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

May, 1943

May 1, 1943

The US II Corps takes Hill 609 in "Mousetrap Valley." Axis forces begin to withdraw from the area.

May 2, 1943

Japanese bombers based in Salamaua, New Guinea strike Darwin Australia.

RAF Mosquito fighter-bombers raid the railway yards at Thionville in France.

German Dornier bombers lay mines off the Thames and Humber estuaries.

The German transport Gneisenau strikes a mine and sinks, east of Gedser.

May 3, 1943

US forces break out of “Mousetrap Valley, and the US 1st Armored Division captures Mateur, 20 miles from Bizerte.

May 4, 1943

After sailing for a week through raging storms, westbound convoy ONS-5 makes contact with the German wolf pack sent to destroy it. As German submarine U-630 was starting its attack run, a Canadian RAF plane depth charged the boat, sinking it.

Japanese forces continue to press the British defenders, this time infiltrating between Buthidaung and Maungdaw, threatening the British supply lines.

Hitler decides to postpone the summer offensive at Kursk until more of the new Tiger and Panther tanks can be delivered to the troops. Many historians attempt to claim that this was a major blunder because it gave the Soviets more time to prepare. However, more recent evidence would indicate this is a false premise. By mid-May, the Russians had prepared an extensive defense network that was more than enough to defeat the Germans at Kursk.

In an act of purest desperation, the Italian merchant ship Campobasso, attempted to deliver desperately needed fuel and military supplies to the Axis forces in Tunisia. It was intercepted and sunk by British destroyers.

May 5, 1943

The Axis make one more attempt to supply Tunisia, sending the San Antonio to her doom, this time at the hands of American bombers. There would be no more attempts to supply Tunisia.

Convoy ONS-5, now being dogged by over 20 German submarines, begins to take serious losses. However, German submarine U-192 is sunk.

Heavy fighting continues on the Kuban peninsula as Red Army forces take Krymsk and Neberjaisk from the German 17th Army.

After taking and then losing the town in very heavy fighting, British forces recapture Djebel Bou Aoukaz late in the day. This action secured the left flank for the final drive on Tunis. he British 5th Corps is now commanded by Horrocks and includes the 6th and 7th Armored Divisions and the 4th Indian Division.

May 6, 1943

The British 5th Corps, consisting of 6th, Armored, 7th Armored, and 4th Indian Divisions led by Horrocks,  breaks through the Axis front, taking Massicault, and advancing toward Tunis. The attack is heavily supported by air and artillery support and succeeds in destroying the remnants of the German 15th Panzer Division. is Meanwhile, the US II Corps advanced toward Bizerta, Ferryville and Protville and the Free French 19th Corps approached Pont du Fahs.

Over thirty German submarines are engaged with convoy ONS-5 as the eleventh merchant ship is sunk. However, four more German submarines are sunk. Twenty more submarines would come attack the convoy but only one more merchant would be destroyed.

May 7, 1943

The convoy battle with ONS-5 comes to an end. In the week long battle, the convoy of 42 merchants and 9 escorts were attacked by 51 U-boats. The convoy lost 13 ships but the escorts and land based Catalina planes sank 7 U-boats, seriously damage 5 more. Despite the serious losses, the Allies considered this a great success.

British forces capture Tunis and while American forces take Bizerta. Fighting in Africa is coming to a speedy conclusion as von Arnim’s Axis forces retreat into the Cape Bon Peninsula. The last remnants of the Luftwaffe, abandon their airfields and fly off for Sicily.

Japanese forces in Burma continue to press the British as the town Buthidaung is abandoned.

May 8, 1943

The British 6th Armored Division drives from Hammam Lif toward Hammamet, preventing the Germans from making an orderly withdrawal.

May 9, 1943

Axis forces facing the US II Corp in Tunisia, surrender. Six generals were among those who capitulated.

British intelligence agents manage to steal a German Ju-88 night fighter armed with the new Liechtenstein BC radar set and land it in Scotland. The analysis of this new night-fighter equipment assists the British strategic bombing effort.

May 10, 1943

Organized resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto ends. SS-Brigadefuehrer Stoop declares “The Warsaw Ghetto is No More.”

All organized resistance in northeast Tunisia ends as Axis forces begin to surrender. Over the course of the next two days, 238,243 Axis unwounded soldiers would become prisoners of war.

Plans for the summer campaign in Russia solidify as Hitler approves Operation Citadel, the attack on the Kursk salient. Intelligence reports indicate that the Soviets are expecting the attack and preparing strong defenses to meet it.

May 11, 1943  

The US 7th Infantry Division lands on Attu Island in the Aleutians. The landings were made in dense fog which assisted in giving the Americans complete tactical surprise. Despite this, the 2500 Japanese defenders put up a very stiff resistance.

Churchill arrives in Washington for the TRIDENT Conference with Roosevelt.

