WW2 in the Pacific
First Days of War
War - The First Days
Dec 8, Mon.
- Japanese Imperial Rescript declaring a state of war between the
Japanese Empire and the United States is issued in Tokyo. [Note : the
"Fourteen Point message" delivered while the attack on Pearl Harbor was
going on merely declared an impasse in the ongoing diplomatic negotiations.]
- U.S. declares war on Japan. In his address to the nation, President Roosevelt describes
December 7th, 1941 as "a date which will live in infamy."
- Britain, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominica, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua,
Free France and Netherlands government in exile
declares war on Japan. China declares war on German and Italy.
- Thailand capitulates within a few hours of Japanese invasion.
- Japanese submarine I-123 mines Balabac Strait, P.I. and
I-124 mines the entrance to Manila Bay.
- Striking Force, U.S. Asiatic Fleet departs Iloilo, P.I., for Makassar Strait, N.E.I.
- Seaplane tender (destroyer) William B. Preston (AVD-7) is attacked by fighters
and attack planes from Japanese carrier Ryujo in Davao Gulf, P.I.;
William B. Preston escapes, but two PBYs she is tending are strafed and destroyed on the water.
- Japan inters U.S. Marines and nationals at Shanghai, Tientsin and Chinwangtao, China.
River gunboat Wake (PR-3) maintained at Shanghai as station ship and manned by a
skeleton crew, is seized by Japanese Naval Landing Force boarding party after attempt to
- Wake, the only U.S. Navy ship to surrender during World War II, is renamed
Tatara and serves under the Rising Sun for the rest of the war. British river
gunboat HMS Peterel, however, moored nearby in the Whangpoo River,
refuses demand to surrender and is sunk by gunfire from Japanese coast defense ship
Idzumo. Five American-flag tugboats are seized by the Japanese at Shanghai.
- U.S. passenger liner President Harrison, en route to evacuate marines from North China,
is intentionally run aground at Sha Wai Shan, China, and is captured by the Japanese.
Repaired, refloated, and renamed Kakko Maru and later, Kachidoki Maru.
Among the baggage awaiting shipment out of occupied China along with the North China
Marines are the bones of Peking Man, which are never seen again. Their fate remains
a mystery to this day.
- Saratoga (CV-3) departs San Diego for Pearl Harbor.
- Japanese forces land on Bataan Island, north of Luzon.
- Japanese forces move rapidly on east coast of Malay Peninsula.
RAF Hudsons bomb invasion shipping off Kota Bharu, Malaya, setting
army cargo ship Awajisan Maru afire.
- Japanese planes bomb Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippine Islands.
Extensive damage is inflicted on USAAF aircraft at Clark Field, Luzon, P.I.
During Japanese bombing of shipping in Manila Bay, U.S. freighter
Capillo is set afire and abandoned.
- Japanese naval land attack planes bomb Wake Island, inflicting
heavy damage on airfield installations and F4F Wildcats. A U.S. four-plane
patrol is out of position to deal with the incoming raid (there is no
radar on Wake). Pan American Airways Martin 130 Philippine Clipper
(being prepared for a scouting flight with an escort of two F4F's when
the attack comes), in the aftermath of the disaster precipitately
evacuates Caucasian airline staff and passengers. Pan American's
Chamorro (local) employees and a government accountant are left behind.
- Japanese force sails from Kwajalein, in the Marshall Islands, to assault Wake.
- Japanese float planes bomb Guam, M.I., damaging minesweeper
Penguin (AM-33) and auxiliary Robert L. Barnes (AG-27) are at Wake.
Penguin is abandoned and scuttled in deep water by her crew.
Dec 9, Tue.
- Japanese seize Tarawa and Makin, Gilbert Islands.
- Japanese submarines RO-63, RO-64, and RO-68 bombard Howland and Baker Islands
in the mistaken belief that American seaplane bases exist there.
- Transport William Ward Burrows (AP-6), en route to Wake Island, is re-routed to Johnston.
- Japanese submarine I-10 shells and sinks unarmed Panamanian-flag
motorship Donerail 200 miles SE of Hawaii.
There are only eight survivors of the 33-man crew; all seven passengers perish.
- Niihau islanders attempt this day and the next to transport crash-landed
Japanese Zero pilot to Kauai are frustrated by bad weather (see 12-13 December).
