WW2 in the Pacific
Countdown to War
The Last Days of "Peace".
Nov 1, Sat.
- Executive order places Coast Guard under the Navy for duration of national emergency.
- The U.S. Navy has been in an undeclared war in the Atlantic since Sept 11, 1941 and
actively supporting the Allies for two years before, since Sept 1, 1939.
- Pacific Escort Force is formed at Pearl Harbor to protect transports and certain merchant
vessels carrying troops and valuable military cargoes between Hawaii and the Far East.
- PBY Catalinas provide air coverage for Atlantic convoy ON 30.
- Three US destroyers, screening Atlantic convoy HX 157, carry out depth charge attacks
on sound contacts off St. John's, Newfoundland.
Nov 2, Sun.
- TF 14 takes over protection for eight British transports carrying 20,000 British troops
earmarked for the Middle East by way of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Nov 3, Mon.
- U.S. PBY Catalinas provide air coverage for Atlantic convoy ON 31.
- Destroyer Upshur (DD-144), escorting convoy HX 157, depth charges sound contact
Nov 6, Thu.
- Search for German raider by two US light cruisers and three destroyers captures German
blockade runner Odenwald, disguised as U.S. freighter Willmoto, in Atlantic
- Destroyer Madison (DD-425), on the flank of convoy ON 39,
carries out depth charge attack.
Nov 7, Fri.
- Three US destroyers escorting Atlantic convoy ON 30, make depth charge attacks on
Nov 10, Mon.
- U.S. escorted Atlantic convoy formed around carrier Ranger (CV-4) and
transporting more than 20,000 British soldiers in six U.S. Navy transports, sails from Halifax.
- Destroyer Ericsson (DD-440), screening convoy HX 157, depth charges sound contact.
- Asiatic Fleet orders withdraw of river gunboats from the Yangtze and USMC forces from China.
Nov 11, Tue.
- Destroyer Edison (DD-439), en route to rendezvous with
Atlantic convoy ON 34, depth charges sound contact.
- Destroyer Decatur (DD-341), screening Atlantic convoy HX 159,
depth charges sound contact off the Grand Banks.
- Ten submarines , including I-69, I-74, I-75 and others left Yokosuka Naval Base for rendezvous at Kwajalein, then to proceed to Hawaii.
Nov 13, Thu.
- British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal sunk by one torpedo by U-81. Design flaws uncovered.
Nov 14, Fri.
- Marines are ordered withdrawn from Shanghai, Peiping, and Tientsin, China.
Nov 16, Sun..
- Large Canadian force lands at Hong Kong.
- CIO coal strike
Nov 17, Mon.
- Congress amends the Neutrality Act of 1939 by Joint Resolution;
U.S. merchant ships can now be armed and can enter war zones.
- Special Japanese envoy Kurusu Saburo arrives in Washington and
confers with Secretary of State Cordell Hull.
- Archer (BAVG-1) is the first of 38 escort carriers transferred to the United Kingdom during the war under the Lend-Lease program.
Nov 18, Tues.
- Five mother subs, each with midget sub, depart Kure for Pearl Harbor.
Nov 19 Wed.
- Light cruiser HMS Sydney inspects a ship. German raider Kormoran opens fire ; they sink each other. Sydney lost with all hands. Most of German crew rescued.
Nov 20, Thu.
- Ambassador Nomura presents Japan's "final proposal" to keep peace in the Pacific.
Nov 21, Fri
- Destroyer Shaw (DD-373) and oiler Sabine (AO-25) are damaged in collision in Hawaiian waters.
Nov 22, Sat
- Japanese Task Force Ultrasecret Operation Order 1 :
The Carrier Striking Task Force will proceed to the Hawaiian Area with utmost secrecy and, at the outbreak of the war, will launch a resolute surprise attack on and deal a fatal blow to the enemy fleet in the Hawaiian Area. The initial air attack is scheduled at 0330 hours, X Day. Upon completion of the air attacks, the Task Force will immediately withdraw and return to Japan and, after taking on new supplies, take its position for Second Period Operations. In the event that, during this operation, an enemy fleet attempts to intercept our force or a powerful enemy force is encountered and there is danger of attack, the Task Force will launch a counterattack.
Around 0700 hours, X-1 Day the Task Force will turn southward at high speed (approximately 24 knots) from the vicinity of the approaching point. It will arrive at the take-off point (200 nautical miles north of the enemy fleet anchorage) at 0100 hours X Day (0530 Honolulu time) and commit the entire air strength to attack the enemy fleet and important airfields on Oahu.
Nov 23, Sun.
- U.S. occupies Dutch Guiana [Surinam] pursuant to agreement with the Netherlands government
in-exile to protect bauxite mines.
Nov 24, Mon.
- War Diary USS Marblehead (CA-12): "About 24 November 1941, the Commander-in-Chief,
U.S. Asiatic Fleet sensed that the relations between the United States and Japan had reached
such a critical state that movement of men-of-war ... was indicated." The next day,
Marblehead with TF-5 departed Manila Bay for Tarakan, Borneo, and waited further
Nov 25, Tue.
