Wednesday 31 December 1941
|Admiral Nimitz assumes command of the Pacific Fleet aboard USS Grayback on 31 December 1941 (U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph).|
US Military: Having had time to digest the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December, the United States is in the process of re-calibrating its commands on 31 December 1941. Having placed Admiral Ernest J. King as commander of the entire US Fleet on 30 December, President Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox appoint Chester W. Nimitz as commander-in-chief, United States Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT). The appointment includes a promotion to full Admiral. Nimitz for many years has been filling a variety of staff positions in Washington, D.C. and thus is not the most obvious choice for the position.
Just to summarize the U.S. Navy command chain during December 1941: Nimitz had nothing to do with operational orders at Pearl Harbor until he took over the fleet on 31 December 1941. Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was in charge in Hawaii and, well, everywhere during the attack (CINCPACFLT and CINCUS). Nimitz actually took over as CINCPACFLT not from Kimmel but from Admiral William S. Pye (CINCLANT Admiral Ernest King became COMINCH on 30 December 1941). Pye was an interim replacement for Kimmel after Kimmel was sacked on 17 December 1941 so he could go back to Washington and explain what happened (among other obvious reasons). It's kind of confusing with all the acronyms, but, basically, the Atlantic Fleet commander King replaced Kimmel as overall Navy commander and Nimitz took over for Kimmel just in the Pacific.
|Admiral Nimitz back at his desk shortly after assuming command of the US Navy Pacific Fleet, 31 December 1941 (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph Collection, NH 62027).|
However, Nimitz has broad-based experience despite his relatively youthful appearance that extends all the way back to the "Great White Fleet" days of Teddy Roosevelt. Nimitz also is a master strategist, at least concerning naval matters, though perhaps just a tad too willing to use the navy's awesome powers for objectives that may not be worth the cost (such as Iwo Jima, we'll get to that eventually). Perhaps more significantly, Nimitz began his career in the Asiatic Station and, at least relatively speaking, is considered an expert on the region. Nimitz replaces acting CINCPACFLT Vice Admiral William S. Pye, who has been tarnished by the highly publicized loss of Wake Island during his brief tenure. Thus, it is generally agreed that Nimitz is the right man at the right place at the right time to prosecute the sea war against Japan. Nimitz already is in Hawaii and takes his command on the deck of submarine USS Grayling because all of the battleships are out of action, with Admiral Kimmel by his side.
|"Derna, Cyrenaica, Libya. 31 December 1941. A line of Axis bombs reserved for the Allied forces in Libya which will never fulfill their purpose is inspected by a member of Allied aircrew. Enormous quantities of ammunition and supplies have been captured by the advancing armies." Australian War Memorial MED0239.|
|U-74 returns to port at Lorient, France, on 31 December 1941, cheered on by sailors on a passing ship (Chandler, Federal Archive Picture 101II-MW-4258-36A).|
|Japanese bicycle-mounted troops on Luzon, December 1941 (US Army Center of Military History).|
|"Malayan Campaign, December 1941-January 1942. Brewster Buffalo fighters over Malaya coasts. Courtesy of the Library of Congress." National Museum of the U.S. Navy.|
In Borneo, Lieutenant Colonel Genzo Watanabe of the 2nd Yokosuka Naval Landing Force takes his troops northward to occupy Brunei, Labuan Island, and Jesselton (now called Kota Kinabalu). Allied troops are now on the run throughout Borneo and have fallen back into the jungles of the interior.
|"Western Desert, North Africa. c. 31 December 1941. One of the deadly Bristol Beaufighter aircraft, serial no. T3316, operating on the battlefront. Since the British Army offensive commenced three days ago, these heavily armed fighters have destroyed nearly thirty enemy aircraft." Australian War Memorial MED0022.|
The Fuehrer has categorically forbidden any retrograde movements to the Koenigsburg Position. Only local evasive movements under direct enemy pressure will be allowed. All reserves are to be sent to the front, and [the troops] are ordered to hold every locality and support point.Thus, the die is cast: either the German troops will defend where they stand, or they will not, but they won't be welcomed at any point further west.
|U-74 (Kapitänleutnant Eitel-Friedrich Kentrat) returns to port at Lorient, France on 31 December 1941 (Kramer, Federal Archive Bild 101II-MW-4258-33A).|
|"On board HMS AJAX, looking forward, as rounds from her six-inch guns are fired into Bardia. Libya" 31 December 1941 (© IWM (A 8038)).|
They are fighting with the greatest vigor and on quite a large scale, and we don't hear very much of what is going on there. It is all very terrible. Guerilla warfare and the most frightful atrocities by the Germans and Italians, and every kind of torture, but the people keep the flag flying.The partisan movement in Yugoslavia, of course, is exactly what Churchill says it is. However, it is a lot more complex than that. Royalist forces and communist forces have an uneasy alliance that could fracture at any moment. However, there is no question that the partisans are causing the Italian and German occupiers endless troubles.
|"A big gun on Corregidor replies to the invaders." ca. 31 December 1941.|
American Homefront: The U.S. government has banned the use of chrome in private automobile production, so today is its last use by the major car manufacturers for quite some time. Tire purchases already have been restricted. Overall, private automobile production virtually disappears in the coming weeks and months as plants are converted to war production. Car production is replaced by vast quantities of military vehicles such as jeeps and staff cars, some of which can be used eventually by private citizens and also lead to civilian models.
|English actress Sarah Miles is born on 31 December 1941. Miles gets her first role on television in 1961. Her last film role is credited in 2016 and Miles is retired from the film industry as of 2019.|
December 1, 1941: Hitler Fires von Rundstedt
December 2, 1941: Climb Mount Niitaka
December 3, 1941: Hints of Trouble in the Pacific
December 4, 1941: Soviets Plan Counteroffensive
December 5, 1941: Soviets Counterattack at Kalinin
December 6, 1941: Soviet Counterattack at Moscow Broadens
December 7, 1941: Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor
December 8, 1941: US Enters World War II
December 9, 1941: German Retreat At Moscow
December 10, 1941: HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse Sunk
December 11, 1941: Hitler Declares War on US
December 12, 1941: Japanese in Burma
December 13, 1941: Battle of Cape Bon
December 14, 1941: Hitler Forbids Withdrawals
December 15, 1941: The Liepaja Massacre
December 16, 1941: Japan Invades Borneo
December 17, 1941: US Military Shakeup
December 18, 1941: Hitler Lays Down the Law
December 19, 1941: Brauchitsch Goes Home
December 20, 1941: Flying Tigers in Action
December 21, 1941: The Bogdanovka Massacre
December 22, 1941: Major Japanese Landings North of Manila
December 23, 1941: Wake Island Falls to Japan
December 24, 1941: Atrocities in Hong Kong
December 25, 1941: Japan Takes Hong Kong
December 26, 1941: Soviets Land in the Crimea
December 27, 1941: Commandos Raid Norway
December 28, 1941: Operation Anthropoid Begins
December 29, 1941: Soviet Landings at Feodosia
December 30, 1941: Race for Bataan
December 31, 1941: Nimitz in Charge