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World War II Database

20 Dec 1941
  • Douglas MacArthur was promoted to the rank of general. ww2dbase [Douglas MacArthur | CPC]
  • German Armeegruppe Mitte reached a defensive line 100 kilometers to its west, where it was to stand and fight in accordance with Adolf Hitler's order after Hitler countermanded Franz Halder and GĂĽnther von Kluge's order to withdraw six days earlier. On the other side of the line, Soviet troops attacked west from Tula, Russia, aiming for the rail and road junction at Kaluga. ww2dbase [Battle of Moscow | TH]
  • Goebbels made the first radio broadcast appealing for winter clothing for troops on the Eastern Front. ww2dbase [Joseph Goebbels | TH]
  • Pilots of the 1st American Volunteer Group, "Flying Tigers", saw their first combat with the Japanese in China. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Japanese troops landed near Davao, Mindanao, Philippine Islands, seizing the nearby airfield. At Cavite in southern Luzon, Lieutenant Colonel J. P. Adams received orders to evacuate his Marines from the area. ww2dbase [Invasion of the Philippine Islands | CPC]
  • US Navy Admiral Ernest King was relieved of command from the Atlantic Fleet and was promoted to the Commander-in-Chief of US Fleets. ww2dbase [Ernest King | CPC]
  • HMS Kandahar was scuttled off the Libyan coast. She was severely damaged after hitting Italian naval mines early on the previous day. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • After holding off the Japanese troops at Wong Nai Chung Gap in central Hong Kong island for a day, Canadian and colonial Chinese troops begin falling back suffering heavy casualties. Out to sea, British motor torpedo boats MTB 12 and MTB 26 were sunk and MTB 7, MTB 11, and MTB 18 were damaged during an attempt to disrupt Japanese landing operations. ww2dbase [Battle of Hong Kong | CPC]
  • Leutnant Fritz Bliesener and Hauptmann Rudolf Kiel of the German Kampfgeschwader 55 wing were awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • USS Permit completed her first war patrol in Philippine waters. ww2dbase [Permit | CPC]
  • Captain Walden Ainsworth assumed command of battleship USS Mississippi. ww2dbase [Mississippi | Walden Ainsworth | DS]
Burma
  • Two RAF Buffalo fighters attacked the Japanese barracks at Victoria Point, Burma near the border with Thailand, inflicting heavy casualties. Meanwhile, in Malaya, Japanese troops attempted to flank the Allied positions on the Perak River while another column marched along the Grik Road. ww2dbase [Invasion of Malaya and Singapore | Victoria Point | AC]
China France Hawaii Japan
  • Submarine tender Taigei was assigned to the Japanese Navy Kure Naval District as Reserve Ship No. 3, and was taken out of service for conversion under the supervision of Captain Tatsuo Kiyama. ww2dbase [Ryuho | Kure, Hiroshima | CPC]
Philippines
  • Nachi provided support for the landings at Davao, Philippine Islands. ww2dbase [Invasion of the Philippine Islands | Nachi | Davao | CPC]
  • USS S-38 entered Camens Cove in the Phlippines Islands to repair damage caused by an explosion of pressue built up in the port engine lubricating oil cooler. ww2dbase [S-38 | CPC]
Russia Singapore
  • British military personnel at the 101st Special Training School in Singapore began training members of the Malayan Communist Party in guerrilla warfare tactics. ww2dbase [Invasion of Malaya and Singapore | Singapore | CPC]
United States
  • While running on the surface off Cape Mendocino, lookouts on Japanese submarine I-17 spotted the 6,900-ton tanker SS Emidio steaming unescorted from Seattle to San Francisco. Emidio’s captain, Clark Farrow, saw the submarine closing for an attack and applied full speed toward Eureka and Humboldt Bay. I-17 gave chase and despite the uneven seas, the submarine’s deck gun was able to land five out of the six shots fired. Emidio came to a stop and ran up a white flag as the crew made for the life boats. A US Navy PBY Catalina patrol plane from Patrol Squadron VP-44 out of Alameda appeared, causing I-17 to make an emergency dive. Despite the presence of the aircraft, I-17 set up for a submerged torpedo attack. Emidio was hit with two torpedoes which sealed her fate. Land-based aircraft arrived and I-17 slipped away. Five Emidio men had been killed and 31 survived. The abandoned ship did not sink, however. She drifted northward and eventually grounded 85 miles away on Steamboat Rock near Crescent City, California. The hulk remained in place until hauled away for scrap in 1959. ww2dbase [Japanese Attacks on the Continental United States | Cape Mendocino, California | CPC]
  • Off Monterey Bay, California, Japanese submarine I-23 stalked the northbound 6,800-ton Richfield Oil tanker SS Agwiworld. I-23 approached the ship for a surface attack. Agwiworld’s captain, Frederick Goncalves, saw the attack developing and steamed directly away from the submarine to present the smallest target profile possible while also fishtailing. I-23 trailed the ship, firing her deck gun as Agwiworld steamed toward land, but I-23’s captain was reluctant to approach the shore. I-23 fired 14 shells at the tanker without scoring a hit. Agwiworld anchored off the pier at Santa Cruz, safe and undamaged. ww2dbase [Japanese Attacks on the Continental United States | Monterey Bay, California | CPC]
  • Japanese submarine I-26 commanded by Cdr Minoru Yokota arrived in her assigned area off the US coast near Seattle, Washington. ww2dbase [Washington | DS]
US Pacific Islands
  • The American garrison at Wake Atoll received its first guest since the start of the Pacific War as a US Navy PBY aircraft arrived from Midway Atoll. The PBY crew brought news that aircraft from Marine Fighter Squadron 221 and men from the 4th Defense Battalion were being prepared to reinforce Wake. ww2dbase [Battle of Wake Island | Wake | CPC]
Photo(s) dated 20 Dec 1941
Light carrier Shoho, Yokosuka, Japan, 20 Dec 1941Soviet troops in the village of Kryukovo near Moscow, Russia, 20 Dec 1941; note disabled German Panzer III tankSoviet officers inspecting captured German troops and weapons, near Moscow, Russia, 20 Dec 1941Wreckage of USS Arizona, 10 Dec 1941. Photo 3 of 3
See all photos dated 20 Dec 1941

20 Dec 1941 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
"I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil."

General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944


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