U.S. forces in Philippines surrender as Corregidor falls. After 27 days of continuous artillery bombardment, and with supplies running out, the island garrison gives up and 11,500 Americans are made prisoner.
Japanese fleet suffers first setback in the Battle of Coral Sea. In the first great battle between aircraft carriers, U.S. Task Force 17 forces the Japanese to halt their planned assault on Port Moresby, New Guinea.
4 – 6
U.S. Navy achieves decisive victory in Battle of Midway. The Japanese fleet unleashes a dawn air attack on the American base at Midway Island, only to find its carriers attacked by two U.S. task forces. In the four-phased battle that ensues, Japan loses 4 carriers, 1 heavy cruiser, 275 planes and 3,500 men killed—plus the initiative in the Central Pacific. U.S. losses amount to 2 ships, 132 planes and some 300 killed.
German Army takes Tobruk. After a running battle with British armor in the Libyan desert, German Gen. Erwin Rommel finds his tanks running out of gas. Italian troops, though, break through the British lines and permit the Panzers to refuel. With more than 500 tanks, the Desert Fox threatens the British Eighth Army rear and eventually forces the Tobruk garrison to surrender. A day later, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes supreme allied commander in Europe.
Germans secure Sevastopol (USSR). After sweeping the Kerch Peninsula and inflicting 150,000 Russian casualties, the German army turns its attention to the Soviet naval base. Employing the largest artillery piece ever built (31.5-inch Big Dora, so nicknamed by the troops), infantry assaults, air strikes and toxic smoke, the Germans hammer base installations for 27 days. Soviet officers and officials are evacuated by submarine on Stalin’s orders, leaving surviving defenders to fight to the death.
U.S. Marines land at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
Allied cross-channel raid on Dieppe, France, ends in disaster.
Battle for Stalingrad begins.
Montgomery’s forces attack at El Alamein, Egypt. After months of losing ground to German Field Commander Erwin Rommel, British Lt. Gen. Bernard Montgomery mounts a surprise attack from the north at El Alemein, catching Rommel’s Panzer forces off guard. After exhausting fuel and supplies, the “Desert Fox” is forced to withdraw, having lost nearly 32,000 men in 12 days (compared to 13,500 Allied losses). The victory, which boosts Allied confidence, proves vital to the security of the Suez Canal.
Allies invade Morocco and Algeria. Allied troops land on the Moroccan and Algerian coasts and face only minimal resistance from local French forces. On November 11, Hitler, presuming the Allies intend to invade Egypt, orders German troops into unoccupied Vichy France, where he launches attacks to Tunisia. British forces, though, retake Tobruk, Libya, two days later. Germany’s efforts to retain North Africa fail in mid-May, effectively ending Axis reign in the region.
U.S. and Australian forces attack Japanese at New Guinea. After nearly losing control of the Southwest Pacific in October, Allied forces receive significant reinforcements after U.S. commanders make winning the campaign in the Solomon Islands is a top priority. Four days after naval battles and air attacks begin on November 12, Guadalcanal in the Solomons and Gona in New Guinea fall, forcing the Imperial Navy to abandon its Guadalcanal campaign by the end of the year.