May 12, 1943

AXIS FORCES SURRENDER IN NORTH AFRICA – After three years of struggle, Allied forces liberate all of North Africa from the Axis powers. A quarter of a million troops 130,000 Germans and 120,000 Italians) surrendered in Tunisia, ending the campaign. General Jurgen von Arnim and 25 other generals were included in the tally of prisoners. General Gustav Fehn, the last commander of the vaunted ‘Afrika Krops’, sent this final message to higher authorities … “Ammunition exhausted. Equipment destroyed. In accordance with orders received, the Afrika Korps has fought to the last man”. General Alexander, in a message to Churchill wrote, “It is my duty to report that the Tunis campaign is over. All enemy resistance has ceased. We are masters of the North African shores.”

With the approach of the monsoon season and continuing pressure from the Japanese against their exposed positions, British operations in the Arakan in Burma end with the abandonment of Maungdaw by the 26th Division and retreat to their start lines.  The division suffered 3,000 losses in the operation. Japanese losses were estimated at half that number.

May 13, 1942

British officials announce that for the first time in the war, there are more German prisoners of war in the hand of the Allies than British prisoners in the hands of the Axis.

Allied forces launch a series of heavy bombing attacks on Pantelera Island (between Tunisia and Sicily) in preparation for the invasion of Sicily.

May 14, 1943

The British and American Chiefs of Staff at the TRIDENT Conference approved operation Pontblank, the systematic strategic bombing of Germany. That very night, British bombers struck the Skoda munitions factory near Pilsen. The terror bombing did little real damage, but 9 bombers were lost in the raid.

Operation Mincemeat, the deception operation for the invasion of Sicily, bares fruit as the Germans reinforce their forces in Greece against the upcoming invasion, which, of course, would never come.

The clearly marked hospital ship Centaur, is torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. 268 of those on board, many of them with severe wounds from previous combat, were killed.

The US 8th Air Force launches a large 125 bomber raid against the submarine pens at Kiel. The attack succeeded in destroying 3 U-boats.

German forces in the Leningrad area attempt to cut the land bridge to the city, but the operation falls apart quickly.

Fighting on the Aleutian island of Attu continues to be heavy as Japanese forces hold the US attackers at Massacre Bay.

May 15, 1943

Hitler, worried over the potential for an Allied invasion of Italy (and the subsequent fall of Mussolini’s regime), removes troops earmarked for the eastern front and Operation Citadel and sends them to Italy.

General Slim, one of the best in the British Army, takes command of the 14th Army in Burma.

Stalin dissolves the Komintern, the Communist International, who’s mission was to obtain the worldwide revolution. He thought it might be good for relations with Churchill and Roosevelt.

May 16, 1943

THE DAMBUSTER RAID – After 6 weeks of intensive training, 617 Squadron, lead by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, raids the power generating dams in the Ruhr.  Despite flying at extremely low level to avoid German night fighters, five bombers were destroyed and one other turned back with flak damage before reaching the target. One bomber turned back when a high wave tore the bomb from the belly. The twelve remaining planes headed for their targets. Five Lancaster hit and breached the Mohne Dam while three bombers struck and breached the Eder damn. Two planes hit the Sorpe Dam and one the Schwelme Dam but neither was breached. Three more bombers were downed on the return flight. The subsequent flooding caused severe damage and disrupted transportation routes. Civilian losses were estimated at 1,294 (859 people of Neheim-Husten were killed when the entire town was wiped out). Power supplies were disrupted to the local industry, and water was rationed in the area until the next winter, but little damage was done to factories. Gibson would be awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry during the mission.

The Germans declare operations in the Warsaw Ghetto at an end with the destruction of the Warsaw synagogue.

Operation Gypsy Baron starts as six German divisions (5 infantry and 1 panzer) make a partisan sweep through the Bryansk area. The attack would kill or capture 3,000 partisans but would not have any long-lasting effects on Soviet operations in the area. Further south, 17th Army launches attack out of the Kuban bridgehead. Little progress is made.

May 17, 1943

A convoy of ships successfully traversed the Mediterranean Sea without meeting any enemy submarines or air attacks. This was the first convoy to do this since Italy joined the war in 1940.

The Germans launch Operation Schwarz, the fifth major attack on Tito’s partisans. In all, 120,000 Axis forces are sent against 20,000 of Tito’s troops.

The 17th Army continues it’s attacks in the Kuban. Soviet defenses hold firm.

The ‘Memphis Belle’ returns from a raid on Lorient, France, finishing her 25th bombing mission with an intact crew. This was a first for a plane in the 8th Air Force. During the Belle’s 10 months of combat, her crew shot down eight enemy fighters, probably destroyed five others, and damaged at least a dozen more, dropped more than 60 tons of bombs over Germany, France and Belgium, flew 148 hours, 50 minutes, and covered more than 20,000 combat miles. Although there were no major injuries in the crew, the plane had five engines shot out and on one mission, her tail was nearly shot away.

