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This Week in World War II — 75 Years Ago

A Chinese soldier guards a line of American P-40 fighter planes, painted with the shark-face emblem of the “Flying Tigers”, at a flying field somewhere in China. The American pursuit planes have a 12-to-1 victory ratio over the Japanese, ca. 1942.”
Note: The aircaft No. “106” is a P-40E, piloted by Maj. John Emil Petach, who was killed on 10 July 1942, a few days after this photo was taken. He flew as a Flight leader with the 2nd “Panda Bear” Squadron (later 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group) and had accumulated 5.25 kills. Wikimedia Commons

By Phil Kohn. Dedicated to the memory of his father, GM3 Walter Kohn, U.S. Navy Armed Guard, USNR, and all men and women who have answered the country’s call in time of need. Phil can be contacted at

The 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force (popularly known as “the Flying Tigers”) is disbanded on July 3, to be replaced by the 23rd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces. On their last day, the Flying Tigers chase away eight Japanese Ki-27 bombers raiding Hengyang, China, shooting down four of them. East of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the American Liberty ship SS Alexander Macomb is sunk on her maiden voyage by German submarine U-215, which in turn is depth-charged and sunk off the New England coast by the British anti-submarine trawler Le Tiger. German forces begin a final assault on Yugoslav partisans in the Kozara region. Some 2,000 partisans will die, along with around 150 Germans. Over 60,000 peasants are arrested, shot, or deported for slave labor.

On July 4, all organized Soviet resistance around Sevastopol comes to an end. The Germans claim that 90,000 Red Army soldiers are taken prisoner, but this is a considerable exaggeration. In Occupied Poland, German authorities begin the systematic gassing of Jews at Auschwitz. Soviet forces at Kursk and Belgorod, Russia, near the Ukrainian border, begin retreating. The 15th Bombardment Squadron becomes the first U.S. Army Air Forces unit to attack Occupied Europe when it partakes in a raid on the Netherlands conducted by the British Royal Air Force.

In Russia, German troops under Field Marshal Wilhelm List cross a bend in the Donets River on July 5 and drive towards the Caucasus and the Soviet Union’s oil centers of Maykop and Grozny. Colonel-General Hermann Hoth’s 4th Panzer Army reaches Voronezh, Russia, a transportation center. Off Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands, the Japanese destroyer Arare is torpedoed and sunk by the submarine USS Growler.

In the Soviet Union, Voronezh is taken by the Germans on July 6. Meanwhile, the German Sixth Army reaches the River Don and pushes southeastward toward Stalingrad. In the Pacific, a Japanese survey team lands on Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, to pick a location for an airfield. A site near Lunga Point is selected and construction soon begins. The Allies see the airfield as a major threat to Australia.

On July 7, German forces under Field Marshal Wilhelm List are positioned between Kharkiv, Ukraine, and the Sea of Azov. German SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler authorizes sterilization experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp at Oświęcim, Occupied Poland.

The German 1st Panzer Army crosses the River Donets on July 8. Vichy France breaks off diplomatic relations with Greece.

Hitler modifies “Operation Case Blue,” the strategic summer offensive in southern Russia, on July 9. Der Führer divides Army Group South into two smaller units: Army Group A, under Field Marshal Wilhelm List, is to seize Rostov-on-Don and then continue through to the Caucasus, while Army Group B, led by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, is to drive on Stalingrad and through to Astrakhan. Hitler also orders Hermann Hoth’s forces to head south in the hope of encircling the Red Army units that are still west of the River Don.


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