October 26, 1942
by David H. Lippman

October 26th, 1942..... USS Washington patrols off Guadalcanal. Below decks, Engineman Johnny Brown and two shipmates man the main pumps, ready to counter-flood in case of torpedo hit. At 1:27 a.m., a passing American B-17 spots the battleship and broadcasts its course and speed in plain language. Washington's gun boss, Ed Hooper, is tempted to shoot the Flying Fortress down.

The night wears on, with no sign of enemy ships. Brown and his pals maintain courage with a can of bootleg raisin jack Brown has secretly distilled in one of the double bottom voids. Washington secures from GQ at 6:24 a.m., and exhausted Sailors struggle into mess decks for toast and coffee.

Washington spends the day steaming around Rennell Island, 150 miles south of Guadalcanal. No enemy contacts, except snooper planes. At 3:21, she and the cruisers San Francisco and Helena refuel their destroyers. At 5 p.m., fuelling is done, and Task Force 64 goes to GQ again. Still no sign of the enemy.

That evening, Washington is ordered back to Noumea with the cruiser Atlanta and four destroyers at 18 knots. Harvey Walsh takes over as OOD precisely at midnight.

The Norwegian fishing boat Arthur sails at 9 a.m. from Scalloway in Scotland, under Captain Leif Larsen. The wooden fishing boat is typical of many that sail off Norway, with two masts, wheelhouse in the stern, unpainted. However, she is neither carrying fish nor supplies to the Norwegian Underground. On board are two British Mark 1 Human Torpedoes, better known as "Chariots," and their four operators.

The Chariot is the size of a normal 21-inch British torpedo, with a detachable head containing 600 pounds of explosive. Its battery can maintain 2.90 knots for about 18 miles. Diving is regulated by ballast tanks and helm, steering by compass, and the dashboard has luminous dials. Its two-man crew drives this bizarre weapon through the water while wearing breathing apparatus with nine hours of air. The warhead is to be detached, placed near the hull of the target, while the crew sails back to their mother ship, in theory.

Four Britons are aboard Arthur, Navy Sub. Lt. W.R. "Jack" Brewster, in command, Royal Engineer Sgt. "Shorty" Craig, and Navy Able Seamen Jock Brown and Bob Evans. These four men and their bizarre weapon are to attack, and hopefully cripple, the German 35,000-ton battleship Tirpitz, which, as usual, is sitting in Fottenfjord, a sub-alley of the vast Trondheimfjord.

Arthur and her crew have phony papers, disguising her as a fishing boat, loaded with peat (posing as camouflage for the Germans) for Trondheim. Her papers include a fake history, down to German control stampings. Larsen is to launch the Chariots when close enough to the target, then scuttle Arthur. Charioteers and crew will meet ashore, rendezvous with the Norwegian Underground, and head for Sweden.

Arthur plows into rough seas. Larsen worries that the Chariots, buried under layers of tarpaulins and nets, may be damaged by the spray. The weather worsens, causing seasickness.

President Roosevelt orders 20 more merchant ships released immediately for the Southwest Pacific, as long as they are not diverted from tonnage or shipments for the Soviet Union or Operation Torch.

The same day, Washington admits the loss of USS Wasp a month before, in the South Pacific. "An atmosphere of tense expectation was apparent in some Washington quarters," reports that day's New York Times. The newspaper does not know about the battles raging at Santa Cruz, Guadalcanal, or the impending Torch invasion.

As midnight turns over on Guadalcanal, the Sendai Division continues its attack on the seam of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 164th Infantry. The American National Guardsmen are backed up by two Marine 37mm guns. American firepower shreds the Japanese, killing the 16th Infantry's CO, Col. Hiroyasu. Once again, Sendai Division's right flank drifts out of the battle, lost in the jungle.

American and Japanese troops, fighting at point-blank range, shout insults at each other. "Blood for the Emperor!" roars a Japanese soldier. "Blood for El-ea-nor!" retorts a Marine.

The gravely wounded Nasu is carried back to division headquarters. He holds out a feeble hand to Maruyama there, and dies.

While Nasu expends himself against Puller, Oka attacks on the Matanikau with his 124th Infantry, against the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. The Japanese hold the high ground and pour heavy rifle fire down on the Americans. Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige leads his machine gun section in defense of the position, but Japanese fire cuts the defense down to Paige himself. He maintains fire, dashing through shot and shell to bring up reserve machine guns, earning a Medal of Honor.

But at 5 a.m., the Japanese scale the hill and eject the Americans. Maj. Odell M. Conoley, the 2nd/7th's exec, assembles a 17-man counterattack force, which includes his radiomen, messmen, bandsmen, a cook, and some riflemen. This ad hoc force charges at 5:40 a.m., joined by Paige and two platoons from Company C, 5th Marines.

The motley group of Marines does its job in movie fashion, catching the Japanese by surprise. The Marines hurl grenades onto the ridgetop, disrupting the defense. Conoley's men recapture three machine guns and five Japanese weapons, and hold the ridge. By 6 a.m., the battle is over. The Americans count 98 Japanese bodies on the ridge, and 200 more lie dead in the ravine and the trails leading to the ravine.

The grand attack has failed. Maruyama has no more reserves. Indeed, he has practically no Sendai Division. The 29th Infantry Regiment has lost 553 killed or missing and 479 wounded among its 2,554 men. The 16th Regiment's losses are uncounted, but the 164th's burial parties handle 975 Japanese bodies. At least 300 Japanese lie dead in Oka's attack. The American estimate of 2,200 Japanese dead is probably too low.

The American battle toll is estimated at just under 90.

At 17th Army HQ, exhausted staff officers face the hammer blow of defeat. They are already physically exhausted from endless rain, soaked clothes, and scanty rations of rice, soybean paste, and crackers. Many officers hobble around with canes. Like all defeated officers, they blame everyone else - the Navy for failing to provide supplies, the lack of air cover, the shortage of troops and supplies.

Navy Commander Ohmae, however, blames the 17th Army. He notes that the 17th Army has underestimated the terrain difficulties, which has caused severe food and medicine shortages at the front, and exhausted the troops. 17th Army has made faulty assessments of American positions despite the existence of aerial photographs. And 17th Army is rife with dissension - Maruyama's headaches and neuralgia, Oka's indifference to orders, and Nasu's incompetence. "Nasu knew nothing but charging," Ohmae writes.

Another factor in the Japanese defeat is the American defense. Vandegrift skillfully "dangled" his men at the front, presenting a trap. When the Japanese attacked, the trap sprang shut with the steel vice of firepower and artillery. Vandegrift has won this battle by ignoring staff college teachings.

In Japan, the Imperial General Headquarters finally realizes that Guadalcanal is becoming the decisive battle between Japan and the United States. Pre-war doctrine of a great Jutland-style encounter between massed battleship fleets in the Marianas has given way to the airplane and the torpedo. Ironically, it is the Japanese who have triumphed with both, and yet not learned their own lesson.

Hopes are high in Tokyo. Japanese officers read translated reports of American radio broadcasts that tell of exhausted American troops and pilots on Guadalcanal, and exaggerate Japanese strength. The Japanese are amazed that the Americans should reveal weakness, but sense an opportunity to finish off the defenders. Guadalcanal will be reinforced with the 51st Infantry Division and the 38th Infantry Division. The latter will go straight to Koli Point, on the Japanese right flank. The 38th is a veteran outfit - it savaged the Anglo-Canadian defenders of Hong Kong.

