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1941 WW2 Events Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 11/3/2014

The year saw Germany open its Second Front as it invaded the Soviet Union while Japan formally invited the United States into the war by way of Pearl Harbor.

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There are a total of 150 1941 WW2 Events Timeline. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence.

1941
Wednesday
January 22nd

The Allies take Tobruk, a key port city vital to North Africa operations.

1941
Wednesday
January 22nd

Operation Compass is effectively over, netting some 130,000 total Italian prisoners.

1941
Tuesday
March 11th

The Lend-Lease Bill is signed into law by American President Franklin Roosevelt allowing the United States the unrestricted ability to help supply the Allies in their fight against the Axis.

1941
Monday
March 24th

Rommel begins his attack near El Agheila.

1941
Tuesday
March 25th

Prince Paul of Yugoslavia offers his allegiance to the Axis, signing the Tripartite Pact.

1941
Wednesday
March 26th

In Berlin, Hitler reportedly tells his high level officers "I have decided to destroy Yugoslavia".

1941
Thursday
March 27th

Prince Paul of Yugoslavia is forceably removed from power via a coup led by Bora Mirkovic and Dusan Simovic. Simovic is installed as the new ruler of Yugoslavia and quickly makes an effort to break Yugoslavia's commitment to the Tripartite Pact with the Axis.

1941
Tuesday
April 1st

The German port of Emden is bombed by six Wellington bomber aircraft.

1941
Wednesday
April 2nd

Rommel's forces reach Agedabia.

1941
Wednesday
April 2nd

Under the direction of German Navy Grand-Admiral Raeder, Operation Rheinubung is fleshed out. The operation calls for direct hit-and-run engagements with British merchant shipping across the Atlantic.

1941
Sunday
April 6th

Operation Marita - the dual Germany invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia - is put into action. Twenty-four total divisions are involved, including some 1200 tanks.

1941
Sunday
April 6th

Rommel reaches Mechili.

1941
Monday
April 7th

Rommel reaches Derna.

1941
Tuesday
April 8th

A massive German bombing raid on the Yugoslavian capital city of Belgrade nets over 300,000 civilian casualties.

1941
Tuesday
April 8th

229 RAF bomber aircraft rain 40,000 incendiary ordnance on the German naval base at Kiel.

1941
Wednesday
April 9th

The German Army moves on and captures the strategic port city of Salonika.

1941
Wednesday
April 9th

The German 12th Army encircles and defeats the Greek defensive line known as the "Metaxas Line".

1941
Thursday
April 10th - April 16th

Three divisions of British, Australian and New Zealand troops at the Aliakmon Line in the Vermion Mountains are defeated.

1941
Thursday
April 10th

The first US combat action against Germany occurs - this being the USS Niblack destroyer firing on a marauding German U-boat violating the US security zone.

1941
Saturday
April 12th

Vermion Line Allied troops are now redeployed to defensive positions around Mount Olympus.

1941
Saturday
April 12th

German forces launching from Romania, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria along with an Italian contigent from Albania capture and secure the Yugoslavian capital of Belgrade.

1941
Monday
April 14th

The German Army destroys Yugoslavian forces at Monistar Gap, clearing a path into Greece. Greece units fighting in Albania are effectively cut off.

1941
Wednesday
April 16th

Allied forces in Greece are in full retreat at the request of Greek General Alexander Papagos who sees value is less fighting to save his country from total destruction. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill accepts the request.

1941
Thursday
April 17th

Yugoslavian leadership, along with the army, surrenders to the Germans.

1941
Sunday
April 20th

The Greek Army surrenders to the Germans and Italians.

1941
Friday
April 25th

Fuhrer Directive No.28 is issued by Adolph Hitler, calling for the invasion of the island of Crete through Operation Mercury led by General Kurt Student.

1941
Saturday
April 26th

Allied codebreakers intercept word of the impending German invasion of Crete.

1941
Saturday
April 26th

German airborne elements attempt to capture the bridge over the Corinth Canal in an attempt to encircle the retreating allies. The bridge is lost in the attack while the Allies have already moved on.

