366 Days

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May

News Headlines

1

SOVIETS TURN THUMBS DOWN TO GERMAN PEACE OFFER

Berlin, Germany • May 1, 1945 A little before 4 a.m. on this date in 1945 in Berlin, the new Chief of German Army Gen­eral Staff Gen. Hans Krebs was shown into the tacti­cal head­quarters of Lt. Gen. Vasily Chuikov, com­mander of the Soviet Eighth Guards Army, on the west side of Tempel­hof air­port. A denizen […]

2

REDS IMPOSE PEACE, U.S. CAPTURES ROCKET SCIENTISTS

SHAEF HQ, Versailles, France • May 2, 1945 On this date in 1945, a rain-sodden but peace­ful day in Berlin, the battle for the war-ravaged Reich capital ended when Gen­eral of the Artil­lery Helmuth Weid­ling sur­ren­dered his garri­son to Soviet Lt. Gen. Vasily Chuikov, whose Eighth Guards Army was part of Marshal Georgy Zhukov’s First Belo­russian […]

3

HITLER PAYS STATE VISIT TO ITALY

Rome, Italy • May 3, 1938 On this date in 1938 Adolf Hitler began a six-day Ital­ian state visit to Rome, Naples, and Florence in a dis­play of Axis sol­i­darity. The choreo­graphed visit featured a parade by the Ital­ian armed forces (demon­stra­ting to German reviewers a lack of modern equip­ment), a review of the Ital­ian […]

4

FIRST OF THREE UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDERS OF GERMAN FORCES

Lueneburg Heath, Northern Germany • May 4, 1945 Lueneburg (German, Lüneburg), a district in Lower Saxony, Northern Germany, had been captured by ele­ments of Field Marshal Ber­nard Law Mont­go­mery’s 21st Army Group on April 18, 1945. Mont­go­mery made his head­quarters at Moellering Villa in the village of Haecklingen just south of Luene­burg. At mid­day, May 3, […]

5

POLES FIRM: NO CONCESSIONS TO HITLER

Warsaw, Poland • May 5, 1939 In 1923 Poland’s Baltic neighbor to the north, Lith­u­a­nia, unlaw­fully annexed Memel Ter­ri­tory (now Klai­pėda Region in pre­sent-day Lith­u­a­nia) that had been, up to 1918, part of Prus­sia under Kaiser Wil­helm II. Like the Danzig enclave in Poland and the former Terri­tory of the Saar Basin that had briefly been […]

6

LAST U.S. HOLDOUTS SURRENDER TO JAPANESE

Manila, Occupied Philippines • May 6, 1942 On Monday, December 8, 1941, Japanese forces attacked the Philip­pines, a largely self-governing U.S. pos­ses­sion, formally known as the Common­wealth of the Philip­pines. (Decem­ber 8, Manila and Japa­nese time, was Sunday, Decem­ber 7, east of the Inter­na­tional Date Line, the day Japa­nese car­rier-based planes attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in a […]

7

JAPANESE SCORE TACTICAL VICTORY IN BATTLE OF CORAL SEA

With Adm. Fletcher’s Task Force 17 • May 7, 1942 In the six months following Japan’s Decem­ber 7, 1941, attack on U.S. naval and air facil­i­ties at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the Jap­anese had the advan­tage of domi­nant air and naval power in the Pacific Ocean region. During these months the Japa­nese mili­tary looked to expand […]

8

GERMAN MILITARY SIGNS DEFINITIVE UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

Berlin-Karlshorst, Germany • May 8, 1945 Five days after the suicide of Adolf Hitler in Berlin on April 30, 1945, Adm. Hans-Georg von Friede­burg, an emis­sary from Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, arrived in the French cathe­dral town of Reims, head­quarters of Gen. Dwight D. Eisen­hower, Supreme Com­mander Allied Exped­i­tionary Force. For the second time in less […]

9

ENIGMA, GERMAN ENCRYPTION DEVICE, CODES SEIZED

Bletchley Park, England • May 9, 1941 As war loomed in Europe, British code­breakers based at Bletchley Park out­side London worked feverishly to un­ravel the Enigma cipher machine, which the Germans used to encrypt their most secret commu­ni­ca­tions. The Enigma had a num­ber of differ­ently wired scrambler rotors that oper­a­tors changed and shuffled through billions […]

10

GERMANY INVADES FRANCE, LOW COUNTRIES

Paris, France • May 10, 1940 On this date in 1940 the German Wehrmacht (armed forces) began its western offen­sive, the dual con­quest of France, like Great Britain at war with Nazi Germany since Septem­ber 3, 1939, and the neutral Low Coun­tries. The year before, on Octo­ber 9, 1939, five weeks after setting in motion the con­quest […]

