Today in WW II: 20 Oct 1941 In reprisals for losses to Yugoslavian partisians, Germans troops kill thousands of civilians in Kragujevac and Kraljevo [20-21 Oct].  More 
20 Oct 1944 Philippines invaded by Allies at Leyte, joined by Filipino guerillas.
20 Oct 1944 Gen. Douglas MacArthur Returns to Leyte, Philippine Islands.
20 Oct 1944 Belgrade, Yugoslavia liberated by Russian Red Army aided by Yugoslav Partisans.
Visit the World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

World War II Timeline: 1941

New York Daily News reporting the 7 Dec 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor
New York Daily News reporting the 7 Dec 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

This page presents World War II Timeline events for the year 1941.

Links are provided in the timeline with additional information from pages or relevant books on the event or subject. For additional compilations of the events of World War II, go to one of the recommended time line web sites listed at the bottom of the main WWII Timeline page. If you have other events to suggest, or spot any errors, please contact

5 January British 8th Army [Wavell] captures Bardia in Cyrenaica, Libya taking 45,000 Italian prisoners.
6 January President Franklin Roosevelt gives Four Freedoms address to Congress.
6 January German Luftwaffe launches the first attacks against British convoys bound for Malta in the Mediterranean Sea.
10 January Lend-Lease Act introduced in US Congress.
10 January Soviet-German trade pact signed.
22 January British and Australians capture Tobruk, Libya from the Italians.
29 January American, British & Canadian (ABC) military staffs begin meetings in Washington, DC to coordinate expected US entry into WW II, resulting in the ABC-1 plan [29 Jan - 27 March].
1 February German Navy adds a fourth rotor to the Enigma encryption machine, making it much more difficult to break the code.
1 February USMC Second Marine Division formally activated at San Diego, CA.
1 February United States Navy reorganizes into separate Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, with the Pacific Fleet HQ at Pearl Harbor, HI.
4 February The United Service Organization [USO], a nonprofit, charitable corporation chartered by Congress, is created to entertain American servicemen and women.
6 February Benghazi, Libya falls to the British Western Desert Force.
6 February German Lieutenant-General Erwin Rommel is appointed commander of the Afrika Korps.
8 February US House of Representatives passes the Lend-Lease Act [265 to 165].
9 February British Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeals for arms shipments from the US: "Give us the tools, and we will finish the job".
12 February German Lieutenant-General Erwin Rommel arrives in North Africa to lead the soon to arrive Afrika Korps.
14 February 5th Leichte (Panzer) Division arrived in Tripoli, the first elements of the Afrika Korps.
19 February Luftwaffe's Three Nights' Blitz over Swansea, South Wales devestates the town as incendiary and high explosive bombs cause up to 270 deaths [19-21 Feb].
25 February President Franklin Roosevelt places bans on export of certain materials essential to war production, including beryllium, graphite electrodes, atropine, belladonna, sole and belting leather.
1 March Bulgaria joins the Axis Tripartite Pact.
8 March US Senate passes the Lend-Lease Act [60-31].
11 March The Lend-Lease Act signed by President Roosevelt, opening the way for ever increasing shipments of defense materiel that allies [primarily Britain and Russia] were unable to pay for.
19 March 99th Pursuit Squadron activated at Chanute Field in Rantoul, IL, the unit that became the Tuskegee Airmen.
24 March German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel launches his first offensive in Cyrenaica, Libya.
25 March Kingdom of Yugoslavia signs the Tripartite Pact, joining the Axis powers.
27 March Anti-Axis coup d'etat in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, with British support, forces Prince Paul into exile.
27 March Battle of Cape Matapan began, on Greece's Peloponnesian peninsula. British Commonwealth fleet intercepted and damaged/sank ships of the Italian Navy [March 27-29].
27 March Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa arrives in Honolulu, HI, and begins to study the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
30 March German Afrika Korps under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel begins offensive in N. Africa, recaptures lost territory.
1 April Following a coup by pro-German Iraqi army officers, a pro-Axis regime is set up in Iraq.
2 April German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel starts a successful nine day battle to recapture Libya.
4 April Axis forces capture Benghazi, Libya.
6 April Operation Marita: Germans invade Greece.
6 April Axis armies from Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria invade Yugoslavia; Luftwaffe bombs Belgrade.
