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

August, 1943


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.

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.

August 3, 1943

The evacuation of Sicily by Italian forces begins.

The Soviet Voronezh and Steppe Fronts launch a fresh set of offensives on the Belgorod-Poltava axis aimed at the liberation of Kharkov. In heavy fighting, the Soviets break the German lines to the west and force the 4th Panzer Army to withdraw.

The Slapping Incident: While touring the front, General George Patton, commander of the US 7th Army stops in at the 15th Evacuation Hospital outside Nicosia. The facility was overrun with the newly arrived casualties from the heavy fighting by 1st Infantry Division outside Tronia. Patton, as always, was deeply moved by the sight of his men’s injuries, at least until he came to Private Charles H. Huhl, L. Co., 26th Inf. Regt., 1st Infantry Division. When asked what was wrong by the General, the young man replied that “he just couldn’t take it.” Patton lost all control ordering him out of the tent. When the soldier didn’t move, the General swore at him calling him a coward, slapped the man's face with his glove, pulled him up by the shirt collar, threw him toward the door and kicked him in the ass on his way out.

August 4, 1943

Soviet forces capture Orel. Fresh attacks are launched by the Steppe and Voronezh Fronts south of Kursk targeted at the 4th Panzer and 8th Armies. The lines of the 52nd Corps were broken in the initial attacks.

In Sicily, British forces are fighting in the Catania area while the Americans report heavy fighting around Tronia.

In the Solomon Islands, the Americans capture Munda on New Georgia.

August 5, 1943

Konev’s Steppe Front captures Belgorod and drives on toward Kharkov. In the Orel area, 2nd Panzer Army is battered into bits in its unsuccessful bid to hold the city and its remnants reel under the continuing advance of the Red Army.

British forces captures Catania and Paterno on Sicily.

The Swedish Government canceled its agreement with Nazi Germany which had allowed the passage of unarmed German soldiers across Sweden between Norway and Finland. Additionally, transport of war material was to cease August 15. Neutral Sweden had decided to lean back toward the Allies.

August 6, 1943

The US 1st Infantry Division captures Tronia after heavy fighting.

Konev’s forces drive to the outskirts of Kharkov taking Zolochev.

Six American destroyers successfully intercept 4 Japanese destroyers attempting to run troops and supplies to Kolombangara, meeting in the Vela Gulf. Three of the Japanese destroyers were sunk.  1500 Japanese sailors and soldiers were killed.

The new Italian government meets with German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and assures him that they will not be negotiating a separate peace with the Allies.

German civil defense officials order the partial evacuation of Berlin, fearing that that city would become the next Hamburg.

August 7, 1943

British forces make good progress on Sicily, capturing Adrana and advancing toward Bronte.

August 8, 1943  

Patton launches and “end run” on Sicily landing a small amphibious force east of Sant Agata. This move surprised the Germans and they were forced to make a hasty withdrawal allowing the 7th Army forces to take Cesaro. To the east, British forces take Bronte and Acireale.

August 9, 1943  

In a secret negotiation between Hungry and Britain, it was agreed that RAF and American bombers flying on missions originating from Italy would not be fired on while over flying Hungry. In return, the British agreed that the Allies would not bomb Hungarian cities.

August 10, 1943  

After a short pause, Red Army forces continue their drive in the Orel area, capturing Khotinets. The attacks against Kharkov meet heavy resistance compelling Konev to divert his attacks to surround the city.

Patton launches a second amphibious “end run”, this time at Borolo. The German’s were once again surprised, but counter attacks against the beachhead caused serious losses. In the end, the Germans were once again compelled to abandon their defenses and withdraw.

The Second Slapping Incident: While visiting the 93rd Evacuation Hospital, General Patton encountered another battle fatigue case, the second in a week. Private Paul G. Bennett, an artilleryman from the 13 Artillery Brigade was found by the General sobbing on his cot. When asked why he was at the hospital, Bennett replied, “It’s my nerves, I can’t stand the shelling anymore.” Patton lost all control. Shaking with rage, he shouted at the man, “Your nerves, Hell, you are just a goddamned coward, you yellow son of a bitch. Shut up that goddamned crying. I won’t have these brave men here who have been shot seeing a yellow bastard sitting here crying…You’re a disgrace to the Army and you’re going back to the front to fight, although that’s too good for you. You ought to be lined up against a wall and shot. In fact, I ought to shoot you myself right now, God damn you!” Patton then pulled his revolver from its holster and waved it in front of the terrified private. The base commander came in to settle the disturbance. Patton shouted at the man to not allow “cowards” into the hospital and slapped the private. Patton then turned to leave, but reversed course and struck Bennett again, this time hard enough to knock his helmet liner off.

