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Luverne, Minnesota
1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
January 13-14 Silhouetted against the lights of Manhattan, eight unarmed vessels are sunk by a German U-boat. By the end of January, U-Boats would sink 25 tankers along the East Coast, continuing a fierce struggle for supremacy of the seas called the "Battle of the Atlantic" and threatening to choke off America's allies. More than 230 Allied ships and almost 5 million tons of desperately needed materiel went to the bottom of the sea in the first six months of 1942.
January 20

The Wannsee Conference in Germany establishes the "Final Solution" for Jews in Europe. The plan would attempt to exterminate an estimated 11 million people.

February

Philip Johnston proposes to the Marines that the Navajo Indians be used to transmit military messages through a secure code. The code talkers would develop an unbreakable code.

February 19

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066. Its neutral tone authorizes the War Department to designate "military areas" and then exclude anyone from them whom it felt to be a danger. But it has a specific target: the more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans, living along the West Coast. They were about to be forced from their homes and moved inland.

March 1

U.S. War and Navy Departments announce that commanders of the forces in Hawaii at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack will be court-martialed for dereliction of duty.

March 11

General Douglas MacArthur, under orders from the President, leaves the troops and departs for Australia.

March 17

Given strategic defense of the entire Pacific Ocean, General MacArthur is named supreme commander of the Allied Forces.

March 25

B-25 bombers land at McClellan Field near Sacramento. In preparation for a secret mission, Lt. Col. James Doolittle oversees modifications to the planes, which depart April 1.

April 9

Bataan falls. It is the largest surrender by the U.S. Army — 78,000 American and Filipino troops. What followed would be remembered as the Bataan Death March.

April 18

In the first American raid on the Japanese mainland, 16 B-25 carrier-launched bombers led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle strike Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, Nagoya and Yokosuka.

April 30

Notice is posted on the West Coast announcing the planned ouster of all "Japs" from the area into assembly centers.

May

The first Navajo code talkers are sent to San Diego for training. The 420 deployed to the Pacific would participate in every battle from Guadalcanal to Okinawa.

May 6

Corregidor falls. The last American stronghold in the Philippines is now under Japanese control.

May 7-8 The Battle of the Coral Sea rages. The first air-naval battle in history prevents the Japanese from landing a large invasion force at Port Moresby and signals America's move from a purely defensive strategy in the Pacific to a mixed defensive-offensive one.
June 4-7

The Battle of Midway is fought. The first defeat of the Japanese navy in 350 years is the turning point in the Pacific as the U.S. goes on the offensive. The Japanese had hoped to smash what was left of the Pacific fleet, take Hawaii, hold its people hostage and force the United States to sue for peace. But American cryptographers had deciphered their plans and the Navy was waiting for them. The Japanese would lose 3,500 men, four carriers, a cruiser and 332 aircraft. The Americans would lose 307 men, the carrier Yorktown, one destroyer and 150 aircraft.

June 22

A Japanese submarine shells the military depot at Fort Stevens, Oregon in the first attack on the U.S. mainland.

August 7 American land forces go on the offensive for the first time in the Pacific, landing on Guadalcanal. It would take six months to secure the island, but Japanese expansion is halted.
August 12 The first supply aircraft land on Guadalcanal's Henderson Field.
September-October

The 110,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast are interred. They are relocated from assembly centers to one of 10 more permanent camps in remote desert areas.

September-November The Battle for Stalingrad rages.
November 8

Operation Torch opens as Allied forces land in North Africa. While American planners had a straightforward idea of how to beat the Germans — invade France in the spring of 1943 and drive right for Berlin, the British favored attacking German and Italian forces in North Africa. American commanders thought invading Africa would be a dangerous and wasteful diversion. But Congressional elections were coming up.

November 19 The Russians launch a major counter-offensive at Stalingrad. It would end with the annihilation of the German 6th Army.

December 31

After a year at war, more than 35,000 Americans in uniform had died.
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America's first strike at Japan came in April 1942 as B-25s lifted off the USS Hornet to bomb Tokyo in the Doolittle Raid.
National Archives

America's first strike at Japan came in April 1942 as B-25s lifted off the USS Hornet to bomb Tokyo in the Doolittle Raid.

American POWs at the beginning of the Bataan Death March.  Philippines, 1942.
Library of Congress

American POWs at the beginning of the Bataan Death March. Philippines, 1942.

Japanese-American evacuees board a train at the Santa Anita Assembly Center. April 5, 1942.
National Archives

Japanese-American evacuees board a train at the Santa Anita Assembly Center. April 5, 1942.
Soldiers carry a stretcher bearing a sniper victim on Guadalcanal.
National Archives

Soldiers carry a stretcher bearing a sniper victim on Guadalcanal.