World War II Day by Day: August 1942

Japan’s territorial conquests appeared to signal its triumph over Europe’s colonial powers in the Far East. The United States, however, was now on the offensive and won crucial strategic victories at sea over the Japanese. These had serious repercussions for Japan’s ability to sustain both its domestic and overseas power. In North Africa and on the Eastern Front, Axis offensives, although initially successful, were halted and then defeated by a series of Allied counterattacks. Control of the sea-lanes continued to be a crucial factor in the war.

1 August

Eastern Front, Ukraine

A German solider leaps into action near Stalingrad
A German solider leaps into action near Stalingrad

Adolf Hitler moves the Fourth Panzer Army back to Stalingrad to accelerate the German advance. The Eleventh Army receives similar orders. This seriously strains the Caucasus advance.

7-21 August

Pacific, Solomons

The US 1st Marine Division lands on Guadalcanal Island to overwhelm the 2200 Japanese garrison and capture the partly-built airfield that would enable bombers to strike Allied sea-lanes. Tulagi is also taken. US naval forces are subjected to air attacks and eventually withdraw. The Marines suffer supply shortages but are later relieved by air and sea. Japan sinks four cruisers on the 9th and starts landing forces by night to harass the Marines. US forces destroy the first major Japanese attacks on the Tenaru River on the 9th. Fighting now centers on the airstrip known as Henderson Field.

9 August

Sea War, Pacific

At the Battle of Savo Island, between Guadalcanal and Tulagi, the US Navy suffers one of its most serious defeats. A Japanese cruiser squadron, aiming to attack transports unloading off Guadalcanal, surprises five US and Australian cruisers. Superior night-fighting and gunnery skills enable the Japanese to sink four cruisers and damage the remaining one. The Japanese retire, fearing an air attack, while the US transports withdraw leaving the troops on Guadalcanal with serious supply problems.

10-15 August

Sea War, Mediterranean

Operation Pedestal, a 14-ship, Gibraltar-to-Malta convoy, is devastated by enemy surface vessel, U-boat, and air attacks. Only four vessels reach Malta, but they enable the besieged island to survive.

12 August

Politics, Allies

Winston Churchill meets Joseph Stalin for the first time in talks that focus mainly on the decision to delay forming a ‘Second Front’ in Europe.

13 August

Politics, Britain

Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery replaces General Neil Ritchie as Eighth Army commander. General Sir Harold Alexander replaces General Sir Claude Auchinleck as Middle East commander on the 18th.

17 August

Air War, France

The first wholly US bomber raid over Europe strikes targets in France.

19 August

Western Front, France

A force of 5000 Canadian, 1000 British, and 50 US troops attacks the port of Dieppe. It is a ‘reconnaissance in force’ to gain experience and intelligence for landing a force on the continent. The assault is disastrous. Allied losses include almost 4000 men killed or captured.

19-24 August

Eastern Front, Soviet Union

Determined drives toward Stalingrad by Germany’s Army Group B eventually reach the Volga River. Fierce resistance by the Soviet forces begins within a 30-mile (45-km) range of the city of Stalingrad.

22 August

Politics, Brazil

The government declares war on Germany and Italy.

22-25 August

Sea War, Pacific

American ground crew prepare an aircraft for action during US offensives against the Japanese on Guadalcanal
American ground crew prepare an aircraft for action during US offensives against the Japanese on Guadalcanal

In the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, Admiral Frank Fletcher’s three-carrier task force engages a Japanese convoy bound for Guadalcanal, plus three other carriers operating in two separate groups. The Japanese light carrier Ryujo, a destroyer, plus 90 aircraft are lost. The US carrier Enterprise is damaged and 17 US aircraft downed.

23 August

Air War, Soviet Union

A raid by 600 German bombers on Stalingrad claims thousands of lives.

30 August

Africa, Egypt

Germany’s tanks try to outflank the Allied line at El Alamein, but meet dense minefields and fierce resistance. The offense disintegrates under air attack and supply problems.