Yesterday             Tomorrow

July 31st, 1939 (MONDAY)

FREE CITY OF DANZIG: The Senate demands that Polish customs officials quit the free city; Poland responds with economic sanctions.

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Yesterday                Tomorrow


31 July 1940

Yesterday    Tomorrow

July 31st, 1940 (WEDNESDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Battle of Britain: Hazy conditions generate many lone aircraft operations until Bf109s of JG2 begin shooting down Dover's balloons. An increasing number of 74 Sqn. Spitfires arrive to deal with the Messerschmitts, but the 109s have a height advantage which they exploit to bring down two Spitfires for the loss of one Bf109.

Bombs fall for the first time on Morecambe and Heysham (Lancashire), Monmouth, Clun (Shropshire), Colne (Lancashire), Denbigh, Devizes, Leominster, Ross and Whitchurch and Welshpool.

RAF Fighter Command: Luftwaffe losses, 5 aircraft, RAF losses 3 aircraft.

The face of Britain is being transformed by the war as a massive effort gets under way to ensure that the country is not starved into submission. From rural hills to suburban gardens, "digging for victory" has become a patriotic duty.

Barely one-third of the nation's was produced at home when the war began - and Hitler knows it, boasting that his U-boat blockade will bring Britain to its knees. Rationing should mean that less food is consumed, but equally important is the campaign to produce more food at home. Land traditionally used for grazing, such as the Downs in southern England, is now being ploughed up to produce cereal crops such as wheat or potatoes. Arable land is expected to increase by 14% this year.

Government money is being pumped into agriculture in order to guarantee prices and because the rural depression of the 1930s left most farmers with too little money to finance tractors, milking machines and fertilizers required to boost output quickly. Although farms form the frontline of this campaign, flowers are being replaced by vegetables in gardens, and allotments are appearing in commons and parks.

British fighter production is 50% above the target figures. 1,200 aircraft have been produced since May 1, 1940. The gap with the Luftwaffe is closing.

British Prime Minister again sends a telegram to U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull asking President Roosevelt for the loan of destroyers. In the past ten day, the RN has lost four destroyers and seven others have been damaged. Churchill states that, "If we cannot get reinforcements, the whole fate of the war may be decided by this minor and easily remediable factor."

ASW trawler HMS Rumba launched.

FRANCE: VICHY FRANCE: The government decrees the death penalty for French servicemen who join a foreign army.

Chantiers de Jeunesse [Youth Workshops], a youth organisation service run by the state, is founded. (Link to French language website)

GERMANY: Oberstleutnant Ramcke joins the Fallschirmtruppe and as awarded the parachute qualification badge at the age of 51.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA: Operation "Hurry", the first ship launched aerial reinforcement of Malta begins. On 23 July, HMS Argus sailed from Greenock escorted by HMSs Encounter, Gallant, Greyhound, and Hotspur, bound for Gibraltar with 2 war-weary Skua IIs (to carry the lead navigators) and 12 new Hurricanes. Arriving safely, she sortied into the Western Mediterranean on 31 July for a flying off point West of Malta. The reinforcement force is covered by Force H, comprising HMSs Ark Royal, Hood, Valiant, Resolution, Arethusa, Delhi, Enterprise, Faulknor, Forester, Foresight, Foxhound, Fearless, Escapade, Active, and Wrestler. Improperly reviewed plans call for the Hurricanes to fly off on 1 August. The force is discovered by the Italians late in the afternoon. (Mark Horan)

Italian AIR FORCE GENERAL STEFANO CAGNA, commander of a bomber brigade based on Sardinia. Shot down and killed at the controls of his SM79 bomber while attacking a small British convoy to Malta. Repeated high-altitude Italian bombing attacks scored two hits on one of the three cargo ships in the convoy, which however made its destination anyway due to good damage control. Ironically, Cagna had for years been Balbo's  personal pilot on the famous Italian aviator's highly publicized pre-war "cruises" around the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic, and in fact it was Balbo personally who goaded him into pursuing a combat command when Cagna, disillusioned by his career, had considered retiring from the Air Force. (Michael F. Yaklich)

CANADA: HMCS Standard Coaster hired as harbor oiler.
AMC HMCS Prince Robert commissioned.

U.S.A.: Washington: President Roosevelt today slapped an embargo on the export of aviation fuel from the United States.

ATLANTIC OCEAN: German raider 'Komet' sails for the Pacific through the North-East passage across the top of Siberia with the aid of Russian icebreakers. She operate in the Pacific and Indian Ocean until her return to Germany in November 1941. She is the last of the first wave of raiders.

BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC: Thames-out OA convoys are now joining FN East Coast ships and passing around the north of Scotland before going out through the North West Approaches. They stop altogether in October. The Thames/Forth FN/FS convoys continue along the East Coast. Two additional ones are Forth/ Clyde EN/WN around the north of Scotland. Thames/English Channel CW/CE through the Strait of Dover. [Losses in the Channel are so heavy that the latter have to be stopped for a while.] Slow Sydney, Cape Breton/UK convoys start in August with SC1. The limits of the few escorts available are only just pushed out from 15 W to 17 W where they stay until October. U-boats are patrolling well beyond this range and so many sinkings are taking place in unescorted convoys or when the ships have dispersed.

Convoys are now being re-routed through the North Western Approaches to the British Isles instead of to the south of Ireland and through the Irish Sea. North Channel and the sea lanes leading to it becomes a focal point for all shipping leaving or arriving in British waters.

At 0138, the unescorted Jamaica Progress was torpedoed by U-99 40 miles South-West of Barra Head. The ship was sunk by a coup de grâce at 0244. Six crewmembers and one gunner were lost. The master, 24 crewmembers, one gunner and four passengers were picked up by the British trawler Newland and landed at Fleetwood. The chief officer and 16 crewmembers landed at Barra, Hebrides.

At 1324, the Jersey City in Convoy OB-191 was torpedoed and sunk by U-99 70 miles NW of Tory Island. Two crewmembers were lost. The master and 42 crewmembers were picked up by the British-flagged Gloucester City, transferred to destroyer HMS Walker and landed at Liverpool.

Destroyer HMS Whitshed struck a mine off Harwich and was badly damaged. She was towed back to port by HMS Wild Swan.

