Skip to comments.BRITISH OPEN NEW OFFENSIVE IN NORMANDY AS AMERICANS PURSUE FLEEING GERMANS (7/31/44)
Posted on 07/31/2014 4:31:55 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
Major General H.W. Blakeley, USA, Ret., 32d Infantry Division in World War II
Red Army enters Kaunas
Monday, July 31, 1944 www.onwar.com
On the Eastern Front... The Soviet 3rd Belorussian Front enters Kaunas, the capital of Lithuania, and advances toward Warsaw. Elements capture Siedlice and Otwock only 12 miles southeast of the city.
On the Western Front... American 1st Army continues to advance. The US 4th Armored Division captures crossings over the Selune River near Pontaubault. The German counterattack on the left flank continues around Tessy and Percy.
In New Guinea... An American battalion is landed west of Cape Sansapor from the offshore islands. At Aitape, American forces counterattack the Japanese forces along the Driniumor River.
In London... Admiral Fraser succeeds Admiral Somerville as commander of the British Eastern Fleet.
In the Mariana Islands... On Tinian, American forces begin attacks on the last center of organized Japanese resistance, in the south of the island.
July 31st, 1944 (MONDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: London: Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser succeeds Admiral Sir James Somerville as C-in-C of the Royal Navy’s Eastern Fleet.
The US Eighth Air Force in England dispatches 1,295 bombers and 701 fighters to hit targets in Germany and airfields in France in Mission 507; 16 bombers and 3 fighters are lost. The aircraft are divided into three forces:
- 567 B-17s bomb Munich, 43 hit Schleissheim Airfield, 36 hit aircraft engine plants at Munich-Allach and 4 hit targets of opportunity; 10 B-17s are lost. Escort is provided by 439 P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs; 1 P-47 and 2 P-51s are lost.
Personal Memory: My diary for today reads: “Munich, Germany (Rough!) Carried incendiaries this trip. It looked like we made big fires too. The flak was really intense. Saw several B-17s go down. I carried quite a bit of flak back with me. I saw a few FW190s, but none attacked. Carried ten M17 incendiaries of 500 lbs each. Over enemy territory 4 hours and 35 minutes with a total flight time of 8 hours and 10 minutes.” The 303rd BG scheduled 38 planes to bomb the Aero Engine Works by radar. Two 17s aborted and we flew with 36 planes. We each carried 2700 gallons of fuel and I was training another new crew on their first mission. It was 2nd Lt. T. A. Duncan and his crew in AC# 42-102569. Since we were to bomb by radar we remained in Wing formation and dropped our bombs with the leader. The lead plane was being piloted by my erstwhile pilot, T. R. Beiser. We could see fires through the several holes in the clouds. I must have been a slow learner but I got a good lesson toda y. Part of our protective gear is an uncomfortable “Flak Beanie” which I carried under the seat with my parachute. I sometimes put it on when the flak got bad but today I did not do so because I had never seen a flak hole in the top of a B-17. Today a German 88 came up just barely outside the plane near my left elbow. It traveled about another thirty of forty feet and exploded with a jolt and the base of the shell came down on top of the number two engine making a hole through the cowl and part way into the collector ring causing a slight loss of manifold pressure. Before I adjusted the manifold pressure I got out my “Beanie” and put it on. I never went without it again! With all its flak damage my no-name airplane of today was listed as having major damage, although it was nothing compared to what would happen to it later.On January 8, 1945 after I was back at MacDill Field instructing, after a mission to Koblenz the pilot landed long and hot, going off the end of the runw ay, across a road and into a farmer’s field doing major damage to the right wing and engines. All systems on the B-17 are run by electricity except cowl flaps and brakes which are run by hydraulic pressure furnished by an electric motor. Early in the mission the engineer found that a limit switch was missing from the system so he removed the hydraulic fluid until just before touch down on return. He replaced the fluid but must have gotten air in the system, thus no brakes, and a loud, expensive noise. Score: Milk runs 13, Others 15 ( Dick Johnson)
- 447 B-24s bomb the chemical works and city at Ludwigshafen, and southwestern part of the city of Mannheim; 6 B-24s are lost. Escort is provided by 135 P-38 Lightnings.