- Japanese troop transports are sighted off Formosa en route to Malaya.
- Submarines Triton (SS-201) and Tambor (SS-198) arrive off Wake Island
on "simulated" war patrols.
Nov 26, Wed.
- Secretary of State Hull submits final proposal to Japanese envoys for readjustment of
U.S.-Japanese relations. U.S. demands "the government of Japan will withdraw all military, naval, air and police forces from China and Indochina."
- Japanese carrier task force formed around six aircraft carriers sails from remote
Hittokappu Bay in the Kuriles, its departure shrouded in secrecy.
Its mission, should talks between United States and Japan fail to resolve the diplomatic
impasse over Far Eastern and Pacific questions, is to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet wherever
it is found in Hawaiian waters. map
- Kitty Hawk (APV-1), first of two aircraft ferries [crated], was commissioned.
Nov 27, Thu.
- Adm. Harold R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, sends "war warning" message to commanders
of the Pacific and Asiatic Fleets. Gen George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, sends a
similar message to his Hawaiian and Philippine Department commanders. The warning
mentions Malaya, Philippines, and East Indies, but not Pearl Harbor.
- USN chartered passenger liner SS President Madison sails from Shanghai, China,
with the 2d Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment bound for the Philippines escorted by 4 subs.
Nov 28, Fri.
- Carrier Enterprise (CV-6) sails for Wake Island in
TF 8 (VAdm William F. Halsey, Jr.) to ferry USMC F4F's Wildcats to the atoll. Occasioned by
the "war warning" of the previous day, the deployment is part of eleventh-hour augmentation
of defenses at outlying Pacific bases. Halsey approves "Battle Order No. 1" that declares
that Enterprise is operating "under war conditions." "Steady nerves and stout hearts," the
carrier's captain concludes, "are needed now." Supporting PBY operations will be carried
out from advanced bases at Wake and Midway.
- Seaplane tender Wright (AV-1), arrives at Wake Island, with Marine Air Group
people to establish an advance aviation base.
- Navy charted passenger liner SS President
Madison sails from Shanghai, China, bound for the Philippines with the final elements
of the 4th Marine Regiment from Shanghai. SS President Harrison outfitted as transport to evacuate Marines at Beijing.
Nov 29, Sat.
- River gunboats Luzon (PR-7) and Oahu (PR-6) of Yangtze Patrol depart
Shanghai for Manila. Oahu (PR-6) is the sister-ship of river gunboat Panay (PR-5),
which had been bombed and sunk by Japanese naval aircraft near Nanking, China, on
12 December 1937.
Nov 30, Sun.
- Japanese Foreign Minister Tojo rejects U.S. proposals for settling Far East crisis.
- Small reconnaissance seaplane from Japanese submarine I-10 reconnoiters Suva Bay,
- USN chartered passenger liner SS President Madison arrives at Olongapo,
Philippine Islands, and disembarks the 2d Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. President Madison will then proceed on to Singapore.
- River gunboats Luzon (PR-7) and Oahu (PR-6) rendezvous with submarine
rescue vessel Pigeon (ASR-6) and minesweeper Finch (AM-9); they will remain
in company until 3 December.
- Destroyer Decatur (DD-341), escorting Atlantic convoy ONS 39, carries out depth
charge attack on suspicious contact.
- Army GHQ Maneuvers in North and South Carolina conclude.
Eisenhower and Patton identified for future commands.
- The Midway Neutralization Unit, destroyers Akembono and Ushio leave TOKYO Bay.
Countdown to War
Dec 1, Monday.
- Japanese change their naval code, forcing US cryptanalysts to start over.
- President orders a "defensive information patrol" of "three small ships" established off
the coast of French Indochina; he specifically designates yacht Isabel (PY-10)
(reserve flagship for Commander in Chief Asiatic Fleet) as one of the trio of vessels.
Schooner Lanikai is acquired and commissioned, but the start of the war results in
her planned mission being canceled. The third vessel, schooner Molly Moore, is
selected for the mission but is never taken over. Lanikai's civilian career had seen
her used as a "prop" in the filming of motion picture "Hurricane" that starred Dorothy Lamour
and Jon Hall. They were to have an American captain and native crew and mount machine guns.
These small boats were to be a trip-wire to allow Japan to "fire the first shot".
- River gunboats Luzon (PR-7) and Oahu (PR-6) of Yangtze Patrol, submarine
rescue vessel Pigeon (ASR-6) and minesweeper Finch (AM-9) proceed toward Manila,
they become the object of curiosity by Japanese forces in the vicinity; first a floatplane
circles the formation, then seven Japanese warships of various types.
Dec 2, Tuesday.
- U.S. PBY Catalina report 20 Japanese transports congregating in Cam Ranh Bay.
- Submarine Trout (SS-202) arrives off Midway Island on "simulated" war patrol.