Flight Lieutenant William Garing, No. 10 Squadron RAAF, flying a Sunderland, successfully engaged three waves of German bombers attacking the Mooltan, an Armed Merchant Cruiser. The engagement lasted 12 hours during which Garing co-ordinated his crew of gunners to prevent damage to the Mooltan. Garing will be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for "coolness and courage under fire." (Mike Mitchell)

The following convoys continue:

Liverpool out - OB

UK/Gibraltar - OG

Fast Halifax/UK - HX

Gibraltar/UK - HG

Sierra Leone/UK - SL


Thames-out OA convoys are now joining FN East Coast ships and passing around the north of Scotland before going out through the North West Approaches. They stop altogether in October.

The Thames/Forth FN/FS convoys continue along the east coast.

Two additional ones are:

Forth/Clyde EN/WN around the north of Scotland.

Thames/English Channel CW/CE through the Strait of Dover.

[Losses in the Channel are so heavy that the latter have to be stopped for a while.]

Slow Sydney, Cape Breton/UK convoys start in August with SC1.

The limits of the few escorts available are only just pushed out from 15 W to 17 W where they stay until October. U-boats are patrolling well beyond this range and so many sinkings are taking place in unescorted convoys or when the ships have dispersed.


34 ships of 173,000 tons and 1 destroyer.

1 U-boat.

European Waters: 67 ships of 192,000 tons.

Mediterranean Waters: 2 merchant ships of 7,000 tons.


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Yesterday        Tomorrow


31 July 1941

Yesterday    Tomorrow

July 31st, 1941 (THURSDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Civilian air raid casualties this month were 900 people killed and 908 injured.

Corvettes HMS Monkshood, Pentstemon commissioned.
Escort carrier HMS Pursuer laid down.


GERMANY: Nazi plans to rid Europe of Jews took a step forward today, when Reinhardt Heydrich, the head of the RHSA (Reichssicherheitshaupamt [Reich Chief Security Office], which controls the police and Gestapo) received the following directive from Göring :

"I commission you to carry out all organizational, material and financial preparations for a total solution of the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe. If the competency of other organizations is affected by this, these organizations are to participate,

I further order you to submit to me as soon as possible a report showing the ... measures already taken for the execution of the final solution of the Jewish question."

This order gives Heydrich full administrative power to set up a pan-European programme, operated by Himmler's SS, to dispose of the Jews. The nature of the programme is still unfinalized, but some things are becoming clear.

First, the thoroughness of Einsatzkommando massacres in occupied Russia in the last six weeks suggests that murder on a massive scale, rather than emigration, has become the "solution" to the "problem". Secondly, recent discussions between Himmler and Rudolf Hoess, the Aushwitz commandant, show that the order for that solution comes from Hitler himself.

It looks as though the Auschwitz camp and one to be built at Majdanek, near Lublin, are to become the main centres for the operation.

U-711 laid down.
U-581 commissioned.
U-172 launched.

FINLAND: II Corps (Maj. Gen. Laatikainen) begins its attack on Karelian Isthmus. The Corps consists of 2nd, 15th and 18th Divisions (with the 10th Div. waiting in Supreme HQ's reserve). The ultimate goal of the attack is to recapture Viipuri (Vyborg), the second largest city of Finland before 1939, lost to Soviet Union after the Winter War. The defending forces are Soviet 142nd and 115th Divs in well-prepared positions. The attack meets heavy resistance and the intense fighting slows Finnish advance in the first days of the attack.

U.S.S.R.: At the end of 14 days of continuous slaughter, Einsatzkommando groups have killed 10,000 Jews at Kishinev and 2,500 at Zhitomir. Immediately a region is occupied by German troops the Einsatzgruppen move in, gather together the local Jews, strip them of clothing and valuables and shoot them dead in a remote part of the countryside. The corpses are thrown into a shallow ditch.

Local people especially in the Ukraine and Lithuania, join in mounting their own pogroms.

The German army reaches Lake Ilmen and the Finnish army starts an attack aimed at Viipuri.


Tallinn, the Estonian capital, has been surrounded by von Leeb's Army Group North as he strikes for Leningrad. "Fast Heinz" Guderian's tanks are approaching Moscow, Kiev is threatened by von Kleist and the Black Sea, the Romanian 4th Army is advancing on Odessa. The triumphal progress of the Wehrmacht is shown by the scale of Russian casualties - over a million in little more than a month of fighting, although the German casualties have been heavy too, over 100,000, more than in all its previous campaigns. Weaknesses are beginning to show in the German war machine. Some tanks are breaking down because their air filters cannot cope with the dust of the Russian steppes, and supply lines are stretched to breaking point. General Hopner, leading the Panzer thrust to Leningrad has been forced to delay his attempt to seize the city because he is short of shells. The scorched-earth policy is also denying the invaders the opportunity to live off the conquered lands.

The Russian Army fired the first volley of Katyusha Rockets. (Bill Howard)

MEDITERRANEAN SEA: Force H covers a small convoy to Malta. Destroyers and aircraft from HMS Ark Royal attack Alghero in Sardinia.

NORTH AFRICA: Axis forces are reorganised; General Ludwig Cruwell takes over command of the Afrika Korps while Rommel commands the new Panzerarmee Afrika.

CHINA: The Japanese government advises the US government that the bombing of the river gunboat USS Tutuila (PR-4) at Chungking, China yesterday was, "an accident, 'pure and simple.'"

CANADA: Corvette HMCS Battleford commissioned.

U.S.A.: Burbank, California: The first Lockheed Ventura makes it's maiden flight. It is the first of 675 placed by the British Purchasing Commission and is designed to replace the Hudson.

The U.S. Army establishes the Military Police Corps.

Washington: Roosevelt explains the introduction of price controls to Congress, on the basis of controlling inflation and reducing the rise in domestic consumption.

US Army Chief of Staff George Marshall issues public statement that it was now US policy to defend the Philippines and that Philippine defence was to take the "highest priority". (Marc Small)

The US Asiatic Fleet and US Army Harbor defence Command close Manila harbor by mining. Henceforth, civilian shipping requires escort through the minefields by Asiatic Fleet vessels or by US Army Mine Planters assigned to the Harbor defence Command. (Marc Small)

Senator Knox has explained what happened when a US destroyer dropped depth bombs off the coast of GREENLAND:

One US destroyer operating off Greenland heard the SOS of a steamer and proceeded to the location and picked up 60 of the survivors of the steamer. ...the operator of the listening equipment reported that he though he heard a submerged submarine.