- In France, 47 B-24s, 47 hit Athies Airfield at Laon, 36 hit Creil Airfield and 1 hits Poix Airfield. Escort is provided by 38 P-47s and P-51s.
- 13 B-24s fly CARPETBAGGER missions.
Cruisers HMS Diadem and Bellona along with destroyers HMCS Chaudiere, St Laurent and Kootenay departed Devonport on anti convoy sweep “Kinetic” no enemy contact.
Repair ship HMS Hecla launched.
Frigate HMS Nyasaland commissioned.
FRANCE, Paris: On the results of Action M, [an act of looting known as Einsatzstab Rosenberg which took over the homes of Jews deported from France], 69,619 Jewish dwellings of which 38,000 are in Paris, have been emptied of everything in daily or ornamental use.
250 children from Jewish ophanages and 100 other children are deported to Auschwitz on Convoy No. 77. This is the last convoy to leave France for the German death camps. The Gestapo man directly responsible is Alois Brunner. He is the commander of the Drancy transit camp, north of Paris.
The youngest child was 15 days old.
US 4th Armored Division advances from Avranches and crosses the Selune near Pontaubault. German counterattacks continue around Tessy and Percy.
American armoured spearheads, plunging deep into the German lines have entered Avranches after five days of “push and go” fighting, in the words of an infantry lieutenant. The whole western end of the enemy front has been ripped open and Bradley’s First Army, now joined by Patton’s Third, is preparing to break out westwards into the Brittany peninsula.
British and Canadian offensives south and east of Caen had convinced General von Kluge, the C-in-C West, that the main Allied effort would remain in the Caen sector, and he had kept his best armoured units there. Opposed to 14 British and Canadian divisions are 14 German ones, six of them armoured. The Americans have 15 divisions opposed to 11 German ones, only two of which are armoured.
Bradley’s offensive, known as Operation Cobra started on 25 July with a heavy aerial bombardment. On two successive days US planes bombed their own men; 136 Americans were killed and 621 wounded, including the US 1st Army Group’s commander, Lt-Gen Lesley McNair. After such a disaster, Lawton Collins’s VII Corps moved off in a grim mood. Collins soon discovered that the Panzers could be outflanked.
He moved fast. Steel tusks welded to the front of Sherman tanks chewed through the thick Normandy hedgerows in minutes. Overnight, the US tanks swept into open country against weakening German defences. The high-spirited Americans raced through villages, some of which greeted them warmly, others with complete indifference. Bloody fighting still lies ahead, but by today the enemy had given up hope of a successful counter-attack and was pulling back.
The US Ninth Air Force dispatches about 500 A-20 Havocs and B-26s to attack bridges on the Seine, Loire, Mayenne, and Ruisseau la Forge Rivers and a fuel dump at Foret de la Guerche; fighters fly armed reconnaissance of activities in the Dieppe-Rouen areas, escort bombers, provide armored column cover, dive-bomb military targets in support of the US First Army and fly a few night intruder missions over enemy territory.
The French writer, Antoine de St. Exupery, author of “The Little Prince” and “Wind, Sand, and Stars,” is killed in an F-5 Lightning crash during a reconnaissance mission off Marseilles, France.
GERMANY: Rastenburg: Hitler orders a scorched-earth policy if retreat becomes necessary.
POLAND: The Third Belorussian Front enters Kaunas. The First Belorussian Front advances toward Warsaw. The sound of the Red Army’s guns was heard clearly in Warsaw today as Soviet tanks entered Wolomin, just 12 miles east of the Polish capital. Radzynib to the north and Otwock to the south are expected to fall at any moment, leaving the way clear for Marshal Rokossovsky’s men to advance to the Vistula, the last German line of defence before the city. The Russians havem in fact, already crossed the Vistula at Sandomierz, 100 miles to the south, and plan to swing up behind the capital.