The Luftwaffe sent 89 bombers on a night air raid against Cardiff in Wales.

May 18, 1943

A new Japanese offensive began along the Yangtze River. The goal of the offensive was nothing less than the Chinese capital of Chunking 250 miles distant.

Japanese forces on Attu give ground as American forces prepare to drive toward Chicagof  Harbor.

May 19, 1943

Churchill addressed a joint session of the US congress saying that, “The enemy is still proud and powerful. He is hard to get at. He still possesses enormous armies, vast resources and invaluable strategic territories. But, there is one grave danger, the undue prolongation of the war … No one can tell what new complications and perils might arise in four or five more years of war. And it is in the dragging-out of the war at enormous expense, until the democracies are tired or bored or split, that the main hopes of Germany and Japan must now reside.”

May 20, 1943

The US 10th Fleet is formed to contend with the German submarine threat in the Atlantic.

May 21, 1943

Admiral Rene Godfroy, after having his crews back pay made good by the British, formally announces that his French naval units, interned at Alexandria, would join the Allied cause.

Heavy fighting continues between the Germans and Russians in the Kuban, and American and Japanese forces on Attu.

German forces launch a raid with Fulk-Wolfe 190 fighter-bombers against Malta.

May 22, 1943

Heavy fighting continues between the Germans and Russians in the Kuban, and American and Japanese forces on Attu.

May 23, 1943

As part of the ongoing series of nightly terror bombing raids against cities in the Ruhr, British bombers dropped 2000 tons of explosives on Dortmund. 826 planes were involved in the raid which came off as planned. In all 2000 buildings were destroyed, gutting the Hoesch steelworks. Six hundred people were killed and 1275 injured.

Heavy fighting continues between the Germans and Russians in the Kuban, and American and Japanese forces on Attu.

May 24, 1943

THE BATTLE FOR THE ATLANTIC ENDS In the first three weeks of May, 31 German U-boats were sunk. Because of these mounting losses, Admiral Donitz orders all U-boat patrols in the north Atlantic to break off operations against the convoys, ending the battle of the Atlantic. The improved anti-submarine tactics, better weapons and the breaking of the German Navy Enigma code, along with the bravery and perseverance of the Allied sailors and seamen, lead to this great Allied victory.

Dr. Josef Mengele takes up his new position at Auschwitz concentration camp. His sickening and grotesque “medical research” would lead to the death of several thousand Jews.

RAF Bomber Command reached the dubious milestone of dropping 100,000 tons of bombs on Germany.

Heavy fighting continues between the Germans and Russians in the Kuban and American and Japanese forces on Attu.

May 25, 1943

The TRIDENT Conference between Churchill and Roosevelt ends in Washington. The decision to invade northern France was concluded with May 1, 1944 being selected as D-Day. Decisions were also made regarding knocking Italy out of the war early, increasing aid to China and beginning offensive operations in the Pacific. Churchill’s plan to invade the Balkans was rejected.

Heavy fighting continues between the Germans and Russians in the Kuban and American and Japanese forces on Attu.

May 26, 1943

Roosevelt and Churchill agree to collaborate on the development of the atomic bomb after a year of working separately.

Albert Speer, Germany’s armaments minister agrees to fund a new program to develop pilotless planes. The project would lead to the development of the V1 ‘buzz bomb’ and the V2 ballistic missile.

May 27, 1943

American forces on Attu clear the Japanese from ‘Fish Hook Ridge’ and begin work on an airfield at Alexai Point.

The German 17th Army suspends offensive operations after making no progress. The Soviets begin their own operations in the Kuban, and also meet stiff resistance.

For the first time in the war, a small parties of British troops are para-dropped into Yugoslavia to coordinate sabotage and guerrilla activities with Tito’s partisans. The partisans have been in heavy fighting now for ten days and prepare to breakout how that the British have arrived.

May 28, 1943

Chinese troops defending Ichang stop the Japanese advance along the Yangtze River.

Japanese forces on Attu, concluding the end was near for their defense, launched a final desperate attack that was quickly and easily destroyed. The survivors chose suicide over capture.

The US 15th Air Force attacked the Italian oil refineries at Livorno with 100 B-17 bombers.

May 29 1943

US forces secured Attu Island in the Aleutians. US losses were 512. Only 28 wounded Japanese remain of the 2,350 man Japanese garrison.

British terror bombing raids in the Ruhr continue. This night, 719 planes attacked Wuppertal. The raid killed 2,450 civilians and left 118,000 homeless. Over 80% of the city was destroyed as 1000 acres of the city were burned out in a firestorm.

May 30, 1943

Twenty children are killed when a bomb hit a church in Torquay, England.

May 31, 1943

In heavy fighting in the Ichang area, Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist Chinese forces counterattack the stalled Japanese and succeed in surrounding three divisions.

The US 15th Air Force hit the Italian airfields at Foggia, destroying large numbers of aircraft.

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