More than 2,300 American sailors and soldiers were killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Learn about this and the other major events of December 1941 in the timeline that follows.
World War II Timeline: December 6-December 13
December 6: British sailor John Capes makes a miraculous escape from the submarine Perseus, which had been sunk by a mine. Despite injuries, he ascends from a depth of 170 feet and swims to the Greek coastline.
Britain declares war on Finland, at the request of the Soviet Union.
Citing his doubt that Japanese troops in Indochina are there for defensive purposes, Franklin Roosevelt asks Emperor Hirohito to withdraw his forces.
December 7: Adolf Hitler issues the "Night and Fog" decree, calling for the convenient disappearance of anyone who threatens the security of Nazi Germany.
Japanese planes attack American ships and planes at the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. More than 2,300 American sailors and soldiers are killed.
December 8: Adolf Hitler acknowledges that the Soviet campaign will be neither quick nor easy.
Calling December 7 a "day that will live in infamy," Franklin Roosevelt calls for a congressional declaration of war on Japan.
Japanese troops occupy Shanghai, China, and capture a small U.S. garrison.
December 10: Britain's naval force is dealt a heavy blow when the Japanese sink the battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse.
Guam quickly capitulates when overwhelmed by 6,000 Japanese troops.
December 11: Nazi Germany and Italy declare war on the United States. Congress responds by declaring war on those two nations.
December 13: The American policy of preventive internment is launched with the confinement of nearly 600 Japanese and 200 Germans.
World War II Headlines
Read on to learn about some of the other major events of World War II, including the siege of Leningrad.
Soviet-British alliance: The Soviet Union began the war as a virtual ally of Germany, due to the Soviet-German nonaggression pact. But Operation Barbarossa changed this situation completely. The Kremlin rarely promoted publicly the contribution of its Anglo-U.S. allies to the defeat of Nazi Germany, as it directed most of its propaganda to self-promotion and to motivating the Russian people. Nevertheless, a 1941 poster recognized Britain's involvement in the war. It was produced when the Soviet Union was particularly dependent upon receiving large quantities of Anglo-U.S. war materiel to fight the "Great Patriotic War."
The siege of Leningrad, Soviet Union: The name "Leningrad" was of particular ideological significance to Adolf Hitler, and he ordered the obliteration of Leningrad and its people through bombing, shelling, starvation, and disease. He also forbade the acceptance of any surrender offer, if made.
Field Marshal Leeb's Army Group North reached Leningrad on September 8, 1941, and began an 872-day Nazi German siege, during which close to a million of the city's citizens died. Meanwhile, the survivors suffered almost unimaginable hardships, especially during the winters. Bitter and often large-scale fighting raged about the city intermittently until January 27, 1944, when the much-weakened Wehrmacht was finally forced to withdraw in the face of a major Red Army offensive.
Leningrad's Lake Ladoga provides lifeline: Although Leningrad was besieged by the Nazi Germans, Lake Ladoga to the northeast of Leningrad nevertheless provided a lifeline for the starving population and military resources for the city's defenders. In summer, boats could traverse the lake, while in winter it froze hard, enabling supply trucks to drive across it. Understandably, such hazardous activities were usually conducted by night, as they took place within range of Nazi German artillery and of the Luftwaffe's bombers. The returning trucks carried evacuees -- hundreds of thousands in 1942 -- although many died in the unheated vehicles.
In the final section, we'll cover the events of late December 1941.