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This Week in World War II: 75 Years Ago

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

On October 2, 1942, while zig-zagging, the liner (now a troopship) SS Queen Mary — carrying around 10,000 troops of the U.S 29th Infantry Division — collides with its escort, the British cruiser HMS Curacoa off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. Curacoa is sliced in half, and sinks; 338 sailors drown. On Madagascar, British troops occupy Antsirabe, the third-largest city on the island, located around 60 miles south of the capital, Tananarive.

The German Sixth Army on October 3 continues to push the decimated Soviet 62nd Army back toward the Volga River, but with both sides incurring heavy losses. U.S. Marines occupy Funafuti, in the Ellice Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia. At Peenemünde, Germany, a team led by mechanical engineer and physicist Werner von Braun achieves the first successful launch of a rocket called the A-4. The goal is that the rocket will carry a 2,000-pound warhead for 2,000 miles. When finally put into production, this projectile will be called the “V-2.” In the U.S., President Roosevelt orders a freeze on wages, rents and farm prices. In California, the Hollywood Canteen opens. The club is operated by entertainment-industry volunteers, with everything free for Allied service men and women in uniform.

The fourth German offensive begins in Stalingrad on October 4 as the 14th Panzer Corps launches an attack in force to capture a tractor factory in the northern part of the city. In a speech in Berlin, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring — Hitler’s deputy and designated successor — announces that Germany’s food situation “will continue to get better, since we now possess huge stretches of fertile land.”

Nazi SS commander Heinrich Himmler on October 5 orders all Jews held in concentration camps in Germany to be transferred to the Auschwitz and Majdanek camps, in Poland. In the U.S., life goes on: The St. Louis Cardinals defeat the New York Yankees by a score of 4-2, winning the World Series, 4 games to 1.

In North Africa, British Gen. Bernard Montgomery on October 6 issues the final plan to senior Allied commanders for the Second Battle of El Alamein, Egypt. On Guadalcanal, actions begin again along the Matanikau River. German Army Group A takes the petroleum center of Malgobek, in the Soviet Union’s Republic of Ingushetia.

From Washington on October 7 President Roosevelt announces that at the end of the ongoing global conflict, war criminals will be handed over to the United Nations, and a commission will be set up to investigate war crimes. He notes that “just and sure punishment” would be meted out to “ringleaders responsible for the organized murder of thousands of persons, and the commission of atrocities . . .” In Stalingrad, fighting rages around the tractor factory, the Red October metallurgical factory and the sports stadium.

On October 8, final “Operation Torch” plans are issued for the invasion of northwestern Africa. In Nazi-occupied Belgium, German authorities order all males between the ages of 18 and 50 and all females between 21 and 35 to register for war work.

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