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Selected: May 20
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1920 — , May 20

  • USSR: The Bolsheviks launch a general offensive all along the front in Ukraine. The treaty with Ukrainian leader Petlyura quickly proves to be worthless and the Poles, outflanked by the Red Armies, are forced to retreat.

1933 — , May 20

  • CBI - China: Day 140 of 142 of the 1st Battle of Hebei. Chinese troops begin withdrawing from all Great Wall gates.

1937 — , May 20

  • Spain: Day 308 of 985 of the Spanish Civil War.

1938 — , May 20

  • Germany: Hitler announces he is increasing in the size of the Luftwaffe and the fortifications of the Siegfried Line on the French border. For fear of war, the British and Americans urge French PM Daladier not to honor the 1924 treaty of alliance with Czechoslovakia and to seek a negotiated peace settlement instead.
  • Germany: Czechoslovakia sends Germany a telegram demanding an explanation of German troops being amassed in Saxony near their border. Meanwhile, the Czechs begin mobilizing 400,000 of their own troops.
  • Spain: Day 673 of 985 of the Spanish Civil War.
  • CBI - China: Day 318 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 103 of 124 of the Battle of Henan.

1939 — , May 20

  • CBI - China: Day 683 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 31 of 35 of the Battle of Suizao.
  • CBI - Mongolia: Day 10 of 129 of the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, a border dispute between the Soviet Union and Japan.

1940 — , May 20

  • USA: British PM Churchill sends a telegram to US President Roosevelt, again requesting destroyers, saying, "If they were here in 6 weeks, they would play an invaluable part."
  • ETO - UK: British Foreign Secretary Halifax contacts Swedish businessman Dahlerus, telling him to approach Hermann Goering for possible Anglo-German negotiations to end the war.
  • ETO - UK: The British government begins gathering small boats just in case they are needed to evacuate soldiers on the Continent.
  • ETO - Norway: Day 42 of 63 of the Battle of Norway.
  • ETO - Belgium: Day 11 of 19 of the Battle of Belgium.
  • ETO - France: Day 11 of 44 of the Battle of France. Rommel begins a new offensive but gets held up at Arras. Meanwhile, the 19th Panzer Korps captures Amiens, Abbeville and Noyelles-sur-Mer, reaching the English Channel.
  • MTO - Italy: The Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano begins to only carry war news that is published by the Italian government.
  • CBI - China: Day 1,049 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 188 of 381 of the Battle of South Guangxi.
    • Day 20 of 49 of the Battle of Yichang.

1941 — , May 20

  • Atlantic: German subs U-94, U-98, U-109 and U-556 attack an Allied convoy 250 miles southeast of Cape Farewell, Greenland, and sink 7 ships.
  • Atlantic: German sub U-138 sinks the British ship JAVANESE PRINCE 155 miles northwest of Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The Italian sub OTARIA sinks the British ship STARCROSS 430 miles west of Ireland.
  • ETO - UK: Day 257 of 258 of the Blitz.
  • MTO - Greece: Day 1 of 13 of the Battle of Crete. The invasion begins with German paratroopers capturing the airfield at Maleme. Most of the paratroopers on the second jump at Rethimnon and Heraklion are killed as they land. At Suda Bay, German bombers sink the British minesweeper HMS WIDNES. After sundown, British destroyers HMS JERVIS, HMS NIZAM and HMS ILEX bombard the German controlled airfield on the Greek island of Karpathos.
  • MTO - Libya: Day 41 of 256 of the Siege of Tobruk.
  • Middle East: Day 19 of 30 of the Anglo-Iraqi War in Iraq.
  • East Africa: Day 345 of 537 of Italy's East African campaign in the lands south of Egypt.
  • CBI - China: Day 1,414 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 14 of 21 of the Battle of South Shanxi.