On Guadalcanal, however, reality is harsher. 17th Army gets word of the impending reinforcements, and for once, an army commander doesn't want more troops. 17th Army can barely keep the men in Guadalcanal's fetid jungles fed and armed - 38th Division will only add to the burden. 17th Army has a snappy radio answer for headquarters at Rabaul: For every 10 units of resupply planned, six are sent, only three are landed, and only two survive for consumption. Result: misery.

Meanwhile, the devastated 2nd Sendai Division retreats from "Centipede Height" - their name for Edson's Ridge - in ruins. The medical teams are overwhelmed, so each unit must care for its own sick and wounded. Japanese soldiers struggle through jungle trails amid pouring rain, with no food. Col. Masanobu Tsuji goes up the Maruyama Trail to find out what's going on. He runs into Col. Yoshitsune Minamoto, whose battalion has been annihilated.

Minamoto lies at the side of the trail, the lower half of his body covered in blood.

"Hold on," says Tsuji. "We'll have someone come back for you."

"I haven't eaten since day before yesterday," Minamoto replies.

Tsuji takes two chopstick full of rice from his bag and puts them in Minamoto's mouth. Minamoto points to a group of men lying nearby. They open their mouths, and Tusji feeds them like a mother robin feeding her babies, putting clumps of rice in the dying men's mouths.

At 2:30 a.m., the Japanese carrier strike force heads south. Among the escorting destroyers is the Amatsukaze, under Lt. Cdr. Tameichi Hara. Admirals Nagumo and Kusaka stand on the flag bridge of the carrier Shokaku, peering anxiously into the dark. Kusaka casually predicts that the Americans may spot them soon. Shortly thereafter, a radio officer reports an enemy plane nearby.

Nagumo stares up at the dark sky, his face "like stone." Kusaka mops sweat from his face. The normally cheerful Buddhist has lost his optimism after the crushing defeat at Midway. 20 minutes later, a lookout howls, "Air raid!" Everyone turns to watch four water explosions rise on Zuikaku's starboard side, 500 meters astern of Shokaku. Nagumo, sitting in his chair, calmly orders, "Let's turn around."

Shokaku blinkers, "All ships turn 180 degrees to starboard."

The American plane is actually a PBY Catalina. American technology continues to outpace Japanese bushido spirit, and PBYs equipped with radar now prowl the night, seeking Japanese quarry.

Nagumo rightly fears an American trap. He turns his ships north and away from the Americans, avoiding a repeat of the Midway fiasco.

A wise move. An American Catalina spots the Japanese at 12:22 a.m., and fires off a message that omits course, speed, and task force composition. A second message from another PBY at 3:10 a.m., has all this data, but Enterprise fails to pick up the signal. The other ships in her task force do so, and assume the flagship has it.

Enterprise does pick up another message, this from Halsey, three words: ATTACK. REPEAT, ATTACK.

At 4 a.m., the moon vanishes into the clouds, and Nagumo orders 20 search planes launched, seven from his cruisers Tone and Chikuma (both ships were built to carry a number of seaplanes), and 13 from his carriers. As dawn breaks, Cdr. Tameichi Hara, on Amatsukaze's bridge, looks over at Shokaku, and sees Nagumo on the flag bridge, in snow-white gloves, overseeing operations. The search planes roar into the sky.

At 4:50 a.m., Enterprise turns into the wind and launches 16 SBDs to find the enemy. One pair, 85 miles out, spots one of Nagumo's Kates. 20 minutes later, they spot Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe's battlecruisers Hiei and Kirishima. They flash to Kinkaid, "Two battleships, one heavy cruiser, seven destroyers. Latitude 8 degrees 10 minutes south, longitude 163 degrees, 55 minutes east. Course north, speed 20 knots."

The sun rises at 5:28 a.m., on a cloudy day - five to seven-tenths cloud down to 2,000 feet, and small rainsqualls.

At 7:50 a.m., Lt. Cdr. James R. "Bucky" Lee flashes, "Two carriers and accompanying vessels, latitude 7 degrees 5 minutes south, 163 degrees 38 minutes east." As soon as this arrives on Enterprise, Kinkaid has his signalmen train their 36-inch signal searchlights on Hornet to pass the word. The carriers crank up to 27 knots. Hornet's veteran group will deliver the main strike, Enterprise's green crew provides the scouts.

Meanwhile, the four scout SBDs, armed with bombs, hurtle in on Nagumo's task force. The Japanese ships make smoke and sound air-raid warnings, while their 20 Zeros on combat air patrol swing after the SBDs. They chase the Dauntlesses off, but leave the sky over the carriers unguarded - just like at Midway.

Lt. Birney Strong and Ensign Charles Irvine, near the task force in their SBDs, hear the radio traffic. Strong remembers Crommelin's words, "There is no room for waste, no excuse for misses!" and does his math. He has just enough fuel to reach the enemy carries. He turns in to attack. Strong has been on carriers since the war began, and knows the importance of the first strike.

He hurtles in out of the sunlight at 14,000 feet and sees two carriers - Shokaku and Zuiho. Zuikaku is under cloud cover. No flak, no Zeros. They swoop down on the nearest carrier, Zuiho. The dive is as smooth as a training exercise. The two pilots peer down into the tubular scopes, crosshairs on the flight deck, noting that it is empty. Irvine and Strong toggle their release handles at 1,500 feet. Finally the Japanese AA guns open up. But it's too late.

Both American bombs explode on Zuiho's flight deck near the stern, with two splintering blasts that shred the wooden deck and release black smoke. Strong and Irvine race for home, at wavetop height, pursued by Zeros. The American tailgunners shoot down one.

Aboard Zuiho, Capt. Sueo Obayashi's crewmen bring buckets, sand, and fire hoses to bear on a 50-foot-wide crater in the flight deck. Also destroyed are three Zeros and the after AA guns. Zuiho cannot recover her aircraft. Kusaka orders the little carrier to fly off all her planes - they'll be recovered after their mission by the big carriers - and head home.

The Japanese, however, are not idle. Their Kate Number Four from Shokaku picks off "One Saratoga-class carrier and 15 other ships heading northwestward" at 6:12 a.m. The message doesn't get to Shokaku until 6:58. The Japanese are stunned. The Americans were expected to be ahead of them, but are instead almost on the port beam. But as at Midway, Japanese communications break down.

Nagumo, however, is pleased. He grins for the first time in hours and orders an immediate strike of 40 bombers and 27 fighters. Kusaka, remembering the mistakes of Midway, shouts at the Shokaku deck officers, "Faster! Faster!" He turns his binoculars on the Zuikaku, to see things are slower. He signals, "What's the delay?"

The delay is for a long-standing reason - the two carriers, which missed Midway, are the newest fleet carriers in the Imperial Navy, and have never been properly worked-up. The Pearl Harbor voyage was their shakedown cruise. The two ships have had a bad start, and never improved.

Now the Japanese strike gets underway. Cdr. Shigeru Murata, a Pearl Harbor veteran of Shokaku, leads a 62-plane strike group. He has 20 Shokaku Kates, 21 Zuikaku Vals, and 21 Zeros from the carriers. As soon as this strike group clears the carriers, the Japanese bring 19 Shokaku Vals and five Zeros, under Lt. Cdr. Mamoru Seki, on deck. They take to the air at 8:10. Finally, 16 Zuikaku Kates and four Zeros under Lt. Geichiru Imajuku get airborne at 9:10 a.m. The Japanese are sending in three uncoordinated waves against the Americans. They are sending all their planes out at once to avoid a rehash of Midway, preferring speed to coordination.

