Project 60 - "The First Fight Against Fascism" - Archives

December, 1941

December 1, 1941

With Emperor Hirohito in attendance, the ruling council of Japan unanimously voted to go to war with the United States, Britain and the Netherlands.

Force “K” from Malta attacked an Italian convoy. The Italian destroyer Da Mosto was sunk.

In a meeting at St. Florentin, Vichy French leader Marshal Petain and Goering reaffirm Franco-German collaboration. The Germans agree to hand over war prisoners and France allows German use of North African naval and air bases.

December 2, 1941

The Japanese cabinet confirms the decision of the ruling council for an attack on Pearl Harbor.

Geuderian gathers the last of his army’s tank strength into two groups for a final attempt to cut off the Soviet 50th Army at Tula. After some initial success, the Germans cut the Moscow-Tula road. The Soviets immediately launched strong and coordinated attacks against the exposed German spearheads forcing them to retreat back to their start lines.

The United States protests the increase of Japanese military forces in Indochina pointing out that Japan is in violation of her agreement with France. The United States accuses Japan of planning further aggression in the region.

Soviet troops completely abandon the last holdings in the Karelia Peninsula that were seized from the Finns in the 1939-40 Winter War.

The British battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse arrive in Singapore in preparation with war with Japan. The task force was to also include the carrier Indomitable, but this ship had run aground in the West Indies and would not be ready to sail before Christmas.

US Naval personnel arrive for duty on the first armed merchantman, the SS Dunboyne.

December 3, 1941

Japanese military officials send the message “Climb Mount Niitaka” to Admiral Nagumo’s carrier force, confirming that the operation is to proceed.

Stalin orders the reconstituted Polish army to Iran and Iraq with the intent of providing these former enemy troops to the British. Despite needing all the troops he could find, Stalin preferred to see the countrymen of a nation he stabbed in the back gone.

The US merchantman Sagadahoc was torpedoed and sunk, presumably by a German submarine, in the South Atlantic.

December 4, 1941

Under extremely poor weather and wave conditions, Nagumo’s fleet manages to replenish its fuel stores. The replenishment ships head for the return leg rendezvous point and the carriers turn south for their final run to Hawaii.

Temperatures in the Moscow area fall to –31F as the German offensive grinds to a halt some 19 miles from the city.

The Japanese embassy in Washington begins to destroy codebooks and personal files.

The Japanese 25th Army, begins leaving Hainan Island in preparation for the invasion of Malaysia and Thailand.

December 5, 1941

A political storm erupts in the United States when the Washington Times-Herald, New York Daily News, and the  Chicago Tribune publish details of plans for mobilization for total war against German and Japan. It was later discovered that the plans were leaked by a Captain in the War Plans Division (Ed. Note: probably a Republican). The Captain passed the plan to Senator Burton Wheeler (anti-FDR D-Montana), who in turn gave the report to the article’s author Chesley Manly. The Germans gleefully turned the intelligence bonanza over to General Jodl, Hitler’s operations chief, to make necessary adjustments to their plans. The official word to reporters from the Whitehouse was “Your right to print the news is, I think, unchallenged and unquestioned. It depends entirely on the decision of the publisher and editor whether publication is patriotic or treasonable.” (Editor’s Note – Compare this to the reaction from our current administration when a comedian made a joke.)

With temperatures hovering at –15F, Zhukov unleashes his counterattack at Moscow. Konev’s Kalinin front opens the offensive against the Germans, attacking the northern edge of the Klin bulge. The fighting is very serious and resistance is stiff. Some headway is made and casualties on both sides are high.

US Navy officials order all stations in Tokyo, Bangkok, Peking, Tiensin, Shanghai, Guam and Wake to destroy all codebooks and secret files.

Hitler calls an end to the winter offensive against Moscow and orders some “limited” withdrawals.

Rommel orders the evacuation of the eastern part of the Tobruk perimeter in order to attack the British forces at Bir El Gobi. The attack fails to dislodge the British defenders.