August 11, 1943

Konev’s forces cut the main rail line leading into German held Kharkov.

German forces begin to evacuate Sicily.

August 12, 1943  

The Red Army encirclement of Kharkov continues as Soviet forces take Chuguyev and drives on Plotava. The Germans are forced to pull their last major tank force (the 3rd Panzer Corps) out of the Taganrog area and move toward Plotava.

August 13, 1943  

American and British military leaders meet in Quebec. This conference saw agreement on the general outline for the destruction of the Axis. Among the topics agreed to was the cross-channel invasion of France. D-Day was set tentatively for May 1, 1944

The US 5th Air Force, based in Australia, hits the Balikpapan oilfields in Borneo with 380 bombers.

Soviet forces tighten their grip on Kharkov, capturing Bolshaya and Danilovka. The Red Army opens a new offensive in the Smolensk area.

August 14, 1943  

While visiting Roosevelt in Hyde park, Churchill and FDR agreed that British and American scientists would completely share all efforts involved in the development of the atomic bomb.

Red Army forces reach the outskirts of Kharkov.

August 15, 1943  

Popov’s Bryansk Front captures Karachev in heavy fighting.

On Sicily, Patton attempts for a third time to trap German forces facing him with an amphibious “end run”. This time, the Germans had already withdrawn before the sea borne force could land. Meanwhile, British forces occupied Taormina.

In one of the more embarrassing episodes in the war, 34,436 US and Canadian troops, supported by no less than three battleships make an amphibious landing at Kiska Island in the Aleutian Islands. The Allies finally discover that the Japanese had abandoned the island at the end of July.

The US 25th Infantry Division lands a regiment on Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands.

Ninety-one German bombers hit Portsmouth.

Italian officials meet with Allied representatives in Spain, offering to defect to the Allies as soon as the invasion of the mainland occurs. They must have forgotten their promise to Ribbentrop on the 6th.

August 16, 1943  

Montgomery attempts an “end run” on the east coast of Sicily but it fails to prevent the Germans from making a successful withdrawal. US reconnaissance forces enter Messina. Nearly 100,000 Axis troops are successfully evacuated from the island.

Popov’s Bryansk Front continues to make good progress in the Smolensk area, capturing Zhidra, near Bryansk. Far to the south, the Southwest Front opens a fresh set of attacks against the Mius River line.

August 17, 1943

Schweinfurt-Regensburg Raid: The US Army Air Force launches a dangerous and complicated raid on German ball bearing factories. The plan called for one group of bombers to hit Schwienfurt while another hit Regensburg. It was thought that the timing would confuse the German fighter defenses and reduce the risk to the unescorted bombers. IN the end, the staggered targeting resulted in a huge delay between the raids, allowing the German fighter defenses to land and rearm between raids. The result was a disaster. Of the 230 bombers sent against Schweinfurt, only 184 hit the city and 36 were shot down. Similar results occurred against Regensburg as 24 of the 146 bombers in that group were shot down. In all, 8th Air Force lost nearly 550 men that day. This was a particularly bitter defeat because bomb damage assessment concluded that the bombing was very inaccurate and the factories not severely damaged. Thankfully, the American air commanders had finally seen the folly of long-range unescorted bombing missions.

The Peenemunde Raid: RAF bombers hit the German rocket research center near Peenemunde on the Baltic coast. 596 bombers take part in the raid. Damage to the facilities and program were severe, at a cost of 40 bombers. The carnage would have been even more severe had not nearly 200 German fighters been redirected to Berlin because of the “window” radar jamming used by the British.

