366 Days

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December

News Headlines

1

STALAG IX B OPENS, BECOMES INFAMOUS GERMAN POW CAMP

Near Bad Orb, Hessen • December 1, 1939 On this date in 1939, four months since the out­break of war in Europe, the German Wehr­macht (mili­tary) estab­lished a pri­soner of war camp, Mann­schafts-Stamm­lager IX B, out­side Bad Orb, roughly 30 miles north­east of Frank­furt am Main. Over the course of the war Stalag IX B—Stalag being a con­trac­tion […]

2

U.S. ATOMIC BOMB PROJECT TAKES OFF

Chicago, Illinois • December 2, 1942 In November 1942 the world’s first artifi­cial nuclear reactor was assem­bled piece­meal below the bleachers of an un­used double racquet­ball (squash) court at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago’s Stagg Field. The impe­tus for building an Amer­i­can nuclear reactor, which con­sisted (mostly) of a huge pile of slip­pery black graph­ite bricks, […]

3

THIRD B-29 RAID ON JAPANESE CAPITAL TOKYO

Tinian, Mariana Islands • December 3, 1944 On this date in 1944 eighty-six four-engine B-29 Super­for­tresses belonging to XXI Bomber Com­mand, a unit of the U.S. Twen­tieth Air Force, left the north­western Pacific Mari­ana Islands base on Tinian on their third Tokyo bombing mis­sion. Ten days earlier 111 of these heavy bombers had launched the first raid […]

4

PRESS LEAKS ROOSEVELT’S “VICTORY PLAN” OVER AXIS

Chicago, Illinois • December 4, 1941 Early in July 1941, four months after the U.S. Congress had enacted the Lend-Lease Program that began assisting Great Britain and China in their defense against the aggressor states of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan, Presi­dent Franklin D. Roose­velt requested his Sec­re­taries of War and the Navy […]

5

HIROHITO’S UNCLE, PRINCE ASAKA, TO COMMAND CHINA TROOPS

Tokyo, Japan • December 5, 1937 On this date in 1937 Prince Yasuhiko Asaka, a lieutenant general in the Imperial Japa­nese Army and uncle by mar­riage to Japa­nese Emperor Hiro­hito (post­humously referred to as Emperor Shōwa), flew from Tokyo to his new assign­ment—tem­po­rary com­mand of the Japa­nese Shang­hai Expe­di­tionary Force, a unit of Gen. Iwane […]

6

SOVIET ARMY AND WINTER LIFT GERMAN SIEGE OF MOSCOW

Moscow, Soviet Union • December 6, 1941 Three weeks after launching Opera­tion Bar­ba­rossa on June 22, 1941 with the express goal of “crush[ing] Soviet Russia in a quick cam­paign” (Fuehrer Direc­tive 21, Decem­ber 18, 1940), the Germans and their Axis part­ners had indeed reached close enough to Moscow to fly sorties and bomb the Soviet capital. Tacti­cally, […]

7

JAPAN’S NAVY SAVAGES U.S. PACIFIC FLEET

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii • December 7, 1941 On this date in 1941, a quiet Sunday morning on the Hawaiian is­land of Oahu just before 8 o’clock, Japan staged a devious, vicious, un­pro­voked air and naval attack on America’s door­step, the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor and its defending Army Air Corps and Marine air­fields that dotted […]

8

U.S. CAPITALISM UNDERPINS “ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACY”

Washington, D.C. • December 8, 1941 “His genius was problem-solving,” it was said of Andrew Jackson Higgins (1886–1952). “Higgins applied it to every­thing in life: pol­i­tics, dealing with [trade] unions, acquiring workers, pro­ducing fan­tas­ti­cal things or huge amounts of things.” Among the “fan­tas­ti­cal things” he pro­duced in quan­tity were the very amphib­ious landing boats linked […]

9

JAPAN: WAR ONLY IF U.S. ACTS AS AGGRESSOR

Tokyo, Japan • December 9, 1940 On September 27, 1940, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan signed the Tri­par­tite Pact, or Axis Pact as it was also known. The Pact was an out­growth of the “Rome-Berlin Axis” cele­brated by the Italo-German “Pact of Steel,” which Adolf Hitler’s foreign minis­ter Joachim von Rib­ben­trop and Benito […]

10

JAPANESE PUT MANILA IN CROSSHAIRS

Manila, Philippines • December 10, 1941 At 3:40 a.m. on December 8, 1941 (Manila time), one hour and 40 minutes after the start of Japan’s unpro­voked air and naval attack on U.S. mili­tary instal­la­tions at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 62‑year-old Lt. Gen. Douglas Mac­Arthur awoke to a terrible day of his own. Within three hours Mac­Arthur learned […]

