World War II Day by Day: July 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.

4-10 July

Eastern Front, Crimea

The siege of Sebastopol ends with the Germans capturing 90,000 troops.

Sea War, Arctic

A British vessel from the PQ-17 Artic convoy sinks after being torpedoed by a U-boat
A British vessel from the PQ-17 Artic convoy sinks after being torpedoed by a U-boat

British Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound gives a disastrous order for the PQ-17 convoy to disperse after air and U-boat attacks. The escorts therefore withdraw, leaving the convoy’s isolated merchant ships vulnerable. PQ-17 loses 23 vessels out of 33 and enormous amounts of supplies during renewed German attacks.

13 July

Eastern Front, Caucasus

Adolf Hitler orders simultaneous attacks on Stalingrad and the Caucasus, despite the strain this causes to his armies. Army Group B’s advance toward Stalingrad is slowed after Hitler redeploys the Fourth Panzer Army to Army Group A’s Caucasus drive. He believes Army Group A will not be able to cross the Don River without reinforcements. Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, leading Army Group B, is later dismissed for opposing this. The divergence of the two groups creates a gap through which Soviet forces are able to escape.

21 July

Politics, United States

Admiral William Leahy becomes the president’s personal chief-of-staff. In this role he is closely involved in key military decisions.

23 July

Eastern Front, Ukraine

The city of Rostov is taken by Germany’s Army Group A, which then crosses the Don River and makes a broad advance into the Caucasus.