December 6, 1941

As a last attempt to prevent the outbreak of hostilities, President Roosevelt sends a personal message to Emperor Hirohito of Japan. The note states, “Developments are occurring in the Pacific area which threaten to deprive each of our nations and all humanity of the beneficial influence of the long peace between our two countries. . . . During the past few weeks it has become clear to the world that Japanese military, naval, and air forces have been sent to Southern Indo­china in such large numbers as to create a reasonable doubt on the part of other nations that this continuing concentration in Indochina is not defensive in its character. . . the people of the Philippines, of the hundreds of Islands of the East Indies, of Malaya, and of Thailand itself are asking themselves whether these forces of Japan are preparing or intending to make attack in one or more of these many directions. . . . It is clear that a continuance of such a situation is unthinkable."

Nagumo’s fleet turned southeast. The crew of his flagship, the Akagi, hoist the battle flag used by Admiral Togo at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905, when the Russians were decisively defeated.

Zhukov extends the counter-attack at Moscow, ordering the right flank of the West Front to attack 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies in the Klin area. The attacks are making progress as the Germans, battered and exhausted give ground.

President Roosevelt authorizes the Manhattan Engineering District. The secret U.S. project to build an atomic bomb, later to be called the Manhattan Project, is put under the direction of the Office of Scientific Research and Development.

Britain declares war on Finland, Hungary, and Rumania denouncing the aggression by these countries against Russia.

Working on a Saturday afternoon, Dorothy Edgers translated a secret diplomatic message from Tokyo to diplomats in Honolulu. The message requested continuous and detailed information on ship movements, berthing position, and torpedo netting at Pearl Harbor. Alarmed, Mrs. Edgers checked other similar messages waiting to be translated. All had similar request. At 3:00 pm she brought this information to the attention of her boss, Lt. Commander Alvin Kramer, USN. After making a few minor corrections to the translation, he told her “We’ll get back to this on Monday.” In less than 24 hours, the reason for the messages would be obvious, even to Kramer.

December 7, 1941

Japanese forces launch a surprise attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor. The US military forces are caught completely by surprise and suffer greatly. Two battleships, the  Arizona and Oklahoma are complete losses. All of the other battleships are damaged, some severely. Over 2700 were killed in the attack. Aircraft losses were 180. For more information see Bartcop's Pearl Harbor Special Edition.

Zhukov extends the counter-attack at Moscow, ordering the West Front to attack Guderian’s overextended 2nd Panzer Army in the Tula area.

German forces withdraw from the immediate vicinity of Tobruk and take up defensive positions around Gazala. The first siege of Tobruk ends.

Hitler issues the “Night and Fog Decree” which calls for the arrest and/or execution of people who “endanger German security.” They were to be spirited away into the night and fog so that even their relatives would not know where they went. Editor’s Note: Sound familiar to anyone?

December 8, 1941  

The United States and Britain declare war on Japan. Joining the alliance against Japan were Canada, New Zealand, Free France, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Panama.

A thousand volunteers were turned away from the Navy recruiting office in New York City because the staff did not have the facilities or time to process all that were wanting to join up.

Japanese bomber forces hit Clark Field in the Philippines, destroying half of the US aircraft available. Also struck were Hong Kong, Singapore, Wake, Midway and Guam.

Japanese forces land in Malaya and Thailand.

The British Task Force “Z” consisting of the battleship Prince of Wales and battle-cruiser  Repulse, leave Singapore to intercept the Japanese invasion fleet. A note on the Repulse’s wardroom wall read, “We are off to look for trouble. I expect we shall find it.”

Zhukov’s offensive at Moscow has expanded to include all three fronts on the Moscow axis. Heavy fighting is reported at Kalinin, Klin, Solnechnogorsk, Istra, Tula and Elets. Active and severe fighting was now going on over a front of 175 miles. Most advances were limited to a few miles but some units had penetrated up to 20 miles since the 5th. The attacks at Klin were particularly serious for that town was the nexus for all the communication and supply roads for 3rd Panzer Army. Its loss would be a catastrophe for the Germans.

10,000 Jews are marched out of the Riga Ghetto and taken to Rumbuli Forest where they are executed, completing the systematic execution of most Latvian Jews.

After contending with serious attacks by the Soviet 4th Army for several weeks, the 39th Panzer Corp at Tikhvin, withdraws, loosening the cordon around Leningrad.

