Events of 1941 - WW2 Timeline (January 1st - December 31st, 1941)


The year saw Germany open its 'Second Front' by invading the Soviet Union while Japan formally invited the United States to war through the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Two crucial events occurred in 1941 that would have a profound impact on the war for the Axis powers - the Germans turned their attention to the Soviets in the east and the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This spurred both powers to gear up for a long war as patriotism reigned supreme in those days. The effects of these events would, however, not be felt until 1943 when the Allied war machine finally began to fulfill demand in arms, manpower and firepower.


There are a total of (171) Events of 1941 - WW2 Timeline (January 1st - December 31st, 1941) events in the Second World War timeline database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events may also be included for perspective.





Tuesday, March 11th, 1941

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.
Thursday, April 10th, 1941

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.
Friday, May 9th, 1941

HMS Bulldog acquires the first Enigma code machine during the capture of the U-110. British codebreakers set to work on deciphering the device.
Tuesday, May 27th, 1941

The first escorted convoy - HX129 - crosses the Atlantic.
Wednesday, November 26th, 1941

The Japanese naval fleet leaves home port and heads to Hawaii.
Saturday, December 6th, 1941

American President Franklin Roosevelt sends a final peace appeal to the Empire of Japan to which there is no answer.
Saturday, December 6th, 1941

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.
Saturday, December 6th, 1941

An attack against America is now deemed imminent though the consensus being that it will occur against interests somehwere in Southeast Asia.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

At 9AM, the final Japanese message is broken down. It essentially directs its Washington envoy to break off diplomatic relations with America.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

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.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

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.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

The Imperial Japanese Navy attack commences with their assault. The force is made up of 423 aircraft and converges on the Hawaiian Islands.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

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.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

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.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

At approximately 7:15AM, the second wave of 167 Japanese Navy planes takes off from their carriers towards Pearl.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

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.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

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.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

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.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

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.
Monday, December 8th, 1941

The United States, along with Britain, formally declare war on the Empire of Japan.
Thursday, December 11th, 1941

As expected, Germany and Italy side with Japan and officially declare war on the United States
Wednesday, December 10th, 1941

Along the north of Luzon - at Aparri, Gonzago and Vigan - two large Japanese Army forces land via amphibious assault.
Friday, December 12th, 1941

The airfields at Laoang and Tuguegarao fall to the Japanese invaders.
Monday, December 22nd, 1941

The Japanese 48th Division lands at Lingayen Bay on Luzon.
Thursday, December 25th, 1941

The Japanese 48th Division makes substantial progress against American forces, working their way towards the capital city of Manila.
Tuesday, December 23rd, 1941

The order is given by American General Douglas MacArthur to retreat from Luzon and take up positions on the Bataan Peninsula.
Tuesday, December 23rd, 1941

MacArthur's forces are cut-off from further retreat by a Japanese Army force advancing from the south.
Tuesday, December 23rd, 1941

Despite an out-numbered yet heroic resistance on the part of American forces, Wake Island falls to the Japanese.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941

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.
Tuesday, December 23rd, 1941

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.
Saturday, December 27th, 1941

The Philippine capital city of Manila eventually falls to the invading Japanese Army.
Thursday, January 2nd, 1941

The U.S. government commits to construction of some 200 merchant ships to support the Allied cause in the Atlantic.
Wednesday, January 15th, 1941

The Australian Army begins actions against the Italians in Libya.
Wednesday, January 29th, 1941

High level talks between the British and the Americans results in strengthening ties for the nations in the event of an American declaration of war with Germany.
Wednesday, January 29th, 1941

British forces take on Italian positions in Kenya.
Saturday, February 1st, 1941

The United States Navy reorganizes into three independent fleets to cover possible battlefronts in the Atlantic, Pacific, and the Asia-Pacific regions.
Friday, February 14th, 1941

Bulgaria agrees to allow Germany use of its soil bordering Greece for the upcoming invasion.
Friday, February 14th, 1941

Erwin Rommel's Afrika Corps arrives in Tripoli to bolster the wavering Italian forces in North Africa.
Wednesday, February 19th - February 23rd, 1941

Allied authorities meet in Cairo, Egypt to review the situation in Greece. It is agree upon to commit some 100,000 British soldiers to the fighting.
Wednesday, March 5th, 1941

The first elements of British reinforcements departs Egyptian shores en route to the Balkan Front.
Saturday, April 5th, 1941

The number of British troops having arrived in Greece numbers 58,000.
Sunday, March 9th, 1941

The Italians launch a new offensive in Greece to recover lost ground.
Tuesday, March 11th, 1941

President Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act into law allowing the United States government to militarily support - with delayed payments - any and all allies when U.S. interests are threatened.
Wednesday, January 22nd, 1941

The Allies take Tobruk, a key port city vital to North Africa operations.
Wednesday, January 22nd, 1941

Operation Compass is effectively over, netting some 130,000 total Italian prisoners.
Thursday, March 21st, 1941

A coup by Yugoslav Air Force personnel overthrows Prince Paul.
Monday, March 24th, 1941

Rommel begins his attack near El Agheila.
Monday, March 24th, 1941

German forces drive the British from El Agheila in Libya.
Tuesday, March 25th, 1941

Prince Paul of Yugoslavia offers his allegiance to the Axis, signing the Tripartite Pact.
Tuesday, March 25th, 1941

The Yugoslavian government formally signs support for the Axis powers.
Wednesday, March 26th, 1941

In Berlin, Hitler reportedly tells his high level officers "I have decided to destroy Yugoslavia".
Thursday, March 27th, 1941

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.
Thursday, March 27th, 1941

The Italians are forced by the British to retreat during the Battle of Keren in Eritrea.
Sunday, March 30th, 1941

United States vessels capture some sixty-five ships aligned with the Axis powers.
Sunday, March 31st, 1941

Recent unrest in Yugoslavia forces the Germans to draw up plans of the invasion of Yugoslavia by way of Directive Number 25.
Tuesday, April 1st, 1941

The German port of Emden is bombed by six Wellington bomber aircraft.
Tuesday, April 1st, 1941

Italian-held Asmara falls to the British.
Monday, April 1st - April 18th, 1941

Internal unrest in Iraq leads to an overthrow of the pro-British government. The new government aligns itself with the Axis.
Wednesday, April 2nd, 1941

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.
Wednesday, April 2nd, 1941

Rommel's forces reach Agedabia.
Sunday, April 6th, 1941

Operation Marita - the dual Germany invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia - is put into action. Twenty-four total divisions are involved, including some 1200 tanks.
Sunday, April 6th, 1941

Rommel reaches Mechili.
Monday, April 7th, 1941

Rommel reaches Derna.
Tuesday, April 8th, 1941

A massive German bombing raid on the Yugoslavian capital city of Belgrade nets over 300,000 civilian casualties.
Tuesday, April 8th, 1941

229 RAF bomber aircraft rain 40,000 incendiary ordnance on the German naval base at Kiel.
Wednesday, April 9th, 1941

The German 12th Army encircles and defeats the Greek defensive line known as the "Metaxas Line".
Wednesday, April 9th, 1941

The German Army moves on and captures the strategic port city of Salonika.
Thursday, April 10th - April 16th, 1941

Three divisions of British, Australian and New Zealand troops at the Aliakmon Line in the Vermion Mountains are defeated.
Saturday, April 12th, 1941

Vermion Line Allied troops are now redeployed to defensive positions around Mount Olympus.
Saturday, April 12th, 1941

German forces launching from Romania, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria along with an Italian contigent from Albania capture and secure the Yugoslavian capital of Belgrade.
Monday, April 14th, 1941

The German Army destroys Yugoslavian forces at Monistar Gap, clearing a path into Greece. Greece units fighting in Albania are effectively cut off.
Wednesday, April 16th, 1941

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.
Thursday, April 17th, 1941

Yugoslavian leadership, along with the army, surrenders to the Germans.
Friday, April 18th, 1941

In an effort to safeguard its vital oil supply chain, British forces arrive in Iraq.
Sunday, April 20th, 1941

The Greek Army surrenders to the Germans and Italians.
Friday, April 25th, 1941

Fuhrer Directive No.28 is issued by Adolf Hitler, calling for the invasion of the island of Crete through Operation Mercury led by General Kurt Student.
Saturday, April 26th, 1941

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.
Saturday, April 26th, 1941

Allied codebreakers intercept word of the impending German invasion of Crete.
Sunday, April 27th - April 30th, 1941

Operation Demon is activated, covering the evacuation of some 51,000 Allied troops from southern Greece via the Royal Navy.
Sunday, April 27th, 1941

Axis forces officially occupy Athens, effectively signaling the end of Greek resistance.
Wednesday, April 30th, 1941

Allied forces based on Crete receive a new leader in the form of Major-General Bernard Freyberg.
Thursday, May 15th, 1941

The British launch Operation Brevity against Rommel's dug-in forces, making little progress against the prepared defenders.
Monday, May 19th, 1941

In advance of the Crete invasion, RAF fighters are relocated to Egypt for safe-keeping.
Monday, May 19th, 1941

Allied codebreakers intercept word that Operation Mercury will commence the very next day. The Allies begin preparations.
Tuesday, May 20th, 1941

