Yesterday TomorrowJuly 31st, 1943 (SATURDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: The US Eighth Air Force's VIII Air Support Command in England flies Missions Number 11A, 11B, 11C and 11D against 4 airfields in FRANCE:
(1) 20 B-26B Marauders bomb Merville Airfield at 1120 hours;
(2) 19 B-26Bs hit Nord Airfield at Poix 1122 hours with the loss of 1 B-26;
(3) 21 B-26Bs attack Drucat Airfield at Abbeville at 1617 hours: and
(4) 18 B-26Bs bomb Tricqueville Airfield at 1623 hours. Lille and Amiens, France are bombed by Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers, also fighter-escorted, in conjunction with the US raids.
Frigates HMS Braithwaite, Cam launched.
Corvette HMS Carisbrooke Castle launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
An Allied diplomatic "note" is sent to neutral European governments requesting that they refuse asylum to "Nazi criminals". (Glenn Steinberg)
GERMANY: Operation Gomorrah has destroyed Hamburg with fire from the air, dropping 8,621 tons of bombs on the city. Protected by "Window" foil which has blinded the German defences, RAF Lancasters have made three raids in five days on this great port, wreaking death and destruction on an unimaginable scale. Flying Fortresses of the US Eighth Army Air Force have joined in the operation, appearing over the burning city by day to add their precision bombing to the RAF's mass attacks. In all, 2,752 planes flew in the raids, and 86 did not return.
During the second attack by the "Lancs", on the night of 27-28 July, the incendiaries whipped up such a firestorm that, within half an hour, the city was transformed into a lake of fire over an area of two square miles. People driven into the shelters by the flames were reduced to ashes as they were bodies in a crematorium. One army flak observer, flying with the bombers, arrived over Hamburg in the last few minutes of the attack. "At that time," he said, "the pall of smoke was five miles high, it was coming out of the target in a spiral and one could see big factory buildings burning. The defences seem to have been completely overwhelmed."
The death-toll is awesome. Some 40,000 people are believed to have been killed - more than during the entire London Blitz. Refugees, haggard with fear, are fleeing from the smoking ruins. Those that remain are being fed from soup kitchens. The chaos is worsened by the destruction of the telephone exchange.
Enormous damage has been done to war industries - 170,000 tons of shipping and three U-boats have been destroyed, 580 factories wiped out and 37,000 civilians severely wounded. The vital tunnel under the Elbe has been destroyed. One German commentator said: "Terror, terror, terror. Pure, naked bloody terror. Hamburg was heavily hit by this terror raid. It is a fact and we will not deny it."
The Hamburg firestorms were made worse by the weather: a long dry spell increased the risk of fire when the RAF bombers dropped their lethal mixture of incendiaries and HE bombs. The smaller incendiaries set light to roofs, while the heavier penetrated the interiors, starting further fires. The HE bombs, on the other hand, created the blast necessary to fan the flames still further.
At the centre of each major conflagration the available oxygen was quickly used up as the fires grew hotter, and vacuums were created. As the hot air rose, the cold air was sucked in, fanning the flames and creating winds strong enough to drag people in with them.
Crucial to the success of the current bombing of Hamburg has been the employment of a new technical aid by RAF Bomber Command. Unlike others in its armoury, this is a very simple one.
"Window", as it is codenamed, consists of bundles of aluminium foil strips, which are dropped from the aircraft over the target. Their object is to confuse the enemy radars. Cut to a particular size they create spurious signals on the radar screen.
When Window was used during the first attack on Hamburg on the night of 24-25 July it threw the German nightfighter controllers into complete confusion. One was overheard exclaiming "The English bombers are propagating themselves!" They could not direct the fighters onto the attacking bombers, which is why so few were lost. During the two subsequent attacks they stopped trying to find individual targets for fighters, and have merely given a running commentary of the height and position of the bomber stream.
Rastenburg: Hitler has become very depressed, according to his secretary, Traudl Junge: "He is very serious. He sits and stares into his soup without saying a word."