In other news …

Patton’s 7th Army marches into Messina, followed closely by Montgomery’s 8th Army, thus completing the conquest of Sicily for the Allies. During the 39-day campaign, the Axis forces suffered 167,000 casualties (37,000 German, 130,000 Italian). Allied losses were 25,000. Most deemed this a great Allied victory, but in retrospective, it was a bitter one in that, had the Allied planning been more bold, they easily could have destroyed all of the forces on the island rather than allowing so many to escape.

General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, having finally been informed of Patton’s slapping incident at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital, orders his, orders his Surgeon General, Frederick Blesse’ to Sicily to investigate the incident, telling him, “If this thing ever gets out, they’ll be howling for Patton’s scalp, and that will be the end of Georgie’s service in this war. I simply cannot let that happen. Patton is indispensable to the war effort – on of the guarantors of our victory.”

August 18, 1943

US Naval forces bombard the Italian mainland at Palmi and Gioai Taura in preparation for invasion.

August 19, 1943

After three days of heavy fighting, the Soviet Southwest Front breaks through the German defenses on the Mius River line.

General Jeschonnek, Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe, commits suicide after being criticized for the Peenemunde and Schweinfurt raids

August 20, 1943

The Soviet encirclement of Kharkov continues. Red Army forces capture Libedin, west of Kharkov.

Allied forces engage in heavy fighting over Babdubi Ridge, in New Guinea.

August 21, 1943

Australian troops take Komiatum in New Guinea.

August 22, 1943  

German forces, threatened with encirclement at Kharkov begin to withdraw from Kharkov.

The “island hopping” campaign continues as US forces occupy Nukufetau and Namumea  in the Ellice group. There is no Japanese opposition and work begins on constructing airfields immediately.

August 23, 1943  

Red Army forces enter Kharkov, the fourth, and last time the city would change hands in this war. The Germans attempted to launch a spoiling attack, but this was met by the newly reconstituted 5th Guards Tank Army and beaten back.

RAF bombers once again took to the night skies over Berlin sending 727 planes carrying 1700 tons of bombs. The raid was badly scatter but still managed to kill over 900 people. This was the opening of a new Bomber Command terror campaign which would come to be known as “The Battle of Berlin”.

August 24, 1943  

SS Chief Heinrich Himmler is promoted to Reichminister of the Interior by Hitler.

August 25, 1943

In a military first, the Germans test a new guided bomb, the Hs293. The device, launched from a bomber is guided by radio signal from an airborne observer to the target, in this case, Allied ships in the Bay of Biscay. The initial test failed to hit the ship, but the system did show great promise.

Nearly 300 fighter-bombers and bombers hit the Italian airfield at Foggia in preparations for the invasion of the Italian mainland.

Red Army forces pursue the retreating Germans occupying Zenkov and Akhtyrka, west and north of Kharkov.

August 26, 1943  

Allied nations gave limited recognition to the French Committee of National Liberation. 

August 27, 1943  

RAF bomber command launches a 674 plane raid against Nuremburg, hitting little, but managing to kill 65 people and hitting the city zoo.

Elements of the US 43rd Division land on the Nauro Peninsula on Arundel. There is no Japanese opposition.

The Soviet offensive contiues as the Central Front takes Sevsk and Vatutin’s forces take Kotleva.

Fighting breaks out between the Germans and elements of the Italian 15th Corps in Ljubljana, Slovenia after the Italians refused to withdraw from the city.

August 28, 1943  

After rioting, strikes and acts of sabotage and German ultimatums, the Danish government falls and Nazi General von Hanneken takes charge.

August 29, 1943  

General von Hanneken declares marshal law as sporadic fighting is reported in Denmark. Most of the  Danish fleet is scuttled, preventing its capture by the Germans.

Red Army forces capture Lyubotin.

August 30, 1943  

In a massive air battle over Italy, 44 US P-38 fighters, escorting B-26 medium bombers ran into 75 Luftwaffe fighters. The two fighter groups fought as the bombers went on to obliterate the marshalling yards at Aversa. The Americans lost 13 fighters to the German 9.

The withdrawal in the south begins as Taganrog on the Sea of Azoz is abandoned by the Germans. Further to the north, the Soviets roll forward in the Smolensk area, taking Sokolovsky and Yelna,

RAF Bomber Command struck Munchengladbach and Rheydt with 660 bombers. The terror bombing managed to destroy about half of each town, killing nearly 400 civilians.

 

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