Admiral Halsey entered Pearl Harbor with his carrier Enterprise. Upon seeing the extent of the destruction, Halsey said, "Before we're through with 'em, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell."

December 9, 1941

Japanese forces occupy Bangkok after signing an agreement with the Thai government allowing Japanese troops right of passage.

Japanese forces land at Tarawa and Makin in the Gilbert Islands.

China, despite being at war with Japan for over a decade, makes a formal declaration of war on Japan, Germany and Italy. Cuba and South Africa declare war on Japan.

Hitler suspends his ban on U-boat operations and extends unlimited submarine warfare into US territorial waters. A declaration of war is still two days away.

December 10, 1941

British Task Force Z, in a brave, but ultimately, foolhardy attempt to intercept the Japanese invasion force in Malaya is attacked and sunk by Japanese aircraft. Four torpedoes hit the battleship Prince of Wales. Fourteen torpedoes hit the battle cruiser Repulse. Both ships sink. This eliminated the British naval presence in the southwest Pacific. 2100 sailors survived the attacks while 700, including the task force commander Admiral Sir Tom Phillips, went down with their ships. This was the first time major capital ships were destroyed from the air in combat in the open seas.

The siege of Tobruk ends as Rommel withdraws the Afrika Korp to Gazala.

The 500-man garrison at Guam surrenders to the 6000 Japanese invaders.

In the Philippines, the US naval base at Cavite is destroyed by Japanese bombers. 4000 Japanese troops landed on the northern tip of Luzon.

The German spy Karel Richter, is executed in Wandsworth Prison by the British.

December 11, 1941

Germany and Italy declare war on the United States, thus ending one of the more difficult political dilemmas for Roosevelt (how to get into the European war).

A Japanese landing force attempted to capture Wake Island. Nine enemy ships closed to bombard the American positions. The US forces gamely held fire until the enemy closed to point blank range and opened fire. The Japanese destroyer Hayate was sunk and three other ships were damaged. The invasion force withdrew. US planes took to the skies and sunk the destroyer Kisaragi before the Japanese made good their escape. This was the only time in the war that a major amphibious attack failed.

December 12, 1941

A 2500-man Japanese force lands at Legaspi in southern Luzon.

The “Flying Tigers”, the US volunteer group lead by Claire Chennault, moves from  China to Burma to assist that nation in defending against the Japanese who were already infiltrating forces across the boarder from Thailand.

The Finns complete their campaign against the Russians by destroying two divisions south of Medvezhyegorsk in the Karelia peninsula. The Finns went over to the strategic defense and for all practical purposes contributed nothing further to the Nazi war effort.

December 13, 1941

Soviet forces open a fresh set of attacks as Timoshenko’s Southwest Front attacks at Telets and Livny. The attacks split the 2nd Panzer Army and 2nd Army apart forcing both to withdraw in haste

Japanese air raids in the Philippines all but destroy the last US aircraft available to the island’s defenders.

The British 8th Army launches heavy attacks against Rommel’s Afrika Korp near Gazala. The fighting is inconclusive and casualties are heavy.

The US Department of Justice announces that 595 Japanese and 187 German alien residents have been interned. This would be followed-up by thousands more in time and begin one of the most shameful chapters in US history.

The Italians, desperate to support their forces in Libya, dispatch a convoy consisting of the cruisers Da Bardiano and Di Diguissano. The ships are engaged by 3 British and one Dutch destroyer. The cruisers are quickly dispatched as their decks were covered with barrels of diesel and aviation fuel intended for Rommel in North Africa.

December 14, 1941

Hitler, incensed at the retreats of his army, begins interfering with tactical deployments of the eastern armies and begins to countermand withdrawal orders from the field commanders.

December 15, 1941

Russian forces capture Klin and Istra as the Soviet winter offensive continues to roll back the Germans around Moscow.

British attacks on the Gazala line succeed in convincing Rommel to withdraw from the Cyrenaica.

The British cruiser Galatea is torpedoed by U-557 and sinks off Alexandria.

The few surviving B-17s in the Philippines are withdrawn to Australia.

