World War II Axis Military History Day-by-Day: December

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December 1

December 1, 1943: Conclusion of the Tehran Conference, with the three Allies in substantial agreement on the division of postwar Germany and the westward movement of the Polish eastern and western frontiers. The Soviets had also put forth the notion of the summary execution of 50,000 German officers, but this was rejected by the Allies.

December 2

December 2, 1941: Soviet troops evacuate the last territory (near Leningrad and in Carelia) taken from Finland in the 1939-1940 war.

December 2, 1943: German forces in Yugoslavia begin a major operation against Tito's partisan army.

December 3

December 3, 1942: Several German divisions ordered transferred from western Europe begin arriving in the area of Heeresgruppe Don (von Manstein) SW of Stalingrad in preparation of Operation Winter Tempest, the relief of the encircled 6.Armee (von Paulus).

December 3, 1943: The RAF launches a heavy raid against Leipzig.

December 3, 1944: Armored units of the US 3rd Army (Patton) succeed in penetrating the fortified German lines of the Westwall (Siegfried Line) near Saarlautern.

December 4

December 4, 1942: German forces in Tunisia capture Tebourba. The US 5th Air Force stationed in French North Africa launches its first raid against the Italian port of Naples.

December 4, 1943: Units of 11.Armee begin an offensive to eliminate the Soviet bridgehead at Kerch in the eastern Crimea.

December 5

December 5, 1941: Start of a Soviet counter-offensive in the area of Kalinin NW of Moscow.

December 6

December 6, 1941: Three Soviet armies, including some 18 divisions from the Russian Far East, with 1,700 tanks and 1,500 aircraft, begin a massive counter-offensive to throw back and destroy the German forces of Heeresgruppe Mitte (von Bock) before Moscow.

December 7

December 7, 1941: At 7:55 Honolulu time, 384 Japanese Navy bombers and torpedo bombers taking off from three aircraft carriers launch a surprise attack against the US Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, sinking or seriously damaging 18 major warships, including the battleships Arizona, Nevada and Virginia, and destroying on the ground 180 USAAF aircraft. American casualties amount to 2,403 killed and 1,178 wounded; Japanese losses are 29 aircraft (59 airmen) and five mini-submarines. In Libya, Panzerarmee Afrika completes its withdrawal to the Gazala line.

December 8

December 8, 1939: The Fascist Grand Council confirms the Axis alliance, but votes to remain out of the conflict.

December 8, 1940: The House of Commons and the Tower of London are hit in a heavy Luftwaffe night raid. The 5,000 ton German ship Idarwald is intercepted off Cuba by HMS Diomede. She is at once scuttled by her crew and sunk.

December 8, 1941: The Unites States and Great Britain declare war on the Empire of Japan. The Soviet offensive against Heeresgruppe Mitte before Moscow succeeds in breaking through the German lines in many places, causing hasty withdrawals by ill-prepared and frost-bitten troops that are forced to abandon much heavy equipment immobilized by the below-zero weather. In Cyrenaica, British forces of the 8th Army (Wavell) succeed in lifting the German siege of Tobruk.

December 8, 1942: German troops occupy the port of Bizerte in Tunisia.

December 8, 1944: In Hungary, the Red Army begins an offensive toward Budapest. In the West, German troops evacuate Jülich on the Roer river.

December 9

December 9, 1939: Russia discovers that Italy is sending military supplies to Finland via Germany.

December 9, 1940: The Wehrmacht High Command announced:- ... during the month of November, 7,455 tons of bombs were dropped on British targets by the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe estimate the British dropped 475 tons during the same month.

December 9, 1941: The Red Army recaptures Klin and Tikvin. China declares war on Japan, Germany and Italy.

December 9, 1943: The Allies further consolidate their lines around Monte Camino after repulsing a series of German counterattacks. In the east, Medorovo falls to the Soviet Army. They then move on to attack Znamenka

December 9, 1944: The 2nd Ukraine Front, north of Budapest, reaches the Danube River.

December 10

December 10, 1940: Two German spies, Jose Waldberg and Carl Meier, are the first people to be executed since the start of the war. They were hung in Pentonville jail in London. The pair landed in England several weeks prior with a radio transmitter, English money and some iron rations. They planned to spend the nights hiding, and their days collecting information - from the unwary public in trains, pubs and buffets, and by observation of military bases. Also, Hitler issues a directive for the seizure of French military resources and the future occupation of Vichy France (Operation Attila), and cancels plans to invade Gibraltar via Spain (Operation Felix).

December 10, 1942: Hitler replaces General Halder with General Zeitzler as chief of staff of the OKH. Little ground is gained at Rzhev by a small German counterattack on the Eastern Front.

December 10, 1944: In the West, the US Third Army (Patton) captures Hagenau and Saargemünd.

December 11

December 11, 1939: Finnish soldiers cut off the Russian 163rd Division at Suomussalmi, Finland during the Winter War. Also, the League of Nations demands that Russia cease hostilities against Finland.