- Japanese naval land attack planes bomb defense installations on Wake Island.
- The remainder of the British Empire, Cuba, and Panama declare war on Japan.
- Japanese occupy Bangkok, Thailand.
- Bitter fighting for airfield at Kota Bharu in Malaya.
- River gunboat Mindanao (PR-8), en route from Hong Kong to Manila,
captures Japanese fishing vessel and takes her 10-man Formosan crew prisoner,
leaves the craft adrift, reaching her destination the following day.
- Submarine Swordfish (SS-193), in initial U.S. submarine attack
of the war on a Japanese ship 150 miles west of Manila.
Dec 10, Wed.
- Cavite Navy Yard, P.I., is practically obliterated by Japanese land
Destroyers Peary (DD-226) and Pillsbury (DD-227),
submarines Seadragon (SS-194) and Sealion (SS-195),
minesweeper Bittern (AM-36), and submarine tender Otus (AS-20),
suffer varying degrees of damage from bombs; ferry Santa Rita (YFB-681)
is destroyed by direct hit. Submarine rescue vessel Pigeon (ASR-6) tows
Seadragon out of the burning wharf area;
minesweeper Whippoorwill (AM-35) recovers Peary,
enabling both warships to be repaired and returned to service.
Bittern is gutted by fires. Antiaircraft fire from U.S. guns
is ineffective. During bombing of Manila Bay area, unarmed U.S. freighter
Sagoland is damaged.
- While flying to safety during the raid on Cavite, a PBY
is attacked by three Japanese Zero carrier fighters; gunner
Chief Boatswain Payne shoots down one, thus scoring the U.S. Navy's
first verifiable air-to-air "kill" of a Japanese plane in the Pacific
War. Lt. Utter, the PBY commander, will later coordinate the carrier
air strikes that lead to the destruction of Japanese battleship
- Japanese forces land on Camiguin Island and at Gonzaga and Aparri, Luzon.
Off Vigan, minesweeper W.10 is bombed and sunk by USAAF P-35;
destroyer Murasame and transport Oigawa Maru are strafed,
the latter set afire. USAAF B-17's bomb and damage light cruiser
Naka and transport Takao Maru; the latter is run aground.
Off Aparri, minesweeper W.19 is bombed and
light cruiser Natori is damaged.
The B-17 is probably the one flown by Capt Colin Kelly,
who is awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, posthumously, for
heroism when Japanese fighters attack his bomber over Clark Field
as he returns from his mission.
- British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle cruiser
HMS Repulse (Adm Sir Phillips, RN) are sunk by Japanese
land attack planes off Kuantan, Malaya. video Four U.S. destroyers of DesDiv57
had been sent to help screen Phillips's ships, having arrived at
Singapore too late to sortie with the British force, search unsuccessfully
for additional survivors before returning to Singapore, Surabaya, then Darwin.
- Governor of Guam (Capt. McMillin) surrenders the island to Japanese invasion force.
District patrol craft YP-16 and YP-17;
open lighters YC-664, YC-665, YC-666, YC-667, YC-6687, YC-670, YC-671, YC-672, YC-673, YC-674, YC-685, YC-717, YC-718;
dredge YM-13; water barges YW-50, YW-55, YW-58;
and auxiliary Robert L. Barnes (AG-27) are all
lost to the Japanese occupation of that American Pacific possession.
- Scout bomber from carrier Enterprise (CV-6) sinks Japanese submarine I-70 in Hawaii area.
- Japanese naval land attack planes bomb Marine installations on Wake Island.
During the interception of the bombers, Capt Elrod, USMC,
shoots down a Mitsubishi G3M2 Type 96 land attack plane (Nell);
this is the first USMC air-to-air "kill" of the Pacific War.
Japanese submarines RO 65, RO 66, and RO 67 arrive off Wake.
Shortly before midnight, submarine Triton (SS-201), patrolling
south of the atoll, encounters a Japanese warship, probably a picket
for the oncoming assault force
Dec 11, Thu.
- Germany and Italy declare war on United States.
- United States declares war on Germany and Italy.
- Secretary of the Navy Knox arrives on Oahu to personally assess
the damage inflicted by the Japanese on 7 December.
- Submarine Triton (SS-201), patrolling south of Wake Island,
unsuccessfully attacks Japanese ship.