11

U.S. SETS OUT TO RECAPTURE ATTU ISLAND

Attu, Aleutian Islands, Alaska • May 11, 1943 The Japanese assault on Alaska’s Aleutian Islands began with a carrier-based aerial attack on June 3 and 4, 1942, that targeted U.S. Navy and Army facil­i­ties at Dutch Harbor on Amaknak Island (see map below), the most popu­lous island in the Alaskan archi­pel­ago. The carrier strike force was […]

12

HITLER FIXES LAUNCH DATE FOR BARBAROSSA

Berlin, Germany • May 12, 1941 On this date in 1941, two days after Deputy Reich Fuehrer Rudolf Hess had em­barked on his his­toric “peace mis­sion” to England (see story below), Adolf Hitler finally con­firmed June 22 as the start date for Oper­a­tion Barba­rossa (Unter­nehmen Bar­ba­rossa), the German inva­sion of the Soviet Union. Moving toward the […]

13

CHURCHILL’S CALL TO ARMS VS. HITLER

London, England • May 13, 1940 As Adolf Hitler’s armies raced across Europe, seemingly un­stop­pable, gobbling up coun­try after coun­try for Nazi Germany, and (God forbid) perhaps Britain her­self, Winston Churchill succeeded a war-weary Neville Cham­ber­lain as British prime minis­ter on May 10, 1940. Cham­ber­lain had appointed Chur­chill to be First Lord of the Admiralty, a […]

14

CONGRESS APPROVES WOMEN’S AUXILIARY ARMY CORPS (WAAC)

Washington, D.C. • May 14, 1942 Early in 1941 Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massa­chu­setts informed Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall that she in­tended to intro­duce a bill in the U.S. Con­gress to estab­lish a volun­teer women’s Army corps, sepa­rate and dis­tinct from the existing Army Nurse Corps. After long debate—and after […]

15

BRITAIN ASKS U.S. FOR DOZENS OF DESTROYERS

London, England • May 15, 1940 On this date, just five days after assuming the top leadership position in Great Britain, Prime Minister Win­ston Chur­chill sent a tele­gram to U.S. President Frank­lin D. Roose­velt. It was also five days since the German Wehr­macht (armed forces) had flooded over the borders of the Low Countries and […]

16

“DAMBUSTERS” BREACH RUHR DAMS

London, England • May 16, 1943 At least since 1937, two years before the out­break of Euro­pean hosti­lities, British intel­li­gence had looked into devel­oping alter­na­tive ways to destroy German facto­ries in the Ruhr Valley, Germany’s indus­trial heart­land. Late on this date in 1943 in Germany, a British squad­ron of 19 modi­fied Avro Lan­caster bombers (Mk.III), […]

17

ICELAND SEVERS TIES WITH DENMARK

Reykjavik, Iceland • May 17, 1941 On April 9, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Den­mark and Nor­way, osten­sibly to pro­tect the neu­trality of the two Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries against Franco-Brit­ish aggres­sion. Adolf Hitler had become con­vinced in mid-Decem­ber 1939 that the two West Euro­pean Allies, at war with Ger­many for three and a half months now, were […]

18

ALLIES SEIZE RENOWNED BENEDICTINE ABBEY

Cassino, Italy • May 18, 1944 On February 15, 1944, British Gen. Harold Alexander, commander-in-chief of all Allied armies in Italy, ordered the aerial bombing of the ancient Bene­dic­tine abbey towering over the town of Cas­sino on the banks of the Rapido (or Gari) River in Italy. Earlier in Janu­ary, British, Amer­i­can, and French troops […]

19

OPERATION DYNAMO TO RESCUE TRAPPED BRITISH ARMY

London, England • May 19, 1940 Following Britain and France’s decla­ra­tion of war on Germany on Septem­ber 3, 1939, neither of the Allies com­mitted to launching a signi­fi­cant land offen­sive against Adolf Hitler’s Ger­many as punish­ment for the invasion of its eastern neigh­bor, Poland, which was in a treaty relation­ship with the two Western powers. The […]

20

GERMAN PARATROOPERS SNATCH CRETE FROM BRITAIN

Crete, Eastern Mediterranean • May 20, 1941 With the start of marathon German oper­a­tions against the Soviet Union, code­named Operation Bar­ba­rossa, a month away, Adolf Hitler needed to en­sure that his oil supplies in and around Ploiești, Roma­nia, where he had sent a German “mili­tary mis­sion,” would not come under Allied bomber attack from sta­tion­ary […]