The Americans are not coordinated either. Hornet's strike group starts launching at 7:32. Eight F4Fs, 15 SBDs, and six TBFs take off under Lt. Cdr. W.J. Widhelm. Enterprise launches only eight Wildcats, three SBDs, and eight TBFs. John Crommelin flies in the ninth TBF, armed only with a camera. Their takeoff time is 7:47. The Americans save time (like the Japanese) by not coordinating the strike. Hornet's group flies directly to port of Enterprise's group at about 8,000 feet above.

Hornet launches a second strike at 8:10, of seven fighters, nine SBDs, and nine TBFs. These TBFs do not carry torpedoes, but bombs. Three American groups, none coordinated, head toward the enemy. Three Japanese groups, none coordinated, head toward the Americans.

Meanwhile, the Japanese try to reinforce Nagumo. Rear Adm. Kakuta's carrier Junyo, 330 miles away, cranks up to her official full speed of 20 knots - and then to 26, amazing her escorting destroyer crews. Junyo, a converted liner, is the most sluggish carrier in the Combined Fleet.

On Amatsukaze, Hara has time to eat biscuits and water when a scout plane lands on Shokaku's deck. The plane is shoved aside as the deck crew readies six Zeros for combat air patrol.

The American strike goes 60 miles when it passes the Japanese attackers going in the opposite direction. Hornet's first group passes the Zeros unobserved. Next is the Enterprise group.

The Enterprise fliers have not charged their guns or turned on their radio transmitters. Jimmy Flatley, leading the Enterprise fighters, makes a shallow turn to starboard, and glances over his left shoulder at the formation. A TBF piloted by Lt. Cdr. John A. Collet, Torpedo 10's CO, is blazing. Another TBF is also plunging into the sea, canopy shattered. Flatley looks down to see his Wildcats in a furious battle with nine Zuiho Zeros under Lt. Saneyasu Hidaka. They have spotted the Americans, and attack with 20mm cannon and the usual gusto.

The Americans are stunned. They lose four TBFs. Flatley regroups his fighters, and Lt. John Leppla charges, putting his fighter in front of the Zeros. That decision saves the TBFs and costs him his life. The Zeros kill Leppla, a Coral Sea veteran. Leppla is last seen in a head-on run with a Zero, another on his tail.

Lt. Dusty Rhodes' F4F is raked by enemy fire. At 2,500 feet, the engine stops. In a single motion, he hurls back the blasted canopy, stands up in the cockpit, boots the stick full forward, and rips his chute. The Wildcat shoots away, the parachute blossoms, bringing Rhodes to a hard but safe landing in the water.

The Zeros, victorious, pull out, and Enterprise's strike group is cut by four Wildcats and four Avengers. Worse, Flatley and his pilots have dumped their drop tanks, cutting their range. Hidaka has lost four Zeros. "We were not sufficiently alert," Flatley reports. The moral drawn is "eternal vigilance or eternal rest."

Hornet's pilots notify their ship of the approaching Japanese. She refuels her Combat Air Patrol and sends 15 Wildcats out to defend the carrier. Enterprise is hidden in a rainsquall 10 miles away. 37 F4Fs await the enemy, but Enterprise's fighter direction is completely ineffective - too many transmissions containing too little information - and directions given in reference to the position of ships not visible to all American pilots.

As the Japanese close in, Hornet's fighter director takes over and places the Wildcats against Murata's group at 8:59, 25 miles away. Most Americans are looking up at the Japanese, coming in at 17,000 feet.

Hornet turns northeast at 9:02 at 31 knots, cruisers Northampton and Pensacola on her bows, the light cruisers San Juan and Juneau on her quarters. Murata's dive-bombers swoop in at 9:10. The carrier's AA guns fill the air with black smoke. Japanese planes spiral into the sea.

On Junyo, Air Officer Masatake Okumiya listens to the transmissions from the planes, as his Eta Jima Academy classmates crash into the sea.

At 9:12, a Japanese bomb hits Hornet's flight deck abreast of the bridge and down to the third deck. Moments later, two more pierce the flight deck between the midships and aft elevators, ripping open massive holes - the second one is 7-by-11 feet - killing men in gun batteries.

A minute later, the leader of a Japanese dive-bomber group, his plane damaged, deliberately flies vertically into Hornet. He caroms off the stack and smashes through the signal bridge, spewing avgas all over Lt. Francis Foley, and killing 12 Sailors. The plane's remains punch through the flight deck and stop at the gallery deck, starting a fire.

While the bombs fall, the torpedo planes arrive. Kates swoop in at 6,000 feet from port and starboard, dropping down to 400-foot release altitudes. Hornet officers are impressed by the Japanese skill. Two torpedoes hit Hornet's starboard side at 9:15 a.m., 20 seconds apart. The first hits dead center on the forward engine room, crumpling four bulkheads, opening a four-foot hole. Oil and seawater roars through.

Another Val flies down from dead astern, passes directly over the bridge, then turns and crashes into Hornet just below the port forward gun gallery. The plane rips through staterooms and topples into the forward elevator pit, burning slowly. Fire parties race to the scene, and pull two bodies out of the wreckage - and a chart of Costa Rica and Panama.

At the precise moment the torpedoes hit, Gus Widhelm's Hornet strike group reaches the Japanese carriers. Widhelm's plane, however, is unable to attack, as 14 Zeros streak in, one of them tearing open holes in Widhelm's SBD. The bullets knock out Widhelm's engine, and he heads down to a water landing and a grandstand seat for the attack Lt. James Vose leads the remaining planes in at 9:27.

Two minutes earlier, the attack on Hornet ceases. The great carrier is halted and listing at eight degrees to starboard, with fires everywhere. There's no water in the fire main, but plenty spewing into the forward engine room and two fire rooms, costing the ship her power, propulsion, and communications. Japanese losses are five of 12 Zeros, 17 of 21 Vals, and 16 of 20 Kates - an immense price. Among the dead is strike leader Murata, who launched Japan's first torpedo of the war at Pearl Harbor.

These tremendous losses are being absorbed on Shokaku's bridge, but not on Amatsukaze's, as the destroyer is saving the crew of a ditched Japanese plane. At 9:27, Vose's planes slant in, and buglers sound the air raid warning. Hara cranks Amatsukaze up to 33 knots, to protect the flagship Shokaku.

Japanese planes and guns shoot down one SBD and abort two more, but Vose and his pals drop down to 600 feet to release their half-ton bombs. When the Americans pull out, five of the 13 SBDs are so badly damaged, they are unfit for further service.

The American bombs hit near Shokaku's bridge. "The whole deck bulged quickly and burst," Hara writes later. "Flames shot from the cleavages. I groaned as the flames rose and black and white smoke came belching out of the deck. The flagship was hit at last - and how vulnerable it was - by four bombs!"

The bomb hits wreck the flight deck and knock out the aft AA guns. But her planes are aloft, and her fire crews - learning from the Midway horror - are ready with 10 fire hoses, and get to work.

On the bridge, Kusaka calls down the voice tube to the engine room to check on damage and is told, "None. We can do 32 knots, sir." But communications are out, and Kusaka recommends Nagumo shift his flag.

The attack rages on. Hornet's six torpedo planes fly in at 9:15, and attack the cruiser Tone. Her AA guns force two to ditch, and no damage is done.

Enterprise moves in next, trying to attack the cruiser Suzuya. The SBDs make it home, but two of the TBF crews have to ditch and be saved by US destroyers.

Hornet's second wave arrives with nine SBDs and nine TBFs at 9:30 a.m. and move in on the cruiser Chikuma, a Pearl Harbor and Midway veteran, and a 500-lb. bomb hits the ship's bridge, killing everyone by the skipper, Capt. Keizo Komura. He staggers to his feet, eardrums broken, and orders his ship to change course. He also yells "Jettison torpedoes!" The next bomb explodes in the now-empty torpedo room. Komura's ship can do 23 knots, so he heads for Truk with 192 dead, including the exec, and 92 wounded.