- Wake Island garrison repulses Japanese invasion force ;
Marine shore battery gunfire sinks one destroyer Hayate
and damages three other ships ;
USMC F4F Wildcats bomb and sink destroyer Kisaragi
and strafe and damage light cruiser Tenryu and armed merchant
cruiser Kongo Maru. Later the same day, USMC F4F bombs and most
likely damages submarine RO-66 south of Wake.
U.S. submarines deployed off Wake, Triton to the south and
Tambor (SS-198) to the north, take no active part in the battle.
Following the abortive assault, Japanese naval land attack planes
bomb marine gun batteries.
- Japanese submarine I-9 shells unarmed U.S. freighter
Lahaina about 800 miles NE of Honolulu.
- Heavy bombing of Penang, Philippines, Malaya, and Hong Kong.
- Japanese make landings at Legaspi, Luzon.
Dec 12, Fri.
- Secretary of the Navy Knox departs Oahu after inspecting the damage done
by the Japanese attack of 7 December.
- Downed Japanese Naval Pilot Nishikaichi Shigenori, armed by Harada Yoshio,
a Japanese resident of Niihau, begins to terrorize the inhabitants of the island into returning
papers taken on 7 December. The islanders flee to the hills.
- Japanese reconnaissance flying boats bomb Wake Island in pre-dawn raid.
Later in the day, land attack planes bomb Wake.
- Heavy fighting in Philippines and Malaya.
Dec 13, Sat.
- Congress, to meet the demand for trained enlisted men, authorizes
the retention of enlisted men in the Navy upon the expiration of
their enlistments when not voluntarily extended.
- Japanese naval land planes attack Subic Bay area and airfields in Philippines and
bombing of shipping in Manila Bay.
- Occupation of Niihau, Hawaii, by downed Japanese Zero pilot Nishikaichi Shigenori
ends: Nishikaichi burns his plane
(it will not be until July 1942 that the U.S. Navy will be able to
obtain an intact Zero to study) and the house in which he believes
his confiscated papers are hidden. Later, in confrontation with a
local Hawaiian, Benny Kanahele, a scuffle to grab the pilot's pistol
ensues. Although Kanahele is shot three times, he picks up Nishikaichi
bodily and dashes the pilot's head into a stone wall, killing him.
Harada Yoshio, the Japanese resident of Niihau who had allied himself
with the pilot, commits suicide. Kanahele survives his injuries.
- Japanese advance in NW Malaya. Chinese attack troops investing Hong Kong.
Dec 14, Sun.
- TF 11 (VAdm Wilson Brown Jr.), comprising carrier Lexington (CV-2),
three heavy cruisers, nine destroyers, and oiler Neosho (AO-23),
sails for the Marshall Islands, to create a diversion to cover
TF 14's attempt to relieve Wake Island.
- Japanese reconnaissance flying boats bomb Wake Island.
Later in the day, naval land attack planes raid Wake, bombing
Dec 15, Mon.
- Seaplane tender Tangier (AV-8), oiler Neches (AO-5),
and four destroyers sail from Pearl Harbor for Wake Island.
- Saratoga (CV-3) arrives Pearl Harbor.
- Japanese reconnaissance flying boats bomb Wake Island.
- Johnston Island is shelled by Japanese submarine I-22.
- Kahului, Maui, Territory of Hawaii, is shelled by Japanese submarine.
- British pushed back from N.W Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Dec 16, Tue.
- Carrier Yorktown (CV-5) departs Norfolk, Virginia to return to and reinforce
the Pacific fleet.
- TF 14 (RAdm Frank Jack Fletcher), comprising carrier Saratoga (CV-3),
heavy cruisers Astoria (CA-34) (flagship),
Minneapolis (CA-36), and San Francisco (CA-38) ; and four destroyers
sails from Pearl Harbor. These ships will overtake the force formed
around Tangier (AV-8) and Neches (AO-5) and their consorts to relieve Wake Island.
- Japanese Pearl Harbor Attack Force detaches
carriers Hiryu and Soryu, heavy cruisers
Tone and Chikuma, and
two destroyers to reinforce a second planned attack on Wake Island.
- Japanese naval land attack planes bomb Wake.
- Submarine Tambor (SS-198), damaged, retires from the waters off Wake.