1941
Sunday
April 27th - April 30th

Operation Demon is activated, covering the evacuation of some 51,000 Allied troops from southern Greece via the Royal Navy.

1941
Sunday
April 27th

Axis forces officially occupy Athens, effectively signaling the end of Greek resistance.

1941
Wednesday
April 30th

Allied forces based on Crete receive a new leader in the form of Major-General Bernard Freyberg.

1941
Friday
May 9th

HMS Bulldog acquires the first Enigma code machine during the capture of the U-110. British codebreakers set to work on deciphering the device.

1941
Thursday
May 15th

The British launch Operation Brevity against Rommel's dug-in forces, making little progress against the prepared defenders.

1941
Monday
May 19th

Allied codebreakers intercept word that Operation Mercury will commence the very next day. The Allies begin preparations.

1941
Monday
May 19th

In advance of the Crete invasion, RAF fighters are relocated to Egypt for safe-keeping.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

Between 1:30 and 2:00 PM, the second wave of German airborne troops take off from Greece towards drop zones in Crete.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

The first day of the German invasion of Crete sees little progress as many strategic positions are not under German control yet.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

At about 2:00 PM, the second wave of German paratroops land around Heraklion and Rethymnon.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

In-air losses for the second wave of German paratroopers is nearly equal to the first thanks to the stellar Allied flak defenses on Crete.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

At least 500 Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft are utilized in the first wave of airdrops over Crete.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

At approximately 7:00 AM, the first German airborne troops land at locations near Maleme and Khania.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

Allied flak teams destroy as many as 50% of the invading German transport planes in the first few hours of the operation.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

The German heavy cruiser KMS Prinz Eugen and the battleship KMS Bismarck leave port for the North Sea.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

Operation Mercury is officially launched.

1941
Wednesday
May 21st

In an effort to beef up Royal Navy presence in the North Sea, the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious and the battlecruiser HMS Repulse are called to action in support of existing forces under the command of Admiral Sir John Tovey.

1941
Wednesday
May 21st

A German offensive against Heraklion is pushed away by at least 8,000 dug-in Allied soldiers.

1941
Wednesday
May 21st

German Army troops making their way to Crete via the sea are intercepted and pummeled by elements of the Royal Navy. Just 60 of these German soldiers live to see another day.

1941
Wednesday
May 21st

The British Navy is notified of the increase in German warship activity in the North Sea.

1941
Thursday
May 22nd

New Zealand troops are repelled from an attempt to retake the airfield at Maleme from the Germans.

1941
Thursday
May 22nd

A hunter-killer group of 14 Royal Navy ships, including the battleships HMS King George V, HMS Hood and the HMS Prince of Wales, leave Scapa Flow.

1941
Thursday
May 22nd

The HMS Greyhound, a British destroyer, is downed by German bombers.

1941
Friday
May 23rd

At 7:22 PM, the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Suffolk and the HMS Norfolk spot and shadow the mighty German battleship Bismarck. Its location is radioed in to Vice-Admiral L. E. Holland.

1941
Friday
May 23rd

German dive bombers destroy the HMS Gloucester and the HMS Fiji, two Royal Navy cruisers.

1941
Friday
May 23rd

German dive bombers destroy the HMS Kelly and HMS Kashmir, two Royal Navy destroyers.

1941
Saturday
May 24th

At 5:52 AM, the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen fall under attack from Royal Navy ships.

1941
Saturday
May 24th

The HMS Suffolk loses track of the KMS Bismarck.

1941
Saturday
May 24th

At 6:00 AM, the Bismarck fires a salvo at the battleship HMS Hood, striker her ammunition magazine, with the resulting explosion destroying the British ship leaving only three sailors alive.

1941
Saturday
May 24th

At 6:13 AM, the battleship Prince of Wales is damaged enough to pull out of the battle.

1941
Sunday
May 25th

German Admiral Lutjens orders that the Prinz Eugen break from the Bismarck.

1941
Monday
May 26th

A British Coastal Command PBY Catalina flying boat spots the KMS Bismarck 700 miles from Brest.

