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20 Jan 1942
  • USS S-36 became stuck on Taka Bakang Reef in the Makassar Strait between British Borneo and Celebes, Dutch East Indies at 0400 hours. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • Repair ship Akashi provided repair work for destroyer Inazuma at Davao, Mindanao, Philippine Islands. ww2dbase [Main Article | Tabular Record of Movement | CPC]
  • Transports with US Marines arrived at Pago Pago, American Samoa; they were escorted by carriers Enterprise and Yorktown. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Erwin Rommel received Swords to his Knight's Cross medal. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • Hawker Hurricane fighters, sent as reinforcements to Singapore, shot down eight Japanese bombers from a force of 27 attacking the city. Ground troops had less success, however, as the Indian and Australian retreat from Bakri, Malaya was cut off by the Japanese. Also on this date, more Japanese troops landed at Endau, Malaya. ww2dbase [Main Article | AC]
  • The Japanese advance guard crossed the border into Burma heading for Moulmein. Kawkareik was defended by 16th Indian Brigade under Brigadier J. K. "Jonah" Jones, but was widely dispersed covering the tracks leading to the border 38 miles away. The Japanese first encountered the 1st/7th Gurkha Rifles (who had only arrived on the previous day) near Myawadi. The Gurkhas were quickly outflanked and forced to withdraw. Within forty-eight hours the rest of 16th Infantry Brigade were forced to follow. ww2dbase [Main Article | AC]
  • President Roosevelt suggested to a Cabinet meeting that an air freight and alternative land route be considered for the supply of China - this task to be added to Stilwell's already considerable responsibilities. ww2dbase [Main Article | AC]
  • Major General Commandant Thomas Holcomb became the first lieutenant general in the United States Marine Corps. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • In Russia, Soviet 11th Cavalry Corps attacked from Rzhev towards Vyazma while Soviet 4th Shock Army captured the German supply dumps at Toropets, taking 6 tanks, 723 trucks, artillery pieces with 450,000 shells, small arms with millions of rounds of ammunition, 1,000 drums of fuel, and food. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • American destroyer USS Edsall and Australian minesweeper HMAS Deloraine sank Japanese submarine I-124 with depth charges 60 miles northwest of Darwin, Australia, killing 80. ww2dbase [CPC]
Australian New Guinea
  • Akagi's aircraft carried out strikes against Rabaul, New Britain. ww2dbase [Main Article | Tabular Record of Movement | CPC]
  • Shokaku launched strikes against Rabaul, New Britain. ww2dbase [Main Article | Tabular Record of Movement | CPC]
  • Japanese South Seas Force Transport Fleet ships crossed the Equator en route to Rabaul, New Britain at 0500 hours; it was the first Japanese Army force to cross the Equator in history. At 1214 hours, coast watchers at Tabar north of Rabaul spotted 20 Japanese Zero fighters; 109 carrier aircraft reached Rabaul at 1248 hours, destroying 5 of the 8 remaining Wirraway fighters at Rabaul. Shortly after, 27 Type 97 aircraft of carrier Kaga and a number of Type 99 aircraft from carrier Shokaku and Zuikaku attacked, sinking Norwegian freighter Herstein and coal hulk Westralia, losing only one aircraft in combat (a Type 97 piloted by Petty Officer 1st Class Tatsuya Sugihara) and two during recovery. No. 24 Squadron RAAF was effectively wiped out after the attacks on Rabaul on this day. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
Caroline Islands
  • Tenryu departed Truk, Caroline Islands for the invasion of Kavieng, New Ireland. ww2dbase [Main Article | Tabular Record of Movement | CPC]
  • Tanikaze began escorting carriers from Truk, Caroline Islands toward Rabaul, New Britain, Australian Territory of New Guinea. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • U-576 departed Saint-Nazaire, France, starting her third war patrol. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • SS-Gruppenführer Heydrich hosted the Wannsee Conference at a villa in the suburbs of Berlin, Germany to discuss the Final Solution. ww2dbase [Main Article | Event | CPC]
Photo(s) dated 20 Jan 1942
List of Jewish populations by country used at the Wannsee Conference, 20 Jan 1942

20 Jan 1942 Interactive Map

Timeline Section Founder: Thomas Houlihan
Contributors: Alan Chanter, C. Peter Chen, Thomas Houlihan, Hugh Martyr, David Stubblebine
Special Thanks: Rory Curtis

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Famous WW2 Quote
"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You win the war by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country!"

George Patton, 31 May 1944