North America 1941: Attack on Pearl Harbor
Over the course of 1941, US President Franklin Roosevelt gradually increased neutral America’s involvement in the War: extending the Pan-American Security Zone far across the Atlantic; allowing US destroyers to accompany British ships and hunt German submarines; garrisoning Allied bases from Iceland to Surinam; extending Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union; and freezing German and Japanese assets. The US embargo was too much for Japan, whose war in China depended on imported oil. On December 7, it launched a surprise attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, bringing America suddenly into the War.
9 Apr 1941 Greenland Protectorate▲
On the anniversary of the German occupation of Denmark, the Danish envoy to Washington D.C., Henrik de Kauffmann, against the instructions of his government, signed an executive agreement with US Secretary of State Cordell Hull, allowing the US to base forces in Greenland. This action effectively made Greenland a de facto US protectorate and earned Kauffmann the nickname “King of Greenland”.
11 Apr 1941 Pan-American Security Zone extension▲
The United States extended the Pan-American Security Zone to 26 degrees West, as far as the Azores. The extension brought the zone to within 93 km of Iceland, a major convoy staging area.
22 Jun 1941 Operation Barbarossa▲
At 3:15 am the Axis Powers led by Nazi Germany launched the invasion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, bombing cities in a broad arc from Kronstadt to Sevastopol as some three million troops advanced across the border. Within hours the momentum of the Axis attacks had completely destroyed the Soviet organizational command and control, paralyzing every level of command, and it was only at 7:15 am that Soviet leader Josef Stalin announced the invasion to the Soviet Armed Forces and called upon them to act.
7 Jul 1941 US occupation of Iceland▲
The United States 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed in Iceland, replacing the British garrison on the island.
26 Jul 1941 Freezing of Japanese assets▲
Following Japan’s rejection of a United States-sponsored plan to withdraw from most of China and French Indochina and a Japanese agreement with Vichy France to allow Japanese troops into southern Indochina, the US froze Japanese assets. The United Kingdom and the Netherlands followed suit, depriving Japan of 90% of its oil imports.
14 Aug 1941 Atlantic Charter▲
The United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter as a joint declaration at Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland. The charter detailed the goals and aims of the Allied powers concerning World War II and the post-war world, even though the US was not yet officially involved in the War. It had eight principal points, most notably that the Allies sought no territorial gains, accepted the right of national self-determination, and strove for disarmament, free-trade, and global cooperation.
23 Nov 1941 U.S. occupation of Surinam▲
Under agreement with the Dutch government-in-exile, the United States occupied Surinam (Dutch Guiana) to protect its bauxite mines.
7 Dec 1941 Attack on Pearl Harbor▲
At 7:48 am Hawaiian Time, Imperial Japanese fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes launched from six aircraft carriers mounted a surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory. The attack damaged all eight US battleships present, sinking four, as well as hitting three cruisers, three destroyers, and two other ships. In addition, 188 US aircraft were destroyed and 2,403 Americans were killed, with another 1,178 wounded. Japanese losses were much lighter. The following day the US declared war on Japan.