Skip to comments.ALLIES HACK SALIENT INTO LINE IN ITALY; RUSSIANS ADVANCE TO GOMEL SUBURBS (10/12/43)
Posted on 10/12/2013 5:28:45 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
Winston S. Churchill, Closing the Ring
German lines remain unbroken
Tuesday, October 12, 1943 www.onwar.com
Germans prepare to counterattack [photo at link]
In Italy... During the night (October 12-13) the US 5th Army begins its assault on the German Volturno Line. Elements of the British 10th Corps (McCreery) make some progress on the coast but German counterattacks generally hold its attacks. The 3 divisions of US 6th Corps (Lucas), however, push forward. A combination of determined German defenders and poor weather restrict advances to the main roadways.
In the Bismark Archipelago... The US 5th Air Force raids Rabaul, New Britain, with 349 aircraft, dropping 350 tons of bombs. Several defending Japanese aircraft are shot down and 3 destroyers as well as several merchant ships in harbor are damaged.
October 12th, 1943 (TUESDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: MAC ship Empire MacCallum launched.
GERMANY: U-1103 and U-1199 launched.
U.S.S.R.: Polar Fleet and White Sea Flotilla: SKR-14 (ex-RT-86 “Indiga”) - wrecked on rocks in Kara Sea(Sergey Anisimov)(69)
PORTUGAL: Lisbon: The BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC swung firmly in favour of the Allies tonight when Dr. Salazar, the Portuguese leader, revealed that British land, sea and air forces have arrived in the Azores. The islands, strategically placed in mid-Atlantic, will be used for the aerial protection of merchant shipping plying between the United States and Britain.
The move comes after weeks of secret talks between Britain and Portugal. Though the two countries have a treaty relationship that dates from the 14th century, Dr. Salazar, in close co-operation with Franco’s Spain, has remained cautiously neutral between the Allied and Axis powers. The Azores pact reflects the growing certainty among neutrals that Hitler will eventually lose the war.
The US, though not a signatory to the pact, will use the islands for joint military operations with Britain. Air cover by RAF Catalina and Wellington aircraft based in Britain and Newfoundland left a gap - which will now be closed - of several hundred miles in mid-Atlantic, where the U-boats assembled to prey on Allied shipping.
The German consulate in the Azores is being closed and all German citizens are being evacuated. On the Portuguese mainland diplomatic links will continue.
ITALY: Tonight the US 5th Army begins the attack on the Volturno line. Due to weather, inadequate roads and German demolitions the Allied advance is limited to major roads until spring.
In the Mediterranean, XII Bomber Command operations are cancelled by weather. In Italy, the XII Air Support Command and other Northwest African Tactical Air Force elements operate on a reduced scale, hitting road junctions at Vasto and Fossacesia, Aquino Airfield, motor transport on the Itri-Pico road and on a road north of Rome in the Bolsena and Capranica areas, roads near Tarquinia, rail facilities at Cisterna di Latina, trains between Pescara and Benedello, and guns and troops near Cercemaggiore.
During the night of 12/13 October, the XII Air Support Command, supplemented by RAF Desert Air Force fighters, supports the US Fifth Army, which during the assault crossing of the Volturno River on a 40-mile (64 kilometer) front.
BURMA: 5 Fourteenth Air Force B-24s bomb the warehouse area and railroad yards at Myitkyina.
NEW BRITAIN: Rabaul is the target of the US 5th Air Force and receives 350 tons of bombs.
The Fifth Air Force and RAAF open an aerial campaign to neutralize or cripple the four Japanese airfields and naval base at Rabaul on New Britain Island, Bismarck Archipelago, in support of the upcoming invasion of Bougainville Island in the Solomon Islands. The first mission today is flown by 349 aircraft, 87 B-24s, 114 B-25s, 125 P-38s, 12 RAAF Beaufighters and 11 weather and reconnaissance aircraft. The aircraft attack the airfields, the town, the harbour and ships in the harbour and sink 2 transports, 2 cargo lighters and a guard boat and damage 3 destroyers, 3 submarines, a special service ship, an oiler and 2 auxiliary sailing vessels. 50+ Japanese aircraft are destroyed on the ground; 4 B-24s and a B-25 are lost.
NETHERLANDS EAST INDIES: B-25s fly small strikes against targets on Timor Island and other areas of the Netherlands East Indies. (John Nicholas and Jack McKillop)
NEW GUINEA: In Northeast New Guinea, two Japanese battalions attack an Australian battalion at a position designated “John’s Knoll” in the Ramu Valley south of Madang. The Japanese attack four times during the day but do not budge the Australians.
SOLOMON ISLANDS:2 Thirteenth Air Force B-25s skip-bomb 2 small vessels in Matchin Bay on Bougainville Island.
NEW CALEDONIA: Admiral William F. Halsey, Commander South Pacific Area and Commander Third Fleet, issues a basic plan for invasion of the Solomon Islands.
WESTERN PACIFIC: Submarine USS HALIBUT torpedoes and sinks the Japanese cargo ship EHIME MARU (4,500 tons), a medium freighter. (Mike Yared and the Honolulu Star)
CANADA: Frigate HMCS Matapedia departed Dartmouth, Nova Scotia under tow for repairs at Liverpool, Nova Scotia.
NEWFOUNDLAND: Eight German mines are neutralized by Canadian minesweepers operating in the approaches to St. John’s.