The captain immediately turned toward the direction indicated and dropped three depth charges. In doing this he very rightly exercised the right of self-preservation.

There was no evidence that a submarine was there... the echo might have been received from a whale or large fish, or a cold current..

The motion picture "Hold Back the Dawn" is released in the U.S. The film is directed by Mitchell Leisen and stars Charles Boyer, Olivia de Havilland, Paulette Goddard, Walter Abel and Rosemary DeCamp; Brian Donlevy and Veronica Lake appear in uncredited bit parts. This tear-jerker has Boyer as a Rumanian gigolo being rejected as he tries to enter the U.S. so he marries a spinsterish American (de Havilland). After entering the country, he plans to dump her and marry his girlfriend (Goddard) who got into the U.S. the same way. The film is nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actress (de Havilland).

Destroyers USS Duncan, Lansdowne, Pringle laid down.

NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN: Royal Navy hopes are high as this month ends that they are over the worst in their battle with the U-boats. Losses to Allied shipping are now running at under one-fifth of the peak rate of 688,000 tons suffered in April.

There has been a steady improvement, thanks to more escorts and better support at the Iceland base, with the US now helping out as well as Canada. And the Germans have had less air support since the Russian front opened.



23 ships of 98,000 tons.

Losses in home waters:

18 ships of 15,000 tons.


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Yesterday         Tomorrow


31 July 1942

Yesterday Tomorrow

July 31st, 1942 (FRIDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: Franciscus Winter, claiming Belgian refugee status, arrived at Gourock on board a ship from Gibraltar. He was interrogated at RVPS, found to have a large amount of money on him, and eventually confessed. Found guilty of treachery at the Old Bailey on 4 December 1942, he was hanged at Wandsworth on 26 January 1943.

711 civilians have been killed and 1,208 injured in air raids since 1 June.

Destroyer HMS Whirlwind laid down.

Destroyer HMS Eskdale commissioned.

GERMANY: The Institute for Practical Research in Military Science has started a collection of Jewish skeletons, obtaining gassed corpses from Oranienburg concentration camp.

"You have no chance," Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, the chief of Bomber Command, told the German people tonight as the RAF savaged the key industrial city of Dusseldorf. Broadcasting in German, Sir Arthur said that RAF bomber losses of less than 5% were more than covered by US output. He said: "We shall be coming every night, every day, rain, blow or snow, we and the Americans.

In the past ten days, Harris's crews have given grim proof of his threat. In the Ruhr, Duisburg was hit three times. At Hamburg four nights ago, 175,000 incendiaries were dropped (the largest number in a single attack) in 35 minutes as the prelude to a storm of two-ton high-explosive bombs.

The raid cost the RAF 29 aircraft, but prompted a public message of congratulation from Sir Arthur on "one of the outstanding attacks of the whole war."

Tonight's Dusseldorf operation followed the high pressure style of Hamburg, but over a wider area, with losses of 29 aircraft out of 630. More than 150 two-ton bombs fell at the rate of three per minute. Heavier bomb loads delivered by the new Lancaster are the key to such intensive attacks.

U.S.S.R.: (Sergey Anisimov)(69)Baltic Fleet, Ladoga and Onega Flotillas: Shipping loss. GB "N31" (ex-"Ijorets N31") - wrecked at storm close to Vasilisin Is., at Onega Lake (later raised) and - MS "TSch-175" (ex-"BP N27") - wrecked at storm close to Osinovets Is., at Ladoga Lake (later raised)

Moscow: Hitler is throwing the Wehrmacht's advance in southern Russia into confusion as he continually changes his mind. His insistence on splitting von Bock's Army Group South to attack Stalingrad and advance into the Caucasus simultaneously led to protests from von Bock and his dismissal 18 days ago.

The Fuhrer has given orders which have led Hoth and von Kleist to arrive with their Panzer armies at the Don crossings at the same time and become dreadfully entangled.

He is, moreover, convinced that the Red Army is finished and is actually removing units from the battlefield. He has sent von Manstein's Eleventh Army from the Crimea to mount another assault on Leningrad, and he has ordered two crack divisions to France to prepare for an Allied invasion.

Moscow: Stalin has ordered the Red Army retreating before the German double thrust to Stalingrad and the Caucasus, to stand and fight: "We will win or die but never retreat."

Nobody is to be allowed to take another step backwards without orders: "Not one step backwards. Commanders, commissars and political workers who abandon a position without an order from higher headquarters are traitors to the Fatherland and must be treated accordingly."

Stalin's order has been published throughout the country and the army newspaper, Red Star, adds: "Any man quailing on the battlefield instead of standing to the death will be condemned as a traitor selling his country into German slavery." Massive reinforcements are being hurried to the southern front.

NEW GUINEA: B-17s hit Gona and a nearby transport which had been previously damaged.

AUSTRALIA: Minesweeper HMAS Dubbo commissioned.

PACIFIC OCEAN: US bombers attack targets on Tulagi and Guadalcanal. TF 61 leaves the Koro in the Fiji Islands for landing in the southern Solomon Islands in 7 days. 

Colonel LaVerne G. Saunders leads 9 USAAF B-17 Flying Fortresses of his 11th Bombardment Group (Heavy) based at Vila Field, Efate Island, New Hebrides, on a strike against Guadalcanal Island, bombing the landing strip and area about Lunga Point. From this date until 7 August, the B-17s flies 56 strike and 22 search sorties in support of the invasion of Guadalcanal. Allied Air Force B-17s from New Guinea also bomb Kukum Beach and Lunga landing strip on the north coast of Guadalcanal Island as the US invasion forces leave the Fiji Islands for the Solomon Islands. 

The USN's Patrol Squadron Twenty Three (VP-23) based at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, dispatches PBY-5 Catalinas to bomb Tulagi and Gavutu but they abort the mission due to weather.