11

U.S. WAKE ISLAND DEFENDERS REBUFF INITIAL JAPANESE INVASION

Wake Island, Central Pacific Ocean • December 11, 1941 As war clouds gathered over the Western and Central Pacific in the late 1930s/­early 1940s, U.S. mili­tary brass iden­ti­fied a V‑shaped set of coral islets, since 1899 an Amer­i­can out­post between Hawaii and Guam, a “priority defense require­ment.” Actually a sub­merged vol­cano top, Wake Island (see […]

12

DEADLY JAPANESE ATTACK ON USS PANAY

Shanghai, China • December 12, 1937 In 1937 the Chinese city of Shanghai, a city of 3 million people, domi­nated the coun­try eco­nom­i­cally. Located on one of the many trib­u­taries of the Yangtze River, Shang­hai was a “treaty port” (i.e., open to foreign traders) on the East China Sea. Then as now the Yangtze River […]

13

HITLER’S OPERATION MARITA DIRECTIVE TARGETS GREECE

Berlin, Germany • December 13, 1940 Italy had long had an interest in the neigh­boring Balkans, which lay to the coun­try’s east across the Adri­a­tic Sea. In June 1917 Ital­ian sol­diers briefly seized por­tions of cen­tral and south­ern Al­ba­nia, declaring them a pro­tec­tor­ate. Ital­ian Fascism, which was rooted in Ital­ian nation­alism, urged Ital­ians to reestab­lish […]

14

NORWAY’S VIDKUN QUISLING MEETS HITLER

Berlin, Germany • December 14, 1939 On this date in 1939 Adolf Hitler and high-ranking members of the German Navy and Army met with Norway’s right-wing politician Vidkun Quis­ling, whose pri­vate visit to Berlin had been spon­sored by Alfred Rosen­berg, the Nazi Party’s chief racial theorist. From 1931 to 1933 Quis­ling had served as Norway’s […]

15

MINDORO’S CAPTURE, THEN ON TO CAPITAL MANILA

Mindoro Island, Philippines • December 15, 1944 On October 17, 1944, the naval, air, and land forces of Gen. Douglas Mac­Arthur, Supreme Com­mander, South­west Pacific Area, began their assault on the Japa­nese-held Philip­pine island of Leyte. Three days later Mac­Arthur and his staff, accom­panied by Philip­pine presi­dent Sergio Osmeña, waded onto Palo Beach (Red Beach), […]

16

NAZIS FORCE BULGE IN ALLIED LINES

Adlerhorst Forward HQ, Central Hessen, Germany • December 16, 1944 “It is essential to deprive the enemy of his belief that victory is certain,” Adolf Hitler told his gene­rals on Decem­ber 12, 1944, at his rural Adler­horst (Eagle’s Nest) head­quarters near Bad Nau­heim, Germany, the camou­flaged western com­mand out­post Archi­tect of the Reich Albert Speer had built […]

17

FIERCE FIGHTING AT SAN PIETRO AS U.S. FIFTH ARMY ADVANCES NORTH

San Pietro Infine, Southern Italy • December 17, 1943 On this date in 1943 what little remained of the ancient Italian farming com­munity of San Pietro Infine, popu­la­tion 1,400, fell to the U.S. 36th (“Texas”) Infan­try Divi­sion of Lt. Gen. Mark Clark’s U.S. Fifth Army—this after the col­lapse of the Bern­hardt Line (or Rein­hard Line), an […]

18

HITLER PLOTS SOVIETS’ RUIN WITH OPERATION BARBAROSSA

Berlin, Germany • December 18, 1940 On this date in 1940 in Berlin, one day before receiving the credentials of the new Soviet am­bas­sador to Germany, Adolf Hitler signed Fuehrer Direc­tive 21, Opera­tion Barba­rossa (Unter­neh­men Barba­rossa), thereby ini­ti­ating the secret pre­pa­ra­tions and mili­tary opera­tions that led to the Axis inva­sion of the Soviet Union on June 22, […]

19

BRITAIN, FRANCE TO DISRUPT NAZI IRON ORE IMPORTS

London, England • December 19, 1939 On the afternoon of August 23, 1939, Adolf Hitler’s foreign secretary Joachim von Ribben­trop appeared in Moscow’s Krem­lin fortress to sign off on the Nazi-Soviet Non­ag­gres­sion Pact. The 10‑year pact, also known by the twin sur­names of Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German foreign minister Ribben­trop, was the neces­sary […]

20

ROOSEVELT: U.S. DEFENSE PLAN EMPHASIZES AIDING ALLIES

Washington, D.C. • December 20, 1940 On this date in 1940 President Franklin D. Roose­velt appointed William Knud­sen to head a four-member board (Office of Pro­duc­tion Manage­ment, or OPM) to plan for national defense and coor­di­nate aid to Great Britain following Germany’s total block­ade of that island nation in mid-August (Battle of the Atlantic). A […]

