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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 GŁnther 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]
  • Japanese submarine I-17 shelled, torpedoed, and sank American tanker Emidio about 25 miles west of Cape Mendocino, California, United States. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Japanese submarine I-23 shelled unarmed American tanker Agwiworld off the coast of California, United States. ww2dbase [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]
  • 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 | AC]
  • Fighters of the 1st and 2nd Squadrons of the American Volunteer Group intercepted 10 Japanese bombers over Kunming, Yunnan, China, shooting down 9 bombers while losing 1 P-40 fighter. ww2dbase [Bombing of Shanghai, Chongqing, and other Cities | CPC]
  • US Navy Task Force 8 with USS Enterprise departed from Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii for waters between Johnston Island and Midway. ww2dbase [Enterprise | CPC]
  • US Navy battleships Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Tennessee, damaged during the attack earlier in the month, departed Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii for shipyards on the west coast of the United States. ww2dbase [Pearl Harbor Navy Base and Ford Island Naval Air Station | Pennsylvania | CPC]
  • 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 | CPC]
Philippines Russia
  • Allied convoy PQ-6 arrived at Murmansk, Russia. ww2dbase [Arctic Convoys | CPC]
  • 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 | CPC]
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 | CPC]
Photo(s) dated 20 Dec 1941
Light carrier Shoho, Yokosuka, Japan, 20 Dec 1941A destroyed Japanese B5N torpedo bomber, flown by Lieutenant Mimori Suzuki of carrier Kaga, being recovered by the Americans in US Territory of Hawaii, 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 1941
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
"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us... they can't get away this time."

Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal