor on their Enigma equipment. This creates some problems for the Allies but the code breakers are able to break the new system with minimal effort.

Japanese forces in China cross the Yangtze River between Ichang and Yoyang.

March 9, 1943

Hitler, fearing that his “best General” would be defeated in Tunisia, recalls Rommel, leaving von Arnhim in charge of the Axis forces in Africa. Rommel would never return to that theater.

Fighting around Kharkov intensifies as the SS Panzer Korps advances on the city from the west and north while the 25th Guard Rifle Division holds Taranovka against determined attacks by the 48th Panzer Korps to the south.

 

March 10 1943

Heavy fighting at Ksar Rhilane, southeast of Mareth, Tunisia is reported.  Leclerc’s Free French troops fight off determined Axis attacks which were heavily supported from the air.

After raiding the Mandalay-Mytikinia railline, the Chindit Brigade breaks up into several columns and crosses the Irawaddy River between Tagaung and Tigyaing.

What started out as the American volunteer squadron “Flying Tigers” becomes the 14th Air Forces as Chennault is promoted and his forces in China are heavily reinforced.

 

March 11, 1943

Heavy street fighting erupts in Kharkov as the SS Panzer Korps enters the city and manages to get to the city center.

U-boat attacks in the Atlantic continue to take a toll as convoys SC121 and HX228 lose 17 ships. In the attacks the Germans lost two boats, U-432 and U-444.

March 12, 1943

Heavy fighting is still reported in Kharkov as the Germans clear the Russians from the city. The Germans break mobile forces from the city fight and drive south in an attempt to cut off Soviet forces southwest of the city. Further to the north, the Germans abandon and the Red Army occupies Vyazma as Army Group Center continues its limited withdrawals to shorten their front.

In an attempt to outflank the Marenth Line, Montgomery moves the 2nd New Zealand Division and the 8th Armored Brigade south from Medenine opposite Wilder’s gap.

March 13, 1943

Hitler, while visiting Army Group Center’s Headquarters in Smolensk narrowly avoids assassination. The first attempt was to be made by machine-gunning his car, but the motorcade sped by before Captain Boeselager’s troops could open fire. The second attempt was to be made during the luncheon, but Hitler and Field Marshal von Kluge were seated next to one another and the conspiracy leader, Col. Henning von Tresckow feared hitting his commander. Finally, Tresckow was able to plant a time bomb on board Hitler’s FW-200 Condor transport plane at Smolensk. The detonator for the bomb, a British Plastic-C, failed to ignite due to its sensitivity to low temperatures.

From Berlin... The German Army High Command issues the preliminary orders for Operation Zitadelle (in English meaning Citadel) -- the plan to eliminate the Soviet held salient centered on Kursk.

Chinese forces counterattack the Japanese bridgehead over that Yangtze River and succeed in eliminating Japanese intrusion.

March 14, 1943

The Allies score a victory with a submarine as HMS Thunderbolt sinks the Italian corvette Cicogna off the coast of Sicily.March 15, 1943

March 15, 1943

Kharkov changes hands for the third time in the war as German forces destroy organized resistance in the shattered city. Meanwhile, further north, Red Army forces capture Kholm and Zharkovskiy, as the German Army Group Center continues its withdrawal.

March 16, 1943

Montgomery’s 8th Army begins probinb the approaches to the Mareth Line as it prepares to open it’s main offensive in Tunisia.

Off the coast of Newfoundland, the eastbound fast convoy HX229 overtook the slow convoy SC122 and over the course of 4 days, the German U-boats of wolfpaks Raubgraf and Surmer, sunk 21 ships for the loss of one U-boat, U-384, at the hands of a Sunderland patrol craft. The disaster nearly ended the convoy scheme, but improvements in aircover were made which ultimately turned the tide in the Allie’s favor

March 17, 1943

The Japanese 33rd and 55th Divisions attack the British 123rd Indian Brigade, occupying defensive positions north of Rathedaung in Arakan. Threatened with being surrounded, the Indian’s withdraw. 

March 18, 1943

Von Manstein’s attack comes to a close as the "Grossdeutchsland" Division attacks Belgorod northeast of Kharkov, as the spring thaw and its accompanying sea of mud take over.  In the attack, the overextended Red Army suffered 40,000 casualties and lose at least 600 tanks, and the Germans succeeded in stabilizing the southern half of the eastern front. However, the blow was nowhere near as devastating as the attacks of the summer of 1941. The Soviet Army was coming of age and able to fight with the Germans on a more level field.

Elements of the US 2nd Corps captures Gafsa, Tunisia, and advances toward El Guettar.