At 10:00 a.m., the Japanese second wave streaks in on Enterprise, whose group is having an odd day. When an Enterprise TBF ditches near the destroyer Porter, the landing dislodges the plane's torpedo. That torpedo promptly spins in circles. Two VF-10 Wildcats try to destroy the torpedo, but they miss. The torpedo hits the destroyer Porter, killing 15 men and sending a column of water 300 feet high. For once American torpedoes have worked. They have immobilized an American destroyer. Kinkaid is forced to have the destroyer Shaw - a Pearl Harbor survivor - sink the Porter.

When Enterprise radar picks up the Japanese, they are 23 miles away. The Japanese see Hornet dead in the water, and logically move on to Enterprise, defended by 21 Wildcats. The American fighter direction is inept. Controllers tell four-plane division leaders to "look on the port quarter" or "look on the starboard bow." Such instructions are meaningless to aviators miles away and out of sight of the task force. The pilots write in their later reports that they would have done better had the fighter directors simply given the vectors and radar data, and then shut up and let the fighters do their job.

Worse, Enterprise's fire-control radar doesn't work, hampering her AA gunners. Only two Vals fall to fighters. Luckily for Kinkaid and Enterprise, the carrier is escorted by the cruisers Portland and San Juan (detached from Hornet) and the battleship South Dakota with her new Bofors 40mm AA guns. Hundreds of South Dakota AA guns send black smoke into the air. All 662 of Enterprise's watertight compartments are buttoned up tight.

At 10:15, the Vals swoop down into clouds of flak. John Crommelin watches a bomber swoop in and says coolly, "I think that son-of-a-bitch is going to get us." The 550-lb. bomb scores a hit at 10:17, ripping through Enterprise's port forward flight deck overhang and explodes in the hull. The delayed-action fuse detonates just above the waterline. The blast tosses an SBD parked on the flight deck over the side. AMM1 Sam Davis Presley goes with the bomber to the bottom of the ocean. Another SBD catches fire. Machinist Bill Fluitt, the gasoline officer, runs down the flight deck, takes down the guard rails, and pushes the SBD and its 500-lb. bomb overboard.

Looking down on this, PH1 Ralph Baker calmly photographs the action on the flight deck's forward edge, and has his left index finger severed.

A second bomb hits the flight deck a minute later, just aft of the forward elevator, breaking it in half. Part of the elevator explodes in the hangar deck, destroying two spare planes lashed to the overhead and five more below them. The nose half goes through two more decks and detonates in officers' country, where Repair Party Number Two is stationed, killing them, along with the medical team at the battle dressing station. The bomb ignites officers' clothing, bedding, and personal effects, cuts fire main, power lines, and communications - and kills 40 men.

Enterprise heels violently, as smoke pours into the hangar deck and above. Around the blast, Enterprise Sailors struggle to control the damage. Two Sailors next to officers' country, knocked out by concussion, grope to their feet to find themselves surrounded by torn bodies. GM3 Jim Bagwell struggles through the flames to find one other survivor, Officers' Cook 3rd William Pinckney, a black man, trying to squeak through a hatch. Smoke burns their eyes and lungs.

Pinckney helps Bagwell up the ladder, but when Bagwell gets his hands on the hatch combing, he yells with pain and falls down unconscious. The hatch has seared his flesh. Pinckney, barely able to breathe, picks Bagwell up, and lifts him through the hatch to safety, then climbs up himself.

Another bomb impacts just aft of the island on the starboard side, shaking the 800-foot-long ship from stem to stern. Planes are flung off the flight deck. Tools and equipment cascade from beneath the flight deck onto the hangar deck. The entire foremast rotates one-half inch in its socket, knocking out the alignment in all the radar antennas. The blast opens a fuel tank, and Enterprise leaves a trail of oil.

Capt. Osborne Hardison, on the bridge, orders the ship counterflooded, while damage control parties hose down the smoke at Number One elevator. Ten men, including Guamanian Vicente Sablan, are trapped in the five-inch ammo handling rooms. The only way out is through the access trunk that is eight feet deep with salt water from fire hoses. Despite the bomb hits, Enterprise still maintains 27 knots.

Despite the chaos, the battle goes on. At 10:35, Zuikaku's 16 Kates swoop in. They were delayed because crews on Zuikaku had to swap out contact bombs for torpedoes - another Midway problem. Enterprise is thus spared a coordinated attack.

The Kates evade visual detection until five miles out, when Lt. Stanley Vejtasa and his wingman splash one Kate. They attack four more, exploding one and setting two on fire. The fourth, damaged, hurtles down into the forecastle of the destroyer USS Smith.

The Japanese loose three torpedoes starboard and a little ahead of Enterprise. If the carrier stays on course, she'll be hit amidships. Hardison orders right full rudder, and the carrier heels into the oncoming torpedoes, which race past, missing the carrier.

The Kate crashes on the number one 5-inch at 10:48. The plane's gasoline tanks shatter and ignite (Japanese planes do not have self-sealing gas tanks), spreading flame all over the bridge and superstructure. Lt. Cdr. Hunter Wood Jr., the Smith's skipper, races back to the after control station with GMC Frank Riduka to try and regain steering control. There they find communications out. Riduka goes down to the steering engine room, to conn the ship. Firefighters struggle into the blaze, and battle a large explosion at 10:53 - most likely a torpedo warhead.

Wood threads his ship, blazing like an Indian arrowhead, through the formation into South Dakota's wake. The maneuver works. The battleship's wake quells Smith's fire. Wood conns his ship back into position to guard Enterprise, impressing everyone.

Japanese Kates continue to swoop in on America's last carrier. Enterprise puts her tail to the enemy, and Lt. Swede Vejtasa's division of four Wildcats swoop in on the Japanese. Vejtasa, angry at his own ship's fighter director's errors, is determined to make a kill. On his first pass, Vejtasa and his wingman, Lt. Harris, each splash a Kate, then pursue a V formation of three Japanese planes. The Japanese continue to use the outdated "Vic" formation. Vejtasa opens up on the left-hand plane and explodes it. He turns on the leader and rakes him with tracers. The Japanese plane bursts into flame and spirals down. Vejtasa swings on the next one and rakes it from engine back to tail. He moves on, and with the last of his ammunition, shoots down a fifth torpedo plane as it begins its run.

In the single flight, Vejtasa shoots down two enemy dive-bombers and five torpedo planes - seven of the 11 enemy attackers.

AA guns and fighters splash the other four.

At 11 a.m., American radar picks up the Junyo group of 17 Vals and a dozen Zeros.

On Enterprise, damage control teams struggle with fires, demolished compartments, severed cables, and Sablan and his trapped buddies, who are directly above a smoldering storeroom. EM2 Paul Peterson, the senior petty officer, takes charge. There is no panic. He conserves the batteries in the battle lanterns, and tells his men to stay quiet to save air. They know that the trained damage-control team will find them.

The damage control teams do their jobs. Foam quells the fires. Blowers suck out smoke. Medics take care of wounded. Electricians rig emergency lights. And Chief Forrest reaches Petersen by sound-powered phone to tell him, "For Christ's sake, don't open that hatch. There's eight feet of water on top of it. Just relax and we'll get you out, but it's going to take a little while."