A US 7th Air Force B-17, from Midway Island, flies photo reconnaissance of Wake Island. The B-17 is intercepted by 6 fighters; in the ensuing fight US gunners claim 4 fighters destroyed.

TERRITORY OF ALASKA: ALEUTIAN ISLANDS: One B-24 and one LB-30 Liberator of the US 11th Air Force fly weather and photo reconnaissance; weather cancels a combat mission to Kiska Island.

A Japanese military officer, serving in the Aleutians, describes a confrontation between a U.S. submarine and the officer's freighter, the Kano Maru, about 10 miles northeast of Kiska - the patrol area of the USS Grunion. The submarine dispatches six or seven torpedoes. All but one bounced off the boat without exploding, or missed, the officer wrote, although the hit knocks out his engines and communications. He said he returned fire with an 8-centimetre deck gun, and thinks he sunk the sub. (Mike Yared)

CANADA: Armed yacht HMCS Caribou arrived Halifax. Determined to be unfit for patrol so assigned to training duties.

U.S.A.: Washington: President Roosevelt has been asked to issue a final warning to Germany and the rest of the Axis powers against the "barbaric and inhuman crimes committed daily" in the occupied countries. The request came in a note, signed by the Belgian, Czechoslovak, Dutch, Greek, Norwegian, Polish, Luxemburg, Yugoslavia and Free French governments, delivered to the secretary of state, Cordell Hull, today.

Harry James and his Orchestra record the classic song, "I've Heard that Song Before", for Columbia Records. Helen Forrest is the vocalist on this record that was Number 1 on the pop charts for 13 weeks in 1943 and was ranked the Number 1 pop song for the year 1943.

Aircraft carrier USS Essex launched.

Destroyer USS Jenkins commissioned.

ATLANTIC OCEAN:  British convoy escorts are boosted by the introduction of high-frequency direction-finding (HF/DF or "Huff Duff") radio-location equipment.

Three German U-boats are sunk:

- U-213 is sunk in the North Atlantic east of the Azores, in position  36.45N, 22.50W by depth charges from the British sloops HMS Erne, HMS Rochester and HMS Sandwich. All hands, 50 men, on the U-boat are lost.

- U-588 is sunk in the North Atlantic, in position 49.59N, 36.36W, by depth charges from the Canadian corvette HMCS Wetaskiwin and destroyer HMCS Skeena. All hands on the U-boat, 46 men, are lost.

U-588 was a VIIC type U-boat built by F. Krupp Germaniawerft AG Kiel, launched 23 Jul 41, commissioned 18 Sep 41, in service 10 months, While in North American waters in May 42 U-588 sank 6 ships for 25,541 tons and torpedoed one of 7,460 tons that did not sink. U-588 was part of a six-boat "pack" that had operating against the 41-ship Liverpool to Boston convoy ON.115. U-588 was sighted on the surface by Skeena during the night of 30-31 Jul and forced to submerge. Skeena and Wetaskiwin hunted and attacked the U-boat until 1000hrs when Skeena delivered the fatal attack. Convoy ON.115 arrived in Boston on 8 Aug 42 having lost two ships totalling 16,500 tons, to U-553 and U-607.

- U-754 is sunk in the North Atlantic off Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, in position 43.02N, 64.52W, by a Royal Canadian Air Force Hudson Mk IIIA, s/n BW625, of No. 113 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron based at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, piloted by Squadron Leader N. E. Small. All hands, 43 men, on the U-boat are lost. This was the first submarine sunk by the RCAF's Eastern Air Command.

The German submarine U-751 sows mines off Charleston, South Carolina, USA.

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Yesterday Tomorrow


31 July 1943

Yesterday     Tomorrow

July 31st, 1943 (SATURDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: The US Eighth Air Force's VIII Air Support Command in England flies Missions Number 11A, 11B, 11C and 11D against 4 airfields in FRANCE: 

(1) 20 B-26B Marauders bomb Merville Airfield at 1120 hours; 

(2) 19 B-26Bs hit Nord Airfield at Poix 1122 hours with the loss of 1 B-26

(3) 21 B-26Bs attack Drucat Airfield at Abbeville at 1617 hours: and 

(4) 18 B-26Bs bomb Tricqueville Airfield at 1623 hours. Lille and Amiens, France are bombed by Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers, also fighter-escorted, in conjunction with the US raids.

Frigates HMS Braithwaite, Cam launched.

Corvette HMS Carisbrooke Castle launched.

An Allied diplomatic "note" is sent to neutral European governments requesting that they refuse asylum to "Nazi criminals". (Glenn Steinberg)

GERMANY: Operation Gomorrah has destroyed Hamburg with fire from the air, dropping 8,621 tons of bombs on the city. Protected by "Window" foil which has blinded the German defences, RAF Lancasters have made three raids in five days on this great port, wreaking death and destruction on an unimaginable scale. Flying Fortresses of the US Eighth Army Air Force have joined in the operation, appearing over the burning city by day to add their precision bombing to the RAF's mass attacks. In all, 2,752 planes flew in the raids, and 86 did not return.

During the second attack by the "Lancs", on the night of 27-28 July, the incendiaries whipped up such a firestorm that, within half an hour, the city was transformed into a lake of fire over an area of two square miles. People driven into the shelters by the flames were reduced to ashes as they were bodies in a crematorium. One army flak observer, flying with the bombers, arrived over Hamburg in the last few minutes of the attack. "At that time," he said, "the pall of smoke was five miles high, it was coming out of the target in a spiral and one could see big factory buildings  burning. The defences seem to have been completely overwhelmed."

The death-toll is awesome. Some 40,000 people are believed to have been killed - more than during the entire London Blitz. Refugees, haggard with fear, are fleeing from the smoking ruins. Those that remain are being fed from soup kitchens. The chaos is worsened by the destruction of the telephone exchange.

Enormous damage has been done to war industries - 170,000 tons of shipping and three U-boats have been destroyed, 580 factories wiped out and 37,000 civilians severely wounded. The vital tunnel under the Elbe has been destroyed. One German commentator said: "Terror, terror, terror. Pure, naked bloody terror. Hamburg was heavily hit by this terror raid. It is a fact and we will not deny it."

