3 Dec 1941
  • US Navy yacht Isabel set sail for the coast of Indochina on Roosevelt's orders; she was planned to be one of three vessels that would attempt to draw first fire from Japanese warships should hostilities become unavoidable. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • The Japanese carrier fleet tasked with the Pearl Harbor attack turned south after refueling on the previous day, approaching the Hawaii Islands with increased speed. At Pearl Harbor, the American intelligence report on the location of Japanese Navy warships had "no information on submarines or carriers". Elsewhere in Hawaii, Consul-General Nagao Kita received orders to burn code ciphers and important papers; this was noticed by the Americans, who also received intelligence that several Japanese embassies around the world were doing the same. ww2dbase [Attack on Pearl Harbor | Detailed Timetable | CPC]
  • US PBY Catalina patrol aircraft reported 30 Japanese transports congregating in Cam Ranh Bay off Indochina, 10 more than the previous day. Meanwhile, a Japanese fleet departed Hainan Island in southern China for Thailand. ww2dbase [Invasion of Malaya and Singapore | CPC]
  • German submarine U-124 sank the unarmed US freighter Sagadahoc in the South Atlantic with torpedoes. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Japanese Navy issued the order to its senior admirals that hostilities against United States, Britain, and the Netherlands would begin on 8 Dec 1941 (Tokyo time). ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Japanese submarines began forming lines in Central and East Pacific. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Carrier USS Enterprise began to launch F4F Wildcat fighters of the US Marine Corps for Wake Island. ww2dbase [Enterprise | CPC]
  • Hitler issued a decree on "Simplification and Increased Efficiency in our Armaments Production" (commonly known as the "Rationalization Decree") in which he chided German firms for failing to adopt the practice of large factories and simple production methods, and ordered the military to simplify and standardize the design of all weapons to make possible "mass production on modern principles". ww2dbase [AC]
  • Japan asked Italy to declare war on the United States should Japan and US enter a state of war. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • The Soviet evacuation convoy that had departed Hanko, Finland on the previous day sailed into the Corbetha minefield in the Gulf of Finland. One minesweeper was sunk and several other vessels were damaged. The passengers and crew aboard troop ship Iosif Stalin, which was seriously damaged by a mine, abandoned ship; about 4,000 of the nearly 6,000 that went overboard died in the water. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • German 4th Army was halted at Naro-Fominsk west of Moscow, Russia, thus exposing the flank of the German 2nd Panzer Army, which was assaulting the Tula region south of Moscow. ww2dbase [Battle of Moscow | CPC]
  • The Axis attempt to reach Bardia in Libya and Sollum and Halfaya Pass in Egypt failed to breach the Allied positions that stood in the way. ww2dbase [Operation Crusader | CPC]
  • German submarine U-124 sank US ship Sagadahoc 1,250 west of South Africa at 2147 hours; 1 was killed, 34 survived. She was to be the last American merchant ship to be lost to the German Navy before the US officially entered the war. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Dispersed ships of Allied convoy QP-3 began to arrive in Allied waters. ww2dbase [Arctic Convoys | CPC]
Atlantic Ocean
  • Leonardo da Vinci sighted two corvettes, a destroyer, and two merchant ships in the Atlantic Ocean in dense fog. Due to a known mechanical issue with slow submerging time, commanding officer Luigi Longanesi Cattani chose to back off. ww2dbase [CPC]
  • Comandante Cappellini sighted Spanish tanker Gobeo in the Atlantic Ocean at 1935 hours; no action was taken. ww2dbase [Comandante Cappellini | CPC]
  • Morosini sighted a light in the Atlantic Ocean at 0555 hours and gave chase. She determined the vessel to be Spanish, but nevertheless remained in contact while waiting for daybreak. At 1120 hours, she stopped the vessel for inspection, and confirmed the ship to be the Spanish freighter Vizcaya. She allowed the ship to proceed to her destination, Bilbao, Spain. ww2dbase [Morosini | CPC]
Italy Libya
  • Hans-Joachim Marseille returned to his unit at Ain el Gazala, Libya after duties in Germany. ww2dbase [Hans-Joachim Marseille | Gazala | CPC]
Pacific Ocean Panama Canal Zone
  • USS Gar reached the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal. ww2dbase [Gar | Panama Canal | CPC]
Poland United States
  • President Franklin Roosevelt announced that Lend-Lease aid would be given to Turkey, as the safety of that country was considered vital to American defence. ww2dbase [Franklin Roosevelt | AC]
Photo(s) dated 3 Dec 1941
Map depicting Japanese plans for occupying China immediately before launching the third attack on Changsha, China, 3 Dec 1941Soviet 122mm gun in action near Moscow, Russia, 3 Dec 1941The top of the Silk Ad from two 3 Dec 1941 Honolulu newspapers turned upside down and viewed in a mirror. This was supposed to reveal the words, “Japan raid.”Advertisement for silk fabrics that appeared in two Honolulu newspapers 3 Dec 1941, four days before the attack. This ad was said to have coded messages alerting Japanese residents in Hawaii. This copy has been “decoded”

3 Dec 1941 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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