The Japanese, after attempting to secure the surrender of the British forces at Hong Kong, begin an artillery and aerial bombardment of the besieged island.

December 16, 1941

Japanese forces land at Sarawak and Brunei in Borneo. Landings are also made on the eastern coast of Malaya on Penang Island.

December 17, 1941

British and Indian troops in northern Malaya begin to retreat as Japanese forces press their forward in the Penang area.

Manstien’s 11th Army launches major attacks against the Crimean fortress city of Sevastopol.

December 18, 1941

Hitler accepts the resignation of Field marsh von Brauchitsch as head of the OKH and takes personal command of the eastern armies. He immediately relieves the highly capable von Bock replaces him with the unimaginative but obedient lap dog von Kluge as commander of Army Group Center.

Japanese forces, supported by heavy artillery fire, land on Hong Kong island.

December 19, 1941

In a daring raid, Italian frogmen penetrate the defenses of the port of Alexandria. They are able to plant charges on the British battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant. Queen Elizabeth sank in shallow water, but was able to be re-floated and repaired. Valiant was heavily damaged. Both ships were out of action until 1944.

The British take Dema from Rommel as the British 8th Army continues to advance in Libya.

December 20, 1941

Joseph Gobbles (Ed. Note – the Karl Rove of Nazi Germany) makes a nation wide radio broadcast appealing for winter clothing for the soldiers on the eastern front.

December 21, 1941

Japanese troops begin major landings at Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines. 

A typhus epidemic appears to be sweeping through the German armies of the east.

December 22, 1941  

The main body of the Japanese invasion force completes its landings. The 14th Army, consisting of some 43,000 men are 130 miles north of Manila.

Churchill arrives in Washington for the first wartime conference with Roosevelt.

December 23, 1941

Japanese forces return in strength to Wake Island, this time, they overwhelm the US forces on the island.

Japanese bombers hit Rangoon, Burma.

December 24, 1941

Japanese forces make more landings in Luzon. Pressure by the Japanese 16 Division toward Manila force MacArthur to order the withdrawal to Bataan.

The British aircraft carrier Audacity is torpedoed in the North Atlantic and sunk.

December 25, 1941

The British 11,000-man garrison at Hong Kong is surrendered. More than 2000 Commonwealth troops were killed or MIA while 2300 were wounded in the seven-day siege.

British forces enter Benghazi as the Afrika Korp continues its retreat to El Agheila

Hitler removes one of his most capable generals, Heintz Guderian from command of the 2nd Panzer Army.

The British take the important port of Benghazi as the British 8th Army continues to advance in Libya.

December 26, 1941  

Soviet marines make a landing on the Kerch peninsula in order to relieve the pressure on the Soviet forced defending the besieged city of Sevastopol.

Churchill addresses a joint session of the US congress and receives a warm and heartfelt reception.

Manila was declared an open city as all US and Philippine forces withdrew, blowing up supplies and stores as they went.

December 27, 1941

The British launched Operation Archery, a major commando raid on Vaago and Lofoten Islands off the Norwegian coast.  In the attack, the commandos killed 200 Germans and destroyed five German merchant ships totaling 16,000 tons.

December 28, 1941  

Japanese bombers hit Manila despite the public declaration that the US/Phillipine forces had withdrawn.

Death has become a regular event in Leningrad as starvation begins to take it’s toll. Each day in the city, three to four thousand die for lack of food, or exposure to the cold.

December 29, 1941

Soviet marines make a second landing on the Kerch peninsula, this time near Feodosrya. Both Kerch and Feodosiya were captured by the Soviet marines.

Japanese bombers hit Corregidor Island in Manila Bay for the first time.

December 30, 1941

German forces, threatened with encirclement, hurriedly evacuate the Kerch peninsula.

Soviet forces liberate Kaluga, 90 miles southwest of Moscow.

December 31, 1941

Japanese forces, advancing from the north, are 30 miles from Manila. The last Allied forces in the area are withdrawn.

Attacks against Sevastopol are suspended for the winter in order to stabilize the situation in the Crimea.

In the Moscow area, Kozelsk is recaptured by the advancing Soviets after a 24 day occupation by the Germans.


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