Allied flak teams destroy as many as 50% of the invading German transport planes in the first few hours of the operation.
Tuesday, May 20th, 1941

Operation Mercury is officially launched.
Tuesday, May 20th, 1941

At approximately 7:00 AM, the first German airborne troops land at locations near Maleme and Khania.
Tuesday, May 20th, 1941

At least 500 Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft are utilized in the first wave of airdrops over Crete.
Tuesday, May 20th, 1941

Between 1:30 and 2:00 PM, the second wave of German airborne troops take off from Greece towards drop zones in Crete.
Tuesday, May 20th, 1941

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.
Tuesday, May 20th, 1941

At about 2:00 PM, the second wave of German paratroops land around Heraklion and Rethymnon.
Tuesday, May 20th, 1941

The first day of the German invasion of Crete sees little progress as many strategic positions are not under German control yet.
Tuesday, May 20th, 1941

The German heavy cruiser KMS Prinz Eugen and the battleship KMS Bismarck leave port for the North Sea.
Wednesday, May 21st, 1941

A German offensive against Heraklion is pushed away by at least 8,000 dug-in Allied soldiers.
Wednesday, May 21st, 1941

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.
Wednesday, May 21st, 1941

The British Navy is notified of the increase in German warship activity in the North Sea.
Wednesday, May 21st, 1941

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.
Thursday, May 22nd, 1941

The HMS Greyhound, a British destroyer, is downed by German bombers.
Thursday, May 22nd, 1941

New Zealand troops are repelled from an attempt to retake the airfield at Maleme from the Germans.
Thursday, May 22nd, 1941

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.
Friday, May 23rd, 1941

German dive bombers destroy the HMS Kelly and HMS Kashmir, two Royal Navy destroyers.
Friday, May 23rd, 1941

German dive bombers destroy the HMS Gloucester and the HMS Fiji, two Royal Navy cruisers.
Friday, May 23rd, 1941

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.
Saturday, May 24th, 1941

At 5:52 AM, the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen fall under attack from Royal Navy ships.
Saturday, May 24th, 1941

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.
Saturday, May 24th, 1941

At 6:13 AM, the battleship Prince of Wales is damaged enough to pull out of the battle.
Saturday, May 24th, 1941

The HMS Suffolk loses track of the KMS Bismarck.
Sunday, May 25th, 1941

German Admiral Lutjens orders that the Prinz Eugen break from the Bismarck.
Monday, May 26th, 1941

A British Coastal Command PBY Catalina flying boat spots the KMS Bismarck 700 miles from Brest.
Monday, May 26th, 1941

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.
Monday, May 26th, 1941

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.
Monday, May 26th, 1941

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.
Monday, May 26th, 1941

Royal Navy ships open fire with their long range guns and close in on their prey.
Tuesday, May 27th, 1941

The German Army takes Heraklion and her all-important airfield.
Tuesday, May 27th, 1941

Allied forces retreat to defensive positions at Galatas.
Tuesday, May 27th, 1941

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.
Tuesday, May 27th, 1941

At 10:00 AM, the Bismarck's guns fall silent s she takes on water and burns.
Tuesday, May 27th, 1941

At 10:36 AM, the mighty German battleship Bismarck sinks into blue depths, leaving only 115 German sailors to recount her story.
Wednesday, May 28th, 1941

Heraklion in the north and Sphakia in the south of Crete will serve as major evacuation junctions for the Allies.
Wednesday, May 28th, 1941

The evacuation order is given by Major-General Freyberg for the gradual withdrawel of Allied troops from the island of Crete.
Friday, May 30th, 1941

The brave defense of Rethymnon by Australian soldiers finally falters under intense pressure from the German Army.
Saturday, May 31st, 1941

By this date, Crete is firmly entrenched under German rule.
Tuesday, July 1st, 1941

Panzergruppe 2 and Panzergruppe 3 cross the Berezina River west of Minsk, heading towards Smolensk and Vitebsk.
Thursday, July 3rd, 1941

Panzergruppe 2 and Panzergruppe 3 now form up as part of General Gunther von Kluge's 4th Panzer Army.
Wednesday, July 9th, 1941

Soviet defenses at Brest-Litovsk, Bialystok, Volkovysk, Gorodishche and Minsk fall to the invading German Army.
Wednesday, July 9th, 1941

Panzergruppe 3 continues north to Vitebsk.
Wednesday, July 9th, 1941

Gurderian's army moves south towards Mogliev.
Thursday, July 10th, 1941

Guderian's forces cross the Dniepr River 50 miles outside of Smolensk.
Sunday, July 13th, 1941