Now Enterprise's CAP is short of fuel, and Robin Lindsey, the deck-landing officer, waves in the damaged planes onto his battered flight deck. Number Two elevator is stuck in the down position, leaving a massive hole in the deck less than 300 feet from the stern. The landing deck looks impossible to pilots with empty tanks, but they limp in, following the highly competent Lindsey's paddles. The planes land, and arresting cables stop them just short of the elevator hole. The planes taxi round, forward of the hole, and out of the way.

Among the Wildcats coming home is that of Lt. Edward Feightner, returning from the strike on Shokaku. As he comes in, he sees a carrier listing and smoking. At first he thinks it's Enterprise, but realizes it's actually Hornet.

Low on fuel, Feightner swings in on Enterprise as the carrier zigzags through the water. He makes a left hand turn, and Enterprise turns right. Feightner tries again, and puts his plane down. He taxis forward, and climbs out of the F4F just near the No. 2 elevator, still stuck in the down position.

Feightner climbs down into the hangar deck and finds himself "wading around in water, halfway up to my knees, fuel, and dead bodies. Something had burned on the ship; you could smell this all over the place."

Shiga's planes hurtle in at 11:21, finding the Americans on the edge of a rainsquall. The American gunners can't see the Japanese until the final seconds of their dives, but the Japanese have to make shallow gliding approaches to keep their target in sight. Enterprise streams black smoke, while South Dakota steams close by, guns bristling.

Enterprise's gunners open fire, and knock eight attackers out. Robin Lindsey drops his paddles and leaps into the seat of a just-landed SBD. He opens fire with its tail gun at the Japanese.

Junyo's planes have little success against Enterprise. One bomb glances off her exposed starboard side and detonates eight feet away and 15 feet below the surface. The concussion breaks the carrier's skin and shakes her. Number One elevator is jammed in the up position. Leaks send water streaming through broken vents into Petersen's compartment, and the Sailors are trapped up to their waists.

As the Japanese swoop in, Lt. Brad Williams, Enterprise's radar officer, climbs onto the foremast, lashing himself to the SC radar, to repair it. Williams also battles salt-damaged steel and bolts jammed by paint and salt corrosion. Amid flak bursts, water geysers, and strafing, he manages to fix the radar. Excited technicians turn it back on without realizing Williams is tied to it, and he spins round majestically a dozen times - screaming appropriate obscenities - before anyone realizes he's tied to the set.

The Japanese, having little luck attacking Enterprise, decide to pound her escorts, San Juan and South Dakota. One bomb hits San Juan at 11:28 and cuts through her thin armor and out through her bottom, exploding beneath the rudder. Fragments let water into four compartments, and trip the circuit breakers. San Juan's rudder is jammed at hard right. The ship turns in circles for 13 minutes, her breakdown whistle wailing.

South Dakota's gunners claim 26 kills (including an American TBF), and finally draw attention at 11:29, when Junyo Vals hit her with 550-lb. bombs. One hits on her number one main battery turret. The bomb does little damage to the turret with its Type B armor plate, but fragments wound 50 - including Capt. Thomas Gatch - and kill two.

South Dakota careens out of control for a minute while helm is shifted to "Battle Two," and South Dakota heads straight for Enterprise. Hardison avoids a collision just in time, giving the battleship the right of way.

By 11:45, the attack is over. 11 of 17 Vals are shot down, but all 12 Zeros return to Junyo.

Robin Lindsey climbs out of his SBD, and, joined by Lt. Jim Daniels, guides 57 returning planes in on Enterprise's battered deck. Hardison orders 13 SBDs to refuel and fly to Espiritu Santo to make space.

On the Japanese side, Nagumo orders the battered Shokaku to withdraw, and Zuikaku to retrieve the planes from Zuiho and Shokaku in addition to her own. Japanese planes wobble back home, short of fuel. Amatsukaze dashes about, trying to recover ditched pilots. Two bomber crewmen clamber out of their wrecked Val, the pilot wounded in the left leg. He tells Hara, "Bullets hit my fuel tank. It was a miracle the plane didn't explode."

Then a Kate lands on Zuikaku's deck and skids wildly, into the ocean. Amatsukaze races over, but the plane sinks, with the crew aboard. A damaged Zero ditches next to Amatsukaze, and the crew pulls the pilot out of the water. As the medic bends over the pilot, he gasps, "Mother," and dies.

On the American side, Hornet lies crippled, with no power, beginning to list. Her crew fights 11 fires with only buckets and P-500 portable pumps. Two destroyers turn up to try to provide steam and electricity for the auxiliary generators, with little effect.

Next comes the cruiser Northampton, which tries to tow Hornet home at 10:09. Just as the crewmen set up the lines, a lone Shokaku Val swoops in and drops a bomb that lands 25 yards from the stern of escorting destroyer Morris. No damage, but everyone goes to air defense GQ for 25 minutes.

At 11:30 Northampton tows Hornet at 3 knots. Hornet's rudders are jammed, and every time the line is tight, the carrier shears around to the right.

At 11:45, Admiral Murray shifts his flag to the cruiser Pensacola, while destroyers take off 75 badly wounded Hornet Sailors and 800 excess personnel.

Hornet crewmen break out their own towline from the fantail and run it the length of the hangar deck by hand, battling the foam and 15-degree list. Up in air plot, Lt. Francis Foley knows his job is over, so he and his teletype operator roll up their 50-foot teletype tape that contains all the intelligence material sent to the ready rooms. Foley shoves the tape, two inches in diameter and 10 inches long, in his shirt.

Then he goes below to help firefighters use buckets on the flight deck. As he works, Hornet's exec, Cdr. Apollo Soucek, comes up and says, "Francis, come with me. Let's you and I make an inspection of the ship."

Soucek and Foley clamber down damaged ladders to the forecastle and find an unexploded bomb sitting on deck. The two officers roll the bomb over the side and jump back.

On the forecastle, Soucek and Foley find more than 300 crewmen struggling to hook up towlines. They also see two chaplains saying prayers and anointing the dead. Bodies are being hurled over the fantail in sacks. Despite the chaos of battle, an honor guard squad is there.

Miles away, Vice Adm. Nobutake Kondo, the overall commander of the Japanese force, is trying to figure out the battle from fragmentary reports. Between his various groups, he has all four Kongo-class battlecruisers under his command. Kondo decides to send in the surface ships to dispose of the enemy, and orders Junyo to hook up with Nagumo and continue air attacks.

Shokaku, unable to launch or recover planes, does have working radios, and her captain wants to stay in the battle. Nagumo vetoes that, and orders Shokaku to go home at 31 knots, with Zuiho puffing behind at 29. However, Shokaku doesn't pause to drop off Nagumo and his staff, so he issues an order to Kakuta to take over and finish off the Americans.

Kakuta reaches Nagumo at 12:23, and tries to figure out the situation from fragmentary reports. He believes the Americans have three carriers present, perhaps more. Finally comes a report at 12:40 that an enemy carrier lies dead in the water at 8 degrees 35 minutes South, 166 Degrees 5 minutes east. That's Hornet. At 12:50, Kakuta puts Junyo on course 110 degrees. At 1:06, she launches a group of Kates and Zeroes to attack, while Zuikaku prepares another attack.

On the American side, Enterprise busily hauls aboard all surviving planes from both carriers. At 1:35, Kinkaid sets course of 123 degrees, taking his battered ships away from the enemy - and the crippled Hornet. Kinkaid does this - he says in his War Diary - because Hornet is out of action, Enterprise is damaged, and hostile carriers are nearby.

The withdrawal takes air cover away from Hornet, and more. When Kinkaid signals his fighters, "Go to Enterprise," a Hornet signalman flashes it to the escorting light cruiser USS Juneau, commanded by Capt. Lyman Knut Swenson.