9 April In agreement with Denmark, US acquires military defense rights in Greenland, repudiated by Denmark on 12 April.
10 April Destroyer USS Niblack [DD-424] drops depth charges on a German U-Boat, the first American combat action against Germany in WWII.
13 April Belgrade, Yugoslavia's capital, falls to German forces.
13 April Soviets and Japanese sign neutrality pact.
15 April Axis forces reach Halfaya Pass on the Libyan-Egyptian frontier.
16 April Britain receives 1st American Lend-Lease aid shipment across the German submarine-infested Atlantic.
17 April Yugoslav Royal Army surrenders to Nazi Germany.
18 April As German troops approach Athens, the Greek Prime Minister Alexandros Koryzis commits suicide.
19 April British troops sent to Iraq.
22 April American reinforcements arrive in Philippines, 2000 US Army troops.
23 April Greece surrenders to Germany and Italy. British Commonwealth troops along with elements of the Greek Army withdraw to Crete.
27 April German troops enter Athens, Greece.
1 May To fund War Production, Defense Bonds and Defense Savings Stamps go on sale in the United States.
2 May Revolution in Iraq suppressed by British [May 2-31].
5 May Emperor Haile Selassie enters Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, sfter liberation from the Italians.
6 May Bob Hope performs his first USO show, at March Field, Riverside, CA, near Los Angeles.
9 May British Royal Navy captures German submarine U-110, with Enigma cryptography machine onboard.
10 May Savage climax to the Blitz as 507 German aircraft drop 711 tons of bombs on London [10-11 May].
10 May Rudolf Hess files to Scotland [10-11 May].
12 May Konrad Zuse, a German engineer working alone, completed the Z3, later determined to be the first fully operational electromechanical computer. Isolated by WW II, Zuse's work was unknown in the US and UK until after the war.
20 May Germans launch Operation Mercury, the Battle of Crete, the first airborne invasion in history.
24 May Battle of the Denmark Strait: German battleship Bismarck sinks British battlecruiser HMS Hood, flagship of the Home Fleet, killing all but 3 of the 1418 crew.
25 May King George of Greece abandons Crete, relocating to Cairo in a narrow escape from German forces.
27 May After a relentless pursuit by the Royal Navy, German battleship Bismarck sunk.
28 May Blacked out destroyers make daring midnight trips to southern Crete ports, rescuing about 16,000 of the 50,000 British troops who had reached Crete from Greece [28-30 May].
1 June British withdraw from Crete, surrendered to the Germans.
2 June Hitler and Mussolini conferred for five hours at the Brenner pass on axis military and political moves.
5 June During the Bombing of Chongqing, 4000 residents hidden in a bomb shelter tunnel are asphyxiated.
5 June German ammunition depot explodes at Smederevo on the outskirts of Belgrade, Serbia, killing 2,500 and injuring more than 4,500.
8 June British and Free French forces enter Syria in Anglo-French effort to remove the pro-Hitler regime of General Dentz.
14 June Axis financial assets in the US frozen.
14 June Soviet Union conducts mass deportations from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, sending deportees to Siberia.
15 June British launch Battleaxe counteroffensive against Rommel in North Africa [15-17 June] but fail to overcome the Afrika Korps.
16 June On orders from the US Department of State, all consulates, travel and other agencies of Nazi Germany in the US are closed.
18 June Nazi Germany and Turkey sign treaty of friendship.
22 June Croations form the First Sisak Partisan Brigade, the first anti-fascist resistance group in occupied Europe.
22 June Operation Barbarossa, German invasion of the Soviet Union, ends the 1939 'nonaggression' pact.
22 June As the Germans invade the USSR, Germany's allies declare war on the Soviet Union: Italy, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.
22 June Britain promises all possible aid to the Soviet Union as the Germans invade.
25 June Finland attacks the Soviet Union in revenge for earlier Soviet military actions.
28 June As the Germans invade, German ally Albania declares war on the Soviet Union.
2 July Empire of Japan mobilizes, calling 1 million men for military service.
7 July Britain turns over the defense of Iceland to the United States.
8 July Jews living under German occupation in Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania ordered to wear a Jewish Star.