The Hamburg firestorms were made worse by the weather: a long dry spell increased the risk of fire when the RAF bombers dropped their lethal mixture of incendiaries and HE bombs. The smaller incendiaries set light to roofs, while the heavier penetrated the interiors, starting further fires. The HE bombs, on the other hand, created the blast necessary to fan the flames still further.

At the centre of each major conflagration the available oxygen was quickly used up as the fires grew hotter, and vacuums were created. As the hot air rose, the cold air was sucked in, fanning the flames and creating winds strong enough to drag people in with them.

Crucial to the success of the current bombing of Hamburg has been the employment of a new technical aid by RAF Bomber Command. Unlike others in its armoury, this is a very simple one.

"Window", as it is codenamed, consists of bundles of aluminium foil strips, which are dropped  from the aircraft over the target. Their object is to confuse the enemy radars. Cut to a particular size they create spurious signals on the radar screen.

When Window was used during the first attack on Hamburg on the night of 24-25 July it threw the German nightfighter controllers into complete confusion. One was overheard exclaiming "The English bombers are propagating themselves!" They could not direct the fighters onto the attacking bombers, which is why so few were lost. During the two subsequent attacks they stopped trying to find individual targets for fighters, and have merely given a running commentary of the height and position of the bomber stream.

Rastenburg: Hitler has become very depressed, according to his secretary, Traudl Junge: "He is very serious. He sits and stares into his soup without saying a word."

The mood took hold of him after the catastrophe at Stalingrad and the defeat of the Axis in forces in North Africa. Since then, his strategic options have been steadily diminishing. In his Wolf's Lair HQ at Rastenburg he broods on the looming threat of an Anglo-American landing on mainland Europe. German army analyses suggest that the blow will fall in Greece, but Hitler, having seen a transcript of a telephone conversation between Churchill and Roosevelt, knows that King Victor Emmanuel is about to pull Italy out of the war. 

Troops and planes have been withdrawn from Russia and sent to Italy to meet the Allied threat, and this at a time when the Russians have shown they can hit back hard. The Germans have had to call off the Kursk battle after losing 3,000 tanks.

Elsewhere, the war news is no less sombre. Allied merchant ship construction has exceeded losses for the first time this month, and Dönitz has withdrawn his submarines from the Atlantic after losing 37 in July alone. The RAF has injected an entirely new phenomenon into aerial war: the firestorm. When 2,326 tons of bombs were dropped on Hamburg three nights ago, a shrieking hurricane-style wind was created that dried up canals and uprooted trees; an estimated 40,000 people died.

Even Hitler's closes comrades no longer believe in victory. Himmler has set up a special SS team to go to extermination camps and burial grounds and destroy evidence of the mass murder of the Jews. But Hitler still hopes. At Peenemunde, new weapons are being tested: a pilotless plane and a massive rocket bomb.

U-748 commissioned.

U.S.S.R.: Moscow: The Supreme Soviet decorates Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov with the Order of Suvorov, and General Ivan S. Konev with the Order of Kutuzov, for their roles on the eastern front.

Soviet Navy records 1 submarine loss during the month that is not listed by day:

Shch-422    Northern Fleet    off coast of Norway (failed to return from patrol off Norway coast) (Mike Yared)

ITALY: Hedley Verity, the Yorkshire and England cricket captain, dies in a PoW camp.

SICILY: The US 45th Division captures Santo Stefano. Other US forces prepare to attack east along the coast and further inland press towards Troina. British and Canadian units to the south advance on Regalbuto and Centuripe. They encounter fierce opposition at Regalbuto.

An Allied diplomatic "note" is sent to neutral European governments requesting that they refuse asylum to "Nazi criminals". (Glenn Steinberg)

Northwest African Strategic Air Force B-26s bomb Adrano while Northwest African Tactical Air Force fighters, light and medium bombers hit Paterno, Santa Maria di Licondia and Centuripe, the general area around Paterno, and vessels in the Milazzo-Orlando area. Ninth Air Force P-40s also hit shipping in the Milazzo area.

EUROPE: Up to 50,000 civilians have been killed and over 800,000 made homeless by the Allied bombing so far.

CHINA: Over two million people have died or become refugees because of a severe famine in Hunan province.

SOLOMON ISLANDS: On New Georgia Island, 17 P-40s and P-39Airacobras of the US Thirteenth Air Force join 90+ US Navy and Marine Corps aircraft in pounding guns and defensive positions on Bibolo Hill as Allied ground forces close in on airfield at Munda. B-17s, B-25 Mitchells, P-40s, and US Navy aircraft attack the airfield at Vila on Kolombangara Island.
US forces mop up resistance on Bartley Ridge, but are driven off Horseshoe Hill.

PACIFIC OCEAN: USN submarines sink a Japanese army cargo ship and an aircraft transport. They also land supplies and equipment on Panay Island, Philippine Islands, and a survey party on the west coast of Bougainville Island, Solomon Islands.

SOUTH PACIFIC: The British aircraft carrier HMS Victorious is detached from service with the US Third Fleet and resumes operations with the British Fleet.

CANADA: Corvette HMCS Norsyd launched Quebec City, Province of Quebec.
Frigate HMCS St Catharines commissioned.

U.S.A.: Minesweeper USS Mirth laid down.
Minesweepers USS Mainstay, Marvel launched.
Destroyer escort USS Thomas launched.
Destroyer USS Prichett launched.
Submarine USS Aspro commissioned.
Destroyer USS Young commissioned.

ATLANTIC OCEAN: The German submarine U-199 is sunk in the South Atlantic east of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in position 23.54S, 42.54W, by depth charges from PBM-3C Mariner of Patrol Squadron Seventy Four (VP-74) based at NAF Natal, Brazil, and a Brazilian Catalina and Hudson; 12 of the 61 men aboard the U-boat survive and are rescued by the US small seaplane tender USS Barnegat (AVP-10).

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Yesterday        Tomorrow


31 July 1944

Yesterday    Tomorrow

July 31st, 1944 (MONDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: London: Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser succeeds Admiral Sir James Somerville as C-in-C of the Royal Navy's Eastern Fleet.

