31 May 1940
  • British sloop HMS Weston sank German submarine U-13 with depth charges 14 miles southeast of Lowestoft, England. The entire crew of 26 were taken prisoner. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • German submarine U-101 attacked Allied convoy HG-31F and sank British ship Orangemoor with 8,150 tons of iron on board west of Guernsey, killing 18. The convoy's escorts attacked U-101 with 41 depth charges over the course of 8 hours; the submarine survived the attack. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • US Ambassador to Argentina Norman Armour and US Minister in Uruguay Edwin C. Wilson met in Montevideo, Uruguay regarding the deteriorating political situation in Uruguay. They jointly requested Secretary of State Cordell Hull to ask President Roosevelt to sent 40 to 50 warships to the eastern coast of South America as a show of force to prevent Uruguay from partnering with Germany. Later in the day, Hull would inform them that heavy cruiser USS Quincy was dispatched for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil per their suggestion, and she would visit Montevideo on the journey. State Department official Laurence Duggan would suggest Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles to publicize USS Quincy's South American tour. ww2dbase [Quincy (New Orleans-class) | CPC]
  • HMS Cumberland joined escort at Capetown for military convoy US3 taking ANZAC troops to UK. ww2dbase [Cumberland | DS]
  • No. 829 Squadron FAA took their newly issued Fairey Albacore aircraft into action for the first time with attacks on German E-boats off Zeebrugge, Belgium and road and rail targets at Westende, Belgium. ww2dbase [AC]
  • Poor weather clouded over Dunkerque, France, giving the British a chance to bring in modern destroyers into the area to assist the evacuation with less fear of German air attacks; 68,014 (45,072 from harbor and 22,942 from beaches) were rescued on this date, including British Expeditionary Force commanding general Lord Gort. French destroyer Leopart and British destroyers HMS Express, HMS Icarus, HMS Keith, and HMS Winchelsea were damaged by German aerial bombing. German torpedo boats damaged French destroyers Sirocco and Cyclone; Sirocco was finished off by German aircraft, killing 59 crew and 600 troops. ww2dbase [Invasion of France and the Low Countries | Dunkerque, Nord-Pas-de-Calais | TH]
  • UK Prime Minister Churchill traveled to Paris, France for a Supreme Allied War Council meeting. ww2dbase [Winston Churchill | Paris | TH]
  • US-built DB-7 medium bombers of the French Air Force saw combat for the first time against German columns near Saint-Quentin in the Picardy Region of northeastern France. ww2dbase [A-20 Havoc | Saint-Quentin, Picardy | CPC]
  • Oliver Leese was evacuated from a beach near Dunkerque, France. ww2dbase [Oliver Leese | Dunkerque, Nord-Pas-de-Calais | CPC]
United Kingdom
  • Without regard to her own safety, WAAF Corporal Daphne Pearson pulled Pilot Officer Bond, from his crashed Anson aircraft at RAF Detling, Kent, England, United Kingdom moments before the 120-pound bombs still on board exploded. For her selfless bravery, Corporal Pearson would be awarded the British Empire Medal for gallantry (later exchanged for the George Cross – the first George Cross awarded to a woman) and a Commission. ww2dbase [Detling, England | AC]
  • In Britain the government (through the newly created Home Defence [Security] Executive) granted Chief Constables the right to intern any German or Austrian men or women where grounds existed for doubting their reliability. ww2dbase [AC]
  • HMS Acasta, HMS Ardent, HMS Acheron, HMS Highlander, and HMS Diana escorted aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Glorious from the Clyde in Scotland, United Kingdom to the Norwegian coast to carry out air operations in support of the evacuation of Allied forces from Norway during Operation Alphabet. ww2dbase [Invasion of Denmark and Norway | Ark Royal | Glorious | Acasta | Clyde, Scotland | CPC]
US Pacific Islands
  • The US Marine Corps 14th Naval District dispatched Captain Samuel G. Taxis to survey Midway Atoll with a small reconnaissance party for the planning of building a US Marine Corps presence there. ww2dbase [Midway Bases | Midway | CPC]
Photo(s) dated 31 May 1940
Aerial view of the destruction at Rotterdam, circa late May 1940Oil tanks on fire in the port of Calais, France, set aflame by retreating Allied troops, at 1530 hours on 31 May 1940Sand dunes on the beaches near Calais, France, 31 May 1940; note grave of a soldier to the rightDestroyed British Cruiser Mk III tank in Calais, France, 31 May 1940
See all photos dated 31 May 1940

31 May 1940 Interactive Map

Timeline Section Founder: Thomas Houlihan
Contributors: Alan Chanter, C. Peter Chen, Thomas Houlihan, Hugh Martyr, David Stubblebine
Special Thanks: Rory Curtis

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