1941
Monday
May 26th

Royal Navy ships open fire with their long range guns and close in on their prey.

1941
Monday
May 26th

The Royal Navy hunter-killer group receives some help with the arrival of the HMS Renown, HMS Sheffield and the HMS Ark Royal arriving from Gibraltar.

1941
Monday
May 26th

At 2:50 PM, an attack group from the HMS Ark Royal consisting of Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers begins their attack on the Bismarck.

1941
Monday
May 26th

Between 8:47 and 9:25 PM, the Bismarck registers two direct torpedo hits. In a stroke of luck for the British, the second torpedo hits the stern section of the Bismarck, jamming her rudder to one side, forcing the vessel to go into an uncontrolled turn.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

At 8:47 AM, the Bismarck is now being raked from front to rear by the guns of the Royal Navy warships. The battleship HMS King George V and the HMS Rodney unleash their short range armament on the hapless German ship.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

At 10:00 AM, the Bismarck's guns fall silent s she takes on water and burns.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

At 10:36 AM, the mighty German battleship Bismarck sinks into blue depths, leaving only 115 German sailors to recount her story.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

The German Army takes Heraklion and her all-important airfield.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

Allied forces retreat to defensive positions at Galatas.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

The first escorted convoy - HX129 - crosses the Atlantic.

1941
Wednesday
May 28th

Heraklion in the north and Sphakia in the south of Crete will serve as major evacuation junctions for the Allies.

1941
Wednesday
May 28th

The evacuation order is given by Major-General Freyberg for the gradual withdrawel of Allied troops from the island of Crete.

1941
Friday
May 30th

The brave defense of Rethymnon by Australian soldiers finally falters under intense pressure from the German Army.

1941
Saturday
May 31st

By this date, Crete is firmly entrenched under German rule.

1941
Sunday
June 22nd

Operation Barbossa is put into effect - the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

1941
Sunday
June 29th

General Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 meets General Hoth's Panzergruppe 3 in Minsk.

1941
Sunday
June 29th

Russian army forces are encirlced at key cities across the Soviet Union.

1941
Tuesday
July 1st

Panzergruppe 2 and Panzergruppe 3 cross the Berezina River west of Minsk, heading towards Smolensk and Vitebsk.

1941
Thursday
July 3rd

Panzergruppe 2 and Panzergruppe 3 now form up as part of General Gunther von Kluge's 4th Panzer Army.

1941
Wednesday
July 9th

Panzergruppe 3 continues north to Vitebsk.

1941
Wednesday
July 9th

Soviet defenses at Brest-Litovsk, Bialystok, Volkovysk, Gorodishche and Minsk fall to the invading German Army.

1941
Wednesday
July 9th

Gurderian's army moves south towards Mogliev.

1941
Thursday
July 10th

Guderian's forces cross the Dniepr River 50 miles outside of Smolensk.

1941
Sunday
July 13th

Defenses across Smolensk are prepared under the direction of the Soviet 16th Army.

1941
Sunday
July 13th

The Soviet 19th Army makes its way into Smolensk.

1941
Sunday
July 13th

The Soviet 20th Army arrives in Smolensk.

1941
Wednesday
July 16th

Smolensk falls to the German 29th Motorized Division.

1941
Wednesday
July 16th

Panzergruppe 3 heads towards Yartsevo.

1941
Wednesday
July 16th

Marshal Timoshenko and his 4th and 13th Armies near the Sohz River counterattack the Germans at Smolensk.

1941
Thursday
July 17th

The German Army begins to tighten the noose around the encircled Soviet forces numbering some 25 divisions.

1941
Saturday
July 19th

A German High Command directive calls for the army to complete the destruction of Soviet forces around Smolensk and then head south to tackle forces in Kiev instead of marching on Moscow herself - this decision is viewed as the turning point to Germany's defeat in Russia.

1941
Tuesday
July 22nd

A Soviet offensive meant to break the German stranglehold fails due to poor coordination.

