In June 1942, the Battle of Midway shifted the momentum of the Pacific war. Learn about this and the other important World War II events that occurred during 1942 below.
World War II Timeline: May 27-June 5
May 27: The British Eighth Army shows off the American Grant M3 tank, its newest piece of high-tech weaponry, against Rommel's troops in Libya.
Damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the carrier USS Yorktown returns to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
May 29: Effective today, all French Jews must wear the yellow Star of David badge.
Czech partisans sent from England attack the car carrying Bohemia and Moravia deputy Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, mortally wounding him.
May 30-31: Cologne, Germany is devastated by the first RAF raid to employ more than 1,000 bombers.
June: Eight Nazi German secret agents arrive via U-boat in the U.S., four in New York and four in Florida. They plan to destroy a cryolite factory in Philadelphia, but two of the members betray the operation to the FBI.
June 1: The Luftwaffe inflicts heavy damage on Canterbury, England.
June 2: More than 130 Czech citizens are murdered to avenge the attack on Reinhard Heydrich.
June 4: Reinhard Heydrich dies in Prague of an infection stemming from his injuries at the hands of Czech partisans.
June 4-6: The momentum of the Pacific war shifts to favor the Allies when they achieve a stunning victory at the Battle of Midway. The Japanese lose 3,500 men and four of their six largest aircraft carriers, permitting the Allies to go on the offensive.
June 5: Forty-nine civilians die in an accidental explosion at an Elmwood, Illinois, ordnance plant.
The United States formally declares war on Axis satellites Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, each of whom had declared war on the U.S. in December 1941.
World War II Headlines
Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details and consequences of numerous attacks and battles across the globe.
The bombing of Cologne, Germany: For 90 minutes on the night of May 30-31, 1942, the RAF dropped 1,445 tons of high explosives and 915 tons of incendiaries on Cologne, Germany, and its one million inhabitants, killing more than 500 and injuring more than 5,000. The docks and railways were destroyed, together with 36 factories and more than 3,000 homes. Some 45,000 people were left homeless. Of the 1,046 bombers involved, only 40 failed to return. This devastatingly successful raid was inspired by Air Chief Marshal "Bomber" Harris. It was designed to boost British morale, shatter German self-confidence, and impress Britain's allies.
Japanese subs attack Sydney, Australia, area: A shattered Japanese midget submarine is hoisted from the waters of Sydney Harbor following an attack on Allied shipping on the night of May 31, 1942. Three of the two-man midget subs, launched from standard submarines, participated in the attack. All were lost. One became tangled in an anti-torpedo net and blew itself up. The crew members of the second committed suicide after their sub was damaged in a depth-charge attack. The third sub fired two torpedoes, one of which sank a depot ship. Though never found, it too failed to return to the mother sub. One week later, a Japanese sub attacked the Sydney area, damaging houses but causing no serious injuries.
Reinhard Heydrich's assassination: In September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich became the governor of Nazi German-occupied Bohemia and Moravia (today's Czech Republic). The overly confident governor often rode in an unescorted, open-roofed car. On May 27, 1942, two British-trained Czech resistance fighters successfully ambushed him in Prague, wounding him with a grenade. Seen here is the car in which he was attacked. After several days of agony, Heydrich died on June 4.
The destruction of Lidice, Czechoslovakia: The Nazis' most notorious retaliation for Reinhard Heydrich's assassination was the destruction of the Czech village of Lidice, suspected by Adolf Hitler of being a hotbed of anti-Nazi resistance. On June 10, 1942, Nazi German authorities rounded up the town's entire population. All males over 16 years of age -- about 172 in number -- were shot to death the next day. Many of Lidice's surviving women were sent to their deaths at the Ravensbrück concentration camp, while some children considered sufficiently "Aryan" were adopted by German families. All told, about 340 people from Lidice were murdered. The village was rebuilt after the war.
Chester Nimitz leads the Pacific Fleet: Chester Nimitz entered the Naval Academy at the age of 15 in 1901 and graduated seventh in his class. President Franklin Roosevelt chose him to replace disgraced Admiral Husband Kimmel as commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet after Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Nimitz's first task was to rebuild the Pacific Fleet, a job he accomplished swiftly. Within six months of the attack, Nimitz achieved a stunning victory over the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. The U.S. followed that triumph with a string of amphibious attacks, one island after another, until the Allies were at the doorstep of Japan in August 1945.
Battle of Midway turns the tide: Many historians consider the Battle of Midway the most significant naval engagement of World War II. Fought from June 4 to 7, 1942, the battle turned back a Japanese attempt to seize Midway Atoll and destroy the U.S. fleet in a decisive confrontation. Armed with key intelligence on enemy plans, outnumbered U.S. forces mauled the Japanese. The Imperial Japanese Navy would never regain the superiority it had enjoyed over the first six months of the war.
Hiryu, Japan's important aircraft carrier, is attacked: The Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu takes evasive action while under attack by U.S. B-17 bombers during the Battle of Midway. Commissioned in 1939, the 20,250-ton carrier was involved in the raid on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 as well as in operations in the East Indies and Indian Ocean. At Midway, its planes heavily damaged the U.S. carrier Yorktown on June 4. Hours later, Hiryu was attacked by 13 dive-bombers from Enterprise. Struck by four bombs, it was abandoned when massive fires could not be brought under control. The Hiryu was subsequently scuttled by torpedoes from the destroyer Makigumo.
Yorktown sinks at Midway after Japanese air attacks: Smoke billows from the USS Yorktown following Japanese air attacks at Midway. The carrier survived three bomb hits and returned to action before coming under renewed attack by enemy torpedo planes. Struck by two torpedoes, the carrier lost headway and began listing to port. Fearing the carrier was about to capsize, the crew was ordered to abandon ship. Hours later, with the Yorktown still stubbornly afloat, efforts were underway to salvage the ship when a Japanese submarine sent two more torpedoes into the carrier. Mortally wounded, Yorktown sank in 3,000 fathoms the following morning.
Japanese vice admiral Nagumo Chuichi demoted: Japanese vice admiral Nagumo Chuichi led the attack on Pearl Harbor and gained fame during the initial flood tide of Japanese victories in the Pacific. Since Nagumo's schooling was in surface tactics, many fellow officers had questioned his appointment as commander of the First Carrier Fleet in April 1941, feeling he lacked familiarity with the naval air arm. Despite early successes, Nagumo fell out of favor after the loss of four carriers at Midway. He was eventually demoted to a series of less important posts. Assigned to the Marianas, he was trapped by the U.S. invasion of Saipan and took his life on July 6, 1944.
The reliable Dauntless is mainstay of U.S. Navy air fleet: Considered obsolete when war broke out, the U.S. Navy Douglas SBD Dauntless was underpowered, slow, noisy, and fatiguing to fly over long distances. On the plus side, it handled well, could absorb considerable punishment, and was very accurate. These attributes transformed the Dauntless into the mainstay of the U.S. Navy's air fleet from 1941 to 1943. In fact, it was credited with sinking more Japanese warships than any other U.S. aircraft type. At Midway alone, Dauntless dive-bombers sank four Japanese carriers and damaged two heavy cruisers.
Learn more about the events of June 1942 in the timeline on the next page.