The mood took hold of him after the catastrophe at Stalingrad and the defeat of the Axis in forces in North Africa. Since then, his strategic options have been steadily diminishing. In his Wolf's Lair HQ at Rastenburg he broods on the looming threat of an Anglo-American landing on mainland Europe. German army analyses suggest that the blow will fall in Greece, but Hitler, having seen a transcript of a telephone conversation between Churchill and Roosevelt, knows that King Victor Emmanuel is about to pull Italy out of the war.
Troops and planes have been withdrawn from Russia and sent to Italy to meet the Allied threat, and this at a time when the Russians have shown they can hit back hard. The Germans have had to call off the Kursk battle after losing 3,000 tanks.
Elsewhere, the war news is no less sombre. Allied merchant ship construction has exceeded losses for the first time this month, and Dönitz has withdrawn his submarines from the Atlantic after losing 37 in July alone. The RAF has injected an entirely new phenomenon into aerial war: the firestorm. When 2,326 tons of bombs were dropped on Hamburg three nights ago, a shrieking hurricane-style wind was created that dried up canals and uprooted trees; an estimated 40,000 people died.
Even Hitler's closes comrades no longer believe in victory. Himmler has set up a special SS team to go to extermination camps and burial grounds and destroy evidence of the mass murder of the Jews. But Hitler still hopes. At Peenemunde, new weapons are being tested: a pilotless plane and a massive rocket bomb.
U-748 commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
U.S.S.R.: Moscow: The Supreme Soviet decorates Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov with the Order of Suvorov, and General Ivan S. Konev with the Order of Kutuzov, for their roles on the eastern front.
Soviet Navy records 1 submarine loss during the month that is not listed by day:
Shch-422 Northern Fleet off coast of Norway (failed to return from patrol off Norway coast) (Mike Yared)
ITALY: Hedley Verity, the Yorkshire and England cricket captain, dies in a PoW camp.
SICILY:The US 45th Division captures Santo Stefano. Other US forces prepare to attack east along the coast and further inland press towards Troina. British and Canadian units to the south advance on Regalbuto and Centuripe. They encounter fierce opposition at Regalbuto.
Northwest African Strategic Air Force B-26s bomb Adrano while
Northwest African Tactical Air Force fighters, light and medium bombers hit
Paterno, Santa Maria di Licondia and Centuripe, the general area around Paterno,
and vessels in the Milazzo-Orlando area. Ninth Air Force P-40s also hit shipping
in the Milazzo area. (Jack McKillop)
EUROPE: Up to 50,000 civilians have been killed and over 800,000 made homeless by the Allied bombing so far.
CHINA: Over two million people have died or become refugees because of a severe famine in Hunan province.
SOLOMON ISLANDS: On New Georgia Island, 17 P-40s and P-39Airacobras of the US Thirteenth Air Force join 90+ US Navy and Marine Corps aircraft in
pounding guns and defensive positions on Bibolo Hill as Allied ground forces close in on
airfield at Munda. B-17s, B-25 Mitchells, P-40s, and US Navy aircraft attack the airfield
at Vila on Kolombangara Island.
US forces mop up resistance on Bartley Ridge, but are driven off Horseshoe Hill.
PACIFIC OCEAN: USN submarines sink a Japanese army
cargo ship and an aircraft transport. They also land supplies and equipment on
Panay Island, Philippine Islands, and a survey party on the west coast of
Bougainville Island, Solomon Islands. (Jack McKillop)
SOUTH PACIFIC: The British aircraft carrier HMS Victorious is detached from service with the US Third Fleet and resumes operations with the British Fleet.
HMCS Norsyd launched Quebec City, Province
Frigate HMCS St Catharines commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
U.S.A.: Minesweeper USS Mirth laid down.
Minesweepers USS Mainstay, Marvel launched.
Destroyer escort USS Thomas launched.
Destroyer USS Prichett launched.
Submarine USS Aspro commissioned.
Destroyer USS Young commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
ATLANTIC OCEAN: The German submarine U-199 is sunk in the South Atlantic east of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in position 23.54S, 42.54W, by depth charges from PBM-3C Mariner of Patrol Squadron Seventy Four (VP-74) based at NAF Natal, Brazil, and a Brazilian Catalina and Hudson; 12 of the 61 men aboard the U-boat survive and are rescued by the US small seaplane tender USS Barnegat (AVP-10).
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