- In the Atlantic, Yorktown task force returns to Norfolk from "Neutrality
- Japanese fleet reaches 42° N 170° E (standing-by position) in the North Pacific on the afternoon
and speedily complete re-fueling.
- Imperial Naval Order: "Japan, under the necessity of her self-preservation
and self-defense, has reached a decision to declare war on the United
States of America, British Empire and the Netherlands. Time to start an action
will be given later."
"The Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet shall,
at the start of war, direct his attack on the enemy fleet in the
Hawaiian Area to reduce it to impotency, using the First Air Fleet as
the nucleus of the attack force."
Dec 3, Wed.
- U.S. PBY Catalina report 30 Japanese transports congregating in
Cam Ranh Bay. (10 more than yesterday)
- Yacht Isabel (PY-10)
sails for coast of French Indochina, deployed in accordance with
President Roosevelt's "defensive information patrol" order.
- Submarine Argonaut (SM-1,ss-166) arrives off Midway Island on
"simulated" war patrol.
- Imperial Naval Order: "The hostile actions against the United States
of America, the British Empire and the Netherlands shall be commenced
on December 8."
- Japanese carrier fleet turns south and increases speed.
- Japanese submarine fleet forms reconnaissance line in east-central Pacific.
- Enterprise flies off Marine Wildcat fighters to Wake Island.
- U.S. passenger liner President Madison arrive at Olongapo, P.I., with the remaining elements of the 4th Marine Regiment withdrawn from Shanghai.
Dec 4, Thu.
- U.S. PBY Catalina report 30 Japanese transports no longer in Cam Ranh Bay.
- River gunboats Luzon (PR-7) and Oahu (PR-6) followed later by submarine
rescue vessel Pigeon (ASR-6) and minesweeper Finch (AM-9), reach Manila.
- River gunboat Mindanao (PR-8) sails from Hong Kong for Manila. She is the
last U.S. Navy ship to depart Chinese waters prior to war.
- Only two U.S. naval vessels remain in Chinese waters : river gunboat Wake
(ex-Guam) (PR-3) at Shanghai to maintain communications until a radio station is
established at the Consulate General with Navy equipment, and river gunboat Tutuila
(PR-4) at Chungking, where she furnishes essential services to the U.S. Embassy.
- SS President Harrison sails for Beijing to evacuate Marines from embassy. Too late, will try to scuttle Dec 8.
- Carrier Enterprise (CV-6) flies off USMC F4F's Wildcats to Wake Island;
TF 8 (VAdm Halsey) then shapes a course to return to Pearl Harbor, slated to reach
Pearl Harbor on 6 December.
- Japanese naval land attack plane reconnoiters Wake Island undetected.
- Schedule of Pearl Harbor attack transmitted to the submarine fleet.
Dec 5, Fri.
- Japan assures the U.S. that her troop movements in French Indochina are only precautionary.
- Sailors from Japanese invasion fleet escorts, board and smash radio of Norwegian freighter.
- Carrier Lexington (CV-2), TF 12 sails from Pearl Harbor to ferry USMC SB2Us
- Like Enterprise's (CV-6) deployment to Wake, Lexington's to Midway is
in response to the "War Warning" of 27 November.
- Enterprise encounters heavy weather that delays fueling the force's destroyers.
- Japanese submarines form ring around Hawaii.
Dec 6, Sat.
- Navy yacht Isabel (PY-10) is sighted by floatplane from Japanese seaplane carrier
Kamikawa Maru in South China Sea. Later in the day, Isabel receives orders to return
to Manila from trip-wire [suicidal] mission .
- British PBY searching for Malaya invasion force is shot down by Japanese Zero.
- Japanese board and scuttle a different Norwegian ship.
- FDR sends personal message to Emperor asking for moderation in Indo-China.
- VAdm Halsey's TF-8 aboard Enterprise is slated to reach Pearl today.
However, heavy weather yesterday delayed refueling and push back the time of arrival in Pearl
to the morning of the 7th.
- Spy Yoshikawa reports ship stations to Tokyo; 36 minutes later
information is deciphered aboard Japanese carrier Akagi:
Oklahoma and Nevada were normally with the carrier group, but they were released by Halsey as
unable to keep up with Enterprise on the run Wake.
Lexington and 5 heavy cruisers depart for Midway with USMC SB2U dive bombers.
- Japanese fleet including six carriers begins high speed run to Hawaii.
- Japanese submarine fleet of thirty I-boats tighten circle
- I-74 sights the carrier Lexington (CV-2) but no trouble ensues.
- Destroyer Decatur (DD-341), escorting Atlantic convoy ONS 39, carries out
depth charge attack on suspicious contact.
- War : Tora, Tora. Tora. (authentic)
- Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941, Sunday
- The First Days - December 8 thru 31, 1941
- Track of Strike Fleet
Return to: WW2 Menu
About this page: Countdown - the last days of "peace" and the earliest days of the War.
Last updated on December 6, 2001
Contact us at