1941
Tuesday
July 22nd

The German Army begins to encircled in Soviet Army pockets held up outside of Smolensk, Vitebsk and Mogilev.

1941
Tuesday
July 22nd

The Soviet counterattack at Smolensk is driven back by Guderian's forces.

1941
Thursday
July 24th

The German encirclement of Soviet forces is completed.

1941
Tuesday
August 5th

300,000 Soviet prisoners, 3,200 tanks and 3,100 artillery guns are captured by the Germans at Smolensk.

1941
Tuesday
August 5th

The Soviet defense of Smolensk is obliterated and falls taking with it the end of the Soviet 16th and 20th Armies.

1941
Tuesday
August 5th

The drive to Smolensk nets a total of 600,000 Russian prisoners of war, 5,700 tanks and 4,600 artillery pieces.

1941
Thursday
August 21st

The first Royal Navy convoy on its way to deliver supplies through Arctic waters into the Soviet Union leaves Scapa Flow comprised of 7 ships.

1941
Sunday
August 31st

A report stuns the RAF by showcasing how only one-in-every-three RAF bombers actually it their targets.

1941
Sunday
August 31st

The first seven-ship Royal Navy convoy arrives in Russia without incident, bringing with her supplies and Hawker Hurricane fighters.

1941
Monday
September 1st

German Army elements begin the shelling of Leningrad.

1941
Monday
September 15th

Finnish forces, siding with the Germans, now control the Karelian isthmus, covering Leningrad from both sides.

1941
Monday
September 15th

The Germans now control the southern end of Leningrad, cutting its citizens off from the rest of the Soviet Union.

1941
Monday
September 15th

The Soviet fortress at Shlusselburg southeast of Leningrad falls to the Germans.

1941
Thursday
September 25th

The Crimea finds itself cutoff from the rest of the Soviet Union by German Army forces made up of German Army Group South.

1941
Friday
September 26th - November 26th

Over the course of two months, Soviet Major-General I.Y. Pretov and his band of 32,000 Independent Maritime Army soldiers set up a vast network of defenses at the fortress in Sevastopol. The defense consists of three well-defended rings.

1941
Wednesday
October 1st - December 31st

As rations begin to run out in the encircled city of Leningrad, its citizens begin to starve.

1941
Sunday
November 9th

The Germans take the supply line route of Tikhvin, located east of Schlusselburg.

1941
Sunday
November 16th

By this date, Lieutenant-General von Manstein and his German 11th Army take most of Crimea with the exception of Sevastapol.

1941
Wednesday
November 26th

The Japanese naval fleet leaves home port and heads to Hawaii.

1941
Friday
December 5th

The Soviets launch a full-scale counter-attack along a 500-mile front encompassing 19 Russian armies against Field Marshal von Bock's German Army Group Centre near Moscow.

1941
Saturday
December 6th

An attack against America is now deemed imminent though the consensus being that it will occur against interests somehwere in Southeast Asia.

1941
Saturday
December 6th

No fewer than 17 German motorized divisions retreat from the Soviet advance.

1941
Saturday
December 6th

The Soviet 31st Army cuts 12 miles into the German lines.

1941
Saturday
December 6th

American President Franklin Roosevelt sends a final peace appeal to the Empire of Japan to which there is no answer.

1941
Saturday
December 6th

American codebreakers begin tracking down a multi-part message - made up of 14 total components. Only the first 13 are actually deciphered, each being passed on to the President and the Secretary of State.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

At approximately 7:15AM, the second wave of 167 Japanese Navy planes takes off from their carriers towards Pearl.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

At 7:02AM, the Japanese attack wave is located on American radar by two US Army personnel who bring it to the attention of a junior officer. The officer, expecting a flight of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses to arrive that day, disregards the alert.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

At 6:00AM, the first wave of 183 Japanese Navy aircraft takes off from their carriers, just north of Oahu, to make the 230 mile trek. The target is the US Pacific Fleet.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

The Imperial Japanese Navy attack commences with their assault. The force is made up of 423 aircraft and converges on the Hawaiian Islands.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