21

ROMANIAN FASCISTS IN CONTEST TO HEAD GOVERNMENT

Bucharest, Romania • December 21, 1937 On this date in 1937 Romania’s last free elections (until 1990) ended in the ouster of the middle-of-the road Na­tion­al Libe­ral govern­ment. The Liberals, who remained the largest party in parlia­ment, were unable to form a coali­tion govern­ment with the next two runner-up par­ties. A week later King Carol II […]

22

HONG KONG’S DEFENSES NEAR COLLAPSE

British Crown Colony of Hong Kong • December 22, 1941 The British Crown Colony of Hong Kong consisted of Hong Kong Island (since 1842) and the Kow­loon penin­sula (since 1860) oppo­site the island. The New Terri­tories across Kow­loon Bay on the South China main­land was leased for 99 years. (See map below.) Together with several hun­dred […]

23

C-47 SKYTRAIN TRANSPORT MAKES MAIDEN FLIGHT

Long Beach, California • December 23, 1941 Of all the workhorse aircraft in World War II, none was more widely and effec­tively deployed than the Douglas C‑47 mili­tary trans­port. Nick­named the “Gooney Bird” by Amer­i­can crew­men and pas­sen­gers, the C‑47 Sky­train was a deri­va­tive of the Douglas pro­pel­ler-driven com­mer­cial air­liner, the DC‑3. (The British and Aus­tra­lians […]

24

JAPANESE MAKE THIRD ATTEMPT TO CAPTURE CHANGSHA

Changsha, Hunan Province, China • December 24, 1941 In the years since the political upheaval that brought Emperor Meiji to power (1868–1912), the Japa­nese began looking to the Asian main­land as a well­spring of new mineral, agricul­tural, and human resources to exploit for their use, benefit, and advan­tage. In the mid-1890s and 1905–1910 Japan brought the […]

25

GERMANS UNABLE TO BREAK BASTOGNE ROADBLOCK

101st Airborne Command Post, Bastogne, Belgium • December 25, 1944 On Christmas Eve 1944 in the German-besieged Eastern Bel­gian town of Bastogne (popu­la­tion 3,500), soldiers of the armor­less U.S. 101st Air­borne “Screaming Eagles” Divi­sion, the 9th and 10th Armored Divi­sions, and several com­bat engi­neer and field artil­lery bat­tal­ions received rations of brandy and listened to the […]

26

BRITISH TRAP ENDS SCHARNHORST’S CAREER

North Cape, Norway • December 26, 1943 On this date, the day after Christmas 1943, the German battle­ship (or battle­cruiser) Scharn­horst and her crew of 1,968 met their fate in the Battle of the North Cape off the northern tip of Norway. At 32,100 long tons, the sleek, 771‑ft, state-of-the-art war­ship with nine 11‑inch (28 cm) […]

27

CIVILIAN PROGRAM TO BOOST PILOT NUMBERS

Washington, D.C. • December 27, 1938 In 1938 America’s armed forces had less than 3,000 pro­fes­sional pilots. To speed the pro­duc­tion of pilots out­side the U.S. armed ser­vices, Pre­si­dent Franklin D. Roose­velt unveiled the Civil­ian Pilot Training Pro­gram (CPTP) on this date in 1938. The pro­gram was intended, the presi­dent said, to pro­vide a boost to […]

28

NAVY TO RECRUIT SKILLED CIVILIANS INTO SEABEE UNITS

Washington, D.C. • December 28, 1941 The Seabees were in effect combat engineers of the U.S. Navy, working and, when neces­sary, fighting on land. On this date in 1941 Rear Admiral Ben Moreell requested autho­rity to orga­nize a mili­ta­rized Naval Con­struc­tion Force, and a week later he gained per­mis­sion from the Bureau of Navi­ga­tion (later […]

29

CONSOLIDATED B-24 HEAVY BOMBER MAKES MAIDEN FLIGHT

San Diego, California • December 29, 1939 On this date in 1939 a prototype four-engine heavy bomber took off from San Diego’s Lind­berg Field on its maiden flight. The flight lasted 17 minutes. Designed by Consol­i­dated Air­craft, the proto­type was ini­ti­ally known in-house as Model 32. Besides its dis­tinc­tive twin tails and slab sides that allowed for […]

30

MAJOR COMBAT OPERATIONS ON LEYTE WIND DOWN

Tacloban, Leyte Island, Philippines • December 30, 1944 The island of Leyte, the first island in the Philip­pine archi­pel­ago captured by returning GIs, was securely in U.S. hands by this date in 1944. It only remained for Gen. Douglas Mac­Arthur, Supreme Com­mander of the South­west Pacific Area, to announce the end of organized Japanese unit resistance, […]

31

RECORD END-OF-YEAR DELIVERY OF B-29s

Washington, D.C. • December 31, 1943 By this date in 1943 Boeing delivered its 92nd B‑29 Super­for­tress to the U.S. govern­ment after the giant bomber began rolling off the assem­bly line the pre­vious Septem­ber. Even before the coun­try was at war and govern­ment funds had been allo­cated, Boeing had produced a proto­type of the long-range […]

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