- Enterprise task forces return to Pearl Harbor after searching for Japanese fleet.
- IJN superbattleship Yamato commissions.
Dec 17, Wed.
- VAdm William S. Pye, Commander, Battle Force, becomes acting Commander
in Chief Pacific Fleet, pending the arrival of RAdm Chester W. Nimitz,
who is ordered on this date to relieve Adm Husband E. Kimmel.
Seaplane from Japanese submarine I-7 reconnoiters Pearl Harbor.
USMC SB2U Vindicators, led by a plane-guarding PBY Catalina
(no ships are available to plane-guard the flight), arrive at Midway,
completing the longest over-water massed flight (1,137 miles) by
The squadron had been embarked in Lexington (CV-2) when the
outbreak of war canceled the projected ferry mission on 7 Dec 1941.
- Lexington ordered north to join with Saratoga on Wake relief mission.
- Japanese submarine RO-66 is sunk in collision with sistership
RO-62 off Wake Island.
- Three Japanese landings in Sarawak, Burma ; British destroy refineries and withdraw.
Dec 18, Thu.
- Congress passes First War Powers Act.
- Dutch Dornier-24 bombs and sinks Japanese destroyer Shinonome off Miri, Borneo.
- Dutch and Australian troops land in Portuguese Timor to forestall Japanese.
- Indianapolis task force return to Pearl Harbor after searching for Japanese fleet.
- Seaplane tender Wright transports 126 marines with their gear to Midway.
Dec 19, Fri.
- Japanese naval land attack planes bomb Wake Island.
- Japanese take Penang, Malaya.
- Fighting in Philippines.
Dec 20, Sat.
TF 8 (VAdm William F. Halsey, Jr.), formed around carrier
Enterprise (CV-6), heavy cruisers, and destroyers, sails from
Pearl Harbor proceeding to waters west of Johnston Island and
south of Midway to cover TF 11 and TF 14 operations.
- Japanese troops land at Davao, Mindanao, P.I.
- U.S. tankship Emidio is shelled, torpedoed and sunk by
Japanese submarine I-17 about 25 miles west of Cape Mendocino, California.
- U.S. tanker Agwiworld is shelled by Japanese submarine I-23
off the coast of California.
- Adm Ernest King, Commander, Atlantic Fleet, to Commander, U.S. Fleets.
- Damaged Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Tennessee depart Pearl for West Coast shipyards.
Dec 21, Sun.
- Planes from carriers Soryu and Hiryu bomb Wake Island.
Later that day, land attack planes bomb Wake.
Dec 22, Mon
President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill open
discussions in Washington (Arcadia Conference) which lasts into
January 1942, results in a formal American commitment to the
"Germany First" strategy.
Japanese attack planes, covered by fighters, from carriers Soryu
and Hiryu, bomb Wake Island for the second time ;
the last two flyable USMC F4F Wildcats intercept the raid. One F4F is
shot down, the other is badly damaged.
- American troops arrive at Brisbane in convoy escorted by
heavy cruiser Pensacola (CA-24). This is the first U.S. Army
troop detachment to arrive in Australia. They had been in transit to
- Japanese submarine I-19 shell U.S. tanker H. M. Storey
southwest of Cape Mendocino, California ; the American ship escapes.
- Japanese commence invasion of Luzon, landing troops at Lingayen,
Philippine Islands. Fierce fighting.
Dec 23, Tue.
- Wake Island is captured by naval landing force that overcomes
gallant resistance offered by the garrison.
Planes from carriers Hiryu and Soryu, as well as seaplane carrier
Kiyokawa Maru provide close air support for the invasion.
Uncertainty over the positions of and number of Japanese carriers
and reports that indicate Japanese troops have already landed,
compel VAdm William Pye, Acting Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet,
to recall Saratoga (CV-3, TF 14, RAdm Frank Fletcher) while it is 425 miles
from Wake Island.
- Palmyra Island is shelled by Japanese submarines I-71 and I-72.
- U.S. tanker Montebello is torpedoed and sunk by Japanese
submarine I-21 about four miles south of Piedras Blancas light,
California. I-21 machine-guns the lifeboats, but miraculously inflicts no casualties.
I-21 later also shells U.S. tanker Idaho near the same location.