It is discovered that communication lines from Washington to Hawaii are down for the moment, forcing the US War Department to use a commercial telegraph service to warn forces on the Hawaiian Islands.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

At 7:53AM, complete surprise by the Japanese Navy and the first wave begins their initial strike. This force is made up of 50 medium bombers, 43 A6M Zero fighters and 40 Kate torpedo bombers. Targets are the battleships hunkered down in the harbor and airfields used by the USAAF.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

The second wave of Japanese Navy aircraft swoops in attacking targets of opportunity including auxiliary ships in the harbor and the all-important harbor facilities.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

The attack on Pearl Harbor is over at 9:45AM. Over 2,400 people are killed and a further 1,178 are wounded. More die in the ensuing days while 1,104 sailors eventually perish within the hull of the battleship USS Arizona, its magazine stores ignited by a single Japanese bomb.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

At 2:30PM Eastern Time, the Japanese diplomats in Washington finally visit with US Secretary of State Cordell Hull. With them is the Japanese declaration of war.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

In conjunction with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Wake Island is assaulted by a Japanese invasion force all its own - this under the command of Rear-Admiral Kajioka Sadamichi.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

At 9AM, the final Japanese message is broken down. It essentially directs its Washington envoy to break off diplomatic relations with America.

1941
Sunday
December 7th

At approximately 10AM, a follow-up message is intercepted - meant for the Japanese diplomats in Washington - to delay handling of the previous message to the Americans until 1PM. The Americans now understand that an attack is imminent and the target is the US Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor.

1941
Monday
December 8th

The United States, along with Britain, formally declare war on the Empire of Japan.

1941
Tuesday
December 9th - December 13th

General Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 is cut off from General Kluge's 4th Army.

1941
Wednesday
December 10th

The Soviets retake the town of Tikhvin.

1941
Wednesday
December 10th

The Soviet supply route is restarted across frozen Lake Lagoda.

1941
Wednesday
December 10th

Along the north of Luzon - at Aparri, Gonzago and Vigan - two large Japanese Army forces land via amphibious assault.

1941
Thursday
December 11th

As expected, Germany and Italy side with Japan and officially declare war on the United States

1941
Friday
December 12th

The airfields at Laoang and Tuguegarao fall to the Japanese invaders.

1941
Tuesday
December 16th

Amid the mounting pressures and expectations of his superiors back in Germany, Field Marshal von Bock requests reassignment away from Army Group Centre.

1941
Wednesday
December 17th

Lieutenant-General von Manstein launches a major offensive against the Soviet soldiers holed up in the Sevastopol fortress.

1941
Wednesday
December 17th

Field Marshal von Kluge is tapped to replace Field Marshal von Bock as leader of Army Group Centre.

1941
Monday
December 22nd

The Japanese 48th Division lands at Lingayen Bay on Luzon.

1941
Tuesday
December 23rd

Despite an out-numbered yet heroic resistance on the part of American forces, Wake Island falls to the Japanese.

1941
Tuesday
December 23rd

MacArthur's forces are cut-off from further retreat by a Japanese Army force advancing from the south.

1941
Tuesday
December 23rd

The American military detachment at Wake Island surrenders. During their stand, the Americans accounted for at least 1,000 Japanese casualties and 4 Japanese navy warships.

1941
Tuesday
December 23rd

The order is given by American General Douglas MacArthur to retreat from Luzon and take up positions on the Bataan Peninsula.

1941
Thursday
December 25th

The Japanese 48th Division makes substantial progress against American forces, working their way towards the capital city of Manila.

1941
Friday
December 26th

Soviet naval forces land army troops near Kerch.

1941
Friday
December 26th

Manstein's offensive gains substantial ground, piercing the first two Soviet defensive rings.

1941
Saturday
December 27th

The Philippine capital city of Manila eventually falls to the invading Japanese Army.

1941
Sunday
December 28th

In the face of growing Soviet Army opposition, von Manstein calls off his offensive on Sevastopol.

1941
Sunday
December 28th

More Soviet forces land near Kerch via amphibious transports, bolstering Red Army power in the area.

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