In May 1941 Rudolf Hess, one of Adolf Hitler's deputies, flew alone to Scotland in a bizarre attempt to broker a peace deal. The World War II timeline below details this and other events of May 1941.
World War II Timeline: May 2-May 14
May 2: The pro-Axis government of Iraq calls for German assistance as Britain occupies Basra and its surrounding oil fields.
May 5: Though apprised by Tokyo of the fact that Japan's secret Purple code is most likely compromised, the Japanese ambassador to the United States determines that is not the case, and makes no changes to the code.
May 7: Joseph Stalin is named Soviet premier by the Politburo.
The German vessel München is captured in the North Atlantic, with a complete cipher book on board. Two days later, Royal Navy divers will access a sunken German U-boat that includes an Enigma machine complete with rotor settings and another cipher book. These discoveries will lead the Allies to break the Enigma code and change the course of the Battle of the Atlantic for several months.
May 10: In a bizarre incident, third-ranking Nazi Rudolf Hess flies to Scotland solo and parachutes into British custody, claiming that he is there to negotiate peace with Britain. Adolf Hitler suggests that Hess has taken leave of his senses.
May 10-11: London is hit with its most intense Luftwaffe bombing raid of the war. Nearly 1,500 lives are lost, and landmarks such as the British Museum, House of Commons, and Westminster Abbey are badly damaged.
May 12: The British Army in North Africa, desperately short on material, is given a new lease on life when a British convoy reaches Alexandria, Egypt, with some 240 tanks and 40 Hurricanes.
May 14: Some 3,600 Jews are arrested and detained in Paris by the occupying Nazi Gestapo.
World War II Headlines
The headlines and images below detail more events of World War II and the battle between the Axis and the Allies.
Japanese air raids lead to panic in Chungking: Corpses litter the stairs to an air-raid shelter in Chungking, China. The deceased were victims of a mass panic during a Japanese air raid in June 1941; more than 4,000 died after ventilators in the shelter broke down. Despite this tragedy, the provisional capital of Chungking was better prepared than most Chinese cities to survive enemy air attacks. Civilians there could take refuge in a network of caves and tunnels. Most other cities offered no protection from air attack. With little opposition in the skies, the Japanese repeatedly bombed Chinese cities, killing tens of thousands of civilians and leaving untold numbers homeless.
The next section contains a timeline detailing major World War II events of mid-to late May 1941.