Europe 1941: Eve of Barbarossa
British forces successfully ended German influence in Iraq and Syria, but narrowly failed to defeat a German airborne invasion of Crete. For Hitler though, this was all a sideshow—his focus was now on his 3-million-man military build-up for the invasion of the Soviet Union.
22 Apr 1941 Territory of Military Commander in Serbia▲
As part of the dismantling of Yugoslavia, Serbia and the Banat is placed under the supreme authority of the German military commander in Serbia, with the day-to-day administration of the territory under the control of the chief of the military administration staff. Bulgarian troops assisted in the occupation and two weak puppet governments carried out administrative tasks under German supervision: the Commissioner Administration (30 April–29 August 1941) and the Government of National Salvation (29 August 1941–October 1944).
2–31 May 1941 Anglo-Iraqi War▲
On 1 May 1941 the RAF airbase at Habbaniyah discovered it was being surrounded by Iraqi forces with artillery and responded with airstrikes the following day, driving back the Iraqis by 6 May. Meanwhile, under German orders, Vichy Syria began supplying arms to Iraq while the British in Transjordan and Basra launched a full-scale invasion. The British captured Baghdad on 31 May, bringing the war to an end just days after the pro-Axis Prime Minister Rashid Ali’s escape to Iran.
18 May 1941 Treaties of Rome▲
The Independent State of Croatia signed the three Treaties of Rome with the Kingdom of Italy at the Palazzo Venezia in Rome. The treaties recognized Croatia as a sovereign state under Italian protection and defined its borders with Italy, allowing for the creation of the Italian Governorate of Dalmatia and completing the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.
20 May–1 Jun 1941 Battle of Crete▲
On the morning of 20 May 1941, Germany began an airborne invasion of the island of Crete—where Greek and Allied forces had gathered following the German conquest of mainland Greece. The battle saw the first mass use of paratroops, with German Fallschirmjäger seizing control of Maleme airfield on 21 May despite suffering heavy casualties. Forced south in the face of German reinforcements, the Allies evacuated the island on 28 May–1 June.
26–27 May 1941 Sinking the Bismarck▲
With her fuel tanks damaged after the Battle of Denmark Strait, the German battleship Bismarck was making for the port of Brest in German-occupied France when she was intercepted on 26 May by torpedo bombers from the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal, whose strikes disabled her steering gear. The following day, she was sunk in a full-on attack by British battleships and cruisers.
8 Jun–12 Jul 1941 Operation Exporter▲
In Operation Exporter, British, Australian, Indian, and Free French forces under Archibald Wavell crossed the Palestine border into Vichy French Syria and Lebanon in June 1941. At the same time, British troops from Iraq invaded Syria from the east. Damascus fell on 12 June, but the local Vichy French leader General Henri Dentz held out in the north for another month before surrendering.
15–22 Jun 1941 Final Preparations for Barbarossa▲
After a gradual build up starting in 1940, on 30 April 1941 Adolf Hitler set the launch date of Operation Barbarossa to 22 June 1941. On 15 June this date and the time of 0330 were confirmed to the German higher formation commanders and German units began moving into forward positions for the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Soviets responded by ordering a black-out in cities along the border and deploying troops in forward positions, but did not deploy for defense.