U.S.A.: The Blue Network Inc. (former NBC Blue Network) is purchased by Edward Noble, of Lifesavers fame or about $8 million. He bought the rights to the name American Broadcasting Company in 1945 from George Storer.
Submarine USS Pipefish launched.
Destroyer escorts USS Sellstrom, Mills and Harveson commissioned.
CARIBBEAN SEA: USS Dorado (SS-248) was probably sunk in error by US aircraft.
ATLANTIC OCEAN: Aircraft of Composite Squadron Nine (VC-9) in the escort aircraft carrier USS Card (CVE-11) break up another German U-boat refuelling rendezvous when they attack U-488 about 600 miles (965.6 km) north of Flores Island, Azores and damage U-731. This is the second attack on submarines refuelling; the first was on 4 October.
An Avenger aircraft (VC-9) from escort carrier USS Card attacked U-378 with a Fido homing torpedo but the boat managed to outmanoeuvre it.
U-967 lost a man overboard on 12 October in the North Atlantic. [Mechnikergfreiter Hans Brackert].
Calendar curiosity: for the U.S. most of the fighting still lies ahead, but I think today marks the halfway point of the American war, defined as 12/8/1941-8/15/1945.
3,000 members of the Spanish “Blue” Division, involved in some of the heaviest fighting around Leningrad, decide to stay behind and fight with the Germans, when the Division is disbanded and ordered to return to Spain on October 11th.
What Hitler said about the Spanish fighting around Leningrad:
“To troops, the Spaniards are a crew of ragamuffins. They regard a rifle as an instrument that should not be cleaned under any pretext.
Their sentries exist only in principle. They don’t take up their posts, or, if they do take them up, they do so in their sleep. When the Russians arrive, the natives have to wake them up.
But the Spaniards have never yielded an inch of ground. One can’t imagine more fearless fellows. They scarcely take cover. They flout death. I know, in any case, that our men are always glad to have Spaniards as neighbours in their sector.”
From the diary of Willy Reese, 10-13 October, 1943, along the Dnieper Front”
“The Russians had broken through half a mile to the side of us. It froze. The full moon rose blood red and didnt go down till day began to break. A veiled yellow sun rose over the Russian positions.
The strongpoint in front of us was vacated. A little heap of ragged, miserable, and sleepless soldiers fled to us and hid behind the trenches, sitting exhausted and crushed in a gully, and seemed still to be staring at what theyd been through.
The shelling recommenced. The battle resumed. An inferno of fire, steel, and blood. At about noon the drumfire intensified further. The Russians were building on their success of the previous day. Tanks and artillery pieces arrived too late and were shot down; vainly our dive-bombers attacked the enemys lines. Flamethrowers failed. Nothing could save us from the enemy numbers.
One company withdrew from the trench, and two of our guns were lost. The Russians drove their wedge farther into our hinterland. Our reserves were being bled dry, even before any counterattack could be mounted. There was no help to come.
We wrote farewell letters and waited to die. The line was given up section by section. Corpses piled up. Behind the mounds of dead, the desperate living fought on.
Smashed by direct hits, wounded, suffering nervous collapse, my comrades quit. As if by a miracle, I escaped the shells time and again and became light-headed. Nothing seemed to matter. No one was in communication with us anymore. We didnt try anything, didnt fret, just waited for the end. We kept up a strange veneer of order and calm, smoked, ate.
Then we fled in panic through the choked trenches, taking nothing with us. The Russians were still a ways off, but no one thought of resisting. No one had any strength or willpower left. It wasnt death or danger or the enemy that scared us. But as no help came and neither smoke projectors nor artillery supervened, we felt we couldnt do anything on our own behalf either.
Shells smashed down on the overcrowded trenches. We jumped out and slowly ambled up the slope through machine-gun fire. Everything was a matter of indifference, and today was as good a day to die on or, if we were spared, to be wounded as the next. I helped a comrade get to a doctor. He made it home.
We were put to the sword like sacrificial victims. This wasnt fighting anymore; it was butchery. In the course of brief counter-thrusts, we found our missing in little pieces, and we didnt take any prisoners either.
We defended ourselves only until an opportunity arose for flight. We werent fighting. But that night we went on a scouting mission into no-mans- land. We came down from our defensive line on the crest of the hill, climbed down into the gully, and crawled up the facing slope toward our gun.
Trenches and positions lay abandoned in the darkness. We listened. Nothing but the blood pounding at our temples. We pulled the gun into the gully, got help, and lugged it up the hill.
A group of stragglers passed us, going back. The last. None spoke. The wheels dragged on the grass. A few shells whirred over our heads. We took a breather. A pair of us went back again.
Slowly the Russian flares got closer. They were moving forward along a broad front, into untenanted space. We stopped at our bunker. Muffled voices sounded somewhere, not near. It was a suicidal adventure.
I lay down with my rifle, safety catch off, and my pistol in hand. My comrade fetched our bread sacks and packs, brought the blankets out. We made up our packs. The voices grew louder. They were very near now, and we could make out Russian words.
We picked up our things and ran into the gully. Shouts and rapid fire from submachine guns followed us. Shadows, outlines loomed over the heights; a fireworks display of flares lit the scene as bright as day.
We ran on, tumbled into craters and ditches, stumbled over dead, and finally got back to our new position. With a few more shells, the battle ended the next day. We were saved, or rather, we had been conditionally reprieved for an unknown period.”
From time to time you remind us of the surpassing importance of the superiority of America’s production capacity over that of Japan. Today Baldwin reinforces the point.
That diary is quite an interesting account. Thanks.