Decemeber 11, 1940: German raiders devastate a large area of Birmingham in arial attacks.

December 11, 1941: In a speech before the Reichstag Hitler, after denouncing the un-neutral and warlike anti-German policies of President Roosevelt and citing Germany's obligations under the Tri-Partite Pact with Japan and Italy, declares war on the United States. His ally, Mussolini, follows suit some hours later. Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua declare war on Germany.

December 11, 1942: In Libya, Panzerarmee Afrika abandons the Gazala line and continues its retreat west toward the Mareth line in Tunisia.

December 12

December 12, 1939: The German liner Bremen arrives at Bremerhaven from Murmansk, having evaded the British blockade. In the east, Russia rejects the League of Nations demands for peace with Finland.

December 12, 1940: In England, Sheffield suffers heavy Luftwaffe raids.

December 12, 1941: Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania declare war on the United States. In order to improve relations with Germany, Yugoslavia signs a friendship pact with Hungary.

December 12, 1942: A hastily assembled force of 13 divisions, including three Panzer divisions, under the control of 4.Panzerarmee (Hoth), begins Operation Winter Tempest, the relief of 6.Armee (von Paulus) encircled at Stalingrad. In the Mediterannian Sea, Italian midget submarines sink four ships in the harbor at Algiers.

December 13

December 13, 1939: In the south Atlantic the German raider, the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, fights an action against three British cruisers, HMS Achilles, Ajax and Exeter, which results in serious damage to both sides, with Exeter rendered a blazing hulk and the Graf Spee withdrawing to the River Plate for repairs.

December 13, 1940: Hitler issues Directive No. 20, the order for the preparation of Operation Marita, a plan for sending German forces to revive the bogged-down Italian offensive in Albania.

December 13, 1941: In the East, the Red Army launches a counter-offensive from the Kalinin area toward besieged Leningrad. German forces of Heeresgruppe Mitte (von Bock) evacuate Tula.

December 13, 1942: In Libya, Panzerarmee Afrika evacuates El Agheila.

December 13, 1943: Heeresgruppe Mitte becomes engaged in a series of heavy defensive battles in the area of Witebsk.

December 13, 1944: In northern Alsace, German forces of 7.Armee (Brandenberger) withdraw to fortified positions of the Westwall (Siegfried Line).

December 14

December 14, 1939: Because of its brutal aggression against Finland, the Soviet Union is expelled from the League of Nations.

December 14, 1941: German forces evacuate Kalinin 100 miles NW of Moscow.

December 15

December 15, 1943: The Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain break off diplomatic relationd with the Yugoslav government-in-exile and recognize Tito's Communist Popular Liberation Committee as the government-to-be of the country.

December 16

December 16, 1942: In the East, the Red Army begins an offensive in the direction of Rostov-on-Don to cut off the German forces of Heeresgruppe A in the Caucasus.

December 16, 1944: The German Army in the West begins Operation Wacht am Rhein (Watch on the Rhine), eventually to become known as the Battle of the Bulge, with the objective of splitting the Allied forces and capturing the strategic port of Antwerp. Being under the control of Heeresgruppe B (Model), the attacking forces pouring forth from the Ardennes Forest comprise 6.SS-Panzerarmee (Dietrich), 5.Panzerarmee (von Manteuffel), with 7.Armee (Brandenberger) providing flank support to the south of the line of advance.

December 17

December 17, 1939: Unable to complete repairs of the Graf Spee within 24 hours, the time limit stipulated by international law for foreign warships in neutral ports, and under strict orders by OKM not to go into internment in Uruguay, Capt. Langsdorff takes his ship outside the harbor of Montevideo and orders his crew to scuttle her, thus denying the fleet of British Navy vessels converging on the River Plate the opportunity of destroying her in an unequal battle.

December 17, 1940: In pursuit of the retrating Italian forces, the British 8th Army (Wavell) captures Sollum in Cyrenaica.

December 17, 1944: The German offensive in the West, after some deep penetrations into the lines of the unprepared US forces in the area, makes only slow progress due to limited roads as well as difficult terrain and weather conditions, not reaching any assigned first-day objectives.

December 18

December 18, 1940: Hitler issues Directive No. 21, ordering plans for the preparation of Operation Barbarossa, the attack against the Soviet Union, to be submitted by May 15, 1941.

December 18, 1941: Field Marshal von Brauchitsch resigns as head of OKH, Hitler himself assuming personal command of the Heer, especially of its operations on the Eastern front.

December 18, 1944: In the West, Operation Wacht am Rhein begins to bog down in the face of stiffened US resistance and lack of adequate logistical support, notably fuel for the armored Kampfgruppen of Dietrich's and Manteuffel's armies.

December 19

December 19, 1940: Mussolini requests German assistance for his hard-pressed troops in Cyrenaica in the form of a Panzer Division and various logistical support.