21

BISMARCK’S BREAKOUT WORRIES ROYAL NAVY

London, England • May 21, 1941 On this date in 1941 the German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen and the German battle­ship Bismarck set out from occu­pied Norway into the main Atlan­tic shipping lanes, there to act as long-distance com­merce raiders. It was the maiden combat voyage of Nazi Germany’s mon­strous battle­ship, the most lethal wea­pon […]

22

HITLER, MUSSOLINI INK BLOOD PACT

Berlin, Germany • May 22, 1939 On this date in 1939 Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy signed the “Pact of Steel” (German, Stahlpakt; Italian, Patto d’Acciaio). The pack, known formally as the “Pact of Friendship and Alliance,” tied the two dictator­ships in a ten-year mili­tary and poli­tical alli­ance and stipu­lated, among other things, that neither […]

23

GEN. EISENHOWER DISSOLVES NAZI GOVERNMENT

Muerwik, near Flensburg, Northern Germany • May 23, 1945 Twenty-three days after German dictator Adolf Hitler had com­mitted sui­cide under the rubble of his Reich capi­tal, and six­teen days after mili­tary emis­saries from Reich Presi­dent Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz’s govern­ment agreed to the uncon­di­tional sur­render of all German armed forces, a tele­phone call reached the admiral’s […]

24

SHORT-LIVED HALT IN ATLANTIC U-BOAT WAR

Berlin, Germany • May 24, 1943 In June 1942 German submarines sank 637,000 tons of British shipping—a greater total than in any pre­vious or sub­se­quent month. So many prowling U‑boats made it hard for mer­chant con­voys sailing in the major trans-Atlantic traffic lanes to evade detec­tion. The next year, in March, Atlantic U‑boats sank 82 ships […]

25

U.S. FIFTH ARMY IN RACE TO ROME

With Maj. Gen. Mark Clark in Italy • May 25, 1944 In 1943–1944 the centerpiece of German defenses in Italy was the Gus­tav Line, whose most famous bas­tion was cen­tered on the his­toric Bene­dic­tine abbey of Monte Cas­sino. Thou­sands of Ger­man soldiers and con­scripted Ital­ian civil­ians worked hard to strengthen the line, 65 miles north of the […]

26

AFRIKA KORPS THREATENS BRITISH ARMY IN LIBYA

Near Tobruk, Libya, North Africa • May 26, 1942 The yearlong Western Desert Campaign (Desert War) in the wasteland of Western Egypt and East­ern Libya had reached a stale­mate in May 1942, with both Allied and Axis sides licking their wounds. The fighting started four days after Benito Mus­so­lini’s Italy declared war on Great Britain […]

27

JAPANESE CARRIER FORCE HEADS TO MIDWAY

Hashirajima Anchoring Area, Hiroshima Bay, Japan • May 27, 1942 A little over four months after Japan devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet riding at peace­ful anchor at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Japa­nese Shōwa Emperor Hiro­hito and his Army and Navy staff officers received a rude calling card from Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doo­little and 79 other air­men of […]

28

HITLER PLANS TO END CZECHOSLOVAKIA’S EXISTENCE

Berlin, Germany • May 28, 1938 On this date in 1938 Adolf Hitler informed his senior mili­tary com­manders of his plans to march into neigh­boring Czecho­slo­va­kia and erase that coun­try from the map. No serious objec­tions were raised by those who heard the German dic­ta­tor ring the death knell for Czecho­slo­va­kia and for the Euro­pean […]

29

NAZIS DEPLOY MIDGET SUBS IN FRANCE

Off the Normandy Coast, France • May 29, 1944 The German Kriegsmarine experimented with a half-dozen stealthy combat vessels that could send torpe­does crashing into Allied ships. Perhaps the most unusual was the Neger (“Negro,” a play on the name of its designer, Richard Mohr, i.e., Moor). Almost 25 ft long, the battery-powered Neger was shaped […]

30

OPERATION FORTITUDE DECEPTION READY FOR LIVE TESTING

London, England • May 30, 1944 In the run-up to the invasion of main­land Europe (Oper­a­tion Over­lord), the Western Allies con­cocted an ambi­tious stra­tegic decep­tion plan to mis­lead their adver­sa­ries as to where and when the actual inva­sion would take place. Called Oper­a­tion For­ti­tude, the plan had two polar-oppo­site com­po­nents. For­ti­tude North supposedly threatened German-occupied […]

31

PLANNERS MULL USING A-BOMB ON JAPAN

Pentagon, Washington, D.C. • May 31, 1945 On this date in 1945 a special group met in the Pen­ta­gon to search for an alter­na­tive to dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. The group had been called into exis­tence by the new Ameri­can presi­dent, Harry S. Tru­man. Neither Truman nor any­one else in the room knew […]

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