Juneau, a new light cruiser, is thinly armored but studded with AA guns. Swenson is baffled by the order, but obeys it, leaving the carrier weakly defended. Swenson obeys, and closes Enterprise. En route Juneau picks up American aviators from planes splashing into the sea, saving numerous lives.

As Juneau nears Enterprise, a signalman on another cruiser thumbs his nose at Juneau. That is the sign for deriding a renegade ship that displays cowardice under fire.

That gesture is seen by Juneau's SM1 Lester Zook, who reports the gesture to Swenson. Swenson is crushed. Earlier in his life, he has endured an ugly divorce that included charges being laid against him for molesting his daughter. Despite their falsity, the charges have stained his life. Now he is also labelled as a coward.

The fact that Juneau splashed 18 planes does not make Swenson feel any better. The message, more importantly, was not meant for Juneau, but for planes on her bearing.

While Juneau leaves, Hornet burns, dead in the water. Destroyer Morris sails up on the carrier's starboard side to pass fire hoses, while Russell and Morris do the same from port.

In the engine room, Chief Engineer Cdr. Edward P. Creehan leads the black gang into the wrecked propulsion areas, which are suffocatingly hot. Enginemen struggle to find fuel and feed water lines to route steam into the boilers and the lone functioning engine unit.

Meanwhile, Junyo revs up its third attack of the day, to be led by Lt. Yoshio Shiga, who strafed Ewa Field at Pearl Harbor. Among the pilots ordered to fly again is Lt. Shunko Kato, the youngest pilot and newest in the force. He has already flown two missions today, and is shaken from seeing most of his friends die in battle. Told he must fly again, he says, "Again? Am I to fly again today?"

Shiga reacts by saying, " This is war! There can be no rest in our fight against the enemy! We cannot afford to give the enemy a chance when their ships are crippled. Otherwise we will face those ships again. We have no choice. We go!" The Junyo planes are short on fuel.

Kato rises silently, and says, "I will go." Kato is no coward. He's just shocked.

At 2:50 p.m., Northampton has Hornet under tow at 3 knots, and Hornet's engineers are close to getting power on one shaft. Five minutes later, radar picks up enemy aircraft inbound.

They are Junyo's strike of seven Kates and eight Zeroes, under Lt. Yoshiaki Irikiin, of Hiyo. When that carrier was knocked out of the battle by her poor ocean liner engines, he flew over to Junyo to stay in the battle.

At 3:20, the Kates swoop in. Iriikin broadcasts to Junyo, "Enemy aircraft carrier is now in sight. All planes go in!" The Kates dive in 6,000 feet from Hornet's starboard beam. Since Juneau's 16 5-inch guns and the F4Fs are gone, there is little to stop them.

Northampton cuts the tow and puts her stern to two incoming Kates, while Hornet crewmen drop their repair gear and grab machine guns. The ad hoc barrage splashes two Kates and two Zeros, and three more are forced to ditch.

But at 3:23, a Kate torpedo hits starboard just aft and above the first hit. On the opposite side and one deck above, Creehan reports, "A sickly green flash momentarily lighted the scullery compartment and seemed to run both forward toward Repair Station 5 and aft into the scullery compartment for a distance of about 50 feet. This was preceded by a thud so deceptive as to almost make one believe that the torpedo had struck the port side. Immediately following the flash a hissing sound as of escaping air was heard followed by a dull rumbling noise. The deck on the port side seemed to crack open and a geyser of fuel oil which quickly reached the depth of two feet swept all personnel at Repair 5 off their feet and flung them headlong down the sloping decks of the compartment to the starboard side. Floundering around in the fuel oil, all somehow regained their feet and a hand chain was formed to the two-way ladder and escape shuttle leading from the third deck to the second deck. All managed to escape in some fashion through this shuttle, and presented a sorry appearance upon reaching the hangar deck."

The hit ends any chance of Hornet regaining power. The carrier lists 14.5 degrees. Captain Mason passes the word to prepare to abandon ship.

At 3:40, a pair of Vals show up, leading Zuikaku's third strike of the day. They drop two bombs. One misses Hornet, the other misses the cruiser San Diego. The Vals are followed by five Zeroes and six Kates under Lt. (j.g.) Ichiro Tanaka.

Mason leaves his bridge for the last time at 3:50, and watches the attack from the flight deck at 3:55. Six Zuikaku Kates, acting as horizontal bombers, swoop in and hit the starboard aft corner of Hornet's flight deck, doing little damage.

With the ship's list at 18 degrees, Hornet Sailors scramble over the side. Francis Foley goes to his Abandon Ship station on the fantail to find himself senior officer present, and a dozen life rafts stacked up. With the wind near zero, and the ocean "like a mill pond," he and his Sailors drop the rafts into the sea. The rafts drift away from the ship.

Francis and his Sailors abandon ship. Next to last to go down in the group is Hornet's doctor, Dr. Emil Stelter. Persuaded by Foley, Stelter eases down the line into the water.

Foley is last. He enters the water loaded with his Abercrombie and Fitch watch, .45-caliber pistol, whistle, and roll of teletype paper. He sees Sailors fighting for the nearest raft, so he blows his whistle, and leads Sailors swimming away from Hornet towards the other rafts.

Last man off Hornet is Capt. Mason, at 4:27. Destroyers sail up to the carrier, and pull Sailors and rafts out of the water.

At 5:02, the Junyo's last attack comes in, under Lt. Shiga. Four Vals and six Zeros race in. Two Vals are shot down, none of them Shiga's. The other two plant a bomb on Hornet's empty hangar deck. Another rips a 5-inch gun from its mount and sends it flying into the air, astounding Foley.

Shiga himself is puzzled, wondering why there are no people standing on Hornet's flight deck.

On the retreating Enterprise, repair crews are hard at work, plugging and shoring the damaged vessel. At 5 p.m., the narrow escape trunk over Petersen's trapped handling-room crew is empty enough to get them out. Two decks above, Chief Forrest has a neat pile of human bones and limbs removed from the flooded trunk. He phones Petersen: "You guys can open that hatch now but there's still some water and crap on top of it. Open it fast and come out fast and you'll be OK."

Petersen and his troops charge out, having been trapped all day.

At 5:15, Hornet's escorts finish rescue operations. The destroyer Barton closes in on Foley, and hurls a line into the water, which Sailors grab and wrap around their waist. Barton Sailors then pull the castaways aboard.

Foley climbs up Barton's cargo nets, joining 235 Hornet survivors. Exhausted from the ordeal, he and five other officers head to the shower room for a saltwater shower.

Aboard Junyo, Air Officer Cdr. Masatake Okumiya and his colleagues sweat out their planes' return. Damaged Vals and Kates trickle in and bounce down onto Junyo's deck. Lt. Shunko Kato, the youngest aviator aboard ship, limps in, his Val ridden with bullets.

Shiga also heads back through the dark. He turns on his radio to Junyo's homing signal, and hears the welcome beeps.

Once home, Shiga and Kato shuffle down to the wardroom for dinner, and find empty chairs all around and food uneaten. Nobody feels like talking.

To the south, Halsey and Nimitz hear reports of the Santa Cruz battle, and realize their carrier force is in danger of total destruction. Halsey orders Enterprise to withdraw.

At 6:10 p.m., Murray orders the destroyer Mustin to scuttle Hornet while the rest of the force high-tails it.

Lt. Cdr. Wallis Petersen obliges with eight carefully fired torpedoes at Hornet, that only prove the utter failure of American Mark XV torpedoes. Two run erratically, one prematures, and five hit - and only three of those explode. Mustin advises Kinkaid that the blazing Hornet is refusing to sink.