The US Eighth Air Force in England dispatches 1,295 bombers and 701 fighters to hit targets in Germany and airfields in France in Mission 507; 16 bombers and 3 fighters are lost. The aircraft are divided into three forces:

- 567 B-17s bomb Munich, 43 hit Schleissheim Airfield, 36 hit aircraft engine plants at Munich-Allach and 4 hit targets of opportunity; 10 B-17s are lost. Escort is provided by 439 P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs; 1 P-47 and 2 P-51s are lost.

     Personal Memory: My diary for today reads: "Munich, Germany (Rough!) Carried incendiaries this trip. It looked like we made big fires too. The flak was really intense. Saw several B-17s go down. I carried quite a bit of flak back with me. I saw a few FW190s, but none attacked. Carried ten M17  incendiaries of 500 lbs each. Over enemy territory 4 hours and 35 minutes with a total flight time of 8 hours and 10 minutes." The 303rd BG scheduled 38 planes to bomb the Aero Engine Works by radar. Two 17s aborted and we flew with 36 planes. We each carried 2700 gallons of fuel and I was training another new crew on their first mission. It was 2nd Lt. T. A. Duncan and his crew in AC# 42-102569. Since we were to bomb by radar we remained in Wing formation and dropped our bombs with the leader. The lead plane was being piloted by my erstwhile pilot, T. R. Beiser. We could see fires through the several holes in the clouds. I must have been a slow learner but I got a good lesson toda  y. Part of our protective gear is an uncomfortable "Flak Beanie" which I carried under the seat with my parachute. I sometimes put it on when the flak got bad but today I did not do so because I had never seen a flak hole in the top of a B-17. Today a German 88 came up just barely outside the plane near my left elbow. It traveled  about another thirty of forty feet and exploded with a jolt and the base of the shell came down on top of the number two engine making a hole through the cowl and part way into the collector ring causing a slight loss of manifold pressure. Before I adjusted the manifold pressure I got out my "Beanie" and put it on. I never went without it again! With all its flak damage my no-name airplane of today was listed as having major damage, although it was nothing compared to what would happen to it later.On January 8, 1945 after I was back at MacDill Field instructing, after a mission to Koblenz the pilot landed long and hot, going off the end of the runw  ay, across a road and into a farmer's field doing major damage to the right wing and engines. All systems on the B-17 are run by electricity except cowl flaps and brakes which are run by hydraulic pressure furnished by an electric motor. Early in the mission the engineer found that a limit switch was missing from the system so he removed the hydraulic fluid until just before touch down on return. He replaced the fluid but must have gotten air in the system, thus no brakes, and a loud, expensive noise. Score: Milk runs 13, Others 15 ( Dick Johnson)

- 447 B-24s bomb the chemical works and city at Ludwigshafen, and southwestern part of the city of Mannheim; 6 B-24s are lost. Escort is provided by 135 P-38 Lightnings.

- In France, 47 B-24s, 47 hit Athies Airfield at Laon, 36 hit Creil Airfield and 1 hits Poix Airfield. Escort is provided by 38 P-47s and P-51s.

- 13 B-24s fly CARPETBAGGER missions.

Cruisers HMS Diadem and Bellona along with destroyers HMCS Chaudiere, St Laurent and Kootenay departed Devonport on anti convoy sweep "Kinetic" no enemy contact.

Repair ship HMS Hecla launched.

Frigate HMS Nyasaland commissioned.

FRANCE, Paris: On the results of Action M, [an act of looting known as Einsatzstab Rosenberg which took over the homes of Jews deported from France], 69,619 Jewish dwellings of which 38,000 are in Paris, have been emptied of everything in daily or ornamental use.

250 children from Jewish ophanages and 100 other children are deported to Auschwitz on Convoy No. 77. This is the last convoy to leave France for the German death camps. The Gestapo man directly responsible is Alois Brunner. He is the commander of the Drancy transit camp, north of Paris.

The youngest child was 15 days old.

US 4th Armored Division advances from Avranches and crosses the Selune near Pontaubault. German counterattacks continue around Tessy and Percy.
American armoured spearheads, plunging deep into the German lines have entered Avranches after five days of "push and go" fighting, in the words of an infantry lieutenant. The whole western end of the enemy front has been ripped open and Bradley's First Army, now joined by Patton's Third, is preparing to break out westwards into the Brittany peninsula.

British and Canadian offensives south and east of Caen had convinced General von Kluge, the C-in-C West, that the main Allied effort would remain in the Caen sector, and he had kept his best armoured units there. Opposed to 14 British and Canadian divisions are 14 German ones, six of them armoured. The Americans have 15 divisions opposed to 11 German ones, only two of which are armoured.

Bradley's offensive, known as Operation Cobra started on 25 July with a heavy aerial bombardment. On two successive days US planes bombed their own men; 136 Americans were killed and 621 wounded, including the US 1st Army Group's commander, Lt-Gen Lesley McNair. After such a disaster, Lawton Collins's VII Corps moved off in a grim mood. Collins soon discovered that the Panzers could be outflanked.

He moved fast. Steel tusks welded to the front of Sherman tanks chewed through the thick Normandy hedgerows in minutes. Overnight, the US tanks swept into open country against weakening German defences. The high-spirited Americans raced through villages, some of which greeted them warmly, others with complete indifference. Bloody fighting still lies ahead, but by today the enemy had given up hope of a successful counter-attack and was pulling back.

The US Ninth Air Force dispatches about 500 A-20 Havocs and B-26s to attack bridges on the Seine, Loire, Mayenne, and Ruisseau la Forge Rivers and a fuel dump at Foret de la Guerche; fighters fly armed reconnaissance of activities in the Dieppe-Rouen areas, escort bombers, provide armored column cover, dive-bomb military targets in support of the US First Army and fly a few night intruder missions over enemy territory.

The French writer, Antoine de St. Exupery, author of "The Little Prince" and "Wind, Sand, and Stars," is killed in an F-5 Lightning crash during a reconnaissance mission off Marseilles, France.

GERMANY: Rastenburg: Hitler orders a scorched-earth policy if retreat becomes necessary.

POLAND: The Third Belorussian Front enters Kaunas. The First Belorussian Front advances toward Warsaw. The sound of the Red Army's guns was heard clearly in Warsaw today as Soviet tanks entered Wolomin, just 12 miles east of the Polish capital. Radzynib to the north and Otwock to the south are expected to fall at any moment, leaving the way clear for Marshal Rokossovsky's men to advance to the Vistula, the last German line of defence before the city. The Russians havem in fact, already crossed the Vistula at Sandomierz, 100 miles to the south, and plan to swing up behind the capital.