Orde Wingate’s column crosses the Irrawaddy River near Inywa as the Japanese begin operations to pursue this elusive foe. Further to the south in the Arakan, Htizwe falls to a British attacks while an attack on Donbaik, on the Mayu Peninsula, fails

March 19, 1943

The New Zealand Corps begins moving  toward Ksar Rhilane in preparation for Montgomery’s attack on the Marenth Line

March 20, 1943

As night falls, Montgomery’s long awaited attack on the Mareth line finally begins with a massive barrage on Italian positions along the coast followed by attacks by the British 50th Infantry Division. The New Zealand Corp was still marching to their flanking position to the west.

Another attempt is made to assassinate Hitler, this time by a suicide bomber, Colonel Rudolph Christoph von Bersdorf (who had provided the faulty bomb in the March 13 attempt). Hitler was to visit the exhibit at the Berlin Armory Museum and Bersdorf planned to detonate a bomb planted on himself while standing near the Fuehrer. Bersdorf had wanted to use a instantaneous detonator but could only obtain an acid based 10-minute delay fuse. All went as planned as Bersdorf set the fuse going at the end of Hitler’s speech and joined the tour group, inching toward the Fuehrer. But shortly after starting the tour, Hitler moved off, ignoring the exhibit and left the area. Bersdorf was forced to rush to the men’s room to flush the acid detonator down the toilet before it blew up.

March 21, 1943

Italian forces defending Tebaga Gap in Tunisia, put up a surprisingly determined defense, stopping the New Zealand Corps’ flank attack. Meanwhile, the main attack on the Mareth Line, by British forces, in the morning has established a small force across the natural antitank obstacle of Wadi Zigzaou, but ground conditions prevent a further buildup. March 22, 1943  

March 22, 1943

As the British attempt to expand their bridgehead over Wadi Zigzaou, German reserves from the 15th Panzer Division (with a mere 30 tanks in all) counterattack, ending the attempt. Meanwhile elements of 21st Panzer and 164th Light Divisions arrive at Tebaga Gap to stop t he new Zealand Corps’ advance.

March 23, 1943

Patton’s drive on El Guettar is stopped by determined German and Italian resistance with the 10th Panzer Division taking serious losses. Montgomery redirects his main attack toward the Tebaga Gap, sending General Horrocks’ 1st Armored Division to reinforce the New Zealand Corps.

March 24 1943

Wingate is ordered to end his Chindit operations and return to India. The group breaks into smaller march columns. Most of the force would be back in India in April.

Montgomery continues his attacks in Tunisia, sending the 4th Indian Dividision on a flank attack toward Ksar el Hallouf and Ben Zelten. It fails to dislodge the Axis forces.

 

March 25, 1943

Pressure from the British 1st Armored Division at Tebaga Gap and the US II Corps at Maknassy forces General von Arnim to withdraw from the Mareth Line.

Greek partisans succeed in taking over Samos Island from the Italian garrison.

 

March 26, 1943

The British 1st Armored Division, supported by heavy air support break the Axis rearguard at the Tebaga Gap and advance toward El Hamma.

An American squadron under Admiral McMorris (2 cruisers and 4 destroyers) engages Admiral Hosogaya’s Japanese squadron (4 cruisers and 5 destroyers) off the Komandorski Islands in the Barents’s Sea. A traditional gun engagement begins and a cruiser on each side (Nahi for the Japanese and Salt Lake City for the USN) is badly damaged. After a brief exchange of gunfire which results in the damage of a cruiser on each side, Hosogaya decides to break off despite his clear advantage in firepower.

March 27, 1943

As Patton begins a new attack near Fondouk, British armor is stopped in front of El Hamma as German infantry hold the road open for the retreating Axis forces heading toward new positions at Wadi Akarit

The British escort carrier Dasher is lost as a result of an accidental aviation fuel explosion. The detonation blew apart the aft elevator and the ship sank by the stern in three minutes. Of the crew of 555 British sailors, 379 were lost in the accident

March 28, 1943

British 8th Army forces complete the capture of the Mareth line as Free French forces operating in southern Tunisia, clear several towns

March 29, 1943

With the Wadi Akarit line fully manned, the New Zealand Corps enter Gabes. The new Axis defense is a strong natural barrier, but preparations for the line were poor and the forces to defend it depleted.

March 30, 1943

The light cruiser HMS Glasgow successfully intercepts the German blockade runner Regensburg in the Denmark Strait. Rather than be captured, the Germans fire the ship. Only 6 of her crew survived.

Stalin was informed that the Murmansk convoys were being suspended due to the losses sustained by the merchant ships.

March 31, 1943

Attacks against the German 17th Army in the Kuban peninsula result in the fall of Anastasyevsk to the advancing Soviet forces.

British 8th Army forces capture Cap Serrat in Tunisia.
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