Irritated, Kinkaid detaches USS Anderson under Lt. Cdr. Richard Guthrie, who steams up and fires eight torpedoes, scoring six hits. Hornet continues to float.

This bizarre live-fire exercise attracts three Japanese floatplanes, which report the situation to Kondo. At 6:04, Kondo orders his heavy ships south to pursue Hornet.

At 6:51, floatplanes from Japanese cruisers Isuzu and Maya find Mustin and Anderson bombarding Hornet with 5-inch guns. The carrier has endured seven bombs, two aircraft crashes, three Japanese and nine American torpedoes, and more than 500 5-inch shells, but refuses to sink.

This situation also attracts the attention of Yamamoto at Truk. He orders Kondo to continue south, and, if possible, capture Hornet and tow it home.

Codebreakers intercept Yamamoto's orders. The Japanese Navy's JN-25c code is still being broken, but Japanese communications have numerous holes. When a ship changes its call signs, for example, it does not start a new numerical sequence for its signals. From this continuation, American codebreakers can track ships' call signs.

The codebreakers report to Nimitz that Yamamoto intends to capture Hornet and bring it home to Japan. He is horrified. He relays this news to Murray on Northampton.

At 7:45, Kondo's cruisers and battleships turn east at 24 knots, heading straight for Hornet. He cuts Rear Adm. Raizo "Tenacious" Tanaka and Destroyer Squadron 2 loose to attack Hornet's escorts.

At 7:57, Enterprise secures from GQ and sets torpedo defense watch. She has been at GQ for 13 hours and 47 minutes. Sailors troop down to the galleys for a quick meal and a break, while repair crews continue to struggle to restore lights, power, and water pressure.

250 miles away, Ensign Dusty Rhodes, wounded and bleeding at his leg, struggles to stay afloat on a Mae West that itself is punctured with bullet holes. He pulls out his emergency kit to patch the holes, and manages to inflate the raft enough to get his bleeding leg and arm out of the water, and away from sharks. As night descends, he starts slowly paddling south, stopping every 20 minutes to blow into his inflation tube.

At 8:15, Mustin's radar picks up approaching surface contacts. Clearly the Japanese are coming. The two destroyers leave Hornet at 8:40, the abandoned carrier blazing fiercely and exploding.

At 9:00 p.m., the destroyers Akigumo and Makikumo sail up to Hornet, and find the ship listing and burning. There is no possibility of towing her to Japan. The destroyers inspect the carrier by searchlight to determine that she is the Hornet. They find the number 8 on her hull. Then each destroyer fires two Long Lances, which hit Hornet. The Japanese destroyers then sit by and wait as Hornet goes into her final, racking explosions. Two Long Lances succeed where vast amounts of American ordnance have failed.

Just before midnight, aware that the Americans have retreated, Kondo orders his ships north and west.

To add to the continuing chaos in the Pacific, the US transport President Coolidge sails into a minefield at Espiritu Santo at New Hebrides, and sinks. The former liner goes down with all the equipment of the 172nd Infantry Regiment of the 43rd Division, but only five lives. 50 years later, the liner is the subject of a commemorative stamp by New Hebrides, by then the independent state of Vanuatu.

In Czechoslovakia, the Nazis deport 1,866 Jews from Theresienstadt, the "Paradise ghetto," to Auschwitz. On arrival, 350 men aged less than 50 are chosen for forced labor. All the other deportees - women, children, and old men - are gassed immediately.

Of the 350 men saved for labor, only 28 survive the war.

Deportations continue from Theresienstadt over the next two years, 25 trains loaded with 44,000 deportees all told. Less than 4,000 survive the war.

In London, an intelligence planning group headed by Cdr. Ewen Montagu, a King's Counsel and leading member of the bar, discusses a highly unusual development. A British flying boat going from Lisbon to Gibraltar crashed in September, washing up bodies of passengers and crew on a Spanish beach. Among the bodies is that of Lt. J.H.. Turner, a Royal Navy postmaster, carrying a letter from Gen. Walter Bedell Smith to Gen. Sir Henry Mason-MacFarlane, Governor of Gibraltar, regarding Ike's future headquarters there. The letter has been returned, still sealed in the coat pocket. The Spaniards claim the water opened the envelope's four seals. The writing is clearly still legible. Nobody is sure if the Germans have been given access to the letter, and if so, whether security has been breached.

Someone points out that when the British unbuttoned Turner's jacket, sand had fallen out of the buttonhole. It had apparently been rubbed into the buttonhole while the body lay on the beach. No agent would replace the sand when re-buttoning the jacket. The secrets must be safe.

Montagu makes a suggestion. What if the British deliberately send a body ashore to Spain in a uniform, carrying faked documents? That could send the German high command into a tizzy that could, in turn, divert German troops from a major invasion. Montagu's suggestion goes up the chain of command. It will become Operation Mincemeat, better known to the public as "The Man Who Never Was."

The Germans don't know it, but they have missed a major chance to determine the Allies' next move. Indeed, the are overwhelmed with information. Many German intelligence officers believe the Allies will invade Dakar, using Brazil, the newest addition to the Allies, as a base. From there the Allies would then move overland into Morocco. This belief is supported by reports from the Portuguese ambassador to Brazil on large quantities of American troops and equipment in Brazil. This material is actually for the Takoradi air supply route to Egypt.

Another report comes from a source known for its excellent intelligence system: the Vatican City. Catholic officials in the Vatican who sympathize with Germany tell Nazi and Italian agents that the Allies are heading for Dakar.

Other clues come from German spies, who gain their information from junior Allied soldiers and civilians, or from reading newspaper articles by armchair strategists. German spies buff up these questionable reports by attributing the results to "observers" or "well-informed circles here."

The Germans are also fooled by Allied intelligence, which has control of nearly every Axis spy in Britain. The "Double Cross System" feeds the Germans endless lies and spurious rumors, suggesting that the Americans and British will soon invade Norway. Or Denmark. Or Holland. Or France. Or all of the above.

To keep the Germans believing this rubbish, the "Double Cross" controllers add real, but minor information to the "carillon." These tidbits include the 28th Infantry Division having a keystone as a symbol, or that a clock in Tidworth is two minutes slow. The Germans turn this information over to their propaganda broadcasters, like "Axis Sally" and "Lord Haw-haw," who use them in their diatribes. Allied soldiers, listening to these broadcasts, are amazed at how the Germans can have such accurate information, and see "spies" everywhere. The Allied soldiers don't realize the broadcasts are just part of greater deceptions.

Meanwhile, the Germans manage to work through the vast array of lies to learn some truths. The Abwehr reports the Allies readying convoys in Britain, then putting to sea.

The only Axis intelligence people who figure out the truth are the maligned Italians. They believe the Allies will invade Morocco.

At Stalingrad, Paulus continues his offensive. His troops take the center of the Spartanovka settlement, but the Soviet Volga Flotilla's guns stall the German offensive.

At Fuhrer Headquarters in Vinnitsa, Hitler studies his maps, and orders reinforcements sent to the Italian, Hungarian, and Rumanian defenses on the Don. The German army is short on manpower, with commitments from the Pyrenees to Lapland.

Already German divisions on the Eastern Front are being reinforced by "Hilfswillige," or "Hiwis," Russian PoWs or civilians who have volunteered to serve with the Germans. In 6th Army alone, there are 70,000 Hiwis. Some are organized in Cossack sections, or wear German uniforms and serve in German regiments. The others do dirty jobs in kitchens, and stables. These Russians receive stern discipline - they are shot if they fall out on the march - and are marked by Soviet authorities for harsh treatment if recaptured. Soviet authorities refer to Hiwis as "former Russians."