These latest Russian successes are the culmination of a remarkable tank drive across the Polish plain following the liberation of Minsk. The last few days have brought the capture of Lublin and the Brest-Litovsk, the ancient fortress town captured by Hitler’s panzers in the first days of the invasion of Russia.
The Russians have covered 450 miles in five weeks. They have destroyed Model’s Army Group Centre, killing or capturing 31 of the group’s 47 corps and divisional commanders. However, the very success of the drive has meant that the Red Army’s lines of communication have become over-extended. At the same time, German resistance has stiffened, reinforcements have arrived, and the Germans have thrown back Rokossovsky’s attempts to cross the Vistula close to Warsaw.
So, unable to seize the city “on the run”, the Russians will have to call a halt to bring up supplies and reinforcements for a carefully-planned assault. This may take some time. Meanwhile the Polish Home Army in Warsaw is preparing to rise against the Germans; it is anxious to take the city to try to keep it out of Russian hands and provide a base for the government in exile in London.
BALTIC SEA: At 0843, Soviet patrol craft MO-101 was torpedoed and sunk by U-370 in Björkö Sound in the Baltic Sea.
FINLAND: By this time the Soviet offensive in Karelian Isthmus (south of Lake Ladoga) had been stopped by the Finnish Army and the fighting there died down. But in northern Karelia (north of Lake Ladoga) two Soviet divisions (176th and 289th) were advancing towards Ilomantsi, apparently trying to find a weak spot in the Finnish defences. Major-General Erkki Raappana, CO of the 14th Div, is given the mission to encircle and destroy the enemy divisions. For this purpose a force consisting of the 21st and Cavalry brigades and parts of the 14th Division is gathered in the closing days of July. The Finnish counter-attack begins in the early hours of the 31st of July.
ROMANIA: 360+ US Fifteenth Air Force bombers based in Italy attack targets in Romania; B-17s hit an oil refinery at Ploesti; B-24s bomb 2 oil refineries at Bucharest, 1 at Doicesti, and oil storage at Targoviste. Fighters escort the bombers.
At 0843, Soviet patrol craft MO-101 was torpedoed and sunk by U-370 in Björkö Sound in the Baltic Sea.
CEYLON: Admiral Fraser assumes command of the British Eastern Fleet from Admiral Sommerville.
NEW GUINEA: Operation GLOBETROTTER continues with the landing of US Army troops on Cape Sansapor; this operation concludes the New Guinea campaign.
TINIAN: The last organized Japanese defenses are attacked by US Marines.
MARIANAS ISLANDS: US Seventh Air Force B-25s and P-47s based on Saipan Island bomb and strafe Tinian Island; B-25s from Makin Island pound Nauru Island.
CAROLINE ISLANDS: US Seventh Air Force B-24s from the Marshall Islands bomb Truk Atoll while US Far East Air Force B-24s again strike Woleai Atoll.
PACIFIC OCEAN: Admiral Chester W. Nimitz of the US Navy approves a realignment of the units and aircraft based on fleet aircraft carriers in the Pacific. Currently, the “standard” carrier air group consists of 36 F6F Hellcats, 36 SB2C Helldivers and 18 TBM Avengers.
The new composition is 24 SB2Cs, 18 TBMs and as many F6Fs as the carrier can hold which is 54 on some ships. In addition, F6F pilots will be trained for fighter-bomber operations especially in firing air-to-ground rockets.
USN submarines sink a transport, two merchant tankers, a merchant freighter and a small cargo vessel and damage six other ships.
TERRITORY OF HAWAII: Pearl Harbor: After the fall of the Marianas this month and the occupation of northern New Guinea, the one great strategic issue in the Pacific was where to strike next. American military strategists were sharply divided, but a decision could no longer be delayed. Would the next stepon the road to Tokyo be the Philippines or Formosa?