- Japanese submarine I-17 shells U.S. tanker Larry Doheny
southwest of Cape Mendocino, California.
- USAAF B-17's bomb Japanese ships in Lingayen Gulf and off Davao.
USAAF P-40's and P-35's strafe landing forces in San Miguel Bay, Luzon,
damaging destroyer Nagatsuki.
- Japanese troops land at Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo.
- Anglo-U.S. War Council held with P.M. Churchill at the White House.
Dec 24, Wed.
- U.S. freighter Absaroka is shelled by Japanese submarine
I-17 about 26 miles off San Pedro, California.
U.S. steamship Dorothy Philips is shelled by Japanese submarine
I-23 off Monterey Bay, California.
- Seaplane tender Wright (AV-1) disembarks Marine reinforcements at Midway.
- Second Marine Brigade is formed in California to defend American Samoa.
- Japanese land at Lamon Bay, Luzon; thrust towards Manila.
Dec 25, Thu.
- US Asiatic Fleet headquarters moves from Manila to Java.
- British surrender Hong Kong.
- Japanese land at Jolo, P.I.
- Carrier Saratoga (CV-3) diverted from the attempt to relieve
Wake Island, flies off USMC F2A's Buffaloes to Midway. These are
the first fighter aircraft based there.
Dec 26, Fri.
- Manila is declared an open city but Japanese bombing continues unabated.
- Seaplane tender Tangier (AV-8), diverted from the attempt to
relieve Wake Island, disembarks Defense Battery and ground echelon
marine air squadron at Midway.
- Admiral Hart left Manila for Soerabaja, Java, in the submarine USS Shark (SS-174).
- Local Philippine naval defense forces moved to Corregidor Island
Dec 27, Sat.
- Lexington and Saratoga returned to Pearl Harbor from the attempted relief
of Wake Island, their orders having been canceled when the island fell.
- U.S. tanker Connecticut is shelled by Japanese submarine I-25
about 10 miles west of the mouth of the Columbia River.
- Kuala Lumpur raided by Japanese bombers.
Dec 28, Sun.
- Destroyer Peary (DD-226) is damaged when mistakenly bombed
and strafed by RAAF Hudsons off Kina, Celebes, N.E.I.
- Recruiting begins for the first contingent of "Seabees" ("Construction Battalions").
- Kavieng attacked again, this time by our shore-based aircraft.
Dec 29, Mon.
- Corregidor is bombed for the first time by Japanese naval land attack
planes ending "normal" above-ground living there.
- Great battle raging in north Hunan, China.
- Pennsylvania (BB-38) arrives San Francisco for repairs.
Dec 30, Tue.
- Japanese submarine I-1 shells Hilo, Hawaii.
- Thresher (SS-200) departs Pearl headed for the Marshalls and Marianas.
- Tennessee (BB-43) and Maryland (BB-46) enter the repair yard at Puget Sound Navy Yard.
- Yorktown reaches San Diego, CA having departed Norfolk, VA on 16 December.
Dec 31, Wed.
- Adm Chester Nimitz assumes command of Pacific Fleet in ceremonies
on board submarine Grayling (SS-209) at Pearl Harbor.
- Japanese submarines shell Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii.
- Saratoga (CV-3) and Task Force 11 depart Pearl Harbor on patrol.
Japanese submarine I-6 will torpedo the carrier on 11 January, forcing her retirement to Pearl.
- U.S. cargo/passenger ship Ruth Alexander, en route from Manila to
Balikpapan, Borneo, is bombed and irreparably damaged by Japanese
flying boat in Makassar Strait, N.E.I.
- Battles rage around Manila. The Japanese will occupy the city within days.
- Yorktown (CV-5) becomes flagship for RAdm Frank Fletcher's newly formed Task Force 17.
The first mission will be to escort Second Marine Brigade to American Samoa.
- The Last Days of "Peace" - November 1941 to December 6
- WAR - It Starts at Pearl Harbor - Sunday, December 7, 1941
- Chronology 1942 :
Jan , Feb , Mar ,
Apr , May , June ,
July , Aug , Sep ,
Oct , Nov , Dec ,
- Chronology 1945 :
Jan , Feb , Mar ,
Apr , May , June ,
July , Aug , Sep ,
Oct - Dec , 1946
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Last updated on December 7, 2001