December 1940 saw Nazi Germany firebomb London and President Franklin Roosevelt officially abandon the United States' isolationist stance. These and other World War II events are detailed on the World War II timeline below.
World War II Timeline
December 8: Desperately out-matched, Italy pleads with Nazi Germany for assistance with its campaign against Greece.
December 10: Adolf Hitler is forced to cancel a planned invasion of Gibraltar when Spain's General Francisco Franco refuses to assist.
In London, British officials hang Jose Waldberg and Carl Meier. Both are convicted spies for Nazi Germany.
December 11: Britain recaptures the Egyptian city of Sidi Barrani from Italy following a surprise offensive of 30,000 British soldiers against a larger Italian contingent.
December 18: Adolf Hitler approves the outline for plans for a massive German invasion of the Soviet Union.
December 20: The small Dutch navy escapes in its entirety across the English Channel to safety in Britain.
December 23: Jacques Bonsergent becomes the first French citizen executed by the Nazis in Paris, following an altercation with a German officer.
December 27: The Luftwaffe begins its firebombing of London. Over the next several days, some 20,000 British firemen will struggle to extinguish the flames.
December 28: Resource-pinched Japan begins an alternate-fuel program by which private automobiles will be powered by charcoal.
December 29: Finally abandoning America's isolationist stance, President Franklin Roosevelt publicly recommends a program of direct arms aid to Great Britain.
World War II Headlines
More images and headlines from World War II events and the 1940 battles between the Allied powers and Nazi Germany are below.
British Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers antiquated but deadly: The Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber entered service with the British Royal Fleet's Air Arm in 1936. Although limited by a slow speed of 138 mph and armed with just two machine guns, the carrier-launched biplane had much to offer. It was highly maneuverable, had a range of more than 500 miles, and could carry either a 1,620-pound torpedo or the equivalent weight of bombs, mines, or depth charges. It flew with a two- or three-man crew. On November 11, 1940, 21 of these aircraft neutralized the Italian fleet at Taranto, Italy, knocking three battleships out of commission and inflicting serious destruction in general. Later, on May 26-27, 1941, the Swordfish also played a crucial part in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck.
To follow more major events of World War II, see:
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS:John S. D. Eisenhower, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Richard Overy Ph.D., David J. A. Stone, Wim Coleman, Martin F. Graham, James H. Hallas, Mark Johnston Ph.D., Christy Nadalin M.A., Pat Perrin, Peter Stanley Ph.D.