11 July Establishing the first US foreign intelligence organization, Wm. J. Donovan becomes Coordinator of Information, head of the organization renamed OSS in 1942, the predecessor of the post-war CIA.
13 July British-USSR mutual aid pact signed.
14 July Armistice signed by Vichy France government ends fighting in Syria and Lebanon.
15 July Double agent spy Juan Pujol Garcia [nicknamed 'Garbo'] sends his first communique to Germany from Britain.
23 July Original World War II contract for jeeps awarded to Willys with Ford added Nov 1941 to increase production.
26 July Major Gen. Douglas MacArthur, retired US Army Chief of Staff, recalled to active duty, assigned to mobilize the Philippine Army and strengthen the US garrison in the Philippine Islands.
28 July Oil agreement between Japan and Dutch East Indies suspended, part of a general order freezing all Japanese assets, pushing Japan toward war.
28 July Soviet Union agreement with London-based Polish Government-in-exile invalidates the border negotiated with Germany and enlists Poles detained in the USSR for Allied armies.
31 July SS Major General Reinhard Heydrich ordered by Göring to prepare "...a total solution of the Jewish question [Gesamtlösung der Judenfrage]..." in European areas controlled by Germany.
3 August Homefront: Thirteen states on the US eastern seaboard start voluntary gasoline sales curfew from 7PM to 7AM; gasoline consumption did not decrease.
14 August Roosevelt and Churchill meet at sea to agree on war aims, codified in the Atlantic Charter.
21 August President Franklin Roosevelt informs the US Congress on the content of the Atlantic Charter.
25 August British and Russian troops enter Iran [Operation Countenance].
28 August Massive concrete Dneproges Dam and electric plant at Zaporozhyee on the Dnieper River [Dneprostroi Dam] are partially destroyed by retreating Soviet troops to prevent German capture [Operation Barbarossa].
30 August German Lorenz SZ40 teleprinter operator sent a 4,000 character message twice, allowing British mathematician Bill Tutte and others at Bletchley Park to decipher the machine's coding mechanism.
8 September After string of German victories in Russian cities, the 900 day Seige of Leningrad begins [8 Sep 1941 - 27 Jan 1944].
16 September German encirclement of Soviet forces in Kiev completed, to be followed by ruthless German attacks to annihilate the trapped Red Army troops.
19 September Encircled Soviet armies at Kiev finally fall to German attacks after a savage battle; pockets of resistence continue.
26 September Last remnants of Red Army troops from encircled Kiev surrender to German Wehrmacht forces.
27 September SS Patrick Henry, the first Liberty Ship, launched by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore, MD.
29 September First Moscow Conference: US and Britain reassure Stalin of support against Nazi Germany [29 Sep-1 Oct].
2 October Operation Typhoon begins, Germany's all-out offensive against Moscow, leading to Hitler's first important loss.
8 October German Army in southeastern Ukraine, Soviet Union, captures Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov.
12 October Royal Air Force [RAF] mounts large scale overnight raid against Nuremberg, Germany [12-13 Oct].
15 October After stalling at fortifications protecting Moscow from the west, and fighting off Red Army counterattacks, Wehrmacht resumes offensive against the defensive perimeter of Moscow.
16 October Germans and Romanians march into Odessa, following the Soviet evacuation.
16 October Although Stalin remains in Moscow, Soviet government moves east to Kuybyshev [Samara] on the Volga River, where they remain until summer of 1943.
17 October USS Kearny [DD-432] torpedoed but not sunk by German submarine U-568, near Iceland, killing 11 sailors, the first American military casualties of WW II.
18 October General Hideki Tojo becomes the 40th Prime Minister of Japan, serving until 22 July 1944 when he was forced out by the loss of Saipan.
20 October In reprisals for losses to Yugoslavian partisians, Germans troops kill thousands of civilians in Kragujevac and Kraljevo [20-21 Oct].
22 October Delayed bomb set by the Soviets detonates in Romanian headquarters, killing 67 people including the Romanian commander and other Romanian and German officers.
23 October Romanian troops slaughter over 20,000 Jews in the Odessa area, in reprisal for bomb set by Soviets.
29 October Known as the "Great Action" by German troops, over 10,000 Jews are liquidated in the Kovno [Kaunas] Ghetto at the Ninth Fort, Lithuania.
