MOSCOW -- The red army, breaking across the Donetz river, rolled into flat country less than 70 miles southeast of Kharkov today, and here in Moscow the public was primed for the imminent announcement of a great new victory -- perhaps the fall of the Caucasian gateway city of Rostov.
Meantime, four powerful Russian spearheads drove today on Kharkov, industrial capital of the Ukraine and Russia's fourth city, while the red army which had freed all but a corner of the north Caucasus was nearing Rostov.
The Russian armies under Col. Gen. Philip Golikov and Col. Gen. N.F. Vatutin were advancing on Kharkov from the south-southeast, southeast, east and northeast and at the nearest point were only 46 miles away after taking Veliki Burluk in the drive from the east.
South of Rostov (where, Stockholm reported, the Russians had captured Bataisk, 10 miles away), red army men stormed a number of enemy defense points and broke into a railroad station, capturing a military train loaded with tanks, trucks and war materials, and in an adjacent sector captured two large places, killed 600 Germans and took prisoners and spoils, the noon communique said.
East of Kursk, the great enemy base 120 miles north of Kharkov and 80 miles south of Moscow, the Russians during the night and this morning captured numerous new inhabited places, the noon communique said, and captured 300 prisoners in them.
Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S.A., was disclosed today to have been named commander-in-chief of all allied forces in North Africa even as an Algiers broadcast reported the British Eighth army was now 60 miles inside Tunisia for the coming showdown with the axis.
Eisenhower's appointment, presumably arranged at the historic "unconditional surrender" conference of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill three weeks ago, gave him the call over both the British middle east commander, Gen. Sir Harold R.L.G. Alexander, and the field commander of the victorious British Eighth army, Gen. Sir Bernard L. Montgomery.
The American general thus will lead the climactic phases of the two-way allied "squeeze" against the joint axis armies of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and Col.-Gen. Jurgen Von Arnim.
A German counter-attack sprung in the face of weather so bad that aerial activity over Tunisia virtually was suspended has forced allied troops to relinquish their hold on the strategic height of Djobel Mansour, 20 miles southwest of Pont du Fahs, allied officials disclosed today.
British Make Gains
The British captured the height, known as hill 648, in an action reported last Wednesday and until yesterday had resisted every axis effort to dislodge them.
Except for patrols engaged in preliminary and muddy sparring, no other land action was reported from the Tunisian arena.
A few American P-40 Warhawk fighters got into the air to shoot up an axis truck column on the road between Gabes and Cafsa, the allies reported, while R.A.F. Spitfires carried out a similar attack in the Pont du Fahs area.
Of 10 American planes reported missing after Thursday's big air battles, four P-38 Lightning fighters have returned to their base after being forced down overnight at remote airfields, and the pilots of two other Lightnings are known to be safe.
The final tabulation for Thursday's air fighting now stands at 26 axis planes destroyed against a loss of only four American ships.
A lull prevailed also on the eastern flank of the two-way allied drive, with British headquarters reporting only patrol activity by Gen. Sir Bernard L. Montgomery's Eighth army along the Libyan-Tunisian frontier.
While Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel moved to consolidate his battered legions with the axis Tunisian armies commanded by Col.-Gen. Jurgen Von Arnum, dispatches from allied headquarters in North Africa gave a revealing picture of the difficult task confronting the joint American-British-French armies headed by Lieut. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.