December 19, 1941: Frogmen of the Italian Navy penetrate the port of Alexandria in Egypt and damage the British battleships HMS Valiant and Queen Elizabeth. Colombia severs diplomatic relations with Germany and Italy.

December 19, 1944: SHAEF orders the 101st Airborne Division as well as the 10th Armored Division to be detached from 3rd Army and moved north to support the US forces under attack in the Ardennes, particularly to aid the 28th Infantry Division in its defense of the vital road junction of Bastogne.

December 20

December 20, 1941: German forces of Heeresgruppe Mitte retreating from the front before Moscow reach new defensive lines more than 100 m to the west where, following strict orders by Hitler, they are to stand and fight off any further Soviet advances.

December 20, 1944: In their torturous advance toward the Meuse river, armored units of 6.SS-Panzerarmee capture Stavelot, searching for Allied fuel dumps to replenish their near- exhausted supplies of gasoline.

December 21

December 21, 1944: In the Ardennes, units of 5.Panzerarmee capture St. Vith.

December 22

December 22, 1941: Prime Minister Churchill arrives at the White House as the guest of President Roosevelt.

December 22, 1944: US troops of the 28th Infantry and 101st Airborne Divisions defending besieged Bastogne receive a German surrender ultimatum which the CO of the 102nd, Brigadier General McAuliffe, answers with the single word, "Nuts!" This succinct specimen of American slang has to be interpreted to General von Lüttwitz, CO of XXXXVII.Panzerkorps, as a negative reply.

December 23

December 23, 1941: Under the continous pressure of the British 8th Army (Wavell), Rommel and his Afrikakorps evacuate Benghasi in Libya.

December 23, 1942: Having advanced as far as the Myshkova river 30 m SW of Stalingrad, the three Panzer divisions of the force to relieve the German troops of 6.Armee encircled at Stalingrad have exhausted their power and begin withdrawing to their starting line at Kotelnikovo.

December 23, 1944: In Hungary, the Red Army captures Gran, thus cutting all German communications with Budapest. In the Ardennes, US forces begin lifting the siege of Bastogne.

December 24

December 24, 1942: Following the suspension of Operation Winter Tempest, the relief of Stalingrad, the Red Army begins an offensive against Heeresgruppe Don (von Manstein) toward Kotelnikovo, breaking through the lines of 4.Rumänische Armee.

December 24, 1943: In the Ukraine, the Red Army launches an offensive in the Kiev-Shitomir area, capturing Berdichev. General Dwight D. Eisenhauer is appointed supreme commander of the Allied forces preparing for the invasion of Europe.

December 24, 1944: In the English Channel, U-486 (Oblt.z.S. Gerhard Meyer) sinks the Allied troop carrier SS Leopoldville with the loss of 763 men of the US 66th Infantry Division. All news and information on this incident is suppressed by orders of SHAEF headquarters.

December 25 - German Christmas during WWII

December 25, 1942: Heavy fighting continues all around the perimeter of the Stalingrad Kessel, while the decimated and starving troops of 6.Armee receive their last rations of horse meat, the 12,000 horses in the pocket having now all been slaughtered.

December 25, 1944: Fighting continues in the "Battle of the Bulge", while in the southern portion of the German attack, surrounded US troops continue to hold out against repated German attempts to take the vital road junction at Bastogne.

December 26

December 26, 1943: Ordered to sail to the Barents Sea and destroy the Allied convoy JW-55B bound for the Soviet port of Murmansk, the German battle-cruiser Scharnhorst (Vizeadm. Bey) encounters a protective force of the British Home Fleet (Vice-Adm. Burnett) consisting of the cruisers HMS Belfast, Duke of York, Jamaica and Norfolk. After a fierce action, Scharnhorst is sunk, with only 36 of her crew of 1,839 surviving.

December 27

December 27, 1941: The Red Army continues its counter-offensive in the Kalinin area 100 miles NW of Moscow.

December 28

December 28, 1940: Mussolini asks Hitler for support of the Italian forces bogged-down in their offensive in Albania.

December 28, 1942: In the face of the continuing Soviet offensive toward Rostov-on-Don that threatens to cut it off, Heeresgruppe A (Ruoff) is ordered to withdraw its forces from the Caucasus.

December 29

December 29, 1941: In the eastern Crimea, German troops of Heeresgruppe B (von Schobert) evacuate Kerch and Theodosia.

December 29, 1943: The British 8th Army (Montgomery) captures Ortona on the Adriatic coast of Italy. The RAF launches a heavy raid on Berlin.

December 30

[No major events on this day.]

December 31

December 31, 1941: Heeresgruppe B halts all further attacks against the Crimean fortress of Sevastopol. 1944: In northern Alsace, 7.Armee (Brandenberger) begins Operation Nordwind, an attack against the southern flank of the US 3rd Army (Patton) that has reached the German border on the Saar river.