These latest Russian successes are the culmination of a remarkable tank drive across the Polish plain following the liberation of Minsk. The last few days have brought the capture of Lublin and the Brest-Litovsk, the ancient fortress town captured by Hitler's panzers in the first days of the invasion of Russia.

The Russians have covered 450 miles in five weeks. They have destroyed Model's Army Group Centre, killing or capturing 31 of the group's 47 corps and divisional commanders. However, the very success of the drive has meant that the Red Army's lines of communication have become over-extended. At the same time, German resistance has stiffened, reinforcements have arrived, and the Germans have thrown back Rokossovsky's attempts to cross the Vistula close to Warsaw.

So, unable to seize the city "on the run", the Russians will have to call a halt to bring up supplies and reinforcements for a carefully-planned assault. This may take some time. Meanwhile the Polish Home Army in Warsaw is preparing to rise against the Germans; it is anxious to take the city to try to keep it out of Russian hands and provide a base for the government in exile in London.

BALTIC SEA: At 0843, Soviet patrol craft MO-101 was torpedoed and sunk by U-370 in Björkö Sound in the Baltic Sea.

FINLAND: By this time the Soviet offensive in Karelian Isthmus (south of Lake Ladoga) had been stopped by the Finnish Army and the fighting there died down. But in northern Karelia (north of Lake Ladoga) two Soviet divisions (176th and 289th) were advancing towards Ilomantsi, apparently trying to find a weak spot in the Finnish defences. Major-General Erkki Raappana, CO of the 14th Div, is given the mission to encircle and destroy the enemy divisions. For this purpose a force consisting of the 21st and Cavalry brigades and parts of the 14th Division is gathered in the closing days of July. The Finnish counter-attack begins in the early hours of the 31st of July.

ROMANIA: 360+ US Fifteenth Air Force bombers based in Italy attack targets in Romania; B-17s hit an oil refinery at Ploesti; B-24s bomb 2 oil refineries at Bucharest, 1 at Doicesti, and oil storage at Targoviste. Fighters escort the bombers.

At 0843, Soviet patrol craft MO-101 was torpedoed and sunk by U-370 in Björkö Sound in the Baltic Sea.


CEYLON: Admiral Fraser assumes command of the British Eastern Fleet from Admiral Sommerville.

NEW GUINEA: Operation GLOBETROTTER continues with the landing of US Army troops on Cape Sansapor; this operation concludes the New Guinea campaign.

TINIAN: The last organized Japanese defenses are attacked by US Marines.

MARIANAS ISLANDS: US Seventh Air Force B-25s and P-47s based on Saipan Island bomb and strafe Tinian Island; B-25s from Makin Island pound Nauru Island.

CAROLINE ISLANDS: US Seventh Air Force B-24s from the Marshall Islands bomb Truk Atoll while US Far East Air Force B-24s again strike Woleai Atoll.

PACIFIC OCEAN: Admiral Chester W. Nimitz of the US Navy approves a realignment of the units and aircraft based on fleet aircraft carriers in the Pacific. Currently, the "standard" carrier air group consists of 36 F6F Hellcats, 36 SB2C Helldivers and 18 TBM Avengers.

The new composition is 24 SB2Cs, 18 TBMs and as many F6Fs as the carrier can hold which is 54 on some ships. In addition, F6F pilots will be trained for fighter-bomber operations especially in firing air-to-ground rockets.

USN submarines sink a transport, two merchant tankers, a merchant freighter and a small cargo vessel and damage six other ships.

TERRITORY OF HAWAII: Pearl Harbor: After the fall of the Marianas this month and the occupation of northern New Guinea, the one great strategic issue in the Pacific was where to strike next. American military strategists were sharply divided, but a decision could no longer be delayed. Would the next stepon the road to Tokyo be the Philippines or Formosa?

General MacArthur had no doubts at all: he wanted to retake the Philippines. he believed that America was under "a moral obligation" to liberate the 17 million Filipinos before the assault on Japan. It would be militarily unsound, he claimed, to bypass the Philippines and attack directly across the Pacific Ocean.

Admiral King, the American navy chief, strongly advocated bypassing the Philippines in favour of Formosa. He saw avoidable heavy losses if the armed forces became entangled in costly jungle encounters in the larger Philippine Islands.

Admiral Nimitiz was wavering, but Admiral Halsey also had no doubts. He wanted to seize Okinawa, which would then become the springboard for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.

One area of certainty was that the China theatre would now have no major role in the final phases of the war. The long-range strategic bombing campaign against Japan, which had begun from China, would be transferred to the Marianas.

At a Pearl Harbor conference which began five days ago, the military chiefs argued their cases with the president. MacArthur felt that the Filipino people would not forgive a second betrayal, and that Luzon was too big to be bypassed. It was clear at the end of the session that MacArthur had won the argument. He later told officers the president had said "we will not bypass the Philippines."

CANADA: Corvette HMCS Battleford completed foc'sle extension refit Sydney, Nova Scotia.
HMCS Loch Achanalt (ex HMS Loch Achanalt) commissioned.
HMC MTB 485 commissioned. Log: 29th flotilla, "G" Type, 44 tons, 71.75x20.6x5.6ft, 39kts, crew 3/14, 1-6pdr, 2-20mm(1xII) 4-18in TT.

U.S.A.: Destroyer escorts USS Kendal C Campbell, Neal A Scott commissioned.
Minesweeper USS Intrigue commissioned.

Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-187 was commissioned at New Orleans with LTJG W. A. Skelton, Jr. USCGR, first commanding officer. She was assigned to and operated in the Southwest Pacific area including Manila, Tacloban, etc.

Coast Guard-manned Army vessel FS-315 was commissioned at New York with LT D. B. Oaksmith, USCGR, as commanding officer. He was succeeded by LTJG S. N. Megos, USCG. She departed New York on September 9, l944. During August 1945 she was engaged in transportation service in the Philippine cruising some 1,788 miles with 343 tons of cargo hauled and 21 passengers.