30 October US Pres. Roosevelt approves US$1 billion in Lend-Lease aid to the Soviet Union.
31 October Destroyer USS Reuben James [DD-245] on Lend-Lease convoy escort duty sunk by German submarine U-552 with the loss of 100 of her crew, the first US naval casualty in the yet undeclared war.
10 November To increase production, US Army gives Ford Motor Co. a contract to manufacture the Willys designed jeep.
13 November British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal torpedoed by German submarine U-81 30 nautical miles [56 km] from Gibraltar.
17 November Germans begin assault on Rostov, gateway to the Caucasus; city taken on 21 Nov.
18 November British Eighth Army offensive in Libya, Operation Crusader.
25 November Germans reach outskirts of Moscow but cannot sustain attack; Germans hold positions until Dec 5.
28 November Russians retake Rostov as their counter-attacks force German withdrawal.
4 December German Gen. Rommel abandons the siege of Tobruk, Lybia .
5 December After stubbornly resisting Wehrmacht attacks since 24 Oct 1941, Soviets counterattack at Tula, 120 miles south of Moscow.
5 December Marshal Zhukov launches a major counteroffensive against the Germans, at Kalinin, northwest of Moscow.
7 December Japanese attack US Navy at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, sinking or severely damaging 18 ships: 8 battleships, 3 light cruisers, and 3 destroyers .
7 December Japanese declare war on Britain and United States.
7 December In North Africa, the Afrika Korps fell back to El Agheila, halting their retreat and the British Operation Crusader advance there.
8 December Allies declare war on Japan, without Soviets.
8 December Japanese attack US military in Philippines.
8 December Japanese landings and invasion in Thailand and Malaya.
9 December HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse sunk by Japanese air attacks of Malayan coast.
10 December General Masaharu Homma lands Japanese forces on the Philippine Islands.
11 December Germany and Italy declare war on the United States and US reciprocates.
13 December Hungary and Bulgaria declare war on United States.
16 December Japanese merchant ship Atsutasan Maru sunk by USS Swordfish [SS-193], the first US Navy submarine to sink a Japanese ship in WW II.
16 December Japanese troops land on the island of Borneo, Southeast Asia.
18 December American Volunteer Group starts the Flying Tigers in China.
19 December Adolf Hitler becomes commander-in-chief of the Nazi German army, replacing Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch.
19 December The Selective Service Act is amended to require all American men ages 18 to 64 to register with men 20 to 44 eligible for military service.
20 December Flying Tigers engage in their first air combat, dominating their Japanese counterparts in a battle over Kunming, China.
20 December German Army Group Centre, retreating westward from Moscow, establishes a last ditch defensive line after being pushed back over 100 miles.
21 December Following Japanese invasion on 8 Dec, Thailand signs a military alliance and mutual security pact with Japan.
22 December Japanese land major attack force in Philippines.
22 December Churchill and Roosevelt hold First Washington Conference, the 23-day Arcadia Conference.
23 December 1st American-British war council authorizes Combined Chiefs of Staff, led by Gen. Geo. Marshall, US Army Chief of Staff, and Gen. Brooke, Chief of the British Imperial General Staff.
23 December Under Japanese attack, American and Filipino officials evacuate Manila, Philippines.
24 December After a 16 day battle, Wake Island surrenders to the Japanese, the last American Pacific base between Hawaii and the Philippines.
25 December Japanese capture Hong Kong from British and Canadian forces.
25 December In North Africa, the Allied advance reaches Benghazi and Agebadia.
25 December In the Philippines. the Japanese attacks push US forces back to the Agno River defense line.
25 December Gen. Douglas MacArthur establishes new Headquarters on Corregidor, an island at the entrance to Philippines' Manila Bay.
26 December Winston Churchill becomes the first British Prime Minister to address a joint session of the US Congress.
27 December British Commandos raid the Norwegian port of Vaagso.
30 December Speaking to Parliment in Ottawa, Winston Churchill galvanizes the Canadian population and government toward support of England in the war.
31 December Adm. Chester W. Nimitz took over command of the US Pacific Fleet, part of a post-Pearl Harbor shakeup.