1942 — , May 20

  • USA: The first African-American seamen are taken into the United States Navy.
  • Atlantic: Day 127 of 169 of Germany's Second "Happy Time," during which U-boats sink 609 Allied ships with little risk.
    • U-155 damages the US freighter SYLVAN ARROW southwest of Grenada. An attempt is made to tow her to port, but she sinks while in tow.
    • U-753 sinks the US liberty Ship SS GEORGE CALVERT west of Havana, Cuba.
    • U-506 sinks the US tanker HALO south of New Orleans.
  • Russian Front - North: Day 255 of 872 of the Siege of Leningrad.
  • Russian Front - North: Day 102 of 102 of the Battle of the Demyansk Pocket. The Soviets are forced to abandon this offense.
  • Russian Front - North: Day 16 of 658 of the Siege of the Kholm Pocket.
  • Russian Front - South: Day 9 of 17 of the 2nd Battle of Kharkov, Ukraine. The hole in the Soviet lines is now a 50-mile wide gap and the Soviets are getting out-flanked on two sides.
  • Russian Front - South: Day 203 of 248 of the Siege of Sevastopol, Crimean Peninsula. The Crimea is finally cleared of the Soviet Army. The German troops can now turn their full toward Sevastopol.
  • East Africa: Day 16 of 186 of the Battle of Madagascar.
  • CBI - Burma: Day 158 of 164 of Japan's Invasion of Burma.
  • CBI - China: Day 1,779 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 6 of 124 of Japan's Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign, launched to punish anyone suspected of aiding the Doolittle raiders in China. Roughly 250,000 Chinese will be killed.
  • PTO: US Navy Rear Admiral John S McCain is named Commander, Air, South Pacific. In this position he will direct operations of all tender-based and land-based aircraft in the South Pacific.
  • PTO - Hawaii: Japanese intelligence reports that "AF" is short on water. This message confirms that Midway is the target of the next Japanese offensive. The US Navy and Marine Corps order reinforcements to Midway Atoll and the Aleutian Islands in expectation of the upcoming assault, the Battle of Midway, between the 4th and 7th of June, the most important naval battle of the Pacific campaign.
  • PTO - Japan: The USS POLLACK sinks two small boats with her deck gun off Kyushu.
  • PTO - Malaya: Day 91 of 357 of the Battle of Timor Island. US 5th Air Force B-17s attack the airfield and AA guns at Koepang Bay.

1943 — , May 20

  • Germany: Esterwegen Concentration Camp establishes a special camp named Süd (South) to hold prisoners transferred under the "Nacht und Nebel" program. Elsewhere, the women's camp in Auschwitz II-Birkenau reports that it has 20,635 female prisoners (9,337 with working assignments, 4,510 without working assignments, and 6,788 unable to work).
  • Russian Front - North: Day 620 of 872 of the Siege of Leningrad.
  • Russian Front - North: Day 381 of 658 of the Siege of the Kholm Pocket.
  • MTO - Italy: US 12th Air Force RAF Wellingtons night bomb the airfields at Villacidro and Decimomannu in Sardinia. During the day, US planes attack several targets in Italy.
  • CBI - China: Day 2,144 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 9 of 23 of the Battle of West Hubei. The Chinese launch a counter offensive on the Yangtze River.
  • PTO - Alaska: Day 348 of 435 of the Battle of Kiska, Aleutian Islands. Day 10 of 20 of the Battle of Attu. The last of the Japanese troops are concentrated in the Chichagof Harbor area. US 11th Air Force provides air support.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 29 of 148 of the 2nd Battle of Lae-Salamaua. US 5th and 13th Air Forces provide air support.

1944 — , May 20

  • USA: The Merrie Melodies animated cartoon short "Russian Rhapsody" is released by Warner Brothers in theaters across America. It stars a caricaturized Adolf Hitler personally flying a bomber to attack Russians only to be plagued by mischievous soviet "Gremlins from the Kremlin" that had snuck on board.
    Spotlight...

    Scene from Russian Rhapsody

    An enraged Hitler going after the mischievous "Gremlins from the Kremlin" that had snuck aboard his bomber. Hollywood produced many pro-soviet movies during the war to cast "Uncle Joe" Stalin in a positive light (a tough thing to do considering he was every bit as evil as Hitler was, if not more so).

    Another scene from Russian Rhapsody

    Adolf Hitler in the cockpit of his bomber with an American gas rationing "C" sticker on the windshield. The approaching gremlin is about to replace it with an "a" sticker, albeit a lower-case one.

    Gas ration stickers were a very familiar topic for all Americans and to see Hitler's "C" sticker, which would give US physicians, ministers and mail carriers unlimited gasoline fill-ups, swapped with the "A" sticker's allotment of four gallons a week (what half of all Americans had to endure), touched the funny bone of everyone in the audience.