ATLANTIC OCEAN: The German submarine U-333 is sunk in the North Atlantic west of the Scilly Isles, in position 49.39N, 07.28W, by depth charges from the British sloop HMS Starling and the frigate HMS Loch Killin. All hands, 45 men, are lost. This is also the first victim of the ASW SQUID anti-submarine weapon. (Daniel Ross)


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31 July 1945

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July 31st, 1945 (TUESDAY)

AUSTRIA: Linz: Pierre Laval, the puppet leader of German-occupied Vichy France, surrenders to US forces. The French will commit him to trial and execute him. This morning he landed at Linz and is now in the hands of the Free French army at Baden-Baden, in Germany. After the Germans took him from France to Germany, he fled to Italy before taking refuge in General Franco's Spain. But after a "frank" talk between Franco and Sir Victor Mallet, the British ambassador in Madrid, Laval left Barcelona in the same Junkers Ju88 aircraft (a present from the Nazis) in which he had escaped from France. He was accompanied by his wife and a large quantity of luggage. He is expected to arrive soon in Paris, where he is second on the list, after Petain, of those charged with treason.

Laval had served as minister of state under Henri Petain after the French surrender in June 1940 but was dismissed by Petain in December 1940 for negotiating privately with Germany. By 1942, Laval had won Hitler's confidence and became premier of Vichy France and Petain was relegated to a figurehead. Laval collaborated with Hitler's programs of oppression and genocide and was forced to flee east after the Allied liberation of France. 

EUROPE: When the fighting finally stopped in Europe some 11,078,000 non-German men, women and children were homeless refugees. Some had fled before advancing armies, others had been forcibly deported by the Nazis, others still were ex-PoWs. About a quarter of the population of Germany was also destitute.

The Allied authorities were faced with a vast multi-lingual mass of destitute people - hungry, sick and often mentally disturbed. Many set off immediately on foot for their homelands, turning war-torn Europe into a huge web of chaotic migratory paths. Officials feared that the precarious post-war order would break down. It is thanks to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, in co-operation with organizations such as the Red Cross, that some 8,221,000 people have now been repatriated.

The displaced person, as they officially known, are first segregated according to nationality. Even this first step is complicated. Some survivors are so severely traumatized that they have no memory of their former lives. Others, many of them those whose homelands are now under Soviet domination, do not wish to return to their former homes. From camps divided by nationality the people are then transported by air, sea and land to reception centres in their native lands. Here they are given medical examinations, food, clothing, information about lost relatives, money, and transport to whatever may be left of their former homes. The current rate of repatriation across Europe is some 78,500 people per day. In northern Italy alone there are 40 reception camps; one at Treviso can take 20,000 people a day.

In China the problem is on a different scale. Here 43 million people fled from the Japanese, abandoning everything that they owned to save their lives.

SINGAPORE:The four-man midget submarine XE.3, commanded by Lieutenant Ian Edward Fraser (b. 1920), RNR, crept into the Johore Straits at Singapore to attack the Japanese heavy cruiser Takao, whilst XE.1 headed for Myoko. After 11 hours bumping along the bottom in often dangerously shallow water, Fraser managed to position XE.3 directly below Takao, and his diver, L/S James Joseph Magennis (1919-86) RN, squeezed out a hatch which could only be partly opened, blocked by the cruiser's hull, to attached limpet mines to the her. The task was made even more difficult by problems with his breathing apparatus. Once Magennis had returned to XE.3, Fraser released the submarine's main weapons - large explosive charges carried on each side of the vessel. However, one of the racks for the limpet mines would not release, upsetting the trim of the submarine; Magennis once more had to swim outside to help free it, which he managed after several minutes of difficult work. XE.3 was then able to make her escape. Meanwhile, XE.1 could not find Myoko, so her crew decided also to attack Takao, even though there was a risk that XE.3's charges might go off whilst they were underneath the cruiser. Charges dropped, XE.1 followed her sister out to sea. Takao was badly damaged by the explosions and never went to sea again. Fraser and Magennis both received the Victoria Cross.

JAPAN: Over Japan, the US Far East Air Force dispatches 80+ B-24s to pound the Kagoshima railroad yards and several other targets in the general area including the Sasebo naval base, Yaki-shima, and Nagasaki; A-26 Invaders and B-25s bomb Kanoya and Miyazaki Airfields and nearby targets, the Sasebo naval base, Marushima, warehouses at Nagasaki, and a factory and power plant on Koyagi Island; P-51s attack flak positions at Moji, blast shipping at Iki Island and off the northwest and west coast of Kyushu, hit an island west-southwest of Sasebo, bomb railroad targets and warehouses in the Izumi area, and in general attack the railroad and road net and other communications targets throughout Kyushu and P-61 Black Widows continue harassing missions during the night. 

USN's Task Force 38 and RN's Task Group 37.2 cease flying operations and retire from an oncoming typhoon.

CANADA: Minesweeper HMCS Star and HMC ML 101 paid off.
Minesweepers HMCS Truro and Trois-Rivieres transferred to RCMP at Sydney, Nova Scotia for rum running patrol duties. Renamed Herches and MacBrien respectively. Plans to transfer HMCS Lachine as Starnes and Digby as Perry cancelled.

U.S.A.: Washington: Today the US secretary of war, Henry Stimson, sent President Truman a memorandum on how to persuade Japan to surrender. As part of a package of measures which also includes conventional bombing, invasion and diplomacy, he took it for granted that the US would use the atomic bomb now under development. Policymakers are aware of the appalling effects of atomic bombs; but they are also concerned at possible Allied casualties in an invasion of Japan, estimated at 500,000. The formal decision was recommended by a US government committee on 31 May: "We could not give the Japanese any warning ... the most desirable target would be a vital war plant ... closely surrounded by workers' houses," it reported. Both Mr. Stimson and Mr. Churchill have made it plain that they consider the bomb a weapon of war like any other. There is little dissent among top officials or scientists, though some scientists long involved in the project have doubts about using it.

The United States Navy redesignates its Boeing B-17F and G aircraft as the PB-1 Fortress. (23)

Destroyer USS Richard E Kraus laid down.
Destroyers USS Kenneth D Bailey, Floyd B Parks, Sarsfield commissioned.


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