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20 May 1942
  • Light carrier Hosho was assigned toe the Main Body Air Force of the 1st Fleet. ww2dbase [Main Article | Tabular Record of Movement | CPC]
  • Japanese submarine I-68 was renamed I-168. ww2dbase [Main Article | Tabular Record of Movement | CPC]
  • Tatsuta Maru departed Manila, Philippine Islands. ww2dbase [Main Article | Tabular Record of Movement | CPC]
  • American submarine USS S-39 conducted a reconnaissance mission at the Deboyne Islands north of New Guinea. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • USS Pollack sank two small boats with her deck gun off Kyushu, Japan. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • Japanese troops completed the conquest of Burma. All Allied troops previously under the command of William Slim (who was transferred to Indian XV Corps) were reassigned to the British IV Corps, thus dissolving the Burma Corps. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • US Navy Rear Admiral John S. McCain was named Commander, Air, South Pacific; in this position he directed operations of tender-based and land-based aircraft in the South Pacific. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • German submarine U-155 damaged Panamanian freighter Sylvan Arrow (of the Standard Oil and Transportation Company) 40 miles southwest of Grenada, killing 1 of 44 aboard; there would be an attempt to tow her back to port, but she would ultimately sink before she reached port. 60 kilometers west of Havana, Cuba, German submarine U-753 sank American liberty ship George Calvert with three torpedoes; 10 of 61 aboard were killed during the attack, and 3 survivors were killed while being captured by the Germans; the survivors of George Calvert were freed after interrogation and sent to Cuba on lifeboats. Also on this date in the Gulf of Mexico, U-506 sank US tanker Halo 50 kilometers south of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, killing 21 of 42 aboard; all but 3 of the survivors would not live before being rescued. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • US Marine Corps airfield Cunningham Field was commissioned into service in North Carolina, United States. It would later be known as Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • German submarine U-108 sank Norwegian tanker Norland 500 miles east of Bermuda; all 48 aboard survived. Also in the middle of the North Atlantic, U-158 sank British tanker Darina, killing 6 of 56 aboard. In the South Atlantic, German armed merchant cruiser Michel stopped Norwegian ship Kattegat at 1845 hours, captured the crew of 32, and sank the ship. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
  • Admiral Henry Harwood succeeded Sir Andrew Cunningham as Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean. ww2dbase [AC]
Egypt
  • German submarine U-431 sank British ship Eocene 10 miles off Sollum, Egypt; all 43 aboard survived. ww2dbase [CPC]
Germany
  • Alexander Löhr was mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht daily radio report. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
Hawaii
  • The Japanese, having intercepted the fake message regarding Midway Atoll's water distiller breaking down, reported to the invasion fleet the news and advised the fleet to take on additional supplies of fresh water. This message was intercepted by the US Navy radio intelligence team at Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii, and it allowed the US to confirm that the target of the next Japanese offensive was indeed Midway Atoll. In response, US Navy and Marine Corps dispatched reinforcements to Midway Atoll and the Aleutian Islands in expectation of an assault. On the same day, US Navy intelligence also intercepted a Japanese message containing the order of battle for the Midway Atoll and Aleutian Islands assaults; this message would be decrypted over the next several days. ww2dbase [Main Article | Facility | CPC]
Japan Ukraine
  • German 6th Army and 1st Panzer Army captured Protopopovka, Ukraine, further threatening the Soviet troops at Izium with encirclement. The Soviets continued to make break out attempts, but they were frustrated by German aircraft. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
United Kingdom
  • Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet Minister for Foreign Affairs, met with Winston Churchill in London, England, United Kingdom and demanded to be told the date of the Second Front when British troops would again land in Europe. Churchill tried to explain that the time was not appropriate for an attack against fortress Europe (Dunkirk was still fresh in his mind and he had no desire to repeat the performance) until Britain was strong enough in arm, men and assault craft for such an ambitious operation. Angrily Molotov declared that he was not satisfied with Churchill's excuses and threatened to come to terms with the Germans unless the Allies came to the assistance of the Soviet Union immediately. ww2dbase [Main Article | AC]
United States
  • USS S-28 departed San Diego, California, United States. ww2dbase [Main Article | CPC]
Photo(s) dated 20 May 1942
German SS troops at Kharkov, Ukraine, May 1942Dead American soldiers on the Bataan death march, 1942American soldiers resting during the Bataan death march, May 1942, photo 1 of 3American soldiers resting during the Bataan death march, May 1942, photo 2 of 3
See all photos dated 20 May 1942

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

20 May 1942 Interactive Map




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Famous WW2 Quote
"The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years."

James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945