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  • Atlantic: Iceland begins a four-day plebiscite on whether or not to terminate the personal union with the King of Denmark and establish their own republic.
  • ETO - France: Eisenhower addresses French Resistance groups via a broadcast in preparation for the planned cross-Channel invasion.
  • ETO: US 8th Air Force B-17s and B-24s hit targets in France and Belgium in preparation for D-Day.
  • ETO - France: US 9th Air Force B-26s bomb airfields, coastal defenses, and V-weapon sites.
  • Germany: The Polish underground captures a top secret V-2 rocket intact. Later they will dismantle it and send it to England.
  • Russian Front - North: Day 109 of 191 of the Battle of the Narva Isthmus, Estonia. Both German and Soviet troops remain in their defensive positions.
  • Russian Front - South: Day 43 of 60 of the Battle of Romania, 1st Jassy Offensive.
  • MTO - Italy: The Polish troops keep attacking Monte Cassino.
  • MTO - Italy: Day 120 of 136 of the Battle of Anzio. RAF and US Air Forces provide air support. US 5th Army captures Gaeta to the south of Rome.
  • CBI - Burma: Day 77 of 166 of the UK's Operation THURSDAY.
  • CBI - Burma: Day 72 of 147 of the Battle of Myitkyina. US 10th Air Force provides air support.
  • CBI - Burma: Day 50 of 302 of the Chinese Salween Offensive. US 14th Air Force provides air support.
  • CBI - China: Day 2,510 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 34 of 259 of Japan's Operation ICHI-GO.
    • Day 34 of 39 of the Battle of Central Henan, the first offensive in Japan's Operation ICHI-GO.
  • CBI - India: Day 74 of 118 of the Battle of Imphal-Kohima. Japanese troops evacuate their forward-most positions. A bloody clash takes place between Japanese and Anglo-Indian troops at Torbung.
  • PTO - Marshall Islands: The US 7th Air Force bombs targets on Ponape Island.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 158 of 597 of the Battle of New Britain. US 13th Air Force provides air support.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 29 of 481 of the Battle of Western New Guinea.
  • PTO - Solomon Islands: Day 202 of 295 of the Battle of the Bougainville Islands. US 13th Air Force provides air support.

1945 — , May 20

  • Netherlands: Canadian troops land on the island of Texel off the Dutch coast. Georgian troops, captured on the Eastern Front and coerced into serving as volunteers with the German army, had staged a mutiny against their "fellow" Germans on April 6th, resulting in a fierce, bloody battle which became Europe's last battlefield of WWII. It is now over.
  • CBI - China: Day 2,875 of 2,987 of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.
    • Day 50 of 91 of the Battle of Zhijiang. US 14th Air Force provides air support. Japanese troops begin pulling out of China.
    • Day 42 of 60 of the Battle of West Hunan (near Zhijiang). Japanese troops continue withdrawing from southern China.
  • PTO - Caroline Islands: US 7th Air Force hits the airfields on Moen, Eten and Dublon Islands, all in Truk Atoll.
  • PTO - Dutch East Indies: Day 20 of 52 of the Battle of Tarakan Island.
  • PTO - Japan: Day 50 of 83 of the Battle of Okinawa. US troops reach Shuri Castle.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 510 of 597 of the Battle of New Britain. US 10th Air Force provides air support.
  • PTO - New Guinea: Day 394 of 481 of the Battle of Western New Guinea. US 10th Air Force provides air support.
  • PTO - Philippines: Day 212 of 299 of the 2nd Battle of the Philippines, aka the Liberation of the Philippines or the Philippines Campaign.
  • PTO - Philippines: Day 157 of 244 of the Battle of Luzon. 5th Air Force provides air support.
  • PTO - Philippines: Day 72 of 159 of the Battle of Mindanao Island. 5th Air Force provides air support.
  • PTO - Philippines: Day 64 of 135 of the Battle of the Visayas region. US 5th and 7th Air Forces provide air support.

1948 — , May 20

  • Rome: Canada's most famous hero of WWII, fighter ace George Beurling, recruited to fly P-51 Mustangs for the Israeli Air Force, is killed en route when the transport aircraft on which he is flying mysteriously explodes on final approach. With 31 confirmed kills, mostly in the defense of Malta, his flying and shooting abilities bordered on being superhuman.
    Spotlight...

    George Frederick "Buzz" Beurling

    Beurling, nicknamed the "Falcon of Malta" and the "Knight of Malta," can best be described as having possessed superhuman abilities. He had a computer-like mind for mathematics and detail unlike any other.

    His record includes shooting down 27 enemy planes in 14 days and scoring one kill from a distance of 800 yards.

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Day-By-Day listings for May 20 were last modified on Sunday, January 31, 2016
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