General MacArthur had no doubts at all: he wanted to retake the Philippines. he believed that America was under “a moral obligation” to liberate the 17 million Filipinos before the assault on Japan. It would be militarily unsound, he claimed, to bypass the Philippines and attack directly across the Pacific Ocean.
Admiral King, the American navy chief, strongly advocated bypassing the Philippines in favour of Formosa. He saw avoidable heavy losses if the armed forces became entangled in costly jungle encounters in the larger Philippine Islands.
Admiral Nimitiz was wavering, but Admiral Halsey also had no doubts. He wanted to seize Okinawa, which would then become the springboard for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.
One area of certainty was that the China theatre would now have no major role in the final phases of the war. The long-range strategic bombing campaign against Japan, which had begun from China, would be transferred to the Marianas.
At a Pearl Harbor conference which began five days ago, the military chiefs argued their cases with the president. MacArthur felt that the Filipino people would not forgive a second betrayal, and that Luzon was too big to be bypassed. It was clear at the end of the session that MacArthur had won the argument. He later told officers the president had said “we will not bypass the Philippines.”
CANADA: Corvette HMCS Battleford completed foc’sle extension refit Sydney, Nova Scotia.
HMCS Loch Achanalt (ex HMS Loch Achanalt) commissioned.
HMC MTB 485 commissioned. Log: 29th flotilla, “G” Type, 44 tons, 71.75x20.6x5.6ft, 39kts, crew 3/14, 1-6pdr, 2-20mm(1xII) 4-18in TT.
U.S.A.: Destroyer escorts USS Kendal C Campbell, Neal A Scott commissioned.
Minesweeper USS Intrigue commissioned.
Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-187 was commissioned at New Orleans with LTJG W. A. Skelton, Jr. USCGR, first commanding officer. She was assigned to and operated in the Southwest Pacific area including Manila, Tacloban, etc.
Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-315 was commissioned at New York with LT D. B. Oaksmith, USCGR, as commanding officer. He was succeeded by LTJG S. N. Megos, USCG. She departed New York on September 9, l944. During August 1945 she was engaged in transportation service in the Philippine cruising some 1,788 miles with 343 tons of cargo hauled and 21 passengers.
ATLANTIC OCEAN: The German submarine U-333 is sunk in the North Atlantic west of the Scilly Isles, in position 49.39N, 07.28W, by depth charges from the British sloop HMS Starling and the frigate HMS Loch Killin. All hands, 45 men, are lost. This is also the first victim of the ASW SQUID anti-submarine weapon. (Daniel Ross)
Steady progress on Guam and Tinian.
"This drawing by Holocaust survivor Gyorgy Kadar conveys the extremes of life in the concentration camps:
Emaciated and downcast prisoners contrast with the well-fed and arrogant camp guard.
While some guards did not overtly abuse the inmates, others used their positions of power to inflict sadistic punishments and humiliations on the men and women under their control.
Behavior of this sort, although fueled by antisemitism and fanned by years of war, arose also from some dark crevice of the human consciousness where brute force, a lust for dominance, and complete disdain for the dignity and lives of a powerless 'enemy' had taken root."
It’s astonishing that the Germans are still using critical resources to murder Jews as the allied Armies are closing in from east and west.
In its deranged obsessiveness, it reminds me of Barack Obama’s insistence on pushing homosexuality on the world, while civil and criminal wars break out around the world and our economy takes another nosedive.
US military policeman searching a captured German soldier.
Between Granville and Avranche. French civilians welcoming their American liberators.
An American chaplain comforts a dying German soldier as prisoners of war look on.
FRANCE. Granville. July 31st, 1944. French resistance fighters with German prisoners.
FRANCE. Between Granville and Avranche. July 31, 1944. French civilians offering cider to American soldiers.
Patton enters stage left tomorrow.
Look at the bones on the German soldier ... reminds me of #1 Son.
