World War II Day by Day: October 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.

18 October

Politics, United States

Vice Admiral William Halsey replaces Vice Admiral Robert Ghormley as South Pacific Area commander.

22 October

Air War, Italy

Britain launches a series of raids on the industrial areas around Turin, Milan, and Genoa.

23 October

Africa, Egypt

The Battle of El Alamein begins. General Bernard Montgomery’s carefully-prepared attack by 195,000 Allied troops against 104,000 Axis men begins with an enormous artillery bombardment and numerous deception measures. Massive mine-clearance operations enable Allied armor formations to push forward and leave the infantry to widen the gaps. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel is in Germany, but immediately returns after the temporary commander, General Georg Stumme, dies suddenly. First reports confirm that the Allies have made an excellent start, although Axis resistance is fierce.

26 October

Sea War, Pacific

A Japanese bomber in action against US warships during the Battle of Santa Cruz
A Japanese bomber in action against US warships during the Battle of Santa Cruz

At the Battle of Santa Cruz, Japanese carriers approach Guadalcanal and fatally damage the US carrier Hornet (leaving the US Pacific Fleet with one carrier). The Japanese cruiser Yura is sunk and the carrier Shokaku rendered ineffective by aircraft strikes.