World War II Day by Day: October 1943

Allied successes in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, together with hard-won British and Chinese advances in Burma, forced the Japanese onto the defensive in the Pacific and Far East. Allied forces also triumphed in North Africa and went on to invade Italy, triggering the fall of Mussolini, while in the Soviet Union the clash of armor at Kursk resulted in a key German defeat.

1-8 October

Mediterranean, Italy

British troops enter Naples on the 1st, and the US Fifth Army advances northward. Its move north is stopped on the 8th at the Volturno River; all the bridges have been destroyed by the retreating Germans.

2-11 October

Mediterranean, Italy

British commandos land at Termoli on the 2nd and a British brigade arrives nearby on the next night. German forces counterattack but fall back as the British take control of the town by the 11th.

3-4 October

Mediterranean, Aegean Sea

A force of 1200 German paratroopers capture Kos. Around 900 Allied and 3000 Italian troops are made prisoner. The Germans shoot 90 Italian officers for fighting against their former ally.

6 October

Mediterranean, Aegean

A German convoy bound for Leros is attacked by two British cruisers and two destroyers. Seven German transports and one escort are sunk. British vessels are also making hazardous sailings without adequate air cover to reinforce their troops on Leros.

9 October

Eastern Front, Caucasus

The Red Army reaches the Kerch Strait. This completes the liberation of the north Caucasus.

10-23 October

Eastern Front, Ukraine

Strong Red Army units continue to strengthen and expand their Dniepr bridgeheads and destroy fiercely defended German positions around Zaporozhye and Melitopol.

12-22 October

Mediterranean, Italy

US forces makes slow progress across the Volturno River and through the mountain terrain in the face of increasingly bad weather. The British Eighth Army begins advancing north across the Trigno River on the 22nd. Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the German commander-in-chief of Italy since September, has created a strong defensive system along the Garigliano and Sangro Rivers. It is known as the Gustav Line.

13 October

Politics, Italy

Marshal Pietro Badoglio’s government, which has some power in southern Italy, declares war on Germany.

14 October

Air War, Germany

A second raid is made on the Schweinfurt ball-bearings complex by 291 US B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. Sixty aircraft are lost and 140 damaged for little gain. Following this operation, the US 8th Army Air Force halts unescorted daylight raids due to the high losses it has sustained. Daylight bombing raids will be given escorts of long-range fighter aircraft.

19 October

Politics, Allies

Representatives from the main Allied nations attend the Second Moscow Conference in the Soviet Union. Agreements are reached over security for postwar China, the punishment of war criminals, and the establishment of advisory councils to consider the fate of Italy and Europe as a whole.

21 October

Politics, Britain

Admiral John Cunningham is appointed commander of British naval forces in the Mediterranean after Admiral Andrew Cunningham becomes the First Sea Lord.

25 October

Far East, Burma

The Burma to Siam rail link is completed by Allied POWs and indigenous forced labor. This Japanese project to build a track through dense jungle forests is achieved at tremendous human cost. A fifth of the 61,000 Allied prisoners on the project die as a result of accidents, abuse, disease, and starvation. This is the largest of Japan’s many projects across Asia. The Japanese captors show complete indifference to the sufferings of their captives.

27-28 October

Pacific, Solomons

Japanese antiaircraft troops watch for enemy warplanes following the US invasion of the Solomon Islands
Japanese antiaircraft troops watch for enemy warplanes following the US invasion of the Solomon Islands

Landings are made on the Treasury Islands and Choiseul by US and New Zealand forces. These are diversionary raids for the main Bougainville attack. It succeeds in drawing attention to the Shortland Islands and bases around Buin, southern Bougainville, rather than the US landing area farther west.

30 October

Eastern Front, Ukraine

Soviet units reach the northern Crimea and have virtually cleared the Germans from the left bank of the Dniepr.