Defenses across Smolensk are prepared under the direction of the Soviet 16th Army.
Sunday, July 13th, 1941

The Soviet 19th Army makes its way into Smolensk.
Sunday, July 13th, 1941

The Soviet 20th Army arrives in Smolensk.
Wednesday, July 16th, 1941

Smolensk falls to the German 29th Motorized Division.
Wednesday, July 16th, 1941

Panzergruppe 3 heads towards Yartsevo.
Wednesday, July 16th, 1941

Marshal Timoshenko and his 4th and 13th Armies near the Sohz River counterattack the Germans at Smolensk.
Thursday, July 17th, 1941

The German Army begins to tighten the noose around the encircled Soviet forces numbering some 25 divisions.
Saturday, July 19th, 1941

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.
Sunday, June 22nd, 1941

Operation Barbossa is put into effect - the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Tuesday, July 22nd, 1941

The Soviet counterattack at Smolensk is driven back by Guderian's forces.
Tuesday, July 22nd, 1941

The German Army begins to encircled in Soviet Army pockets held up outside of Smolensk, Vitebsk and Mogilev.
Tuesday, July 22nd, 1941

A Soviet offensive meant to break the German stranglehold fails due to poor coordination.
Thursday, July 24th, 1941

The German encirclement of Soviet forces is completed.
Sunday, June 29th, 1941

General Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 meets General Hoth's Panzergruppe 3 in Minsk.
Sunday, June 29th, 1941

Russian army forces are encirlced at key cities across the Soviet Union.
Tuesday, August 5th, 1941

The Soviet defense of Smolensk is obliterated and falls taking with it the end of the Soviet 16th and 20th Armies.
Tuesday, August 5th, 1941

300,000 Soviet prisoners, 3,200 tanks and 3,100 artillery guns are captured by the Germans at Smolensk.
Tuesday, August 5th, 1941

The drive on Smolensk nets a total of 600,000 Russian prisoners of war, 5,700 tanks and 4,600 artillery pieces.
Thursday, August 21st, 1941

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.
Sunday, August 31st, 1941

The first seven-ship Royal Navy convoy arrives in Russia without incident, bringing with her supplies and Hawker Hurricane fighters.
Sunday, August 31st, 1941

A report stuns the RAF by showcasing how only one-in-every-three RAF bombers actually it their targets.
Monday, September 1st, 1941

German Army elements begin the shelling of Leningrad.
Monday, September 15th, 1941

The Soviet fortress at Shlusselburg southeast of Leningrad falls to the Germans.
Monday, September 15th, 1941

The Germans now control the southern end of Leningrad, cutting its citizens off from the rest of the Soviet Union.
Monday, September 15th, 1941

Finnish forces, siding with the Germans, now control the Karelian isthmus, covering Leningrad from both sides.
Thursday, September 25th, 1941

The Crimea finds itself cutoff from the rest of the Soviet Union by German Army forces made up of German Army Group South.
Friday, September 26th - November 26th, 1941

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.
Wednesday, October 1st - December 31st, 1941

As rations begin to run out in the encircled city of Leningrad, its citizens begin to starve.
Sunday, November 9th, 1941

The Germans take the supply line route of Tikhvin, located east of Schlusselburg.
Sunday, November 16th, 1941

By this date, Lieutenant-General von Manstein and his German 11th Army take most of Crimea with the exception of Sevastapol.
Friday, December 5th, 1941

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.
Saturday, December 6th, 1941

No fewer than 17 German motorized divisions retreat from the Soviet advance.
Saturday, December 6th, 1941

The Soviet 31st Army cuts 12 miles into the German lines.
Tuesday, December 9th - December 13th, 1941

General Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 is cut off from General Kluge's 4th Army.
Wednesday, December 10th, 1941

The Soviets retake the town of Tikhvin.
Wednesday, December 10th, 1941

The Soviet supply route is restarted across frozen Lake Lagoda.
Tuesday, December 16th, 1941

Amid the mounting pressures and expectations of his superiors back in Germany, Field Marshal von Bock requests reassignment away from Army Group Centre.
Wednesday, December 17th, 1941

Field Marshal von Kluge is tapped to replace Field Marshal von Bock as leader of Army Group Centre.
Wednesday, December 17th, 1941

Lieutenant-General von Manstein launches a major offensive against the Soviet soldiers holed up in the Sevastopol fortress.
Friday, December 26th, 1941

Manstein's offensive gains substantial ground, piercing the first two Soviet defensive rings.
Friday, December 26th, 1941

Soviet naval forces land army troops near Kerch.
Sunday, December 28th, 1941

More Soviet forces land near Kerch via amphibious transports, bolstering Red Army power in the area.
Sunday, December 28th, 1941

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