Amazing pictures. Makes you feel like you were there.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Parche in a predawn attack on a Japanese convoy, 31 July 1944.
Boldly penetrating the screen of a heavily escorted convoy, Comdr. Ramage launched a perilous surface attack by delivering a crippling stern shot into a freighter and quickly following up with a series of bow and stern torpedoes to sink the leading tanker and damage the second one. Exposed by the light of bursting flares and bravely defiant of terrific shellfire passing close overhead, he struck again, sinking a transport by two forward reloads.
In the mounting fury of fire from the damaged and sinking tanker, he calmly ordered his men below, remaining on the bridge to fight it out with an enemy now disorganized and confused. Swift to act as a fast transport closed in to ram, Comdr. Ramage daringly swung the stern of the speeding Parche as she crossed the bow of the onrushing ship, clearing by less than 50 feet but placing his submarine in a deadly crossfire from escorts on all sides and with the transport dead ahead.
Undaunted, he sent 3 smashing down the throat bow shots to stop the target, then scored a killing hit as a climax to 46 minutes of violent action with the Parche and her valiant fighting company retiring victorious and unscathed.
Commander Lawson P. Ramage, Medal of Honor
It was a matter of highest Nazi state interest, as explained by Himmler, October 4, 1943 at Poznan, Poland.
Hitler & Himmler:
Yeah, that’s “cider” all right. If you say so...
Thanks for the photos.
“Red” Ramage was one of many top-flight submarine skippers at this point in the war. Reading the Nimitz’ diaries, you get the sense that the American submarine campaign is doing to Japan what the Germans were not able to do to the British. Our subs didn’t have an auspicious start in the war, due to defective torpedoes and too much “dead wood” in the conning tower. Not anymore.
Guys like Ramage, O’Kane, Morton and Dealey left a tremendous legacy for our “Silent Service.”
Yeah. I’ve been doing a little studying of my own in the last week of the submarine war in the Pacific, and you’re right. Basically the first half of the war was largely wasted, mainly because nobody would fix the damned torpedoes.
But our boys sure made up for lost time and opportunities.
Well, there’s cider, and there’s cider. :-)
The Japanese don’t do too many communiques do they?
wasn’t it a bit early to say we owned Guam?
nice trenchcoat... might have to confiscate that... could be concealing something in there...
That German soldier actual looks pretty healthy and fit. By this time next year they won’t look like that.
Yeah, I hear ya. Noticed that myself. :-)
The sign in the background seems to indicate it could have been Vin Tonique or Ale something....
A few months ago in Italy, we were capturing German soldiers who had been in high school just weeks earlier. They’d barely had time to get dirty, let alone thin.
LOL! Yes, yes, it was.
What’s in the bottle might be local homemade cider. The books mentioned that American soldiers were very impressed with the product.
The signboard behind is advertising “Tonic Wine with Quinine,” an anti-malaria beverage.
anti-malaria beverage must have sold well since France was a tropical jungle in those days.
Yes, extremely sharp. Maybe they've been digitally remastered, like old films.
Meanwhile they were still wasting their resources on concentration camps. Maybe that is why the Generals tried to kill Hitler, they saw the amazingly bad strategies and the waste of resources.
I think I read something in the last few days (1944 time) about outbreaks of malaria in the Netherlands, because the war had disrupted drainage and mosquito eradication policies.
Wow, that was really creepy!
I'm sure they were...(snicker)
Tastes like apple juice, knocks you sideways, and keeps your bowels going. What’s not to like?
The POWs in the photos should be downright thankful they didn’t march through the streets of Moscow two weeks ago. Especially the guy with the SS runes on his uniform.
Nobody wants to be sent to the Russian Front!
Too busy counting all those American ships they've sunk....
I like the Guide Lamp M3 next to the GI.
Yeah. Pretty nice grease gun.
That tanker has an M3 submachinegun, what we called a "grease gun." It was still standard issue when I was in. Not terribly accurate, but it could throw a lot of .45 slugs at the bad guys in short order.