But there are not enough Hiwis to reinforce the Rumanians. Or Wehrmacht divisions. Hitler turns to Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering's Luftwaffe, to provide three of its divisions of field infantry to pick up the slack. The Luftwaffe divisions are well-equipped - including winter kit - but are poorly-trained. Hitler says they should "only be used in defensive fighting until such time as they have gained cohesion and combat experience." He does not want a repeat of the 1914 First Battle of Ypres, where untrained German troops were "prematurely committed in offensive actions and, because of their inadequate training, suffered dreadful losses." Hitler knows all about the First Battle of Ypres. He was there.

At midnight, the Australian 9th Division opens up with 16,000 rounds of 25-lbr. ammunition on the German 125th Regiment. The 2nd/48th Battalion heads out at midnight - one company in Bren gun carriers - and arrives at Point 29 dead on time. They find the defenders stunned and exhausted from the artillery bombardment. The Australians take the hill in two minutes.

The rest of the Australian attack does not go as well, as the German defense is as tenacious as ever. But the Australians gain ground and take 200 Germans PoW.

South of the Australians, the 51st Highland Division struggles on, supported by Valentine tanks. Heavy bombardment demolishes two 88mm guns, and the 5th Black Watch finally takes the Oxalic Line.

7th Armoured Division and 51st Highland Division argue over attack routes in the same sector. The tankers claim to be further west than they actually are. The two division staffs bicker over maps, forcing Montgomery to order the troops to fire flares at a specific time during the day. His surveyors will use the flares to establish cross-bearings. The results embarrass 7th Armoured.

Meanwhile, 10th Armoured finally moves out of 2nd New Zealand's area just after midnight, swinging into the 1st Armoured's area. 10th Armoured's men go without sleep for the third straight night.

13th Corps' infantry attacks as well. Two battalions of 69th Brigade move fowrard. The 6th Green Howards take 45 Italian paratroopers of the Folgore Division POW and their objective. But 5th East Yorks come under heavy shellfire, lose 100 men, and have to withdraw to their start line.

At 5 a.m., Rommel hops into his command car to personally lead the Axis defense. He learns that the British have hurled 500 artillery rounds at him for every shot his guns have sent over. He drives to the front, where 15th Panzer and Italian Littorio Division tanks have attempted counterattacks on Kidney Ridge, only to be slaughtered by well-placed British anti-tank guns. Rommel summons the 90th Light Division and Luftwaffe 88mm AA guns to help. It takes the 90th all morning to move up and get in position.

Meanwhile, the Australian advance continues, backed by two brigades of British tanks. The Highlanders consolidate on Oxalic Line, while the South Africans and Indians anchor 30 Corps.

In the 13 Corps sector, the fighting dies down as the Germans withdraw 21st Panzer Division and Ariete Division to head north into the main battle.

All day long, the British maintain heavy shelling of the Axis positions, while squadrons of fighters and bombers hammer the Afrika Korps. The Germans are almost unable to shoot back. When the Italians counterattack, they send in the old - M13 tanks - and the new - Semovente self-propelled guns - against the 2nd/13th Australians. The Australians call down heavy shelling that turns the Italians away.

The Italians regroup and try again, and the Australians call in RAF A- 20 bombers, which pulverize the enemy with 500-lb. high-explosive bombs.

Other British units find the same. 51st Highland Division and 2nd New Zealand Division spend the day under random shelling. 24th Armoured Brigade's tank crews even get some sleep.

Rommel sends 90th Light Division forward against Kidney Ridge personally at 3 p.m., and comes under heavy fire. The bombardment reminds Rommel of the Western Front in 1917. The 90th Light's men dig in wherever they can, their assault stopped, in an inferno of noise and smoke.

The British put their advantage of having broken the German Enigma coding system to good advantage. The British read the German communications, and send air strikes to disperse Axis forces as they concentrate, disrupting counterattacks.

Italian and German dive-bombers (including Italian-manned Ju 87 Stukas) try to interdict the Allied supply line. The famous Stukas are intercepted by something new in the desert, Spitfires. More than 60 of them sweep into the Luftwaffe formations, scattering the Stukas. Italian bombers jettison their loads over their own lines and scurry home. Surviving Germans struggle to the target and fly into a wall of AA fire.

Horrified by the destruction, Rommel returns to headquarters. He orders 21st Panzer Division and Ariete to head north and seal off the northward drives. Rommel's chief of staff, Gen. Siegfried Westphal, points out that this move will consume much fuel. However, the Italian tanker Proserpina is due in Tobruk the following day with 2,500 tons of petrol, followed by the Tergesta, with another 1,000 tons of fuel and 1,000 tons of ammunition.

These ships' loads will give Rommel an extra six days supply of fuel. Rommel notes that British armor is still poor at fighting mobile battles, but British infantry, artillery, and airpower, are doing a superb job. What should he do?

He votes for his tactical style - to allow the British to come through the minefields, then smash them in a battle of maneuver, similar to his earlier fights at Sidi Rezegh and Gazala.

That evening, Rommel radios Hitler to request more supplies, saying his army's survival is in the balance. "We shall lose this battle unless the supply situation improves at once," he says. But Rommel writes his wife Lucie to say that he is not despairing.

After sunset, 21st Panzer moves north, harassed by British night bombers. They cause very few casualties, but slow the panzers' advance.

The British 7th Motor Brigade moves to its startline near Kidney Ridge, and stars moving 11:30 p.m.

2 NZ Division and 1st South African complete the occupation of the final objective on the forward slope of Miteiriya Ridge. The South Africans take over the Kiwi front, and 2 NZ Division withdraws to Alamel Onsol, a few kilometers in the British rear, to recuperate for the next phase of the battle. Under its charter from Wellington, 2 NZ Division cannot be wasted in static defense. It is designated as an assault force.

On the British side of the line, de Guingand reports the casualty bill to Monty. 30 Corps has lost 4,643 men, 10 Corps 455, and 13 Corps 1,037. The price is not exorbitant, and most of the losses are the hard-working infantry. The Australians have lost about 1,000 men, the New Zealanders the same, and the Scots 2,000. Some New Zealand companies are down to 50 or 60 men. Enemy casualties are estimated at 61,000 men, 530 tanks, and 340 field guns. Montgomery says those numbers are extremely inflated.

The situation is critical. German forces are short of fuel, British tank losses are heavy, and men on both sides are exhausted. But Montgomery still has vast supplies of ammunition and 800 tanks. Artillery duels continue into the night.

 

Eisenhower drives to London with Mark Clark to brief Churchill on Clark's journey. Churchill, a veteran of similar harum-scarum escapades in the Boer War, enjoys the story.

In the Clyde, the fast convoy of ships headed for North Africa sets sail. The slow convoy has already departed on the 22nd. 39 vessels with 12 escorts make up the fast force, while the slow group has 46 cargo vessels and 18 escorts. Among the ships in the slow convoy are three Lake Maracaibo (Venezuela) oil tankers modified to land vehicles through their bows. These are the first landing ship tanks, but they can only land M3 Stuart light tanks. Shermans and Grants are just too big to clear the openings.

As the Allied convoys move, German and Italian intelligence goes to work to figure out the Anglo-American moves. The Germans guess that the Allies are headed to relieve Malta or invade Dakar. The Italians, more realistic, suspect a threat to French North Africa, and alert their troops around Tripoli to be ready to move into Tunisia.


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