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21 Dec 1941
  • Former luxury ocean liner Hikawa Maru completed her conversion into a Japanese Navy hospital ship. ww2dbase [Hikawa Maru | CPC]
  • Isopescu, the Romanian governor of Golta, Transnistria, Romania (now Pervomaisk, Ukraine), ordered the execution of Jews at Bogdanovka Concentration Camp. 4,000 Jews were moved into cow sheds then burned alive. An unknown number of Jews were marched into a ravine and executed by gunfire in the following four days. The massacre ended in the evening of 24 Dec 1941. ww2dbase [Discovery of Concentration Camps and the Holocaust | CPC]
  • US submarines based in Manila in the Philippine Islands withdrew to Surabaya, Java. ww2dbase [Invasion of the Philippine Islands | CPC]
  • General Wavell arrived in Rangoon, Burma already aware that most of the promised reinforcements had already been diverted to Malaya. Wavell still entertained hopes of receiving the two East African Brigades from Kenya and most of the 17th Indian Division (Major-General J. H. "Jackie" Smyth VC). When the American Lieutenant General George H. Brett arrived in Rangoon on his way to visit Chiang at Chongqing, Wavell decided to go too, telling his chief of staff, Thomas Hutton, to take over from the GOC Burma (Major General D. K. McLeod) whose proposed replacement had been taken sick. ww2dbase [Archibald Wavell | AC]
  • A Japanese submarine fired star shells over Sand Island, Johnson Atoll. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • While Canadian and colonial Chinese troops completed the withdraw from Wong Nai Chung Gap in central Hong Kong island, order began to crumble as panic built up rapidly. On the same day, Japanese aircraft sank British river gunboat HMS Cicala, killing 1 and wounding 1. ww2dbase [Battle of Hong Kong | CPC]
  • Dutch submarine K XVII struck a mine and sank 18 miles north of Tioman Island while exiting the Gulf of Siam; all 36 aboard were killed. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • German submarine U-567 attacked Allied convoy HG-76, en route between Gibraltar and Britain, 500 miles west of Cape Finisterre, Portugal at 1923 hours, sinking Norwegian ship Annavore; 34 were killed, 4 survived. During the counterattack, a merchant ship fired a flare in an attempt to visually find the attacker, but the flare was used by German submarine U-741at 2137 hours to spot and sink escort carrier HMS Audacity; 73 were killed, 407 survived. At 2230 hours, U-567 attacked again, but she was discovered by sloop HMS Deptford and corvette HMS Samphire, which jointly sank the submarine with depth charges, killing all 47 aboard. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • German submarine U-451 was sunk by a Swordfish aircraft of British No. 812 Squadron off Morocco; 44 were killed, 1 survived. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Soviet 31st Cavalry Division attacked Kaluga near Moscow, Russia. ww2dbase [Battle of Moscow | CPC]
  • Allied troops pursued retreating Axis units toward Beda Fomm, Libya. ww2dbase [Operation Crusader | CPC]
  • USS Stingray detected the Japanese invasion fleet sailing from Taiwan toward the Philippine Islands at 1313 hours, but did not attack. ww2dbase [Stingray | CPC]
  • USS Seal sank Japanese cargo ship Hayataka Maru off Vigan, Luzon island, Philippine Islands. ww2dbase [Seal | CPC]
  • Yamato departed Kure, Japan for Hiroshima Bay, Inland Sea and anchored west of battleship Nagato at Hashirajima island in Hiroshima Bay. ww2dbase [Yamato | Kure, Hiroshima | CPC]
  • Having seen previous success with the same tactic on a smaller scale, Japanese launched a large number of rafts down the Perak River toward Kuala Kangsar, Malaya in an attempt to bypass nearby roadblocks; casualties were heavy, but the Japanese troops were able to establish a bridgehead downstream, causing the British to abandon the Perak River positions and to fall back. ww2dbase [Invasion of Malaya and Singapore | Perak | CPC]
  • Germans and Italians increased air attacks on Malta. ww2dbase [Malta Campaign | TH]
Pacific Ocean
  • Tanikaze covered carriers Hiryu and Soryu in the central Pacific Ocean. ww2dbase [Tanikaze | CPC]
  • USS S-38 attempted to attack the Japanese invasion fleet in the Lingayen Gulf in western Luzon, Philippine Islands at 0710, but all four torpedoes missed. At 0758 hours, she attacked again, sinking freighter Hayo Maru at 0758 hours. ww2dbase [S-38 | Lingayen Gulf | CPC]
  • Thailand and Japan entered into a military alliance. ww2dbase [CPC]
United States
  • The US Marine Corps 1st Marine Aircraft Wing arrived at San Diego, California, United States; the unit had previously been based in Quantico, Virginia, United States. ww2dbase [San Diego, California | CPC]
US Pacific Islands
  • The US Navy PBY aircraft which had arrived at Wake Atoll on the previous day departed with passengers; these passengers would be the last US personnel to leave the atoll. During the day, 29 Japanese carrier aircraft from Soryu and Hiryu attack the island, followed by 33 land-based aircraft four hours later, damaging Battery D on Peale Island. Meanwhile, American intelligence indicated a large Japanese air force build-up in the Marshall Islands and a possible Japanese fleet present east of Wake Atoll, the latter of which seriously threatened the attempts to reinforce Wake. ww2dbase [Battle of Wake Island | Wake | CPC]
Photo(s) dated 21 Dec 1941
Carrier Kaga as seen in US War Department Basic Field Manual FM 30-58, published on 21 Dec 1941

21 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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